Biomechanics, Exercise, Motor Control, Programming, Strength & Conditioning, Technique, The Training Geek, Weightlifting

Stop Making These Lifting Mistakes This New Year.

A New Year, A New You.

Many of you have New Year’s resolutions which you want to keep this year and some of them may be lifting related. Save yourself the disappointment of not being able to achieve them by preventing yourself from making these simple mistakes as you look towards the new year of training and practising your lifts.

Stop Ripping and Start Slowing Things Down.

The weightlifting movements are always perceived as movements of explosiveness and speed. Many people think that you need to be as powerful as your human potential allows you to in order for you to perform the lifts well. This leads to many making the rookie mistake of trying to “grip and rip”. Especially when you are in a setting that requires you to perform these lifts faster in order for you to “get a good time”.

560279_365187063536124_94998705_nHe sure doesn’t pull the bar off the ground aggressively even though he gets quite aggressive in his set up. Image Credit: Hookgrip

According to Fitt’s Law, movement speed is inversely proportional to movement accuracy. This also means that if you are going to try to move the barbell fast off the ground, it means that you would have some form of compromise getting into the positions you NEED to get into in order to properly execute the correct movements in the lifts. Instead of thinking of trying to hit it hard and fast from the gecko, you may want to try to generate enough speed to overcome ertia and GRADUALLY increase momentum to the point of extension where you then move with the intent of speed.

Hip Hinge Less, Leg Drive More.

When learning the lifts, as a beginner, you will always hear that you have to bring your hips through in the extension phase of the second pull. This typically results in a more loopy bar path or a swing of the bar around the torso. More importantly, it uses more of the back or torso as a lever instead of the legs as a driving force in the vertical direction. Even when cycling repetitions, it is critical that the intention is to use the legs more than the back. Once the trunk starts fatiguing, things get messy quite quickly.

mg3062The image speaks for itself. Knowing to use your legs doesn’t mean just your hips. Image Credit: Karl Buchholtz Photography

Learning this correctly from the start will help in picking efficiency up as you will be learning to use your biggest prime movers in the body to do the work. Learn to spread the work across the glutes, hamstrings and quads (3 main muscle groups) rather than putting the stress on the erectors which are not meant to be movement generators. This will not only help get you through your training more effectively but also reduce the chance of a major injury or compensatory movements subsequently causing over-use injuries.

A Bigger Squat Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Bigger Lifts.

Being able to execute the lifts well requires a good sense of what the body is going through during the movements. This body awareness is something that takes time in training to build up and gaining it will make alot more of your assistance or accessory exercises more transferrable.

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This relates alot to squatting because squatting is a major part of a weightlifter’s program. Yes, squatting well and having a big squat will definitely benefit your lifts. IF you are able to transfer that leg strength into your movement. The ability to use your legs in extension is critical and not just being able to push up a certain load. This ability of having awareness in the use of your legs will allow you to properly execute the leg drive needed for most of the propulsive components of the lifts. The mistake is that many novices embark on a squat program without this awareness and put in countless repetitions of squats and end up banging their bodies up but not achieving their eventual goal of improving their lifts.

Don’t Just Learn Technique. Learn YOUR technique.

Like a golf swing, there is no one technique that is identical to another. It is pretty awesome now that there’s so much more coverage on weightlifting and you can easily gain insight to how the top-level athletes are actually moving through media platforms. However, seeing such movements at surface level and not understanding the complexity of their style in relation to other factors such as anthropometry and training history, the rookie mistake made is to imitate and not to apply.

keep-pulling-female-webMay look like the same point of the movement but all the positions are different. Image Credit: Hookgrip.

Learning the concepts behind movement, the reasoning behind certain positions or cues and subsequently applying it to your own lifting allows you to then make an INFORMED decision (not just a blind decision) on how you should be moving in the snatch or clean and jerk. Knowing the characteristics of your body such as your lever lengths, and even your strengths and weaknesses or physical limitations will help you make a better decision on how to move and give you a smooth path towards improvements in your lifting.

Accessorize to Maximize Your Training.

I completely understand that if you are executing most of your training in a class setting, you are basically following whatever programming is given on that day and it’s completely up to your box’s programming if you are getting what you NEED in terms of developing your movement and even body for lifting. When you first get hooked on the weightlifting movements, you will fall into the trap of just doing the main lifts and thinking that the more you practise them, the better you will get with them.

ba63d301baa60f0706ad0be99550549eHow do you think they build bodies like that? Probably not just from the full lifts. Image Credit: Hookgrip.

Sadly, you are WRONG! Not really wrong but you are not building yourself up to maximize your success in performing the lifts well. As a beginner, it is critical to understand that you need a variety of exercises related to the lifts to create as much practice and motor development opportunities within your motor control. Think of it like building up that memory bank. This helps develop that awareness for the movements as mentioned earlier. Secondly, even if you are doing some variations of the lifts in your training, you may not be prepping your body up physically to handle the physical demands of the lifts. So not only variety, but also the mundane work like mobility, stability and even hypertrophy. In simple terms and in the words of a famous strength coach with his own training system, if you want to build a massive pyramid, you need to build a big base. If you want a bigger pyramid, the base has to be bigger meaning you have to be covering more exercises first before you can begin specialising in the main lifts for the most part of your program.

Conclusion

It’s great to see that you have understood that the weightlifting movements are pretty awesome and they benefit you in many ways than just explosiveness and power. Done with the right mentality, you will be on a path of discovery, learning about yourself and what your body is capable of. Too many people look for the easy way out only to find that they have hit a dead-end. Set things right from the start and you will see yourself growing easily into the lifts with ease as you work towards your New Year resolution of being great at them this year.

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Biomechanics, Exercise, Strength & Conditioning, Technique, The Training Geek, Weightlifting

4 Reasons Why You Cant Use Your Legs.

Legs. Legs. Legs. Everyone knows they need to use their legs when trying to create the drive in the second pull or the drive in their overhead movements. “I don’t feel them engage at all.” or “I can’t tell if I am using them”. These are the common reactions when I ask an individual if they know whether they are using their legs.

quadsWhat are such legs for? #legsmuch?

Let’s talk about 4 possible reasons why you cant feel the strongest muscle group in your body and that is not your back.

1. You are “pulling” off the ground.

Yes, it’s indeed called the first and second pulls within a lift. However, many mistake this action as a pulling action and what happens is that the individual begins pulling the bar off the ground. This results in the use of the back or even the arms to create the initial drive off the floor.

IMG_1363-1Are you using your legs or your back here?

If you are guilty of this, try focusing on feeling your feet as you move the bar off the ground. Feel like you can spread them out and push into the ground. This will help you begin the movement and engagement of the legs right from the beginning. Yes. It becomes a push with your legs off the ground to get the bar moving.

2. You are pushing off the ground too quickly.

Yes. You may be using your legs to overcome inertia and come off the ground. However, you are thinking of hitting it hard right from the ground and realise you don’t really feel the leg drive happening when it comes to the second pull. Try jumping up as high as possible from the bottom of the squat position. In order for you to generate as much force and as much height as possible, you do not do the violent push with the legs till you come up to a certain height. That is where the range of the lower limb joints are at its strongest to create as much joint extension velocity as possible.

If you are guilty of this, try slowing down the initial portion of the lift. It should feel like you have the ability to accelerate once the bar begins reaching mid-thigh level (for the snatch) or above the knees (for the clean). Slowing the first pull of the lift also helps ensure that you are getting into good positions and you are timing the second pull right. When more proficient with this, that’s where you can add more speed to your first pull and still have the acceleration or explosiveness when the second pull begins.

3. You think too much “hips” and too little “knees”.

If you look at the position of the joints within the body, there seems to be a sequence when trying to generate force and transfer that force to an object that you are trying to displace. Take a shot put throw for example. Upon anchoring the support foot onto the ground, the drive is initiated from the legs into the hips and transferred through the torso and shoulders before the arms follow through to drive the shot put into the distance. Very similar to the lifts is this kinematic sequencing of joints. The force is driven into the ground from the feet, through the legs, then the torso and lastly the shoulders to create momentum on the bar. If the sequence is lost in between, that joint can no longer contribute to the summation of force. The contribution of the knees not only help drive more force into the bar but drive the bar in the right direction (i.e. vertical instead of horizontal with just the hips).


rybakou_wr
If done properly, knees should be fully extended as well as the hips come through.

If you are guilty of this, you should try doing some squat jumps with a very short counter movement but still with the intention of generating as much height as possible. The burning sensation you begin to feel in your quads after a decent amount of reps gives you an idea of you properly using your legs which you should be feeling within your lifts.

4. You are knowingly or unknowingly doing too much with your feet.

I know I mentioned that you need to feel your feet when you initiate movement off the ground. The common error with weight distribution is that the individual needs to feel that the weight gets shifted around within the feet (i.e. from the balls of the feet to the heels, back to the balls of the feet before extension). Imagine that combined centre of mass being physically over the base of support. If it is shifting back and forth as much as I have described, what do you think the muscles and structures in the body are doing to maintain that in the center or from hitting the extreme limits of the base of support? All that effort to keep the balance while moving the weight up can be directed more to actually moving the weight up instead of trying to pull the body back centered.

jamie-collins-vertical-jump Gif credit to b-reddy.org

If you are guilty of this, try thinking of your jumping mechanics and feel where you get to put out the most amount of force when going for a vertical jump. Most of the time, it should be on the balls of the feet. How to get this feeling in your regular weightlifting movements? Do the drill that everyone has been on and using to feel your legs. Heels off the edge and do your pulls from there. Nothing new about that.

Conclusion

Learn to engage those springs within your body known as your legs. They are designed to act as hinge joints and in a synergistic manner, easily propel the torso in a vertical direction which is key to force transference to the barbell for the lifts.

Want to learn more? I am running a workshop talking about the second pull and how to transition under the bar at Crossfit 3039 this Saturday at 10.30am (Melbourne Time). At the same time, come down and listen to Anurag from Crossfit 3039 explain and demonstrate how that same transition is applicable to the muscle up.

http://e.mybookingmanager.com/MuscleUp-Snatch-Workshop

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Biomechanics, Programming, Strength & Conditioning, Technique, The Training Geek, Weightlifting

5 Lessons to Unlearn in Weightlifting.

As weightlifting is a skill that needs to be learnt, sometimes there are some mis-information going around as to what learning the lifts should be. I won’t say I have the best qualifications or experience but there are a few things I can definitely tell you for sure regarding some concepts in weightlifting that are commonly misinterpreted. Here are just five of them:

1. It’s fast from the get-go.

You are told you need to move fast. You are told it’s an explosive movement so explosive means fast. But we all know that pulling fast from the ground contributes nothing but poor positions later in the lift and you will probably struggle to make the lift.

IMG_5512.JPGCredit to Ironmind for the image.

Instead, it is usually a controlled movement off the ground, involving tension in the back and drive through the legs in order to be accurate with the positions you want to achieve. Only until you transition into a good position to develop force, that’s where you can be as fast as you want and in fact you need to be fast. More importantly fast in that transition from an upward direction to a downward direction of your body. This concept is simple. It’s one of tempo. Think of moving controlled then fast. Slow-fast.

2. I need to get under the bar faster.

So you go on to do all your high-hang work, your block work from the hips. Then you realise you still can’t receive the bar fast enough. You always end up having the bar coming down on you and you are still on your way down to meet the bar.

IMG_5315.PNGAt this point, you are heading down. But is the bar following you down? If it is, then you wouldn’t be ready to receive it.

Why so? The concept here is simple. You lost all the momentum of the bar which you tried so hard to develop in your pull. No momentum? What happens next? Bar starts coming down then. It’s not that you are not fast getting down into the bottom of a squat position. You just lack that timing. That transition which I mentioned in the earlier point. You need to let the bar do its work (many call it the weightlessness feeling) and travel up while you take that opportunity to travel down. If you constantly pull pull and pull and even try to pull yourself under, you are not developing momentum on the bar, you are placing it. Of course then, you will be too slow to get under.

3. Hip drive/hip contact.

This is even developed into a cue. Hip bump, bar need to bounce off the hips, the bar needs to be brought into the hips etc. Upon hearing this, you think you just need to feel the contact and everything should fall into place. Or you try really hard to “sweep” that bar into place and end up pulling with your arms. Or worse still, you attempt to hump the bar and end up getting a bruised hip.

IMG_5271.PNGHow the hip and the bar moves following this point is critical to how easily you will receive the bar.

Instead, you should be looking at hip contact as a result of you and the bar moving upwards and meeting (rather than colliding). Also, hip drive should be seen as part of the whole action of using the legs and not just hip extension. Stand up straight and keep your legs straight. Now open and close your hips; it doesn’t go up in any way. It goes back and forth. My point exactly. You want the bar to go up, not back and forth. The hips and the bar are two moving points and should be seen as two moving objects. If they move in the same direction, their speed increases due to momentum but if they collide, speed is lost.

4. I need to feel my weight being distributed in the different areas of my feet.

You are told you need to start with the weight in your mid foot, then you feel it move back probably to the middle of your heels then back forward into your forefoot (some say balls of the feet). All these when pulling. Tough task isn’t it? Try walking and feeling that you are trying to land heel to lateral side of your foot to the medial portion of the ball of your foot everytime you take a step.

IMG_5516.JPGWeight distribution taken too far to the limits not only force you to lose balance but also cause you to work harder than you should to bring your balance back to the centre.

Weight distribution is indicative of how the centre of mass moves over the bass of support which are your feet in this instance. It is not something you actively control by forcing yourself to get weight distributed that way but it’s a result of the actions of keeping yourself centred. More importantly, think of trying to drive force from your toes or only balls of your feet to perform a vertical jump. I do this in my seminars and workshops all the time to introduce the concept of base of support and the number of eyes that you see realising that being flat-footed when jumping makes things a lot easier to get the legs going. Why not the same for your lifts. Forget your feet when pulling. Think of your legs.

5. This is the ‘s way and they have many world champions so I should learn their technique.

You see the Russians, the Chinese, the Armenians lifting a certain way. You see a certain weightlifter lifting that way and getting big numbers overhead. You watch them lift and think I need to do what they do to hit my 100kg snatch. I need to do their program or do whatever exercises they do and I’ll lift like them.

IMG_5517-2.JPGKnow not only what they do but why they do.

I’m sorry but no. The Russians lift loke the Russians because they are Russian. The Chinese lift like the Chinese because they are Chinese. Rather than following the exact technique or learning the exact technique, you need to understand the concept of their lifting. Not the “how they do it” but the “why they do it”. You understand the why and you will understand what works and what doesn’t work for you. Blindly following a certain style may not be the best thing for you. Having a style that suits you allows you to move better. All styles or methods follow the same concepts and should lead to the same point: lifting more weight.

Conclusion

Learning is something that is very important in weightlifting. The desire to expand one’s knowledge is key to getting you understanding the lifts better, building better awareness of the movements and subsequently lifting better. However, there are always going to be sources of information which have been taken out of context. Hopefully, these lessons I have mentioned will help you clarify just the basic concepts related to the weightlifting movements and give you a clearer picture to make a more informed decision to what you should or should not be doing in the lifts.

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