Thursday 31 December 2009

Wednesday's wholesome snack of humble pie

I trained twice yesterday and enjoyed myself despite the lacklustre performance. I trained with Zag, Cathal and Alex again. I did a nice enjoyable morning session where I did my prehabs, my joint warm up, the power plate, some bar work and I power Snatched up to 70 for 3 singles. I felt great and was looking forward to the second session where I would see what happened.

I made the mistake of having a massive lunch which left me feeling sluggish. For whatever other reasons, I was not lifting in the zone and when 80kg felt heavy in the Snatch, I knew today would not be my day. I did 90, then missed 97 and then got it and I missed 101 twice. I should have stopped at 90 and worked on some technical matters or moved on, but I got stubborn. After seeing Byrdy Snatch 101 I was determined to get it even though my Snatch felt awful and different to how I normally lifted. On Birdy's advice, I went back to 60kg again and did some Power Snatches up to singles with 70, 80, 90 and then a Snatch with 95 which was rough, but better than my previous attempts. I left it there. If it is not happenning, accept and move on. Maybe next time I can move on earlier.

I then went onto some Front Squat and Jerks and worked up to singles with 100, 110 and 120. They felt easy, but like the Snatch, not in the groove. I left them there and then did three triples in the Front Squat with 130 to tie me over nicely. I finished off the session with more flexibility work with Alex and Cathal, focusing on the partner stretches and forced flexibility. We also did some soft tissue work on problem areas; mine being my glute meds and around that area and Byrdy's being his adductors. Have a look at the video and pay special attention to the first and last clips...

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Tuesday's totality: get the groove back; adapt, progress and evolve!

I had five days off training for the first time since I started weightlifting 18 months ago. I did not stretch, or train in any shape or form; the only things I did were: eat lots of great food; have lots of epsom salt baths; sleep a lot and generally just be happy with my family. Although I felt stiff and lacking fluidity with my lifting today, I felt rested and fresh. Job done over Christmas I suppose.

Cathal Byrd and Peter Stewart were training in Hercs today with myself and the usual crew. It was nice having the lads to compete with and the different atmosphere was welcome. I arrived late after getting crucified in traffic, so I forgoed my usual warm up with the prehab and flexibility and just had ten minutes with the bar to warm myself up accordingly. Both Pete and Cathal Snatched 105kg so I knew I would have to get that--don't you just thrive on the competitive spirit also? I did three doubles with 50, one with 70 and then did singles with 80, 90, 100 and I missed 105 first time around, but I got it the second time. My lifting felt rusty and lacking in any small amount of finesse that I possess on occasion. 100 and 105 felt sloppy so I left it there with the Snatch. My strength felt fine, but today was to get me into to the groove so that I can go hell for leather in London where myself and a few of the lads will be training in the first week in January.

I then moved onto the Clean and Jerk and worked up to singles with 110, 120 and 130. Again, the weights were muscled up and I felt stiff technically and physically. I left it there, content for the day. This is to be expected after taking 5 days off to sleep as much as humanly possibe, I suppose. I finished off the session with four triples in the Back Squat with 150kg that felt far heavier than they should have. I have a lot of squatting to do. My 165/180 squat figures are nowhere near I need them to be for the lifts I want to be getting in the next six months. It is great to have such a glaring weakness to work on, though. Speaking of weaknesses, myself, Cathal and Harry spent 45 minutes at least stretching with Alex again--her technique is really starting to improve!-- and the days off did not help with the flexibility work! I felt the better for it afterwards though. We focused mainly on the hip flexors, the glute meds, the hips in general and the hamstrings. Painful, but beautiful.

Alex and Emmett have agreed to co-author a guest article on their methods for improving flexibility which should be great and I am looking forward to posting it. That is all for today. I am training tomorrow and I will do some flexibility on New Year's eve and then take a day off before heading to London for five days of sweet sweet maximal lifting just for the fun of it. Bring it on!

Sunday 27 December 2009

A Christmas cracker--a report from Las Vegas: training in Average Broz, by Cathal Byrd

Our favourite son from Cork--or is it Limerick? Even he does not know anymore--trained with John Broz and here is his report. You may or may not have seen my report of training over there. There is another video in this post also. I hope everyone has had a great Christmas and trains smarter and harder over the new Year.

I recently spent a few days holidaying in Las Vegas. Even though the main purpose of this trip was to holiday, I still thought that I should take the opportunity to train in John Broz's weightlifting club as it's always great to train in a new environment, especially in the company of a coach of the calibre of John as well as some of his top athletes. Two 94kg lifters, Taylor and Rob, both Snatched a routine 120kg while both having injured backs. Fighting through the pain or what? I spent four days in total in Vegas, the third day being my session at 'Average Broz', so needless to say I was pretty fatigued from the travel and the general mayhem of Vegas by the time I started my warm-up.
The following is what I did at the training session:

Snatch 80/1x3, 90/1x3
Power Snatch 60/3x2, 80/1x2
Snatch 90/1, 95/1, 100/1
Clean and Jerk 110/1x3
Power Clean+Front Squat+Power Jerk 100/1+1+1x3
Front Squat 110/1, 130/1x3

I was genuinely exhausted during this session so I was delighted to have made 90% (100kg) in the snatch. What was pretty humbling though was that while I was making a not-so-routine 100kg snatch, 105+ junior lifter Pat Mendes was loading the bar to 190kg for an attempt at a new snatch personal best...

Pat was the first of the 'Average Broz' that I met at the gym. He's a big guy, weighing around 130kg at 19 years of age. After some brief introductions and a pretty quick tour of the modestly-sized gym (two lifting platforms, one set of jerk blocks, a few squat stands and a few sets of my opinion all that a weightlifter needs, nothing fancy, but more than enough for the hard-working weightlifter) we got talking about weightlfting and I asked Pat how his training has been going. He was very upbeat and positive, even though he said he has had some injury problems with his wrist and a very similar knee injury to my own. He then casually mentioned that he was going to snatch 190kg today, to which I humbly replied 'good'. Pat's mental attitiude is fantastic, he realises that to succeed in a sport like weightlifting one has to shed all ego and bulls**t and train hard day after day. Injuries and bad days will come and go, that's a given as an athlete. Giving in to these injuries and bad days however are just not acceptable.

Pat and I began our snatch sessions at the same time and I made sure to keep an eye on him as I thought that I could learn a thing or two. My session was just a run-out to keep me ticking over while on holiday, but Pat was in it for the real thing. A few sets with 50kg, then 100kg for a few doubles, 130kg for a few doubles, 150kg, 170kg, 180kg, 185kg which equalled his personal best. Then 190kg...five times Pat tried this, each time losing the bar out in front. The first attempt was especially close. Pat was clearly annoyed that he could not make 190kg today, he has been attempting this milestone for a couple of months now. It will come though, of that I have no doubt. With 185kg as a 105+ junior, he is already at a top class international level. I'm sure as he moves to the senior ranks he will quickly become a 200kg+ snatcher, with more to come also. Obviously Pat is physically a great athlete, very strong, powerful and with good technique. With a 320kg-edit: now 350kg-- back squat he has the potential to be one of the best super-heavyweights of all time. But for me it is his mental attitude and application to his training that will take him to the level both he and his coach John Broz know he can reach.

During my session I spoke with John Broz about my own weightlifting and training in general. Like Pat I found that John posseses fantastic mental strength. He seems to be a tough but very fair and understanding coach, traits that can only make for top quality athletes. I especially liked his no-nonsense and straightforward training ethos...if an athlete has weak legs, squat. If the pull is weak, incorporate more pulls in training. But the most compelling piece of advice John gave was to build a strong mind, or the 'mind of a champion'. Afterall if the mind is weak, the body has no hope of becoming strong.

You have probably already seen my interview with John, but it is worth watching again because he talks about what Cathal discusses above:

Friday 25 December 2009

Wednesday’s wrap up for the Christmas break

Training was great fun on Wednesday. I knew that I would have to keep it light and I enjoyed myself anyway. I will now rest until training on the 29th, 30th and then take two days off before I go to London to train for five days with Zag, Paudie Roche and Cathal Byrd. My session finished with another hour of flexibility work and I could feel the benefits in my lifting. Emmett showed myself and Zag a way of releasing some tension in the lower back that leads into the hip flexors and I found this very helpful with keeping my back locked throughout the pull in the Snatch. Here was my workout:

Snatch—1x2@50, 50, 50 1x1@70, 80, 90, 100
Clean and Jerk—1x2@70, 70 1x1@80, 90, 100
Power Clean and as many Jerks as possible with 100kg—I did this a few months ago and I got seven Jerks. This was as tired as I have ever been practicing the sport of weightlifting. In my first set, I Power Cleaned 100 and got 5 Jerks. I knew I was being soft on myself and letting the fatigue mask my ambitions, so I rested five minutes and had another bash. I got the rest of the crew to encourage me and keep me going until I got my 8 reps. It was at around the fourth rep that I realised how tiring this was on the legs. I struggled to get the bar under control for my last rep, but I got my eight reps. My lungs were screaming at me and my legs felt like jelly. That was the end of my light squatting at the end.

We stretched at the end for an hour. It was intensely painful, but I felt great afterwards again. We worked primarily on the hip flexors and groin area and some soft tissue work for my glute meds. Alex and Emmett showed us a few acrobatic feats to cap things off for a fine session. As always, please give any constructive criticism that you think can help. Have a great Christmas everyone!

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Monday's marital breakdown

Monday was strange because I did not have the best lifting session, but then I did an hour of stretching with Alex and Emmett showing myself, Harry and Zag the quickest ways to getting flexible and it made my training day. I felt much better afterwards and completely re-energised after a session where intelligence got run over by stubborn ignorance.

Starting off with the Snatch, I was feeling quite fast and I was enjoying my lifting. Wayne was there for a while and helped myself and Zag with our Snatch and we both found this very helpful. I worked up to singles with 80 and 85 and then put 100 on the bar thinking it was 90. Halfway through the pull I thought to myself, this feels heavy! I missed it behind on the way up, but I really should have gotten it. I went back down to 95 and then 90 and left there. I only intended on going up to 90 or 95 because I was tired, but I was happy with how my catch felt. My back decided to ignore the straight lock I have been working on, but you can't get it right every day.

I went on to the Jerk off the rack and worked up to singles with 120, 125 and then I missed 130 three times and finally got it on the fourth attempt. I was Jerking it forward last night and like the Snatch, my technique was off slightly. I was getting stubborn and instead of taking my foot off the gas and leaving it at 110 or 120, I ploughed on ahead, learning nothing and just irritating myself all the more. But, if you don't make mistakes, how can you learn?

I continued in the same vein with my Front Squats and worked up to a single with 150 and missed the second rep. I dropped back to 130 for a double and left it there. I was fatigued and annoyed at my lack of self control, but the flexibility work really cleared my mind and perspective, so thank yo Alex and Emmett!

Have a look at the video below. Zag barely misses a 130 Jerk and hits 125 nicely for Jerk pr off the rack--he has Cleaned and Jerked 128 though. Tomorrow I am going to post a report written by Cathal Byrd about his visit to John Broz's gym while visiting Las Vegas.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Saturday's slicing pain when getting stretched by Alex

I had another enjoyable training session today but I had to do a proper session because Harry was there. I worked on the things that are currently most important to me with my lifting:

1. Getting a flat back in my pull.
2. Improving my flexibility.
3. Getting my squat numbers up--This took a back seat over the last month because I wanted to have all available energy for the classical lifts.

I worked up to 90 in the Snatch for four singles and I focused on keeping my back flat. I simply need to remember to actively pull or curl the bar with my back the bar as well as pressing through the platform with the feet/heels. I also worked on getting more comfortable in the catch and stayed at the bottom for a few seconds each time to get more used to being there. Hopefully this can translate to me being more able to save lifts that are out of place. We'll see.

I worked on the Jerk from the rack, but my mojo was starting to go pretty rapidly so I stopped at 110. I am getting better at listening to my instinct, because I knew at the start of training when I was lifting 50kg that I was not that full of beans. Harry made me squat after and I'm glad he did. I did five triples with 140 which is usually very light, but felt damn heavy on the day.

As you will see in the video below, Cillian got a 5 kg pb in the Snatch and it did not look close to a limit lift. Alex is really improving with her natch and Laura has made a few subtle but effective changes in her technique also. Alex helped me stretch afterwards again, and it was very painful, but very worthwhile. It complimented the yoga session I did this morning beautifully and I can really feel my flexibility improving. My first set of overhead squats always feel relatively loose and I am gradually getting my feet wider in spacing.

As a bonus feature, here is a great video showing you how to make a foam roller that is actually better than the ones you can buy:

Thursday 17 December 2009

Thursday's tango moments

I had not trained since Saturday's competition which is a rarity for me. I was looking forward to training tonight and was determined to have an equally rare "free" fun session where I could do what I want. Another lifter Alex trained with us tonight and she is a professional acrobat. She guided myself and Zag through through stretching at the end and I have never been through anything like it. It was so intense, I was feeling emotional. I kid you not. Anyway, more on that later, here is what I did:

I chose to forsake my usual prehab and flexibility and went straight into bar work.

Clean grip Snatches--1x2@50, 50, 50 1x1~70, 90, 100--I missed 100 twice and then got it. I then missed 105 twice, but I enjoyed going for it anyway. I have only ever done these once before and they were fun.

Clean and straight into Jerk--With these I cleaned the weight and Jerked straight out of the Clean recovery. It was fun and it meant that you had to put everything into the drive in the Jerk, particularly with the heavier weights.
1x1@50, 50, 70, 100, 110, 120, 130--I just missed the Jerk but I got it second time lucky. These were great fun also and they were a slightly different movement which actually put more reliance on skill than strength.

I did some light Front Squats and worked up to a double with 110 and a single with 130. My legs were actually quite tired from the previous exercise. Alex then stretched myself and Zag out in only two stretches, but they felt like they went on forever. It was the 7 stretch and the regular hip flexor stretch. She did slight variations on a traditional pnf model, but it was as intense a stretch as ever I have felt. I was happy to hobble out in the end.

I made a quick video of some of the lifts from tonight, so as always, please feel free to offer some constructive criticism.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Saturday's second chance at a 260kg total

It was the Hercules' Club Championships today and I was determined to enjoy the day irregardless of what state I was in. I did a Power Up session at half eight in the morning with Zag and this definitely helped iron out a few of the morning creases. My joints were doing a lot of early morning cracking, but they were the better for it. I had a great breakfast of porridge with a chopped up pear and I still weighed in at 93.3kg. Either I have been losing weight or the epsom salt baths I have been loving all week are a great weigh-in strategy. Either way I was relatively surprised because my scales from home were telling me a similar story.

Zag Snatched an easy 98kg for a 1kg competition pb and Clean and Jerked 128 for a 3 kg pb. He would have been good for more, but his body hates him right now because of all the training he has subjected himself to. Amy and Shannon are two ladies that train with him and they lifted really well in only their third competition and with a minority of their training devoted to weightlifting.

In my Snatch warm up, despite the earlier session, I was not feeling amazing. I worked up to my last warm ups of 90 and 100, neither of which felt particularly great.
Competition lifts:
1x1@105--This was not as sweet as can be, but it only matters where you end up thankfully.
1x1@111--This was a better lift, but I felt that there was definitely more speed for me to utilise. I knew my co-ordination was not at its best when my feet were not moving at all in my lifts.
1x1@115--I got this for a 1kg pb and it was probably my best Snatch of the day. It was nowhere near as fast, smooth or fluid as my 114 last week, but I will take them where I get them.

My warm up in the Clean and Jerk was also not feeling too sweet, but I just got on with it. I worked up to singles with 100, 110, 120 and 127 in the warm up.
1x1@134--This was a shocking lift and I was actually lucky to get it. My Jerk was very shoddy and I knew that if I wanted to hit 145, I was going to have get under the bar a lot quicker.
1x1@140--This was better and although a little out front, far faster and more secure.
1x1@145--This was a lack-lustre Clean followed by my best Jerk of the day and I would rather have it that way than the opposite like last week! I was following myself in all my lifts so I was pretty tired at this stage and felt completely spent for around 10 minutes afterwards.

All in all, I was happy with my first 260 total for a 296 sinclair. I feel like there is a weight off my shoulders as this was a total I have craved for the last four months. Like always though, there is that nagging and persistent voice whispering how 120/150 is what I really want....And it is right. But that is for next year which will give me a new opportunity to push myself beyond where I have ever been before mentally, physically, technically and emotionally. Have a look at the video below and let me know if you have any constructive criticism:

I also just saw a video that Brendan Flanagan compiled from the competition and his actually has more lifters than mine. Here is it:

Thursday 10 December 2009

Tuesday and Thursday's tottering

I had very light sessions on both Tuesday and Thursday, with the focus being on flexibility and speed in the lifts. The yoga sessions I have been doing lately are really starting to help my flexibility in the receiving position in the Snatch and my overhead squats and I have noticed it in particular over the last week and a half. Similarly, when I cut out most of the starches from my diet, I began to notice a strong change after two months or so. My flexibility still has a long way to go, but it is nice to see a gradual improvement.

On both Tuesday and Thursday, I did quite a bit with the bar and used the pnf principle with the overhead squat, which really helps me get deeper into the bottom position. On Tuesday, I worked up to two doubles in the Power Snatch with 70 and a few Power Cleans with 90. This evening I worked up to two singles with 80 in the Snatch and two singles with 100 in the Clean and Jerk. I was getting irritated with my Jerk, which caused me to tighten up in the shoulder girdle; this in turn affected my technique negatively. All this means is that I need to relax more and trust my technique. The more I relax in my shoulder girdle, the more I transfer my power and the better the bar trajectory.

There is an unofficial club competition in Hercs on Saturday and I will lift in it and simply enjoy myself and see how I feel on the day. If I feel up to it, I will go for it. If not, I will just enjoy myself anyway. In the video below is one of Zag's guys who is 17 and just Cleaned 100 for the first time weighing in or around 105kg. Geoff is another guy who trains with Zag and he has been doing a lot of corrective work to sort out imbalances, and training well in general. He decided to deadlift tonight and he got two nice pb's. He has a lot of raw power there and is training hard so that he can transfer it more efficiently.

Monday 7 December 2009

Saturday's Snipers

I just got back from a yoga class and I realised in the middle of the session just how tired I am from the weekend. It was a great experience overall and I am really glad that I went over. Myself and the rest of the lads had some great lifting and fun on the trip over to London for the Greater London Open on Saturday. Kevin D'Arcy hit a fantastic 130 Snatch and it looked like there was more in the tank. Cathal Byrd ground out a 138 Clean and Jerk that looked unsaveable and won the 77kg weight class. Nathaniel Callaghan hit 103/122 and barely missed a 107 Snatch. Eamonn Flanagan and Wayne Healy really helped all the lifters with their coaching and Wayne in particular helped me.

We stayed beside the competition venue in the Crystal Palace National Sport's centre. Cathal was first up for the weigh in and also to compete, so I joined him and did a light morning power up session around half nine or so which I felt immeasurably better afterward. I did a basic warm up, Power Snatched up to 70 for three singles and Power Cleaned up to 90 for a double and left it at that.

There were 16 people in in the 94kg weight class and in then end I came 6th. Kevin won it and Nat came 9th. Here is what I did:

Warm up--I felt great after the long wait and morning warm up. I felt really happy to be there and enjoyed everything about the competition. Wayne had me do Power Snatch+Full Snatch in the warm up because he later told me I was swinging the bar a lot and this combination removed most of the swing.

Power+Full Snatch--1x2@50, 50, 50, 70, 80
Snatch--1x1@90, 90, 100

Competition lifts:
1x1@105--This was very strange. I started the lift and for some reason, dropped the bar straight away. Because I did not raise it above the knee and I had a little less than ten seconds left, I Snatched it very easily for a shaky success. I was simply not focusing enough and Wayne was more than happy to express this.
1x1@111--This was far better and an easy lift.
1x1@114--This was my best Snatch by far because I was focused and aggressive, but still nice and relaxed. This was a 3kg competition pb and a 1.5kg pb from what I got in July.

Clean and Jerk--I was feeling a little off coming into these: my stomach was feeling off from the caffeine and sugar and my legs were not feeling as strong as I wanted. I had a quick warm up:
1x1@70, 70, 70, 100, 115, 125
Competition lifts
1x1@136--I actually had to wait a log time between all my attempts and my first lift was easy, but not as secure as I would have liked.
1x1@141--This was my longest wait of around ten minutes or a little more and my clean was light, but ugly. I missed the Jerk when all I needed was a little more drive.
1x1@146--I wanted to go for the 260 total. I cleaned it and just missed the Jerk. It was a far better lift than the 141, but what can you do. I simply did not have it on the day. That little bit of drive in the Jerk was just not there.

After the competition I was wrecked, but happy with my Snatch pb and my Clean pb. I was close to my goal of 260kg, but I know I can get it next time I go for it. I learned a lot over there. The new environment was demanding and the sheer amount of lifts taking place was staggering. There was two platforms with lifters competing simultaneously, so focus and concentration was needed. It was a far cry from domestic Irish competitions and the experience will do me the world of good. Unfortunately, I have no videos of any of my Snatches, but below are the videos I have: Cathal's lifts and my Clean and Jerks. Thanks again to Wayne who really helped me out and all the English lifters that were so obliging.

Thursday 3 December 2009

Wednesday's wanted: 260kg total

This was my last session before my competition in London this Saturday and although I was tired, I enjoyed it. I did my Z Health joint warm up, my glute prehab and a small bit of bar work and got stuck into the session. Here is what I did:

Power Snatch--1x2@40, 40, 40, 60 1x1@80, 90

Snatch--1x1@95, 100, 105, 107--I actually missed this as you will see in the video below. I don't really mind because on Saturday, with 2 days rest, I will be far fresher and I will have my zip back. I was tired and I still Snatched up to 95% fairly comfortably. The plan is to open up with 108kg and take it from there in London, but I will not hesitate to bring my opener down if things are not going as smoothly as I want them to. I ended up leaving the Clean and Jerk tonight because I was tired and this is the exercise that takes the most out of me.

Front Squat--1x2@60, 80, 110 1x1@130, 145, 155--I left it there because my last squat was by far my best and I want to save my power and energy for the platform on Saturday. It makes no difference what I get in the training hall. I am naturally a far better lifter on competition day than in training and I really do love lifting when the pressure is on and no excuses can be made. Let's see if I can live up to these strong words on Saturday. My pb's are currently 111/143 and I will come home with more than that.