Monday 29 June 2009

Monday’s methodical extension day

Session 1
I had my first session this morning at 9 pm. The humidity over here made it quite difficult to sleep last night, so I am still feeling fatigued; but it was an enjoyable day’s training regardless. For the warm up we performed a few movements with the medicine ball in a circuit type fashion and performed some dynamic flexibility drills also. These warmed up the spine and the hips nicely and I felt nice and loose.

1. 2 Power Snatch and 2 Hang Snatch—5x4@50--I only stayed at 50 kilos for this exercise and it was actually harder to maintain good form with this light a weight than if I had gone heavier. I find sometimes that more pervasive skill is required to Snatch as well at 50 and 60 kilos as when you are Snatching to maximum. The idea in this exercise was to get maximum extension and optimal positioning, rather than lifting with speed—Harry commented on something similar a few days ago. This was far more difficult than I thought it would be due to lazy habits I suppose. I need to ingrain optimal technique into most of my Snatches, from the bar upwards; this should result in more consistent results at higher intensity. But it is the discipline and concentration on form that I must attain in order to do this.

2. 1 Power Clean+1 Full Clean+1 Squat Jerk—I worked up to a few sets of this combination, again focusing on full extension with the Cleans AND the Jerk. I was really able to feel my back locking in and contracting which was something that I could not on Saturday.

After these, I used the foam roller and Tom showed me a few different partner stretches to open up the hips and shoulder girdle. A sleep was needed if I wanted to have a decent session in the evening.

Session 2

The session began with a warm up with the bar and triples in the Snatch with 40 and 50.

1. Snatch—I worked up to a single of 100 which is on the video below and it was solid enough. I missed 105 twice and my technique began to break down again which was very frustrating. I went back down to 90, then 97, then a solid 102 and then I got an ugly but solid 105, which I had to get. It was one of those cases of paralysis by analysis where as Tom was pointing out that there was no vicious extension at all. I then went for 110 three times which would have been a pr, but I did not have the speed all day and I missed it because I was simply too slow. I am glad I went for it and I know it is a certainty once I am fresh and have my speed back again. My Snatches are below in the video. They are not pretty but I had to get them for my sanity.

2. Clean and Jerk—I worked up to singles with 100, 105, 110, 115, 120, 125 and 130. I then got nowhere near Cleaning 135: I was pretty spent at that stage. I was happy to go up in 5kg increments because I needed to reps. My Jerk is finally starting to feel comfortable because I have made my Jerk Dip more consistent and now I can focus on the drive and push under. I have also changed how I position the bar on my chest; the upper back muscles are now activated to elevate my shoulder girdle and straighten it out—the end result is I feel very easy with the bar resting there, even when I am tired from a Clean. This week is the first time this has been the case. My 130 was slow, but it felt very comfortable.

That was all I could do. 105/130 in this state of physical and nervous system fatigue is something I can be relatively satisfied with. I know the 110 and more is there once I am fresh and I am looking forward to testing it. I am wrecked now, but an easy session tomorrow with lots of stretching and active recovery should see me fine for going down to Limerick on Friday night to train with Cathal Byrd and Andy Murphy who should have Des and Troy in tow. When I am less tired I will reflect further on my 8 days’ training with Tom. I know this was a great decision and that I learned a lot in my time here and I am forever grateful to Tom for his incisive instruction and generous nature. As always, here is a video of my lifts so give any constructive criticism that you think is appropriate.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Saturday’s stale affair

The fatigue was bound to catch up with me and on Saturday it bludgeoned me into submission. This was gutting because I wanted to post some decent numbers in the max out, but it was not to be. Of course this is completely understandable because of the training volume of the last five weeks, but that is not the dominating emotion when you are disappointed. The great news is that I am really looking forward to training on Monday. I Snatched 100 pretty comfortably in the warm up, but I could not budge 105. It felt like every repetition and skill drill I have ever done went out the window and I simply forgot how to lift, even when I tried to Snatch 80 a few minutes later. It was not a lack of speed, but a complete lack of focus and co-ordination.

I decided to try my warm up with the Clean and Jerk and when I was not able to get near Cleaning 120—which is an easy Power Clean—I knew it was time to call it quits, so I put up my feet, swallowed my impotent frustration and had a beer, a burger and a dose of chillax. I felt pretty empty on Thursday evening after training, all day Friday and all day Saturday—particularly after the Lions’ heartbreaker of a game. The most annoying part is that these are all excuses and I did not adapt to the given circumstances. If I was that incapable, I should have handled the situation better than I did which was only slightly better than a spoilt seven year old only child who got a G.I. Joe action figure and not the Optimus Prime one, and ended up making himself puke to get attention and sympathy from parents who probably ended up laughing about it later. This is a little dramatic, but you get the message—I did not have the zen-like calm that Dabaya possessed in Bucharest when about to lift his medal deciding final Clean and Jerk, he was told it was not actually his turn. Dabaya got the lift and the silver medal. I got some ribs and a shut out. I have to learn from this and compose the emotions that are trying to kick the door down.

I asked Tom could I train twice on Monday because I did not max out on Saturday and that is fine. I am learning a lot from these early sessions and they are nice primers for the evening session where I shall see how I feel and maybe Snatch to what is possible on the day. All the toys will already be out of the pram, so there should not be an incident if all is not well in the state of Denmark. I will leave you with some freak athleticism that warms the heart.

Friday 26 June 2009

Friday’s fleeting tour of Tom’s gym

There was only one session today and it was light and snappy. I was pretty fatigued at this stage, which is the past month’s training catching up with me on top of this week’s. I was feeling those niggly pains that start to set in when training hard. Different people feel them in different areas, but I was feeling my right shoulder and the insertion point of my right bicep and my left one also, but not to the same extent. Today’s session was supposed to be light and fast; a sort of active recovery for tomorrow’s informal competition where me and a few others will max out and see what happens. Here is what I did today:

A brief warm up with bar work and some Snatch grip RDL’s followed by a Hang Power Snatch. I did around 3 sets with 3 RDL’s and one Hang Power Snatch with 50.

1. Hang Power Snatch—I worked up to three triples with 70kg. Each set improved in extension and extending the elbows up rather than out.

2. Power Clean+1 Push Press+1 Power Jerk—I worked up to 90 with this and then 100 for a Power Clean and Push Press. Incredibly, Safak—who is not lifting tomorrow—maxed out on 20 Power Cleans with 100kg. There was never more than three to five seconds in between his lifts. This seemed to be something he wanted to do himself rather than a direction from Tom.

3. Back Extension—1x8@15, 25, 30—The video of this back extension exercise is included below. It is a nice variation and works the lower back and hamstrings nicely.

That was it for today. It was short and sweet, although my lifting was quite sluggish due to fatigue. Tom also made a point that some of you may agree with or not: it was that the squatting technique that he advocates--that of controlled down with a slight pause and explode back up--is better for speed development than the fast down fast up type of squatting, which he says is good for developing the stretch reflex and elastic speed. This is an interesting point coming from Tom, who is as much a professional Strength and Conditioning coach across many sports, as he is a weightlifitng coach. It will be interesting to hear if anyone agrees or disagrees with his point. In the vidoe below there is a brief one minute tour of Tom's gym as well as a nice Back Extention variation movement.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Thursday’s tribute to Teun’s Snatch pr

I trained twice again today; the first session was at 9AM and the second 5PM. The morning session was around an hour and fifteen minutes long and primarily activated muscles and movement patterns; assistance movements were used with light weights and two of the exercises in particular addressed some of the main areas I need to work on.
Session 1
The warm up was different again and involved pushing, pulling and squatting movements with various thera-bands. We also used med balls to induce inward pushing pressure while pulling, pressing and squatting. Like the other warm ups, this was different and was relevant to the skills and movements that we were about to train. Plus, the fact that it was different to the other days means that you cannot sleepwalk through the warm up—I think this is something we can all be guilty of.

1. Front Squat to Push Press—Crossfit call this the thruster I think. I did a set of five with the bar, 40 and 3 sets with 60. This was light, but I was working on getting a wider stance and keeping the knees out in the Front Squat. In the Push Press portion I worked on getting my chest through and not my head—this is a bad habit. These are all things I need to work on for my Clean and Jerk.

2. Lunge High Pull—This exercise is used to activate the mid traps and rhomboids as well as inducing a movement pattern so that you are pulling up and through while going down. You hold the bar in a Clean grip and while you lunge down you begin your pull and finish the pull when at the bottom of your lunge. Squeezing the shoulder blades is important to fully activate the appropriate muscles.

3. Clean grip Romanian Deadlifts—Tom had me doing this movement differently to the more common version of the exercise. There is a set in the video below and you can listen to Tom’s own explanation for this exercise. This variation of the RDL emphasises the flexion of the middle of your back so that you pull the bar around your knees but keep your hips in the same place while flexing with the mid back to get the bar up to mid-thigh level. The idea is to strengthen and activate the lower and mid back and also to help learn the movement pattern for the double knee bend. Whether you agree with the movement part of this exercise or not, this variation is fantastic for my needs because I am starting to activate these muscles for the first time when lifting and therefore, my back and hip lock and my entire pull will benefit. I only did a few sets of 5 with 80kg so that I could learn the movement, but in the future, I need to build up so that I can do five or eight solid reps with the weights I am Cleaning.

That was it for the morning session. I finished off with some foam rolling. The foam rollers in this gym have the middle cut out with a fitted hard pipe in between. It feels far more beneficial than the regular foam rollers. Tom also showed me some exercises to loosen up the hip and shoulder joint which I found very useful. I will try to get a video of these over the next few days.

Session 2
We had very little warm up for this session and I was happier for it because I was quite fatigued. We went straight into bar work and into the Snatch up to 90% for 3 singles.

1. Snatch—I worked up to 3 singles with 100, which was a bit over 90% but I was happier to do it. I was happy with the three reps because they were the first relatively heavy Snatches I have done with my new first pull. My first rep was good except for the fact that I did not finish the pull and the third rep was the best except I somehow decided to look down when squatting up. Have a look at them on the video and any comments are welcome.

2. Clean and Jerk—I worked up to singles with 110, 120, 125 and 130 with the last two lifts being on the video below. I was really focusing on the technique which, like the Snatch, tended to limit the speed of my lift. With the Jerk, I focused on what Harry is always telling me along with Tom: control your dip and drive through the Jerk with speed, emphasising getting the chest through, not the head—which I did with the 125 Jerk. I was happy with the Jerk today because they were far snappier than Tuesday.

3. Clean Pulls—I did triples with 130 and two with 140; my last set is on the video below. My first rep was lazy and slow and the third rep was by far my best lock and quickest pull.

4. Back Squat—I did triples with 100, 120 and 130 and they were slow down, a second or so at the bottom and driven up as fast as possible—except that I could muster hardly any speed. Light weights in my usual style, but this way they feel heavy because of the stop and the attempt for maximum speed back up.

We finished off with a set of Sumo Squats to improve hip mobility and the session lasted maybe an hour and twenty minutes at most. Tom’s 12 year old son Teun Snatched a pr and this is in the video along with a 110 Snatch by Safak.
With the Snatch and Clean, I feel that the only difference between my lifts now and this time last week is: I can keep my back locked more throughout the pull, which is keeping my hips and trunk in line; this keeps the bar closer also; I am also really focusing on extending as much as is optimal—again this is what I try to do at home. Cathal was right when he said I already had a double knee bend. Now I think I am improving it with the back that is only starting to wake up properly which means that my legs and hips can do their job. Tom is really helping me with these factors and the 8 days is going really well so far. As always, if there is anything I can learn from anyone’s comments or opinions, fire away.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Wednesday's wrestling with the blocks

I only trained once tonight and I was very happy with my positioning in the Snatch Pulls, which were from a 6cm block. I woke up this morning with my hamstrings and glutes feeling the brunt of the training so far, but they loosened out as the day progressed. To warm up at the start of the session we did three circuits, each exercise lasting 30 seconds. The first circuit was sit ups on a swiss ball; skipping; bouncing on a bosu ball; bent over row with bar; incline press with bar. The second circuit was with the bar and were as far as I can remember: Hang Snatch High Pulls; Snatch behind neck press; Overhead Squats; Hang Clean Pulls; Good Mornings. The third circuit was Push Press; Front Squat; Deadlift and I cannot remember the others. This was a comprehensive 12 minute warm up and it got the blood flowing as well as activating and stretching the important muscles and joints. It is also good because it is different and varies from the normal warm ups that we all fall into the habit of using. Different can be good in both a home and an away environment.

1. Hang Power Snatch—I worked up to two triples with 75 and a single with 90. I was focusing on the speed of my pull and extending fully. As Harry and Cathal commented yesterday, I was concentrating on keeping my back locked so that I could get in position to extend fully with my hip. I think this is the focus of what Tom is trying to teach me about the double knee bend, but I may be wrong.

2. Lunges—These were done with 90kg from the Back Squat position. The important points for this exercise was step out enough so that you got a 90 degree angle with the knee and that only after you stepped out and got set, do you go straight down, not forward. We did 3 sets of 4/5 with each leg. We were doing these for two reasons: to strengthen our position in the Jerk receiving position—you have to focus on keeping your back locked with these; and as an assistance movement to maintain and improve athletic strength and balance with both legs. This is a good assistance exercise in my opinion.

3. Snatch High Pulls from 6cm block—I worked up to triples with 80kg. The focus on these was to keep the back locked throughout the pull and to try and avoid the hips rising up before they should. These felt far better than Monday and I think yesterday’s session with the Cleans really helped. I then felt my starting position without the block and it felt the most comfortable in my brief weightlifting career.

4. Front Squats—I did one warm up set of 5 with 80 and then I did three sets of Squats that I really was not used to. There are three parts and they sound really easy on paper but are actually quite difficult. You need to have a person either side of the rack. First you do 3 reps with 80kg. Then you step back while the people beside you rise the weight to 100kg. You get around three seconds rest and then you do another 3 reps. You step back and they put on another 20 kg and you try to do another 3 reps. I could only get one rep in all three sets. The weight is quite light, but when you have hardly any rest and a coach screaming at you to get your knees out when you already have a wider stance than normal, it is very tough. This type of squatting is great for a change and questions your motivation nicely. I think it is a nice addition to an “off-season” period where you are doing more General Preparation.

That was it. I really enjoyed the session and I saw another thing improve in my Snatch starting position. Now I need to maintain this position and really starting extending fully with my pulls—both of which Harry is always trying to get me to do, but the benefit of coming here is that time is not a consideration unlike at home where it is impossible for Harry to spend that much time coaching me individually. Here is a video of some of the action today:

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Tuesday's tenuous technical and physical adjustments

Today was another challenging day's training and focused more on the Clean and Jerk than the Snatch. The first session started at 9 AM and this was a first for me as this is an hour later than Irish time. Here is what myself and Tom's 12 year old son did:

Session 1: 9 AM
General body warm up with various bodyweight drills designed to open up the hips and shoulders, stretch out the back and lock the core areas.
We then did 3 reps on a Muscle Snatch/Overhead Squat/Drop Snatch up to 3 sets of 50kg.

Power Clean from below knees--We focused on getting the back as arched as possible and by rotating my elbows towards my body anti-clockwise. This felt different but it meant that I could rack the bar with my hands on it, not just my fingers. I think this may help with the Jerk. I only worked up to three or four triples with 100, but with the isometric contractions with the back and legs, it was quite tiring.

Good morning to press--I worked up to 3 sets of 8 with 60 kilos. The purpose of these was to get the back used to being locked and working out the hamstrings. The reps were the tiring part, not the weight. There is a video of this exercise below. The idea is to contract the relevant muscles rather than lift massive weights.

Session 2: 7.30 pm

Bodyweight and bar warm up that was surprisingly tiring. Sufak was training in this session and he is an 85kg lifter with 115/145 lifts to his name. He is quick and has efficient technique.

1. Cleans—I worked up to doubles with 120 for two sets and then a single with 130 and then back down to 110 again to work on keeping my lower and upper back and also the shoulders locked throughout the first pull and the transition. This got much better as the session progressed. It means that I can get a much better hip drive in the Clean and I can transfer power better from my lower body.

2. Back Squat—I worked up to a double with 160, but Tom said I was doing plyometric squats, as in I was going down too fast to focus on strength. I went back down to 130 and 120 and really focused on setting that back and sitting in the hole with as locked a back as possible. It was a whole lot slower when I was going down with more control and pausing at the bottom.

3. Jerk from the rack—I worked up to a single with 120. In the beginning we focused on my Dip and controlling it down better and staying on the heels. This really improved. Then we focused on getting through the Jerk by keeping the back locked and getting through with the abdomen. The angle that my elbows were flexed at was wrong and this meant that I was bouncing under the Jerk rather than fixing it. This is the next thing to fix. Maybe I was too tight in the upper body and need to relax more? I missed 130 twice even though it was flying up.
We then finished up with some stretching and that was that. A great day as my Clean and my Jerk dip really improved. My hamstrings and glutes are in pieces now though... Any constructive criticism you have from the video would be great.

Monday 22 June 2009

Monday's mentioning of the old issue

Today was my first day in Tom’s gym in Amsterdam and we had a late training session from half seven to a quarter to ten in the evening. Another lifter, Bram, met me at the airport and brought me back to Tom’s place where we ate and left for the gym. I relaxed for an hour there while there was a fitness class and then the games began. I had no idea what to expect, but the session really turned out to be worthwhile.

After a little dynamic flexibility warm up and some bar work we started off with Snatch technique. I knew the rounded back issue would crop up and it did. Right off the bat. Here is the jist of what Tom was trying to get me to do—at least this is what I understood. There were two main areas on the Snatch that we focused on:

1. Getting a much lower starting position and getting my hips down and through which in turn helped to get a better arch with the upper back. He wants to over exaggerate the starting position to get the lower back and mid traps and rhomboids used to contracting and being used. In time he wants me to go back up to a 90 degree angle, but only when I am firing the correct muscles and movement pattern. There is a video below of the differences between this and my previous position.

2. He wants me to change how I pull both at the start of the movement and how I pull above the knee. He is emphasising the double knee bend massively. In my video below I swing the bar dreadfully but that is because the focus was on the start. Tom wants me to aggressively keep the back arch and pull off the floor with my back AND my legs so that the back angle remains the same and I sit back in the pocket to rebend the knees and get as much hip extension as possible. This is very different to what I am used to and I found it quite frustrating trying to get used to the Hang Snatch Pulls and positioning exercises. Once I have practised this more I will comment on the differences in style in the pull. Either way, the whole feel of the Snatch is different.
I worked on my Front Squat technique also. I went up to doing two triples with 130 and then went back down to 110 to focus on driving up from the bottom position with the elbows and keeping the lower back arched throughout. We also worked on getting a wider stance which was very uncomfortable because of my hip flexibility.

This was a very trying first session from a mental point of view, as I am crap at all the new ways of doings things. This is to be expected of course, as I am trying them for the first time, but it is frustrating none the less. It is great that I came over here, because I will be staring my biggest weaknesses in the face every day and there is no hiding. The only negative point is that the gym is far away from my hostel and that it will take a while to get to and fro the gym and in between sessions. Otherwise I am a happy, but frustrated camper. Here is the video. Remember, it is only the starting point that needs to be focused on so if you have a comment, do me the honour.

Sunday 21 June 2009

Sunday's serendipity

I was supposed to have a very light session on Friday, but my legs were fried after the game of tag rugby and training on Thursday and the previous few weeks, so all I did was go to a friend's gym and do some box jumps and bench press. I have done neither of these exercises in a long time so it was fun, although the box jumps take it out of your legs more than I remember. I am going to Holland for a training camp with Tom Bruijnen for 8 days so I want to be as fresh as possible for this.

I watched the Lions test on Saturday and it was very frustrating watching the South Africans play their territory game, simply content to wait for the Lions to make a mistake. Watching any athlete play within themselves is very frustrating, and I know that the Lions and the Springboks can both improve. It would mean a great deal to world rugby if the Lions could win the next test and set up a grandstand finish. Here is an athlete who did not go within herself on the biggest stage:

Here is a weightlifter who lifted outrageously beyond what anyone else in his weight class could and performed under pressure. Hopefully the Lions will do the same:

Thursday 18 June 2009

Thursday's teetering total

Today's session was not the unmitigted disaster it might have been, but it did not go as well as hoped. I had a feeling today would be a hard session, a kind of sticking point to get through, but I had less in the tank than I realised. Here is what I did:

1. Snatch doubles: Work up to 90, but I missed the second rep and could not Snatch even one rep after this. I went back to Hang Snatch singles and worked up to a single at 90 and left it there. My co-ordination was not at its best.

2. Power Clean: Work up to 100 for 1 x set of 3--Again, I went light with this even though it felt heavy and slugish.

3. Back Squats: Work up to 130 for 1 x set of 5 reps--As above.

Today was the the inevitable day where the volume caught up with me, but I am very happy with the progress I have made over the last five weeks. I will have another lightish day tomorrow and save some energy for when I go to Holland to train with a Dutch coach I met in Bucharest supporting the lads at the Europeans.

Here is another classic battle from the 85kg class class in the 2000 games in Sydney:

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Wednesday's wear and tear

Today's session was tough and I was not quite as sharp as I have been the last few days. I still had a good session and the weights have continued to go up. I did not have time for an extended warm up and I worked in some flexibility in with some bar work and overhead squats. Here is what I did today:

1. Power + Squat Snatch: Work up to 87 for 4 x sets of 2--This was 2kg up from last time and they were of much better quality also. I focused on keeping the bar close and getting the vertical explosion in the second pull. Each set got smoother.

2. Cleans: Work up to 130 for 2 x sets of 2--I could only get the first rep in both sets, so I went back down to 120 for my last set. I did not quite have it in the tank for the doubles. There is a video of my first set below.

3. Front Squat: Work up to 155 for 3 x 2--This was my one rep max and I got two double with it and I missed the second rep on my third set. These were real grinders and it took a while to get through the sticking point on the second reps, but I was happy with them.

I was supposed to do a few sets of Snatch Pulls and the Press, but I was beat and running short on time so I left it at that. In the video below is Sami getting a double in the Clean with 110 which was his one rep max up till last Friday when he Cleaned 115.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Tuesday's terse examination of my swing

I had another enjoyable session today. Myself and Sami took our time warming up again and Tommy Hayden was there coaching Cathal Twaddle, an ever improving 85kg lifter. Some of his Snatches are in the video below along with a few of Sami's--who got a 1kg pb in the Snatch-- and mine. Again, if you have any technical pointers, fire away. I was swinging the bar a bit; I find it hard to keep the bar close by breaking at the elbows and extending straight up, while whipping the pelvis through with the second pull at the same time. I am not skillful enough to do both yet, but I am getting there.

1. Snatch: Work up to 100kg for 5 singles--I was happy with these although I missed the fourth rep due to complacency. I have never repped this weight before and I was happy to get four out of five. As I said earlier, it is extending up and keeping the bar close, but getting as much speed as possible--this is the tricky part.

2. Power Jerk: Work up to 105kg for 3 sets of 3--These were ok. I am still trying to get used to the movement and Cathal's post the other day has inspired me. The three reps are so tiring though! My second set is on the video below.

3. Snatch Pull: Work up to 110 for 3 doubles--I did these after the Power Jerks to stay fresh. These were tough because of the sore hands because of volume training syndrome.

4. Back Squat: Work up to 160 for one double and two sets of three--The first set was really hard and I could only get two reps. For the second and third set I was more used to the weight and I was able to get a triple each time. This is my heaviest triple in the Back Squat so far. The squats keep going up which is great.

Here is a video of Cathal Snatches and Sami's pb of 93 and his close miss with 95. I have a couple of Snatches throw in for good measure and a few ropy Power Jerks. Leave a comment if you can give any constructive criticism.

Monday 15 June 2009

Monday's medicine

I had a great workout today and I upped the ante again. My Snatch was ok as were my Cleans; I was certainly feeling stronger. I am still not feeling super sharp or fast yet, but I think this reflects the volume training. Here is what I did today:

A good warm up with slightly different stretches and pre-habs.

1. Snatch: Work up to 95kg for 4 x sets of 2--I missed the second rep of the second set, but I sorted it out in my last two sets. The second rep felt very hard, not from a speed or strength point of view, but rather how the supporting muscles and back lock was hard to double. There is a video below of my fourth double of 95. This was 2kg higher than I have done before, so I was satisfied.

2. Power & Squat Clean: Work up to 118kg for 3 sets of 2--This was 3kg more than I have done before. I did these before the Snatch Pulls so that I could keep as fresh as possible and keep them snappy. There is a video of my second set below. Please leave any comments that you may think helpful.

3. Snatch Pull: Work up to 110kg for 3 sets of 2--I was trying to get these faster than usual.

4. Back Squat: Work up to 160kg for 3 sets of 2--This is 5kg heavier than last time and I was happy with how they felt. I have gotten this double once before but only when I was completely fresh and for one set only.

Here is teh video so any constructive criticism would be more than appreciated.

Here are two videos that show how beautiful sport can be, irregardless of what form it may come in. The first is the French playing rugby as only they can--Ireland seem the be the butt of many of these sublime moments! The second needs no introduction.

Sunday 14 June 2009

Saturday's stately guest article

Here is a guest article from Cathal Byrd on the benefits of the Power Jerk. His best competition lifts as a 69kg lifter are a 109kg Snatch and a 141kg Clean and Jerk. He has now decided to bow to the inevitable and become a 77kg lifter and he is growing into the weight class as we speak. Here is a link to his website and here is a link to his videos on youtube. If anyone has any thoughts or comments on the following, please leave them below.

The Power Jerk

The following is a brief discussion on the power jerk and why I feel it is such an important exercise in relation to the development of a solid split jerk.

My best result in the split jerk is 150kg at a body weight of 72kg. Compare this to 143kg in the clean and it is clear to see that the split jerk is my strongest asset. However I believe that a lot of my success in the split jerk comes not only from practicing the split jerk itself, but also from practicing the power jerk regularly. Here goes...

The power jerk involves moving a barbell from the shoulders to locked arms overhead. In more detail, the athlete dips by slightly bending the knees, then immediately reversing this motion by powerfully jumping vertically, thrusting the barbell upwards and overhead to locked arms. The feet move up due to the jumping motion, and also slightly out. The power jerk is very similar to the split jerk, the only major difference being that in the split jerk the athlete splits the feet in the catch (one in front, one behind).

Most weightlifters use the split jerk technique. The reason for this is that there is much more room for error using this technique while still successfully lifting the barbell overhead. Due to the athlete's feet being split, one in front and one behind, it is possible for the athlete to quickly dash forward or backward to save a jerk that may be a little out of place. In the power jerk, however, there is much less room for error as the feet are side by side. If the barbell is a little in front, or a little behind, more often than not the lift will be lost. It may therefore be fair to say that the athlete needs to be extra careful in relation to technique when practicing the power jerk as it relies a lot more on accuracy than the split jerk. This caution to technical detail should then in turn cross over to the split technique, making for a more solid, technically proficient split jerk.

In order to execute a successful power jerk, it is pivotal to be aware of the following:

- The dip and subsequent drive in a power jerk needs to be kept as straight as possible. Keeping the knees out during the dip and drive is an essential part of keeping this movement as strict and as straight as possible. Make sure that the barbell has a solid base on which to rest before the drive. This base will come from having a big chest and keeping proper posture in the upper and lower back. As the barbell rests on the shoulders, the angle from the elbows to the shoulders should be slightly below parallel in order to enable the athlete to use the arms to guide the bar as soon as possible.

- As the athlete drives the bar upwards, it is very important to use the arms as soon as possible in order to guide it in the correct direction. Preferably we would like the bar to end up behind the head with arms locked out. More flexibility is required to guide the barbell behind the head using the power jerk compared to the split jerk. This improved flexibility acquired from practicing the power jerk will cross over to the split jerk, developing a very solid catch position.

- In the power jerk the athlete does not drop as low to catch the barbell compared to the split jerk. There a stronger, more powerful drive is needed in the power jerk in order to get more height on the barbell. When the athlete then returns to split jerk he/she will find that the drive has become a lot stronger.

In conclusion, the power jerk will develop a very straight dip, a very strong drive and a very solid catch position overhead. The power jerk should be part of every weightlifter's training programme. For those who find the split jerk challenging, try the power jerk 2-3 times per week for a few weeks. Then return to the split jerk and see if you notice a difference...

Here is a video of Cathal Power Jerking 138kg in a session from last week.

Friday 12 June 2009

Thursday's take on the basics and Friday's fun

I had an enjoyable session and although it was lightish, it was still relatively tiring, because I played a full game of tag rugby after it and there were no subs! Here is what I did on Thursday:

Glute, hip and core pre-hab and bar work.

1. Power + Squat Snatch: Work up to 80 for 2 x sets of 2 and 1x2@85

2. Snatch Pull: Work up to 105 for 1 x set of 2

3. Cleans: Work up to 105 for 1 x set of 2

4. Front Squat: Work up to 135 for 1 x 2

5. Press: Work up to 1 top set of 3 reps of 75

I focused on going heavier in the Snatch because Tommy Hayden was there and he agreed to have a look at my technique. He is a great man for focusing on the basics. I need to work on extending fully and simply having a faster second pull.

On Friday I did the following:

Only bar work and Overhead Squats to warm up--I was short in time.

1. Snatch: Work up to 90 for 2 sets of 2 and 95 for a single. These were all pretty solid and they were technically fine but a little slow. Tommy was saying I still need to extend more and faster also.

2. Power Clean: Work up to 100 for 1 x set of 3--Light but I went heavier on the Snatch than intended and I left all the other movements very light because this is not supposed to be a particularly hard week.

3. Clean Pulls: Work up to 120 for 1 sets of 2

4. Back Squats: Work up to 120 for 1 x set of 5 reps--This was still tiring even though it was not heavy. I will be glad to see the back of 5 rep squats.

So that is the wrap up of my training week. Here is a video of Sami cleaning 115kg. This is a 5 kg pb for him. He had never cleaned over 110 before this and this was his fifth session of the week and last week he did ten sessions. He had also squatted a few sets for five reps around an hour and a half before this lift. Do you think there is more there?

Thursday 11 June 2009

Wednesday's watershed moment

Myself and Sami spent 40 minutes warming up with bar work, partner stretching and a glute, core and hip pre-hab routine. I shall be putting these routines up on the blog over the next week or so and I will have videos of each routine also. This was the first time this week I did not feel rough and inflexible and I was starting to feel relatively normal. Here is what I did:

1. Snatch: Work up to 90 for 1 single and I missed it first attempt because I was not extending up. Paralysis by analysis. I stupidly went for 95 despite the fact that I was not lifting well and I missed it and left it at that.

2. 1 Power Clean and 3 Power Jerks: Work up to 100 for 1 set of 3

3. Back Squat: Work up to 140 for 1 sets of 2

Here is a video of an excellent scapula pre-hab routine that only lasts 2 minutes and is fantastic. I would highly recommend this for people who have any shoulder bother--I have a right shoulder that is bothering me--or even people who are looking to pre-hab and avoid any future injuries.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Tuesday's tenderness

Here is a guest article from Kevin D'Arcy, an Irish 94kg lifter who has lifted 125/160 in competition. Feel free to agree or disagree with Kevin's points:

Functionality before load by Kevin D'Arcy

How many times have we in the strength world heard phrases like, form first, train technique strength will follow. Within weightlifting this is imperative. For high performance a weightlifter must train to have a functional body before applying load to the system. Loading a sub optimal system only results in a strong inefficient system.

The strength and conditioning world has differing schools regarding what the term function means from the guys that do pistols on wobble boards precariously balanced atop a bosu ball while juggling kettlebells to the men that won't consider an exercise worthwhile unless there is 200kg applied through the spine. I believe both ideals have relative merit to a lifter and in particular the beginner.

There tend to be three main areas of dysfunction that tend to hamper weightlifters progress, in this order:

1. Range Of Motion -one needs enough ROM to achieve the positions necessary for optimal technique in particular at lift-off, terminal extension of the pull and in the catch position. Lift off-need ROM to achieve ‘locked, spinal position. Termination of the pull-tight hip flexors result in a lifter terminally extending through spinal extension rather than by hip extension thus not only being an injury concern but also preventing maximum usage of the bodies most powerful muscle, the gluteus maximus at the top of the pull.
2. Stability-one must have adequate stability to stave off injury and allow for transference of power. Areas of interest to lifters include scapular stability to prevent shoulder injuries in overhead position and core stability to allow transference of power from legs to barbell at various stages of the movements.
3. Muscle activation sequences and motor firing patterns-if your muscles don’t work together in the most effective/efficient/optimal manner you don’t lift as much weight-quite simple! Many lifters don’t use their gluteus as effectively as they should as I outlined in Point A. This has correlation to a muscular imbalance that occurs in weightlifting known as Anterior Pelvic Tilt whereby the hip flexors are tight the abs are under trained and weak, spinal erectors have been worked to death and are tight as a…(well, we won't go into that). This results in hip extension never being fully reached and a host of glute power not being transferred--bad for your lifts? Yes!

So how do we avoid the above?

1. Stretch! Well and often!
2. Core stability- Train anti flexion and anti extension exercises respectively the no back flexion squat and the plank with alternate leg raise. Now that we have kept both schools of core training happy lets fix our scapular stability with some IYTWL combos. Happy days!!
3. Get a good coach, practice solid technique, then apply load, repeat!!

Here is what I did today. I was still very tight and grumpy today so I stretched quite a bit and did a glute, hip and core pre-hab warm up along with some partner flexibility before and after the session. This week will be a lot lighter than last week so that I can recover from last week's volume.

1. Power Snatch: Work up to 75kg for 3 x sets of 3--I widened my grip and focused on keeping my back arched with these and they felt far more comfortable this way.

2. 2 Cleans & Jerk: Work up to 110kg for 1 set of 2+1--This was fast and comfortable. I tried to keep my hands in control of the bar in the rack position and also to relax my upper body.

3. Front Squat: Work up to 125 for 1 sets of 3

Myself and Sami stretched for 15 minutes afterwards and my legs and hips feel much better now. Here are two videos that focus on the mental side of this game and they are both very interesting:

Monday 8 June 2009

Monday's meeting of the bar

Today was a light day and I needed it. Active recovery is the name of the game and tomorrow's session will be along a similar vein.

Today I worked on something that Wayne Healy has mentioned on a number of occasions and I feel this may result in an epiphany-like change of perception and physical sensation. He was making the point that I was not finishing the pull on any of my lifts that he saw. I thought that I should Snacth the bar to the same height whether I was Snatching 60kg or 100kg kg's plus. This meant that with the lighter weights I was pulling way too short in order to make sure the bar did not go to Power Snatch height. This tendency has formed a nasty little habit that I was working on breaking today. I need to get used to finishing my pull with full speed and with the lighter weights simply ride the bar down, rather than pulling up sort to work on my catch. I am also doing this with my Cleans, but I figure once I fix it with the Snatch it should transfer easily enough over to the Cleans. Here is what I did today:

1. Snatch: Work up to 78kg for 4 x sets of 2--These were very light so I focused on finishing the pull properly and they got better each set.

2. Snatch Pull: Work up to 100kg for 2 sets of 2--Again, very light but I worked on keeping the arms straight and getting more of a pop at the top of the pull.

3. Power & Squat Clean: Work up to 100 for 1 set of 2

4. Back Squat: Work up to 140 for 1 sets of 2

That was it for today. My joints and muscles were quite stiff so I am off for a stretch and a swim in a while. I need to loosen out my hips, legs and back. Tomorrow there will be a guest article from Kevin D'Arcy and it is particularly interesting for beginning and intermediate lifters. I will leave you with two videos. The first shows the Spanish 75kg lifter Lidia Valentín. She had fantastic technique and she weighs 20 kilos less than me but Snatches more. Harry has his work cut out.

This video requires volume because it is very funny. Two Australian comedians commentate on the 62kg class from the 2000 games in Sydney.

Friday's fall guy

It was difficult to get going for the first session on the Friday morning. All major muscle groups were shouting at me and we were training earlier than the previous days. I took my time warming up and it was a mercy that at this stage of the week, my joints and muscles were easily warmed up and ready to go. They had a adapted so that there was not as long a warm up needed. I began with some bar work and glute activation work.

1. Snatch: Work up to 93 for 4 sets of 2--These were very rough and I just had to get them done. For some reason I was cutting my pull short.

2. Power Clean: Work up to 110kg for 3 x sets of 3--These were tiring but each set got better because I got a snappier second pull and therefore faster elbows. There was an extra 10kg than when I did these the last time.

1 hour break

3. Clean Pulls: Work up to 140kg for 4 sets of 2--I was working on keeping my back locked on these. Next time I do them I need to focus on initiating my pull at the top of the movement. This was also 5kg heavier than last time.

4. Back Squats: Work up to 150kg for 3 x sets of 5 reps--These were very tough and my last rep on my last set was gruesome, but succuessful. There is a video below of my second set. Considering I was only doing doubles of these on Monday, I was delighted with getting the three sets of five. I had only ever tripled 150 before.

By the end of Friday's training I was more fatigued than I have ever been from weightlifting. The hour break between sessions meant that I could pile on more weight. I was weighing in heavier by the end of the week also. It will be intersting to see how the body reacts to this week's ten session in five days for training tomorrow and over the next week. Here is a video of my 150 Back Squats and the second video is pure gold, so make sure your audio is working.

Saturday 6 June 2009

Thursday's tonnage

I woke up on Thursday morning and everywhere was sore. Right now, my legs feel like I could peel them off and throw them away, but that is for tomorrow's post. As usual, it was four main movements and squat to maximum. Here is what I did:

A 15 minute warm up with bar work, glute and core activation pre-hab and partner stretches.

1. Power + Squat Snatch: Work up to 85kg for 4 x sets of 2--My Snatch was not in the groove and although I got these ok, it was frustrating. I know fatigue hits the fine motor skills first, but it is still annoying. This was still 3kg better than last time though.

2. Snatch Pull: Work up to 110kg for 3 x sets of 2--These were great and fast. I am getting better at this exercise.

1 hour break

3. Cleans: Work up to 128kg for 3 x sets of 2--There is a video of my second set below. This was a 15kg jump from last time and I was happy with them. I focused on speed and an upright trunk in the catch.

4. Front Squat: Work up to 150kg for 3 x 2--These were very tiring, but I was really happy to get them. I had gotten a double of 150 twice before but that was when I was fresh and it was only one set.

5. Press: Work up to one set of five reps of 70 and two sets of 5 with 75kg. This was better than I have ever done before also, and I had the eyes glazed over look and feel about me in between sets.

A great day's lifting that was followed by a 15 minute swim in the sea at the 40 foot in Sandycove and believe it or not, I had to play a full game of tag rugby half an hour after the swim with my shorts still wet. Not the ideal cooldown, but at leat I did not pull a muscle. The numbers keep going up despite the fact that we are training harder than we ever have before. Myself and Sami were squatting to max everyday and they still go up as do our other numbers. Wayne Healy helped us out in our first session nd he said this was our nervous system really kicking into gear. Thank god for that because it is Friday night and my legs feel like they have been trampled by an enraged group of rioting prisoners after today's two sessions that were the hardest so far. Very satisfied the week is over and I really enjoyed it, but I will write about it tomorrow.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Wednesday's winning long jump glory

Today's training was hard, but again, very enjoyable. For the start of the second session my legs were about to fall off, but like most things, you get on with it and you surprise yourself. Before I go any further, here is the summary of ART that Shane gave me and here is a link to his treatment centre:

Active release (ART) is a soft tissue technique used to treat injuries involving muscle, fascia, ligament and tendon structures. It is based on a simple principle whereby the structure (e.g. Biceps Muscle) is placed in a shortened position then slowly lengthened while tension is applied to the muscle. This will result in the breakup of scar tissue and any adhesions in the structure thus causing tissue
remodelling leading to a much faster recovery process.

ART is well suited for the treatment of weightlifting injuries due to the repetitive nature of the sport and chronic overuse of the muscles involved. The technique is also invaluable in injury prevention and facilities quicker rehabilitation

Now, I have had five or six appointments with Shane, and although my hips/hip flexors still bug me, my hip flexibility and mobility is definitely improving. My right hip flexor is still bothering me although today and yesterday it was actually at the top of my right IT band. Anyway, here is what I did today:

1. Snatch Pull: Work up to 120kg for one double--I was really happy with this and there is a video of this set below. I did this exercise before the Snatch because I wanted to leave my Snatch till the second session.

2. Power Jerk: Work up to 105kg for 3 sets of 3--I only actually got one triple with this and on my second set I could only get one rep. I was empty at this stage because I did not eat properly before the session because I was busy with other stuff. This exercise kicked my ass.

45 minute break--I ate and drank a lot to make up for my idiocy.

3. Snatch: Work up to 95kg for 6 singles--I missed the second attempt due to over-analysis. My other reps were not pretty but I had to get them when I was a bit fatigued.

4. Back Squat: Work up to 150kg for 3 sets of 3--These were tough and they were my third time squatting very close to as heavy as I could. My legs were thankfully beyond feeling it.

We all finished off our session with an impromtu double long jump off, a bicep curl and a handstand pushup contest. We were pathetic in all, but they were a laugh and a fun way to end the day. Here is my 120 Snach pull double. Harry said I needed to extend more, but I was really focusing on keeping a locked back.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Tuesday's temptations with a Crossfit report for good measure

I had a great day's training today and the weather made it all the nicer. All the lads had a good one and I have some great footage below of some of the double Cleans followed by a Jerk. Sami did 105 when his one rep max in the Clean and Jerk is 110!
I warmed up with some light joint mobility that Shane Lawlor--the ART guy--gave me and did some glute activation stuff as well as some light partner stretching. With the weather being as beautiful as it is it was easy to warm up. Shane gave me a nice 110 words of what ART is and I will post it tomorrow.

1. Power Snatch: Work up to 82kg for 4 x sets of 3--This was 2kg more than last time and it was tough.

2. Push Press: Work up to 80 kg for 3 x top sets for 5 x reps--These were fine because I am starting to get used to the exercise.

45 minute break

3. Clean & Jerk: Work up to 120kg for 3 x sets of 2+1--This was 7kig heavier than last time so I was happy with these. There is a video below of one of the sets.

4. Front Squat: Work up to 140 for 3 sets of 3--These were tough just because my legs were tired from the Cleans and the squats yesterday. The positive atmosphere was infectious though and there was no way I could fail.

5. Jerk Supports: Work up to 150kg for 3 x sets of 3--I am working on getting an upper back arch with these but it is not happening yet.

At the bottom of the post is a short video of some of our lifts.

Here is a report that Colm the Crossfit guy wrote about his visit yesterday:

After lurking on the Irish Olympic Lifting forum long enough, and seeing they'd an open day, I decided to register and ask about coming along to a few of the Squad sessions the guys were having in Dublin I was directed to speak to Barry, who told me to come on down on Monday.

So myself and Will picked up our lifting shoes, a bottle of water, and strolled on down to Herc's to see how the specialists do it.

We poked our head in the door rather sheepishly, and were instantly greeted by Gillian, who came out to the CrossFit Invitational a few weeks back. We were introduced to Tommy Hayden, who rather begrudgingly took the €5 guest fee from us and we waited around a bit for the rest of the lifters to show up. I think Tommy is more interested with people lifting and enjoying the sport than collecting membership fees.

Barry rolled in a few minutes later and greeted us enthusiastically, and very quickly we were chatting away about lifting, CrossFit, the weather, and everything else.

Honestly, we were expected to be left in the corner to go do some lifting, and maybe pick up a few pointers from the guys whenver they got offended enough by our home gorwn technique. Instead, Harry Leech spent the guts of two hours with us, essentially giving us a workshop in snatch technique.

We were working in with Paddy, who was relatively new to the sport having come from Rugby. It seems a good few Rugby players are into the lifting, and move to it once they've had their fun vehementally arguing over the placement of a odd shaped ball in the muck.

Harry took us through some Snatch assistant drills, starting with the Overhead Squat and the Hang Squat Snatch (I'm using Catalyst Athletics/CrossFit terminology here so if there's confusion, apologies). Both of these were described as 'perfect' by Harry - which I reiterated to Will with extra emphasis. On a couple of these sets, myself and Will got in a sneaky 4th rep ;)

My start position and first pull are all over the shop though. While Will has pioneered the Really-Fast-Deadlift-Get-Underneath-It lift, my start has never been consistent. Harry gave me some good pointers but due to my lack of kinestethic awareness and poor hammie flexibility this didn't improve as much as I'd like. It definitely got better as the session went on, but still a lot of work to do on this.

After this, we started Snatching a bit, starting light enough at 30Kg. Just before I started my first lift I was terrified I'd lose the weight. Sometimes, it can take me a while to get into a rhythm in the snatch (badomtish!) and I didn't want to be the douche who showed up and dropped a light lift. But all good in the hood with that.

We moved on up the weight in 5Kg increments with further pointers and tips from the guys. Over to our left Cathal Byrd was pulling 130Kg off the floor. I didn't get the chance to chat much with Cathal as he appeared in the zone, but I will say this about him - what a jerk! (I think I'm out of weightlifting puns now) His jerk was really tight and sharp. He'd take his few breaths, one big explosion and then land - bar locked out overhead, feet in receiving position, everything looking in place.

We moved on up the weights til I settled on 50Kg for doubles/tripples and Will on 55Kg for tripples. Will's snatch technique had never looked smoother or more controlled it must be said. Obviously something was clicking inside of him and I don't think it'll be long before new PBs are set for either of us if we keep up our technique work.

After a couple of sets the platform was getting crowded at that stage with a squat rack behind us in use, Roy doing one handed 45Kg Snatches and some Powerlifters in for their Monday deadlifting session.

Roy's one handed snatches with pretty cool to watch, they'd shoot right up overhead and by Barry's count he did about 27 sets of 3 in that hour. Maybe I should throw that out as a WoD some day? Hmmm...

(The guys in Herc's generally train in this confined space, walking around guys doing squats, cleans, snatches in a tight space. Really makes us appreciate our hyoooge space up in Tallaght :D )

We spent some time working on foot position in the jerk and jerk bounces before finishing up. Would have definitely liked more time on the jerk as we both know our Jerk technique wouldn't be the smoothest.

We wrapped our session up then and there, with Barry inviting us back to any of the group sessions we wanted to this week. I look forward to the next one already.

Monday's monster quad breaker session

I had a great session with Sami, Cathal, Gillian, two Crossfit lads and Roy showed up for the second session.

1. Snatch: Work up to 90kg for 4 x sets of 2--I missed the second rep of the second set because of being a space cadet. I sorted out the paralysis by analysis.

2. Snatch Pull: Work up to 115kg for 1 set of 2--The first rep felt great and I rushed the second rep. I was really happy with how the weight felt. It was 5kg heavier than I have done before.

45 minute break

3. Power & Squat Clean: Work up to 115kg for 3 sets of 2--These got better each set and the back is gradually getting more locked also. This was 10kg more than the last time I did this work out.

4. Back Squat: Work up to 155 for 3 sets of 2--I missed the last rep on the last set. My legs were empty at this stage and my quads had nothing left in them.

It was great having everyone together for the session. It got everyone competitive and the different atmosphere was a real plus. Here is a video that may make you smile.