Saturday 31 January 2009

Friday's funny moments

When your coach is trying to get your mind in the right place for a sesion and he says he just joined the "That's what she said" International festival group on Facebook, you know it is going to be a fun session. I was irritated with my Snatch yesterday so I changed my usual warm up and routine. Harry wanted me to have a pretty light day but I was feeling pretty good and I purposely did not tire myself out with my usual warm up because I wanted to be fresh for the Snatch. Here is what I did:

Overhead Squats--6x5--I was doing lots of dynamic and static flexibility between most of my sets.
Drop Snatch--2 sets with the bar.
Snatch--1x2@60, 70
1x1@75, 80, 85, 90, 94--I missed the first rep because I did not finish the pull and dived down too early. I was thinking about technique rather than simply lifting the weight quickly. Anyway, that taught me my lesson so I nailed 94 easily and then got 96. The lifts were far easier when I shut down my mind and focused on speed of lift rather than technique.

Clean Grip PNF--1 set--I am going to make a video about this simple technique next week.
Jerk Skill with 60
Power Clean and Jerk--1x2@60 1x1@80, 90, 100, 110, 114, 117--The last rep was more of a squat clean. With the Jerk I was really focusing on getting the feel of pushing myself under the bar. Even though I was driving the bar slightly forward, I was very locked in because I was pushing under and through the bar. Usually if I drive the bar out it feels precarious, but it was locked in here.
Front Squat--1x2@90, 110, 120, 130, 140, 145--This is the most I have done for a double and it was not too hard, so I was happy.

We are now finished our four week block of training. I am now doing five sessions a week and more volume in each session. Before Christmas, I was doing four sessions and not squatting as much. Over this last week, the second half in particular, my legs were feeling the heat, but overall, this is the best training perios I have ever had. Well done to Gillian and Laura for getting their prs this week and roll on UL!

Thursday 29 January 2009

Thursday's trojans

After receiving all the advice about mental focus and preparation, I rocked up to training tonight with stars in my eyes. As has been the same for the last few weeks, my nutrition demands were sorted and today I was neither tired nor particularly fresh. My warm up was sharp and I enjoyed it. I also had an epiphany that I shall share later in the post. Here is what I did:

Jerk Skill with the bar
Power Clean and Jerk--1x2@60 1x1@70, 80, 90
Overhead Squats--5x5--Again, I did a lot of dynamic flexibility for the hip girdle and legs in between all the different warm up exercises. I see my warm ups as a physical preparation but also as a chance to improve my skill in the drills themselves which will hopefully carry over to the main lifts.

Drop Snatch--1x3@bar, 40, 50, 60--I read in a Bill Starr article that I should go up on my toes slightly in the jerk in order to enhance foot speed. This helped in the drop snatches because my feet were fast and they banged less on the floor, which is something that several people told me to improve on.

Snatch--1x2@65, 70 1x1@78, 85, 90, 94--I missed the first rep and nailed the second. I then did three singles on 96, but I missed the second and third reps. The strength was there but the speed and timing was off. I was hitting the bar out and dropping back also, rather than dropping straight down. It was disappointing, but it is the first time I have missed more than one lift in the Snatch for ages, so it had to happen. This is 91% of my 1RM and the second half of my third week of increasing the volume, which is something I have never done. I have to be realistic, but at the same time optimistic.

Cleans--I did two pnf clean grip exercises first and these have helped my rack position immensely.
1x1@80, 90, 100, 110, 115, 120, 124, 127--These cleans were strong but slower than usual and not as smooth as they usually would be. They felt very similar to my Snatches. 127 is 94% of my top Clean and Jerk.
Back Squats--I was in a rush tonight and my legs were also in tatters, so I did a quick few sets and had to leave.
1x3@100, 120, 130, 140--This last set is around 82.5% of my best Back Squat.

As for epiphany, it was very simple. I have been told it several times and I have read it several times, but today was the first time I ever truly felt the movement of pushing myself under the bar in the jerk. Just before my warm up I was thinking about things I have read and I decided that today I would go out of way in the warm up and teach my body what it felt like to push my body under the bar rather than jerk the barbell up. Laura did not notice any difference in the appearance of my technique, but it felt different to me. By pushing myself under, it got my body locked in and through the jerk and also got my under the bar, which is something I have struggled with. Now all I have to do is the x amount of repetitions so that my body becomes fluent in the movement. Easy, eh?

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Wednesday's wet blankets

My friend told me that there is a recurring theme in how I open my posts saying I am tired or fatigued. Tonight, I still can not break that trend as this whole volume increase is as intense as it should be and as I want it to be. During training this evening I had as much gas in my tank as one of the old ladas that you see propped up on crumbling concrete blocks in the midst of the charred remains of a forlorn and abandoned campsite. Hans and Gill seemed to be in a similar predicament, but they were able to push through it better than me. Tonight was supposed to be a very light technical session and here is what I did:

Jerk skill work the bar
Overhead Squats--6x3
Drop Snatch--1x3@bar, 40, 50 1x2@60 1x1@70, 75, 80--I missed 80. I was just too slow. Nothing was sharp at all tonight, even in the warm up.
Jerk skill with 60
Jerk from rack--1x1@60, 80, 90, 100 for four singles. These were better once I focused my mind on the task at hand rather than on my physical condition.
Front Squats--1x3@100, 110, 120--I left it there because my right calf was at me. The tip Roy gave me about filling and expanding my upper rib cage really helps with the front squats also.
Elevated knees to chest ab exercise--3x20

I went for a sauna and steam room after a quick stretch in the pool also. The limbs definitely felt the better for it afterwards.

It is funny how I find myself to be far more tired for the lighter sessions than the heavier ones. This could be the after effects of the heavier sessions or it could also be a psychological weakness in not preparing for the session properly from a mental point of view. It could possibly be both, let me know if you have any experience on the matter.

On a separate and lighter note, I laughed out loud repeatedly when I came across this cracker:

Tuesday's titans

It was another tough but satisfying session. Laura got a training pr in the Clean and Jerk and I got loads of volume again, but not quite as much as last week, as this week is supposed to be as high in intensity but not quite as much volume. I did the following:

Jerk Skill with bar
Split Jerk--2x3@50
Power Clean and Jerk--1x1@60, 70, 80, 90, 100--These felt nicely locked in.
Overhead Squats--4x5 with loads of flexibility in between all the warm up sets and overhead squats.
Drop Snatch--1x3@bar, 40, 50
Snatch--1x2@60, 70, 78, 85x3
Clean grip pnf x2--This really helps keep my elbows level in the catch position. Mt left elbow had a slight discrepancy of a few inches and this exercise really helps. I will put up a video of it soon.
Jerk skill with 60
Clean and Jerk--1x1@60, 80, 90, 100, 110, 117, 122x3--The jerks were fast but not particularly locked in or technically sound.
Back Squat--1x3@90, 110, 130, 140, 150--I could not get through the sticking point in the third rep of 150. I had nothing left in the tank
Front plank with ab vacuums--4x30 on/off

Here is a video of one of Laura's Snatches and her pr Clean and Jerk:

Monday 26 January 2009

Monday's marauders

It was a good session tonight. I was tired but Laura, Gillian, Hans and Harry all gave me the energy I needed. Harry literally gave me a banana. What a coach! I did the following:

Jerk skill with bar with lots of stretching of the hips in between.
Split Jerk--2x3@40
Power Clean and Jerk--1x1@60, 70, 80, 90
Overhead Squats--6x3--I focused on getting wider hips each time and then I would take a hop out to imitate my projected catching stance and squat down.
Drop Snatch--1x3@bar, 40, 50, 60
Snatch Combo (1 Hang Power Snatch/1 Power Snatch/1 Full Snatch--1x3@65, 70, 75, 78, 80
Overhead Squat--1x2@80, 90, 95, 100, 105, 110--This last set was a new best for me.
2 sets of clean grip pnf
Jerk from the rack--1x1@60, 80, 90, 100, 110, 115, 120--I pressed out the last rep with the left arm.
Front Squats--1x3@90, 110, 120, 130

Here is a video showing Gillian's pr Snatches and my Overhead Squats:

Sunday 25 January 2009

Sunday's Snatch question

I read this post a while back and I have been thinking about how it relates to weightlifting. Here is a post from Ross Enamait's blog:

Dr. Bradley, M.D., suggests the following:

“To perform any physical feat with grace and dexterity, the human being must practice and practice to achieve relaxation of uninvolved muscles. Such simple acts as running, jumping, even walking, are instinctively performed gracefully and automatically by nonhuman animals. Grace in physical action is a result of ability to keep the uninvolved muscles relaxed, and economy of muscular action. This does not mean we human beings cannot achieve physical feats similar to those of animals. It means, rather, that we must recognize the human need for practice and physical conditioning of our muscles in the apparent absence of human instinct.”

The question is this: how relaxed should the uninvolved muscles be in the Snatch? Now, when one is in the zone or in their flow state, all this happens naturally and one does not have to think about it. However, this is not always the case, particularly in training. Here is a video of Rigert's Snatch and below it is Dimas's Snatch. I will let the viewer guess which Snatch was performed with grace and which one has muscle tension written all over it. Is there an optimal state of muscle tension or is it all dependent on the individual's physical and mental makeup?

Saturday's superstars

This was a great session yesterday and we all got loads done. Here is what I did:

Jerk skill work with the bar
Split Jerk--2x3@40
Overhead Squats--6x3
Drop Snatch--1x8 with bar, 1x3@40, 40

Snatch--1x2@60, 70 1x1@80, 85, 90, 95x7--I was supposed to get six in a row but I did not finish my pull with my sixth attempt, so I got my seventh. This is the first time I have repped singles on this heavy a weight, so I was happy.
Looking back on the video below I have noted that my hip stance in my catch is way too narrow and that is making me go forward slightly after the catch. This has been a major problem since I started lifting last May. If anyone else notices anything, please tell me.

Cleans--2 pnf stretches to ensure elbow and shoulder flexibility.
1x1@80, 90, 100, 110, 117, 122, 126 for four singles. I missed the third rep because of slow elbows so I nailed an unplanned fourth rep. Noticeably with this clean, I caught it with a wider stance and it allowed my hips to go straight down the hole and I was not put forward onto my toes. This was also the forst time I have repped on such a weight. Considering this was my fifth day in a row, I am happy with how the Snatch and Cleans went today.

Back Squat--1x3@96, 116, 130, 140 for 3 sets--I was empty in all respects after this session.

Thank you Roy--I tried filling my upper lungs before every Snatch and Clean and it did make my upper and mid back more solid throughout my first pull and onwards. When I was in college, I practiced yoga a bit and my instructor told me to always breathe through my belly. For weightlifting, I thought a big breath meant the same thing until you gave me that little tip and changed my perspective. Little things like this make the blog all worthwhile! Anyway, have a look at the video below:

Saturday 24 January 2009

One of my first weightlifting epiphanies

One of the first life principles that weightlifting forced me to confront was patience. When I first met up with Harry and he began our lifting odyssey together, he preached the virtues of patience and gradual improvement. Of course, being the eager buck, I showed complete disdain for his advice and proceeded to put on extra kilos here and there and add sessions every week that my joints could not handle because of inefficient lifting technique and a lack of adaptation to the deep knee bending that weightlifting requires.

As you will have guessed, I got knee problems and it stalled me for a month. I could train around it, but it was frustrating all the same. What this injury taught me was great for the following reasons because I learned:
1. I had to stop trying to force my body and skill level into doing things that neither was ready for.
2. I had to learn better technique in order to spare my body and have more efficient lifting. This is the intended order of priorities.
3. I had to improve my hip flexibility so that I could achieve better positioning.
4. I had to learn to realise my mind/ego was lying to me and that Harry wasn't. I learned to trust my coach more.

These lessons are ones that I am still trying to learn, but as the sub-title of the blog says, this is a journey we are on and it won't be ending anytime soon. I still struggle to be patient now as my expectations and beliefs in what I can do sometimes outstrip my capabilities. It is not an ego problem, it is an issue with patience and reality checks. This is one of the many reasons that I need to listen to Harry: he has the objective voice--or as objective as possible-- while my eagerness and at times, blind faith in my capabilities, have me expecting things that are not plausible except in my head.

Because we are increasing our volume in sessions and adding an extra day's training, this means I need to be realistic about how heavy I can go and what I can do for the next month, rather than go all out for a week and collapse in the following weeks. Patience is the key here, and of course, trusting my coach. Why is being patient so damn hard?

Here is an interesting post on gradual improvement from a fascinating blog:

Friday 23 January 2009

Friday's Frolics

I had a technique session tonight with no squats which was nice. This is what I did:

Jerk technique with the bar and 2 sets of Split Jerk with 40
Overhead Squats--6x5
Drop Snatch--1x3@bar, 40, 50, 60, 70
Hang Power Snatch--1x3@70, 75, 78x3--This was very tiring and demanding on the shoulder girdle.
Jerk skill work with 60kg
Jerk from the rack--1x1@70, 80, 90, 100, 105x4 singles--I was supposed to go a bit heavier but my shoulder girdle is still getting used to all the overhead work with the extra volume and sessions.
Static Flexibility focusing on the hips.

Here is a video of some of Gillian's Clean and Jerks and one of the powerlifting lads, Ger, who deadlifts 210 six times, despite the fact that he was a 75kg lifter!

Thursday 22 January 2009

Thursday's fun

I had another good session tonight. The volume was high and the intensity low in the Snatch and the opposite occurred in the Clean and Jerk. I did the following:

Jerk Skill work with the bar
Split Jerk--1x3@40, 50
Power Clean and Jerk--1x2@60 1x1@70, 80, 90--I do these before my Snatch sometimes because I need the technical reinforcement when I am fresh and also when I do them later in the sessions.
Overhead Squats--4x5
Drop Snatch--1x3@bar, 40, 50, 60
Snatch--1x2@65, 72, 79, 84x6--I missed the second rep in the first set because I stopped my pull far too early to get under it, despite the weight being so light. After this set, the rest were very solid.
Split Jerk--2x3@60
Clean and Jerk--1x2@60 1x1@80, 90, 100, 110, 115, 120, 125--This was the first time I have done 125 in training so I was happy, particularly with the volume we have been doing over the last few days.
Front Squats--1x2@90, 110, 120, 130x5--These were better because I took a big breath and locked my abs and trunk tight while keeping my elbows up.
Static stretching

Here is a short video of some of the lifts:

Tonight was a tough session. For various reasons I was tired going into the gym and I had to really try and focus in order to make my lifts tonight. We focused on the Clean and Jerk tonight which is the first time we have never done some kind of snatching. Here is what I did:
Jerk Skill work with the bar
Overhead Squats--5x5
Drop Snatch--1x3@bar, 40, 50, 60
Jerk Dips--1x3@60
Jerk Catches--1x3@60
Split Jerk--2x3@60
Clean and Jerk--1x2@60 1x1@80, 90, 100, 107, 115, 120--I missed the first rep due to not bringing my feet back in after the clean. A silly mistake but I made up for it. I then got 3 singles with 120 and although they were ugly as sin, I made them. Usually when I am this tired I cannot jerk at all, but at least my skill has improved so that I can get them ugly rather than not at all.
Back Squat--1x3@60, 80, 100, 120, 130, 140, 150
Ab vacuums--4x30 on/off
Knee to Chest--3x20
Static Flexibility

Here is a video of one of the clean and jerks and some squats:

Tuesday 20 January 2009

I had an enjoyable session tonight. I did the following:

Jerk skill work with the bar
Overhead Squats--5x3 with clean grip ones and one handed ones mixed in.
Drop Snatch--1x3@bar, 40, 50, 60
Snatch Combo (1 hang power snatch, 1 power snatch, 1 full snatch--1x3@65, 70, 75, 79x3
Overhead Squats--1x2@79, 85, 90, 95, 100x3
1 Jerk behind neck and 1 regular jerk--1x2@60, 80, 90, 100, 105x3--I missed the second rep on the second set. It was the first time I did this combination and I was not getting through and under the regular jerk properly. This shows I need to do jerk skill again before going heavier.
Front Squats--1x3@50, 90, 110, 120, 127.5x3
Window Wipers--3x6

Here is a short video of some of my lifts from tonight:

Monday 19 January 2009

A bit more clarification

I had a wonderful massage tonight that focused on my hip flexors, glute meds, IT bands, calves, hamstrings and quads. Everything feels looser now and hopefully my hips will not be as tight as they usually are, particularly the right one.

On a different note, I am a 94kg lifter and am 1.86m tall. Here are my best lifts to date:
Snatch--106 (In competition)
Clean and Jerk--131 in competition and 135 in training
Back Squat--170--fully ass to grass and without belt
Front Squat--150--as above

My coach, the honourable Harry Leech, has been increasing my lifting volume in the following ways: we have added a fifth session per week; we are squatting after most sessions now; we are simply doing more sets with slightly less intensity. It will take my CNS a while to adapt to the higher workload--my muscles on the other hand are used to getting bludgeoned to death as a rugby player and training fanatic over the years.

If you don't realise it I am based in Dublin, Ireland. There is a competition in the University of Limerick on the 7th of February and I am to get 108 in the Snatch and 135 in the Clean and Jerk. I know I can get these and that I am not overstretching myself. We will be training through the competition so that we can focus on the Senior Irish Weightlifting Championships on in the end of April, so that is the end goal at the moment.

After reading Cathal's post, I am going to try and focus on technique more in the warm up and when visualising outside the gym. This should allow for more focus and speed in the lifts themselves. Anyone that has any thoughts on this topic, please post.

I posted a video of Konstantinov, here is one from Sagir from 2004 when he won his gold medal. This looks like pure power, speed and athleticism rather than the technically sounder snatch of the former. Any thoughts?

Sunday 18 January 2009

Light Technique day

I had a light session today with low volume and intensity. I did the following:
Jerk Dips--3x5 with bar
Jerk Catches--1x3@bar, 50, 50
Split Jerk--1x3@50, 50, 60, 70
Jerk from rack--1x3@70 1x2@80 1x1@85, 90, 95, 100--These were ok. I am still trying to get my body used to being properly locked with my head and trunk fully pushed through the window while actively pressing up. I am also trying to get my front foot out to ninety degrees which will in turn get me more under the bar.
Overhead Squats--I mixed in regular overhead squats with clean grip ones and one handed ones.
Hang Power Snatch--1x3@60, 65, 70
Hang Snatch--1x3@70 1x2@80

I always do abs after a session but I had to go and coach my heroes so I had to cut my planned light squats and abs short. A few hours later I went back to have a 20 minute stretch in the pool and a sauna, steam room and jacuzzi session.
My hips are very tight at the moment and although I stretch them a lot, there are trigger points in my hip flexors, glute meds and IT bands. So, I have a massage tomorrow to work me over and hopefully sort out my hips.

Roman Konstantinov's Snatch

Have a look at his Snatch and his clean technique. It is very fluid and lightening fast.

His Jerk is dog ugly but he is obviously very powerful. I would love to know what his max clean is. He won the '07 World Championships from the B session with these lifts but had a shocker in Beijing because of a back injury.

Training over the last two days

On Friday I had one of those days were I was tired from a week of teaching, coaching and training, so I knew when I was walking over to the platform I was going to simply lift and keep my mouth shut unlike usual. I had also determined that I would avoid analysing my technique at all and I would simply lift as fast as I could. Here is the session I did:

Jerk Technique with the bar--I work on my jerk at the start and end of each session because it needs all the help it can get.
Overhead Squats--4x3
Drop Snatch--1x3@bar, 40, 50
Snatch--1x2@60, 70 1x1@75, 80, 85, 89, 92, 94x6--This is the first time I have gotten all six attempts in a row with a weight over 90. I avoided the paralysis by analysis trap that it is all to easy to fall into.
Clean and Jerk--1x3@40, 60 1x1@80, 90, 100, 110, 116x3--Again, I got all my lifts and they were relatively fast. Because I was tired they were not as technically perfect as I would have liked, but c'est la vie. I did not miss a single lift all night and I was very happy with this.
Ab vacuums--4x30 on/off
Raised Knee to Chest--3x20

On Saturday, I had an early session and I was fatigued from my week and it was one of those sessions that you really have to push yourself to get through it. Nothing was fast or sharp, but it had to be done regardless.
Jerk Skill work with bar
Power Clean and Jerk--1x3@40, 50
Overhead Squats--4x3
Drop Snatch--1x3@bar, 40, 50, 1x1@60--Even these were slow.
Hang Power Snatch--1x3@60, 65, 70, 75x3--These got better as they went on.
Jerk From Rack--1x3@60, 60 1x2@70 1x1@80, 90, 100, 105--This was rough despite how light it was, so I went back to 100 for 3 more singles. Not today I am afraid.
Back Squats--1x3@60, 60,80, 100, 110, 120, 130, 140x3
Ab vacuums--4x30 on/off
Knees to chest--3x20

So, the main question that Friday's session raised was this: is it better to avoid all thought when lifting--a book worth reading is Zen in the Art of Archery-- or is it better to think of whatever facet of technique you are working on? Or, is it more worthwhile to analyse technique in the earlier, lighter lifts and then abandon thought once the weight starts to mount? The approach of not thinking about technique worked for me on Friday, but it this the way forward?

Saturday 17 January 2009

Why I am starting my own blog

The beautiful thing about weightlifting for me is that is generally adheres to the principles that govern both sport and, at times, life. If I want to improve any facet of my lifting, I must do the following: recognise exactly what I want to accomplish; establish where I am in regards to that skill; learn it; repeat the skill so many times that it becomes automatic, unconscious and therefore fluid. It must be the automatic skill that my body falls back on in times of stress and fatigue.
Now, like so many other things, this is easier said than done. The process of learning fascinates me and weightlifting is one of the avenues that I learn about myself as I really am. Do I have the testicular fortitude I think I have? Can I learn new skills as fluently as I crave? Weightlifting is taking me on a journey and this is what this blog is about.