Thursday 2 July 2009

Thursday’s tempest—at least for how I lift.

This is a short reflective article on my 8 day training camp in the Netherlands. I have a training report from each day with videos either below this post or you can also get them from the archive on the right hand side of each page.

I learned many things in my 8 days training in Holland with Tom Bruijen. In this post I will deal with some of the technical aspects of weightlifting that I not only learnt, but more importantly, felt in a kinaesthetic and physical manner. Of course, these are all relevant to me and are all very obvious, but like I said, you have to FEEL it.

1. I have learned for the first time what it feels like to lift with a flat and arched back. This transforms the entire feeling of a lift and how you experience the movement. I am able to fully use the power in my legs and hips and not rely on my mid/upper back so much, in the Snatch in particular. On Monday I was not able to maintain this back arch past 100kg despite getting the lifts, but that is up to me to ingrain the altered starting position into my automatic technique through focused repetitions, rather than mindless warm up. If I am unable to maintain concentration on form throughout the warm up I do not deserve to improve on my total.

2. The assistance exercises Harry and I choose to include in my program have to work on both the improvement of technique as well as specifically activating and strengthening the relevant muscle groups. For me, the muscles all long my spine are not used to being properly activated and employed for optimal technique, the lower back in particular.

3. In both the Snatch and the Clean in particular, I simply do not extend and finish my pull enough. This is something that Harry, Tommy Hayden and Wayne Healy have commented on; like the new starting position, I must ingrain how this feels and form a habit of extending fully with the lighter weights so that it carries through when the intensity ramps up.

4. In the Jerk, it all starts with the Jerk Dip. If this is not fluid and does not hit the right position, everything else will more than likely go to the doldrums. The habit of staying on the heels in the dip is just about there, but I still need to be concentrate on it until it is second nature.

5. How I rack the bar in the Jerk controls how I extend in the Jerk drive and how much power of the hips and legs can be utilised. I was made aware of this for the first time in Bucharest when Kevin D’Arcy and Cathal Byrd pointed out how my shoulder girdle was slightly caved in when in the rack position. I worked on this a bit with Harry in the training camp at the start of June, but it only started to feel comfortable this week because I made my grip wider in the Clean which made it wider in the Jerk and easier to ‘open up’ the shoulder girle and upper back. Now that this position and the Jerk Dip are far more comfortable, I can focus on how I drive in my extension and then drive myself under the bar with a secure lock.

6. When squatting, it is imperative that I keep my back lock all the way down and up—again building this habit with the lighter weights first. I must also gradually get my feet a bit wider when squatting so that it mirrors my catch position in the Snatch and clean comfortably.

7. My flexibility is improving at a snail’s pace, but I have to continue working on it—focusing, as always, on the hips, groin, hamstrings and back.
These are the main things I learned training with Tom, but the seeds of many of these aspects were sown months ago. A training week like this gives one the time to focus on these kinds of issues and with few distractions, also the energy. It also goes to show how more than one coach can help one’s technique and lifting as well as many of your lifting peers. These are all basic points that most of you probably already know, but in my opinion you must get the physical ‘feel’ of an aspect of technique before you can truly understand it and begin to adapt. It is not enough to comprehend the concept; kinaesthetic awareness is the fulcrum from which you can begin to adapt. These are only my opinions; feel free to agree or disagree. If anyone has any tips that they learned in a similar or different way, please leave a comment.


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