Monday 31 August 2009

Monday's mirthful slap in the face from my nervous system

I rested up for the last three days and I tried to train today. It was not to be. I felt fresh as a daisy all day and I had hoped to be able to train to a medium intenity, but my nervous system has clearly not yet recovered. Instead of training tomorrow and Thursday, I will train on Wednesday and have a flexibility and pre hab/core sessions tomorrow, Thursday and Friday. I reckon this should get me fresh enough so I can lift some decent weights on Saturday and enjoy myself in the process.

Even though I stretched in the warm up, my hips were very tight again. I simply need to continue doing my partner flexibility here and stay patient. I did not feel comfortable in the bottom position in the Snatch which is quite unusual for me. I worked up to three singles with 90kg in the Snatch and they were ugly as sin and felt just as awkward, but they needed to be done. I had begun my Snatch Pulls and everything felt like it shouldn't. It is very, very rare that I would skip my targeted exercises, but today was one of those occasions, so I went straight to a few sets of Back Squats to keep the legs thinking. I did around fifteen minutes of flexibility after this to finish up.

It was a frustrating workout, but it is clear to me that the nervous system needs a bit more time. I have had sessions were I was tired and sore, but with focus I could still lift well. This session and last Thursday were different though. No matter how much I focused, my body would not obey my mind. I just have to stay patient and I know by Saturday I will be raring to go.

Here is a short video showing two of Zag's girls lifting. They only train in the weightlifting movements twice a week and their talent is very obvious.

Here also is the third part of my inter with Charlie Hamilton:

Sunday 30 August 2009

Saturday's stretching

I have nothing really to report other than I am trying to get my nervous system recovered and ready for the competition in Glasgow next Saturday. I had a great forty minute stretch and glute pre hab this afternoon and I definitely felt looser afterwards. Because I need to drop unwanted skin folds that are unnecessary, I have eliminated most of the starchy carbs from my diet and have been eating a whole lot of greens and fruit with a lot of protein to boot. I have already lost two kilos and that has been pretty easy. I aim to be around 96kg or a little under for Glasgow, so for Cork, the 94kg class will not be a problem. I am happy in this weight class and I want to get more technically sound, faster, more powerful, stronger and overall a better athlete rather than simply putting on weight to lift bigger weights. I want to become a better athlete and weightlifter and I think it is the easy way out to put on weight to placate the ego. Weight is not holding me back: technique, speed and power are.

It is actually not that difficult to strip away the fat because I am essentially eating as healthy as possible with a lot of health inducing supplementation in my diet at all times. This evening I was in a restaraunt and instead of eating what I would have eaten before, I ate a beef and spinach salad with lots of additions and i had some frozen youghurt with berries for desert--I actually had less than half the youghurt. It requires discipline to eat like this across the board from breakfast onwards, but I am doing it and enjoying the discipline. The only real drawback for me is that my body is used to using carbs for fuel, so it needs to adapt to this a bit.

Here is part two of the interview with Charlie, so I hope you like it.

Friday 28 August 2009

Wednesday's wrecking ball

Well, I finally hit the wall after getting a lot of great training in. I got up to have an early 45 minute flexibility session and this went really well. I had training at five that afternoon and I went in feeling a bit fatigued, but otherwise pretty good.

I had an excellent warm up with some great glute pre-hab and some good partner flexibility and bar flexibility work. I felt reasonably sharp in my warm up Snatches up to 80kg and after that I struggled to get three singles with 90kg, which is usually a pretty basic Power Snatch. Nothing felt right from the beginning to the end of the lift.

I then went onto Power Cleans and Power Jerks and everything was smooth up till 100kg which felt fine. I was trying to catch them too high, but otherwise they were ok. I went up to 110kg and I could not Power Clean it. This is, again, an easy Power Clean usually. But not today. I was toast. All the training and travelling caught up to me and kicked me hard. Byrdie and Murph did all the same training in Scotland, but they are lifting for four years compared to my 16 months.

I now have three days off and I will start training again in Monday and get ready for my competition in Glasgow on the 5th of September. Here is a video of Charlie's set up and some of his lifters in Kilmarnock:

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Wednesday's wincing squats

I had a quick, one hour and fifteen minute session this evening and the intensity was good. After three successive days of walking for three hours, my legs had the strength of a drunken sailor after a night at port. Here is what I did tonight:

A quick warm up with the bar with a bit of flexibility

Snatch--I focused on lifting as fast as I could with all the weights, even just the bar. I was supposed to do 3 singles with 85%.
1x2@50, 70, 80
1x1@85, 90, 95 for three singles. They were fast but my hips were very tight all day.

Snatch Pulls--3x3@105kg. Again, these were light, but I was focusing on keeping my back flat and extending up.

Snatch Deadlifts--3x3@115kg. As above. They felt nice weight wise, but the back lock was not quite what I wanted.

Front Squats--1x2@70, 70, 100, 120, 130, 140, 150--I missed the second rep and then dropped back to 140 for two more doubles. My hips were tight in this one also.

Here is the first part of an interview with Charlie Hamilton, who is the Scottish national coach and his club regularly wins the team events in Britain. He talks about his own lifting, his gym and some of his lifters. He is a legend and a hell of coach, so be sure to listen carefully. If you did not read any of my posts from my week training with him and his boys, click here:

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Monday's mashing of my hips

I trained yesterday and my hips were very tight. The good thing about training with Sami is that we spur each other on in training and also enforce the partner flexibility drills that we both need. Because I was awy for a while, my flexibility went down the pan and I need to get it back and improve it again. I stretched before and after the session and this needs to become a mainstay once again. Here is what I did:

Clean and Jerk: 3 singles with 85% which was 120. There is a clip of my last single on the video below. I was really trying to push myself under the Jerk as fast as possible, but it took me a while to wake up.

Clean Pulls: 1x3@120, 130 for three triples. I was really trying to get these with as flat a back as possible.

Clean Deadlift: 3x3@140

Back Squat: 1x2@90, 110, 130, 140, 150, 160 and then I only got a single with it on the next set. I went for a three hour walk the previous day and my legs were not at their strongest. I was supposed to go up to 162kg or 90% for three doubls but my legs did not have it in them.

Here is the video of my lifting and Sami's double with 155kg for a pr double:

Saturday 22 August 2009

Wednesday’s wrangling with the mind

Our session was at eleven this morning and when I woke up, training was not the body wanted to hear. I took a good twenty minutes to get myself somewhat loose with short stints on the rower, the cross trainer and some bar work.

Snatch triples up to 75% --I worked up to a triple with 85kg. These were all very rough and had little speed to talk of, but I had to get them and I did.
Snatch doubles—I made a double with 90kg and moved up to 95kg. I only got my first rep in the two sets; it was very difficult to maintain form and it required more focus than I had, so I moved back to 90kg for another few doubles. It got to the stage where my mind was telling me not to go under the bar because I could not make it. Chick has been training us to ignore our perceived limits, and although most of the Snatches were rough, they were training my mind because I made them in spite of the doubts.

Power Clean and 3 Jerks—I worked up to a set with 100kg

Power Clean and Jerk—I went up to 110 for a routine lift. At 114kg I shut down and missed an easy Power clean. I went straight back to get a Squat Clean and Jerk and I did around four or five more reps with this. My shoulder girdle was throbbing at this stage because of all the overhead lifting, but thankfully I had Chick, Byrdie and Murph spurring me on. Cathal was able to maintain his form with 118kg and 114kg , but my lifts were not as pretty. The atmosphere in the gym was vital in getting my final lifts because we were all sore and tired. The lads and Chick kept me going when before I would not have been able to continue. This is one of the reasons why training in this kind of atmosphere lifts one’s performance: you go beyond what you can push yourself to do and others help carry you along.

That was that. Eight sessions in six days were over. I learned so much over here from a technical standpoint as well as the kind of atmosphere that people can thrive in. The most important thing I learned off Chick was that the mind and the ego are there to be transcended. When you lift perfectly and technique falls down with two kilos added, it is the mind that fails, not the body. I have to learn how to rise above emotions, doubts and moments of fatigue. Coming here has set me on the right path. Here is a video of the day’s training, so as always, leave a comment if you have any.

Saturday's saving grace

It was my first proper session lifting since I got back from training with Charlie Hamilton in Scotland. On the Thursday and Friday I had done some active recovery with some bar and back work along with flexibility, ice baths and a trip to the sauna. When I rocked up to the gym on Saturday, I felt reasonably fresh and energetic, but when I started to lift, everything felt a bit stale and stiff. I am lifting in a competition in Glasgow on the 5th of September which will take me nicely into the Club Nationals on the 3rd of October.

Ben Watson was in Dublin so he trained with me in Herc's, so it wasnice to train with a skilled lifter. He clearly has a lot of potential: his technique is sound and he has great flexibility. He is also only 19 and he weighs in at 90kg and has lifted 125/148 in competition but has lifted more in training. i have included clips of his training in the video below, so have a look and leave a comment if you have any.
Anyway, here is what I did:

Bar work to warm up

Snatch--3x3@40 1x3@50, 60 1x2@70, 80, 90
1x1@ 95, 100--which was underpulled--I then missed 100 due to a lack of urgency in finishing the pull and getting it into position, but I got an ugly lift 20 seconds later. I then got it for one more single.

Clean and Jerks--I worked up to singles with 100, 110, 120 and 128. I then missed the Jerk with 128, then misssed the Clean with it. I was thinking to myself, I am fatigued. That is why I am missing them. But in reality, I was simply not focusing and putting enough pressure on myself. It was a 90% lift and I was giving it 80%. So, for the next two reps I gave it everything I had and I got them both. I imagined how the Scottish boys would have reacted and I knew I was being soft on myself. Ben asked the simple question of "how did you miss that? The bar was in place." The lifts I made after this minor epiphany were very rough, but I had ot get them, so that was what counted.

Ii did not have squats or pulls which was nice. It was great training with Ben and as you will see on the video, he is a great lifter and I wish him all the best. My lifting was very ropy, but it is not always pretty I suppose.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Tuesday’s tramping around on a rainy morning

Session 1

Our first session was very early and we were warming up at 8.45AM. It turned out to an incredibly demanding session, but it was extremely worthwhile. The video below shows how our session was structured but here is what I did:

Bar work to warm up

Clean triples up to 85% for three sets—1x3@40, 40, 40, 60, 80, 90, 100, 110, 120 for three doubles. I missed my last Clean in the first set, got all three reps on my second set and on my third set that is on the video below, I missed the first rep by overpulling and I got the following two reps. This was very difficult because this was all happening around 9.15 am. None of us had ever trained this heavy this early.

Clean singles to max—I got a single with 125, missed 130 and then got it. This was demanding because my brain was telling me it was too early. At no stage of the pull or catch did I feel in any way fluid, but we had to go through with the Cleans anyway and improve our mental strength and our ability to switch off the negative sides of our brains. I then did a single with 135 and I was unable to focus enough in order to Clean 140.

Power Clean and 3 Jerks—Myself and Byrdie worked up to 110kg. Again, it was the co-ordination—or lack of it—that made the exercise tricky. I really focused on driving under the weight and moving as quickly as I could. Because the weight was light, it meant my split was very close, but I could really feel myself getting under the bar. It is quite strange that when we did the max Jerks with 100kg the previous day, it was the 6th, 7th and 8th Jerks that were my best and the first real time that I drove myself under the bar in the split Jerk.

Power Cleans—We did three or four singles with 110kg to work on keeping the bar as close as possible by focusing on the top of the pull.

Session two—7 pm

Snatch—I did doubles up until 90kg and then went onto singles. Throughout the warm up and all my Snatches, I tried to make my lifts as fast as I possibly could and to finish the pulls. This is very tricky with 60kg, but I have to learn to do it.
1x1@95, 100, 105—The 100/105 felt very smooth and close to the body, but there was no pop in the pull in order for a fast finish. I then missed 110 three times which was very frustrating as the bar was high enough, but I lacked the final zip in the finish of the pull and my hips were not opening up enough to get down at rock bottom. I have a good bit of flexibility work to do over the next few weeks. My hip flexibility really improved but since I have been away for the last month, it has gone to the dogs.

Snatch 80% for five reps in a row—Murph and Byrdie were able to get their five singles, but I could only get four. Like out earlier session, Chick was really trying to change the way our mind works and shake it out of our comfort zones. This set felt like an equivalent of a weightlifting brawl and I got knocked out in the final round.
Back Squat—We worked up to a max triple. Murph got 140, I got 160 and Byrdie got 168. Chick really emphasised having your foot spacing and back angle in the same position as you would the Clean receiving position.

That was it. A tough, but exhilarating day’s training where we really pushed the limits of what we were used to, and comfortable doing also. We can always do more than the mind tells us. Peter Kirkbride came into the gym around 8pm and was clearly shattered form a day working on a building site. He was still able to lift some outrageous weights that were very close to his max lifts. This shows how mentally strong he is and how Chick coaches lifters to ignore the mind and to trust his coaching awareness that he has developed over the years. When I come into the gym after a tough day’s work, my mind tells me to take it easy and have a light session. This is fine if one does not want to improve, but rather stagnate. Sometimes one is forced to rest, but there are also times when one has to transcend their previous limits and put everything they have and more than they think they have into a session. This is the biggest thing I have learned off Chick that goes beyond the technical details. I have more mental strength in me than I realise and I need to work on building up this strength and it will come into play on the days were in a tough session or in a competition, I can compose myself, ignore the doubts and simply grip and rip. Here is the video below. I have only included myself, Muprh’s and Cathal’s lifts and in a few days I will publish some videos of Chick’s younger lifters and Peter that will bring a tear to the eye. I also got a great interview with Chick that I will post when I am able. Comment on any aspect of the video that interests you or include any constructive criticism you may have.

As a bonus feature for this post, I have added the third part of Jim Schmitz's interview. It is on how he structures his programmes and also on competition strategy, so enjoy.

Monday 17 August 2009

Sunday’s sacrosanct Jerk session

Yesterday’s session focused more on the Jerk than anything else. After the previous day’s heavy session, we actually all felt sharper and quicker than on the Saturday, so this proved to be a good workout.

1. Power Clean and Power Jerk—We did one Power Clean and two Power Jerks up to 100kg, and then myself and Byrdie started to do singles and we got 110, 115, 120, 125, and 130. I had missed 130 when training in Las Vegas with John Broz so it was nice to get it this time. This movement was all about speed—in both the Clean and the Power Jerk where Charlie focused on speed of lockout and speed of foot. I am simply not fast enough yet, so this session helped emphasise and start to address one of the areas that need strengthening. Murph got an easy 110 for a pb and just missed 115kg.

2. Front Squat and Jerk—Again, we did two Front Squats and two Jerks up until 110kg. We then went to singles with 120 and over. Murph got an easy 120 for a Front Squat and Jerk pb for him. I got 140 on a second attempt and narrowly missed 145kg behind because my arms were too soft in the catch. Again, speed under the bar and locking out the bar were the key factors. Bar height was not a problem for me, it was simply locking out both arms solidly and quickly. This speed of movement ties into the general speed of lifting that I must get better with. Byrdie nailed 140 and also narrowly missed 145 behind also.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Saturday's scintillating display from the Scottish boys!

Yesterday was an action packed day in Scotland. We all went heavy as did Charlie's boys and we Snatched and Clean and Jerked to a max on the day. Cathal got 103/135 and Back Squatted 180, I got 107/135 with a pressed out 140, a new Clean pb of 142 and a Back Squat pb of 180. Murph got 95 and a new Back Squat pb of 165. We were pretty tired from the last two days and three sessions--involving mostly pulling movements--which really fried the nervous system.

It was also great to see Charlie's lifters in action. It was interesting to see that all of them displayed very similar techniques (with some individual differences of course) which conveys Charlie's coaching principals--watch out for some big lifts in the video below! The environment that Charlie has created for his lifters is second to none and extremely conducive to pushing one's limits. Maybe this is an aspect that Irish weightlifting needs more of? Today we will be doing a very tough session focusing mostly on the jerk which should be challenging, although very enjoyable. Charlie has invited us for dinner at his house after today's session to celebrate Byrdie's 23rd birthday and no doubt a few beers will be had. Hopefully will be able to pace himself unlike Friday night. Tomorrow will be a transitional session with the purpose of being fresh and motivated for heavy lifts again on Tuesday.

In brief, Charlie's main area of concern with all three of us is the top of the pull. He believes we are all coming off the bar a little rather than shrugging up which is pushing the bar out in front, making our catch more difficult than it needs to be. Hopefully by the end of this camp we will all have made improvements in that regard.

Friday 14 August 2009

Friday’s fruitful fun

Friday’s fruitful fun

We had our first session at 9.15am and it focused on the Clean movement, the pull in particular. We all adapted how we pull, just like with the Snatch last night. It took a while for us to wake up and get the body moving faster, but that was that the warm up sets were for. Here is what we did:

Session 1

1. Power Clean + 2 Hang Power Cleans—1x3@ 40, 40, 40, 60, 80, 90, 100 for three triples. We focused on keeping the bar close, getting a shrug at the top of the pull and also to catch the bar as high as possible while resisting being driven down by the weight. This last coaching point was tricky with the top end weights in the next exercise when we went to singles because our minds are used to accepting our limits as to what we can Power Clean.

2. Power Clean and 2 Jerks—1+2@ 60, 60, 80, 90, 100 for three sets. We then did single Power Clean and Jerks with 110, 115, 120 and 125. I missed the Power Clean with 125 because my elbows were slow—despite the fact that the bar was really high. I will show this in the video. In this movement my feet were again put out in my starting position, and I was really trying to engage the traps like last night. Each set got smoother—the opening sets were really rough. The idea is to get the positioning and pull right and then the speed will come. Murph got an easy Power Clean and Jerk with 111kg for a pb and his lifting was really sharp this morning.

3. Clean Pulls with shrug—1x3@100, 110, 120 for three triples with this. Like last night, Charlie had us try to hold the shrug at the top of the pull while on the toes. I was creeping forward a bit on these which means I was hitting it out a bit.

4. Clean deadlift with shrug—The same idea as Jim Schmitz’s reasons for using the movement. A slow pull with an isometric hold at the top of the pull. Myself and Cathal did triples with 120, 130, 140 and 150. My back lock abandoned me after the first rep at my top set which tells me I need to strengthen my lower back and hamstrings which leads into...

5. 45 degree back extensions—3x20—These burned my lower back like there was no tomorrow. I obviously need to do more of this movement.

To summarise, the main coaching points from this morning’s session were:
- Keeping the back locked and as flat as possible throughout the pull

- Using the traps at the top of the pull in order to guide the bar and pull the bar as high as possible

- Pushing the elbows though in the catch position as fast as possible

- Catching the bar in as solid a manner as possible, as high as possible while pushing up against the bar in order to resist the heavier weights pushing you down into a full squat clean

Session two: 5pm

1. Power Snatch—3x3@70-% of best Power Snatch--These were tough because my scooping point was sore to touch and I was pretty tired after all the pulls earlier. I also found it tough because I knew this would be an easy session and I was probably conserving my energy for tomorrow.

2. Snatch Pulls—3x3@ 10kg heavier than Power Snatches—Each set got better with the Snatches and the Pulls, but that was it for the second session. Short and sweet so that we can all go heavy tomorrow.

Thursday 13 August 2009

Thursday’s technical illustration

Myself, Andy, Byrdie all trained once this evening in Charlie Hamilton’s gym in Kilmarnock. Our first session was technical but challenging. We were exposed to some of Chick’s coaching methodologies, and Cathal has written an account of the most important facts, some of which include:

- Keeping the hips and backside down as much as possible during the pull in order to improve leverage when exploding at the top of the pull

- Using the traps at the top of the pull rather than the deltoids and arms in order to keep the bar path as straight and as close to the body as possible. This in turn will help the lifter to catch the bar more efficiently and reduce the possibility of the bar being out of place, be this in front or behind

- The benefit of doing hang work below the knee as this replicates the full lifts much more than above the knee

- The importance of keeping the tempo high during training in order to stay mentally and physically focused and to also increase work capacity

Another training approach of significant interest that Charlie instilled in us was the importance of a technically sound pull. He had us perform two different types of snatch pull. The first one involved performing one pull from the floor immediately followed by two pulls from below the knee. At the top of each pull Charlie taught us to explode powerfully from the hips and shrug hard with the traps while simultaneously rising up onto the toes. We were taught to hold this extended position for a second or two before lowering the bar. We all went to about 80% of our best snatch in this exercise. The second type of pull we did was a slow speed pull with about 20kg more than the aforementioned pull. Charlie had us focus on pinning the hips down throughout the pull, keeping the shoulders over the bar as the bar reaches knee level and then shrugging at the top of the pull while simultaneously rising onto the toes. Again we held this extended position for a second or two. The main difference between this second pull variation and the aforementioned is that we didn’t explode through the hips; we simply shrugged at the top with the traps. Also the pull was much slower, deliberately so, in order to ensure technically sound positioning throughout the pull.

Thanks to Cathal for writing that. We all did the same exercises but with different weight. I did the following:

1. 1 Power Snatch + 2 Hang Power Snatches—1x3@ 40, 40, 60, 76 for three triples for 80% of Power Snatch and then back down sets with 74 and 72kg. Chick got me to change my pull slightly by continuing to control the bar on the way up and only begin the second pull once it reached the top of my quads, rather than what I was doing which was initiating the pull around the middle of my quads. He also got me to widen my stance a good few inches. I will see how that goes over the week.

2. 1 Snatch pull + 2 Hang Snatch Pulls from below the knee—1x3@76, 86 for three triples. With this exercise he really got us to engage the traps at the top of the pull and to keep our arms and shoulders as relaxed as possible.

3. Snatch Deadlift with shrug—1x3@ 80, 90, 100 for four triples. Like Jim Schmitz’s Clean deadlifts, they are done in slow motion and are done like this to improve strength and positioning.

4. 1 Front Squat, 1 Jerk + 1 more Front Squat and Jerk—1x4@60, 80, 90, 100, 110 for three triples of this weight. This was demanding physically and for some reason my Jerk was better each time on the second Jerk when I was the most tired. I really focused on a quick lock out.

All in all, this was a great session which we all really enjoyed. It was a great learning experience and hopefully each session will continue to be as productive.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Tuesday's think tank

I was going to have a session comprising on bar work and flexibility, but after arriving home yesterday, my body clock has not quite recovered yet, so I watched Sami train instead. I am off to Scotland tomorrow evening to train with Charlie Hamilton and his boys for six days in Kilmarnock and Andy Murphy and Cathal Byrd will be going also. Of course, I will update the blog as much as possible and hopefully I can sneak in an interview with Charlie, whom many regard as the best coach in Great Britain. There are some tremendous lifters in his gym so I might be able to take some videos of them also.

As promised, here is the part two of my interview with Jim Schmitz and it deals with weightlifting technique across the board. Here and here are my two posts regarding my training in the Sports' Palace. Thanks again to Jim for giving the interview and hopefully you will be as interested in what he says as I am. I will close this post with the great advice that he gave me in an email today:


It was a pleasure meeting you and having you workout with me. And a big thanks for the interview you posted, I have received many very positive comments about it. So, get those legs really strong and your technique more consistent and efficient and I think you will lift some big weights. However, watch out for "paralysis due to analysis", don't think too much, especially when you grab the bar, if you pull as hard as you can and move as fast as you can you have a good chance for success.

Weightlifting is Fun, Lifting More Weight is More Fun, So Lift a Lot of Weight and Have a Lot of Fun!


Sunday 9 August 2009

Friday's firestorm in the Sport's Palace

This was my second session with Jim Schmitz and it was even more enjoyable than the first session. Despite the fact that I had cycled around hilly San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge for over two and a half hours the previous day, I was raring to go. Before the session started, Jim agreed to give a three part interview and the first part is below and it deals with his overall experience with the sport of Olympic weightlifting. Here is the session that Jim put me through and what I learned from it:

I did a short warm up and then Jim had me do a quick circiut with the bar that got the blood flowing and stretched out the relevant muscles a small bit.

Snatch doubles--I actually began with two Power Snatches and one Squat Snatch and I did three sets of this with 50kg.

1x2 @ 65, 75, 85, 95kg--I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to reach up in my Snatches more and that I needed to get my earlobes up to my deltoids. I found this helped my transition from the pull to the catch. He also got me to stay in the bottom position for a second or two to get comfortable down there so that if a lift was out of position I could save it. I also had to get into a different habit of performing the second Snatch as soon as the bar hit the floor after the first. Usually I would take a few seconds to step away and regroup but Jim had me lift straight away which, because of fatigue, placed a far greater demand on both finishing the pull and keeping the back straight.
5x2 @ 100kg--I did five sets of doubles with 100 and I got both reps in my second, third and fifth sets. I found this very beneficial because I thought I was trying my hardest on my first set, but I really wasn't. More focus was required in order to keep the back locked in the first pull and also to finish the second pull fully. The fact that I could do it in the sets after the first, shows me that it was a state of mind, not of the body.

Power Clean and Jerk--I did three sets of three Power Cleand and one Jerk with 60kg to warm up. Then I did the following:
1x2@ 90, 110
1x1@120, 125--I then missed a Power Clean with 130 so I settled for a full clean because that was all I could do on the day. I got three Clean and Jerks with 130 although one of them was a press out because as Jim noted, it was "a dainty Jerk."

Clean Deadlift and Shrug--Jim uses these to help create a flat back and this is particularly good for me. The deadlift is done slowly with a shug at the top while also extending onto your toes. He explains the exercise in greater detail in part of the interview, I can't remember which of the three. I did doubles with 130, 140, 145 and 150. Not only did this show me I am simply not strong enough, it also showed me that, like in Amsterdam, I need to improve my back arch, which one has to really focus on in the second rep in particular.

Back Squat--1x5@70 1x4@110 1x3@140 1x2@160--I missed the second rep twice which was annoying. My legs did not have it in them again. I went back down to do three triples with 140.

1 Military Press + 1 Push Press + 1 Power Jerk--3x3@60--This last exercise was just to show me a nice combination to improve positioning and bar awareness.

All in all, I really enjoyed training in the Sports' Palce with Jim and his lifters. I was made feel welcome and I learned a lot. Jim is extremely experienced in the sport and his passion inspired me, much like John Broz's did the previous week. Above is a video of some of my lifts and as always, please male any constructive criticism that you think may help. Below is the first of a three part interview with Jim and hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did:

Friday 7 August 2009

Wednesday's worhipping at the Sports' Palace

I had no idea what to expect when I arrived into the gym where Jim Schmitz trains his lifters in San Francisco. The usual training area was being refurbished so it was a makeshift gym in a different part of the gym that I trained in. I met Jim and a few of his lifters that were preparing themselves for a competition in Sacramento on Saturday.

I did a quick warm up with the bar and then I asked Jim what I should do. He got me to Snatch and Clean and Jerk up to a comfortable 90% or so so that he could observe my lifting and take it from there.

Snatch--I began with 2 Power Snatches and one Squat Snatch with 40, 50, 60 and 70kgs. I was then told to Squat Snatch 80 and 90 and then I Snatched 100. None of these felt particularly good, with 100 feeling far heavier than usual. I then missed 105 twice and then missed 100 again. I was not finishing my pull and I felt very flat. The driving up the coast of California was beautiful but it was not particularly conducive to lifting I am afraid. My Snatch has been feeling very fast lately so I was a little annoyed I was not at the races in that regard, although I do realise I am on holidays!

Clean and Jerk--I started off with one Power Clean, one Squat Clean and one Jerk with 60, then 90, then 100 and then 110. Then it was a straight Clean and Jerk with 120, 130 and a solid 135 which was fast, but was what Jim called a "wet bag jerk" meaning that I was too soft in the recieving position. I left it there; the Cleans also felt far heavier than they should have.

An interesting thing that Jim repeated a few times was that when I finish any lift, I need to stabilise the bar at the top of the Snatch or Jerk in order to both create the habit of finishing the lift properly and also to strengthen the stabilising muscles isometrically. Harry has tried to get me to do the same thing but Jim's explanation sounded much cooler.

Miyake High Pulls--This is a Snatch assistance exercise that is used to improve the transition from the first pull to the scooping point. The High Pull added into the end helps put the movement in place. Jim got this exercise from the man it is named after and upon looking at the video below, my back needs a tighter arch throughout the pull. The exercise begins with a Snatch first pull from the ground up to the scoop point, then the bar is brought down below the knees and back up to the scoop point and then the bar is brought back down to below to knee and the lifter extend up into a high pull. I worked up to two sets with 90kg in this exercise.

Front Squats with a Jerk--I began with 5 squats with 60 with a Jerk at the end. Then I went up to 90kg for 4 squat and one Jerk. Then I went to 110kg for 4 squats and one Jerk followed by 125kg for 2 squats and one Jerk. I really enjoyed these and it is a great way to work on the Jerk while getting your lighter squats in. I then went up to 140 for a Front Squat double followed by a very hard 150 for a double. My legs are still feeling a bit weak I am afraid. I would highly recommend adding a Jerk to your Squats because it reinforces skill as well as forcing you to Jerk when your legs may be fatigued.

The Sultan Rakhmanov exercise--This was something I have never seen before and Jim uses it to strengthen the posterior chain as well as to teach the body how to bring the hips through and extend when the hamstrings are stretched like in a lift. The exercise is in the video below and Jim got it from the famous Russian lifter who it is named after. I had no idea how, but I tweaked my hip, so I could not perform the movement the way I wanted to. You position yourself like in a Back Squat and descend into a good morning, and when at the bottom of the good morning, you bring your hips through and scoop under and extend up. It is very interesting and like some of the exercises I learned in Holland, could help me get that back locked.

All in all, it was a great first session. I should have a good interview for the next post and a few videos to boot.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Wednesday's watchmen--a gathering of learned University of Limerick folk

Here is a guest invite if you will from an Irish weightlifter and past contributor to the blog, Eamonn Flanagan. He is involved in a strength and conditioning conference down in UL and the conference is non-profit and none of the presenters get paid for it. The details are below and if you are interested, let Eamonn know and follow the link. I would definitely be going, but I will be in Scotland at the time. There are lots of things I think I could learn and apply to my training. Here are the details:

What: Strength & Conditioning Applied Research Workshop

Where: University Arena, University of Limerick, Ireland

When: 11:15-13:15 on 19th August 2009

The ISBS Applied Session: Biomechanics of Strength & Power Training is designed to provide cutting edge information to strength and conditioning professionals who work directly with a variety of athletes. Attendees will learn various methods to develop strength and power in their athletes. The session will include both discussion and demonstration segments featuring plyometric, complex and weightlifting training as well as measures of assessing performance. The ISBS 2009 Conference will run 17- 22 August with the Applied Strength and Conditioning Workshop occurring on 19 August 11:15-13:15 at the University of Limerick in Limerick, Ireland.

Topics and presenters will be:

1. Eamonn Flanagan & Darragh Graham: Plyometric exercises

2. Tom Comyns: Complex training

3. Andy Tysz: Olympic weightlifting

4. Randall Jensen: Use of different measurement techniques in assessing performance

5. 20 mins Q+A

Eamonn Flanagan, Ph.D., is a strength and conditioning coach with Scottish Rugby. Darragh Graham is a strength and conditioning coach, formally of Leinster Rugby. Darragh has also been a national champion sprinter in both the 100m and 200m. Tom Comyns, Ph.D., was an Olympian in the 4x100m in Sydney, 2000. He is currently a strength and conditioning coach with Munster Rugby. Andy Tsyz represented the U.S.A in a distinguished career as an international weightlifter. He is now the head coach of the U.S.A. Olympic Education Centre Weightlifting team. Randall Jensen, Ph.D. is a professor in exercise science at Northern Michigan University. He is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and has published dozens of research papers in the realm of strength and conditioning.

Day Registration: Euro €101 (also includes full day access to ISBS Conference, delegate pack and lunch). In addition to the Applied Session a dedicated Oral session on Strength and Conditioning Research will also take place on the day.

The ISBS is a non-profit organization.

For more info on the conference and for registration, go to:

Otherwise, I am training later today with Jim Schmitz so I shall post about how that goes when I have the time.

Monday 3 August 2009

Saturday's sandy beaches in Santa Barbara

I had a very short and not so sharp 45 minute workout in Crossfit Santa Barbara. Thanks to Tyler for hooking me up and letting me train there. All that I did was Power and Squat Snatch up to 85kg for two doubles and Power Clean, Front Squat and Jerk a single with 115kg. These are approximate weights because they were in pounds, not kilograms. My traps were were a bit sore from my session in Vegas: I have never Cleaned 130 seven or eight times before. Otherwise, I am enjoying the sunshine and am currently in Monterey after visiting Carmel by the sea today. I will arrive in San Francisco on Wednesday and I will be having two sessions with Jim "I am an absolute legend" Schmitz.

Here is a video of some of the lifts from Thursday with John lifting as well as his three athletes. There are some great lifts here, so enjoy and leave any constructive criticism that will help.

Saturday 1 August 2009

Thursday's tantalising Vegas jackpot

I stayed in Vegas for three nights and I managed to organise a training session with John Broz, an American super heavyweight, who also coaches a group of young lifters in the "Average Broz" club. This was definitely a session to remember because I learned a lot from John, I really enjoyed watching his young lifters--they were all 19--and I lifted well for my own standards also.

I have a great interview with John Broz below, and it is particularly interesting because he lived with Antonio " I have Snatched the biggest weight in history" Krastev for three years. Listen to what he has to say and I can guarantee it will have you looking at your own training in a new light.

There were three 19 year old lifters who I trained with: Pat Mendes, a super heavy weighing 125kg who I watched Power Snatch 135 and Power Clean 170; Taylor Smith, a 94kg lifter who I watched Snatch 120 and Clean and Jerk 145; and Brett, a 110kg lifter who Clean and Jerked 145 and Power Snatched 110. This was the fifth or sixth time he has ever Snatched or Jerked. Pat and Taylor have been training for just over a year and Brett for six months. Their power was astonishing and to say they have incredible raw talent is like saying Cathal Byrd has massive calves: both statements are gospel. I have videos of these three lifters along with my own lifts from the session to follow soon.

As far as my own training went, it got a kick up the proverbial, because these guys were strong and that pushed me forward also. I did the following:

Snatch doubles: I worked up to a double with 100kg for a pb. Then I followed it with a double with 102.5 and after missing the second Snatch with 105kg in two sets, I got both the third time. This was an 8kg pb in the Snatch double so I was pretty chuffed. With the doubles, the technique is never as pretty as with singles, but I was happy. John was urging me to be more aggressive with how I turn the bar over and pull it into the proper recieving position over the head.

Power Clean and Power Jerk: I worked up to 125kg and I Cleaned 130 maybe six times, missing the Power Jerk each time due to a slow lockout. I am still not used to the Power Jerk, but it is getting better gradually. John was making the points that I was too tense in the rack position--Andy Murphy has said likewise--and also that I was not being forceful enough with how I drive and lock the bar into the right position over my head.

Back Squat--I worked up to a double with 160kg. I mentioned to John that my legs have not felt strong since I got over here, and he said that this was because of all the walking I have been doing, being on holiday and all. He also mentioned that I was Snatching well because my back was fresh, but my legs were not, which affected my Cleans and Squats.

I don't have the time or inclination to write down all I learned from John, but I will say this: He gives his lifters an international perspective and steers clear of national focus. He plays the old school Ironmind training hall tapes and world championship videos during training sessions so that the guys have proper form to watch. I felt like I was given an injection of adrenaline after training in his gym and that is something that I think we all need from time to time. Do yourself a favour and watch the video below. You may or may not agree with everything John says, but it will certainly make you think.