Friday 30 April 2010

Thursday's terrace

This has been a busy last few days and it was perfect that this was the selected download week. After training on Sunday and doing my squats on Monday, I was left with a bit of leeway as life got in in the way this last few days. It is very rare that training is not my priority, but download week allows you to step back. I trained last night and I enjoyed the session immensely. I knew that my 3 week competition preparation was coming up which would also allow me a one week taper for the Ulster Open and everything is planned accordingly. It is a structure I feel very comfortable with and I can't wait to walk the walk.

Last night I went up to 95 in the Power Snatch and after some light Clean and Jerks which were a bit painful on my shoulder, I spent time doing some rehab work. I will train again today but treat it as a skill technique session and then Saturday will be heavier than yesterday to lead me into my 3 week comp period.

Here are two videos and it will be interesting to compare techniques and quality of lifting. I know which video I prefer watching, what about you>

Monday 26 April 2010

Sunday's smuggled squats

I decided to try training the day after my competition on the Saturday to see how this would affect my next few days. Intensity was not that high but it was more the active recovery aspect I was looking at and getting more repititions in keep learning skill. Here is what I did:

Snatch: I did a good few sets with 40kg, 60kg and a few singles with 70kg focusing on speed, precision and also simply working out any tension I had from the previous day. I worked of 20kg plates initialy and gradually descended down to 5kg plates and then the floor. My back was a bit stiff, but that was to be expected.

Modified RDL--3x5@90kg--I did these to stimulate the back and postural muscles.

Power Clean and Press--3x3@70kg--I simply did these because I have not pressed in so long and wanted to do something different.

Back Squat--3x3@70kg for mobility and then doubles with 110, 130, 140 and 150 to finish with. These felt great and I am glad I went up 83% for a double.

I am going to squat up to 150 again today as an active recovery workout for three doubles and leave it there aside from some basic movement drills to improve my mobility. Aside from a little sleep that I need to catch up on, I feel great, so bring on the next few weeks! Here is Byrdie's 146kg Clean and Jerk which we all knew he could get. I have a funny feeling he will be nailing 150 very soon.....

Sunday 25 April 2010

National's napalm in the morning

I ended up competing well yesterday and enjoyed myself in the process. There were a good few lifters who could not make it and were missed, but everyone who came gave it their all. I ended up hitting my targets of 116/147 and had a good day at the office. Zag hit 100/128 and missed the Jerk on 135kg. Byrdie hit 110/146 and made the Jerk that eluded him in the Europeans. Cillian hit pb's also as did many other lifters. All in all, it was a great competition. Here is what I did:

I weighed in at an easy 93.3kg. I cleaned up the diet over the last few weeks and dropped around 2kg of fat, so I ended up going down to 93.3kg because I knew that if I hit my targets at that weight, I would get a 300 sinclair for the first time. After the weigh in I ended up going home for two hours to chill out--Irish competitions only have one weigh in due to small numbers-- and I came back afterwards.

I lifted in the last group and my warm up went swimmingly. After ten minutes or so, I looked across at Alex--A Latvian lifter in his first Irish competition. He wore runners when lifting!--who was just having a good time. I recognised that I was getting far too intense and then I just chilled out a bit and ended up Snatching well. Here was my warm up: 3x2@40 1x2@60 1x1@80, 90, 99, 104--I actually Power Snatched my last two warm ups because although my technique felt great, I was not finishing the pull.

My opener was with 108kg and it was fast, but hit out front a little so I had to adjust at the bottom a bit before rising. This was the first time I have ever been able to do this in a competition. I then moved onto 112kg and this felt far more in the groove and for my third attempt I went up to 116kg which I had missed in my last two competitions. This felt sweet again and it was the way I lifted, rather than the weight, that pleased me. I can feel my technique getting sharper and it was very encouraging.

For the Clean and Jerks, I warmed up with doubles with 60 and then singles with 80, 100, 115, 125 and my last warm up was with 131kg which I actually missed in the Jerk! I went out a few minutes later to an opener of 137kg and hit it pretty easily. Looking at the videos I can see my weight was not over the bar enough and that I was leaning back a little much in all the Cleans and using my back a little early. This should be easily fixable. I then went up to 143kg and 147kg for my final attempt. Like my Snatch, this was a 1kg pb and I was happy to get it because I have not been hitting many heavy Clean and Jerks lately.

I am already looking forward to the Ulster Open on May 29th and I should be hitting bigger weights as I am two weeks into my competition period of training and this will get me used to the heavier Clean and Jerks again. What I want in Ulster is 118/150. One step at a time and if it is there, I will go and get it. If not, so be it. I need to keep getting stronger and more disciplined in the mind and I should be getting the lifts that I have the potential to get. Love the journey.

I only have a few videos, so liet me know if you have any constructive criticism:

Thursday 22 April 2010

Thursday's tenor

I was determined to have a short and sharp one hour workout and that I did. I Snatched up to 90% and Front Squatted up to what I want to Clean and Jerk for two singles. I did a short and effective joint and muscle warm up and followed that with some bar work and got straight into it. I have decided to make my workouts a lot shorter by reducing my rest times and simply demanding more from myself. Here is what I did:

Snatch--1x2@50, 50, 50, 70 1x1@80, 90, 95, 100, 105

Funnily enough, what I have been working on the most: my starting position--went exactly what the way I wanted it to. However, as you will see in the video below, I was far too relaxed and that was something I was actively trying to do. I was trying to stay as relaxed as possible, but I will need to to get the back as tight as it needs to be as well as keeping the arms and traps relaxed for speed. As Murph said a few days ago: chest up, back tight, hips in. There is no need to worry about it though, because this was something I tried that did not work out. I know I can easily fix this on Saturday.

Front Squat--3x3@70 in order to do mobility squats. Consistency is the key here. It feels like I am not improving, but my body will learn eventually, I just have to make it. I can feel my joint mobility improving because I work on it every day. I need to do the same with my hips.

Have a look at the video below and let me know what you think. I am really looking forward to competing on Saturday; it is the start of my competition training period which will culminate in the end of May in the Ulster Open. Every session I contine to improve in a variety of ways and that is my main goal as an athlete and a lifelong learner. Constant and never-ending improvement is what I must have.

Most people will hve already seen this but, it is even more awesome every time you watch it. If you click on John Broz or Pat Mendes in the menu to your right, you can read about and watch he videos.

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Tuesday's tingling sense of anticipation

My build up of momentum continued apace yesterday and each session is building on the last. Last week I missed 132kg twice in the Clean and I only Clean and Jerked 127. Every time I lift I am getting more used to the heavier weights again and getting sharper and more precise. As the focus was on the Clean and Jerk yesterday, I Power Snatched up to a weight that required a bit of speed without draining me.

Power Snatch--1x2@50, 50, 50, 60 1x1@70, 80, 90

Clean and Jerk--1x2@60, 60 1x1@80, 100, 110, 120, 127, 132
Each rep got a little sharper and I made sure that in my Jerk dip, my knees went out rather than forward. This kept my balance and centre of gravity where it needed to be and the bar went where it was supposed to go. My right shoulder was still at me a bit, but it was not really a problem.

Back Squat--3x3@60 working on mobility. 1x2@110 1x1@130, 140, 150, 160
Again, I worked up to a single that would stimulate my legs enough without fatiguing them. They need to be fresh for Saturday!

That was it. I crowned the session off with a little soft tissue work and a 10 minute sauna and cold shower for relaxation and recovery. I will train on Thursday where I Snatch up to 90% in as few singles as possible. I will do a bit of Jerk skill work and squat high enough to stimulate my cns without faiguing it.

Here is a video of the man who I try to model myself after as a lifter:

And here is just an awesome video:

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Monday's marble topped assumptions

I had a short and compact training session on Monday and everything was done swiftly. I felt pretty good after the weekend and in better fettle than I would most Mondays. As I am just getting back to hitting weights that are around 90% or a little over, I was fresh and eager to lift.

I worked up to 95kg for two Snatches and a Power Snatch just to get a little more speed in the pull. I was supposed to work up to 115kg in the Clean and Jerk but my shoulder was pinging me in the catch portion of the Jerk so I left it at 110 which felt light and fast--which it should do! I sorted out my Jerk dip by going straight down and letting the legs go out rather than straifght forward. This kept me in balance and allowed me use my improved technique in the Jerk. I followed these with Front Squats and worked up to a double with 140kg which felt nice and smooth. I did a bit of flexibility work with Zag afterwards and that concluded the session.

As I have not had the run up to this comptition to require a taper, my approach this week will be a little different to what it would normally be, but I will talk to Harry about it and see what we come up with. Each session I lift a little better than before, both technically and power wise. I am really looking forward to competing on Saturday just for the hell of it; lift what you can and enjoy doing it.

Here is the parody Woodso made of my interviewing and training style which some of you have a chuckle over:

Saturday 17 April 2010

Saturday's simplicity

I had a nice training session on Friday where I simply Snatched up to 80kg and Front Squatted up to 140kg for a nice and easy single. This workout was as much as an active recovery workout as it was a technical one. I was actually quite stiff from the previous day's workout and subsequent stretching and soft tissue work.

Today, I had two enjoyable sessions. I did a short power up session with James for around 45 minutes which was basically a warm up and a few Snatch doubles with 60kg. We had an hour break, for a quick bite to eat and an espresso. For the second session, Byrdie, Wayne, and Killer McNamara joined us, as did a Latvian 105kg lifter Alex, who Snatched 115kg quite easily and Clean and Jerked 140 like it was not there. It ended up being a productive session for everyone. I was able to up the intensity a little bit again as was Killer and James; Byrdie and Wayne were able to get the volume in that they needed. Here is what I did:

Snatch--1x2@40, 40, 60, 80, 90 1x1@95, 100, 105, 110--I missed this the first time and got it on the second attempt. It felt like my max on the day, so I knew to leave it there. I only have the miss on video and it felt like I swung back on it a bit rather than extended up. The video below shows this, but not the 110 attempt I made!

Clean and Jerk--I was feeling sharp with these and worked up to singles with 100, 110, 120, 125 and 130. Each lift felt sharper and I was feeling more like myself and getting used to lifting 90% weights again. I got up to 135kg and Cleaned it twice and missed the Jerk twice. This was very surprising as it did not feel particularly heavy; it felt like I was messing up my Jerk dip; that I was off balance and thus not putting my full power into the Jerks. Looking at the videos, it seems that my knees were not going out, but rather too far forward which almost had me leaning back as I was trying to get my back locked. This can be very easily fixed, so I am not worried.

Back Squat--I had to hurry with these due to life getting in the way of training, so I worked up to an easy double with 150 in the Back Squat and left it there.

I have Nationals this time next week. My training cycle was been disrupted due to my training camp in Amsterdam and change in grip and me being an idiot when I did the Russian squat cycle and tried to Snatch to max so that I was completely burnt out. However, I consider myself a platform lifter and I always lift better in competitions so I feel I can and should get small pr's in both lifts. I have the strength and technique to get 120/150 so I need to get used to lifting maximum weights now that I have been working on my technique for the last while. Bring it on! Have a look at the video and leave any constructive criticism you may have.

Thursday 15 April 2010

Thursday's turnpike

I had my first great session in a while today. Harry sent me an email that helped focus my perspective and it really helped today. I prepared far better mentally for the session and left all else behind once I hit the platform. I always do this when I have my best sessions: I simply shut up and perform; I focus on what is in front of me and leave the emotions and other distractions outside.

I need to get used to lifting heavier weights again, so today was a bridge to what will be a heavier session on Saturday. I worked up to 100 kg in the Snatch and really focused on speed and eliminating any thoughts of technique from my mind. Of course this helped my technique. So much discipline is needed to take the mind out of the equation and let the body learn and demonstrate how it can accomplish a task on its own, without interference from the intellect. Here is what I did:

Snatch bar work and then for my first few sets I did my Snatches from 15kg plates, then 10kg plates and then the floor in descending order.

Snatch--1x2@40, 40, 40, 60, 70 1x1@80, 90, 90, 95, 100, 100, 100
I really focused on moving as fast as I can. This meant I was cutting the pull a bit short, but otherwise they felt great and my back was nicely locked also.

Cleans--1x2@60, 60, 80, 100 1x1@110, 117, 122, 122, 122--Again I worked on my speed under the bar. I need to get used to the timing on plus 110 weights again because at the moment I am letting the bar crash down on me a bit which stops my catch being as fluid as I can make it. The weight felt great though.

Back Squat--I did three triples with 70kg to work on my hip mobility and then I did doubles with 110, 130, 140 and three doubles with 150kg. They felt nice and smooth and technically precise. I finished off with a little soft tissue work and a short sauna followed by a cold shower. Have a look at the video below and let me know of any constructive criticism.

As a little bonus I am also putting up the second part of my interview with Tom, so hopefully you will find it thought provoking.

Wednesday 14 April 2010

A week's worth of training

I have been back from Amsterdam over a week now. I came back on the Monday morning and trained on the Tuesday and Wednesday. My hip was at me a bit from all the flexibility I have been doing so I left out training on Thursday and did some soft tissue work instead. I spent the time working on my first pull and adjusting to my new technique. On the Monday I was Power Snatching up to 88kg for a few reps and Clean and Jerked up to 120. On the Tuesday, I Snatched up to 90 for a few singles and Power Cleaned and Jerked up to 110 for a few singles also. I squatted all the time as well as worked on my mobility squats. I did not go heavy at all last week and simply tried to adjust to the work I did the previous week.

On Monday night, I Snatched up to 97kg for a three singles and Power Cleaned and Jerked 115 for three singles. I missed a few Snatches which was surprising. I was not putting enough finish in my pull and I was lacking in the speed department. Four days on holiday has left me a little too relaxed I think. I Back Squatted up to 150 for three doubles to finish with.

Last night, I Power Snatched up 93kg. 90 was fast and sharp, but after that I felt sluggish and got 93, but then missed it. I Clean adn Jerked up to 127 and then missed 132 twice which would be very rare for me. I was not getting the start of my pull sorted and this negatively affected how I finished the pull and this meant that I was not catching the bar. Very strange, but it has been a while since I have Clean and Jerked over 115 and 120, so I will have to accept it. I have no doubt that I will get used to the weights very quickly again, but it is a little gut check all the same. I am glad I spent time working on my technique, so now I need to get used to lifting some weight pretty quickly so that I can lift something decent in Seniors next weekend. I finished up with a light double on 140 in the Back squat and spent time stretching and doing some soft tissue work.

Here is part one of an interview with Tom Bruijnen, the Dutch coach I spent time with over in Amsterdam:

Monday 12 April 2010

Sunday's star turn

I have been away for the last few days, hence the lack of updates. I am editing the interview I took with Tom on the last day and also one I took with Sander.

On the last day of the training camp we worked mainly on the Clean and Tom also showed us a variety of active and dynamic warm ups designed to warm up the whole body. We began working on the first pull in the Clean. True to form, Tom had us over-exaggerate a little and had me start my hips a little higher than usual. He also got me to relax my arms and generally relax into the position more while locking up the back. This felt pretty comfortable and I am looking forward to practicing this with heavier weights. Keeping the arms more relaxed will also help emphasise the finish of the pull, and therefore the speed and fluidity of the catch.

We then worked on the process of shrugging an empty bar up and whipping the elbows around in the catch. This was an interesting exercise and I found it quite helpful. I already knew this, but was failing the apply the principle that the stronger your finish is, the stronger and more centred your catch will be. We then proceeded to work on this principle with some Power Cleans where I tried to combine a fast hip extension and a shrug. This is always tricky, particularly when you are working on more than one technical point. I can't really focus on more than one point, so the ego needs to be taken out and the mind focused on one coaching cue.

We did more work on the Back Squat technique and again, I found this very tough on my hips and back. I have worked on this for the last week and it is hard, but you have to get to the point where your back is locked and allow the weight get you down a bit farther. It is very demanding because it is my instinct to load up the bar and lift as heavy as I can, but there is a time for that and there is a time for working on your technique. I need to work on both.

Sander showed up to train during the session and he showed us some more soft tissue techniques that are immediately applicable. Here is a link to one of the main influences on his approach to flexibility. Here is another link to an interesting style of soft tissue work that I have found helpful in the past and both Sander and Tom showed me a few different ways to apply the system. I have bought the manual from the website and will learn how to apply it better.

I am currently making the twp part video of Tom's interview as well as an interview with Sander who demonstrates his methods on Zag.

Thursday 8 April 2010

Saturday's snapper

Tom hosted an informal controlled competition in his gym Sportsquest on Saturday. It turned out to be great fun and Zag got a beutiful 3 kg pb with 105kg in the Snatch. I was not in the same mode and was actually quite stiff from all the soft tissue work on the Friday. I felt good, but lacked that bit of pop needed to Snatch a new pb.

As you will see in the video below, I have videos of everyone except for Ryan Shinn. Zag lifted extremely well and his obvious improvements in the catch position of the lift were obvious. He had geared himself up for this all week and as you will see in the video, there is more to come. I only Snatched my opener of 108kg and missed 113kg twice. The finish and the speed were not there and I felt very disappointed. My postural muscles and upper back and shoulders were pretty stiff and I did not display the improved first pull I had worked on. Loking back on it now I can see why this happened, but at the time I allowed my disappointment to affect my Clean and Jerks and again, I only lifted my opener of 130kg which is usually a solid Power Clean and Jerk. I was pretty tired and let my expectations get in the way of simply going with the flow and emjoying the moment. I will learn from the experience though.

I have included a short interview with a Dutch weightlifting legend towards the end on the video and he lifted some serious numbers back in the day. He is 48 years old and after 4 months back training after a number of years off, he is an animal! Have a look at the video below and leave any constructive criticism you think may help.

Monday 5 April 2010

Friday's fanclub

This turned out to be an incredibly interesting day for Zag and myself. I got a much better look at Tom's teaching style--and I say teaching, not coaching--and how he progressed the demands placed on both of us. Another amazing experience was being helped by a trainer, Sander Beenders. He is a soft tissue, flexibility and movement expert and he really helped both myself and Sami out. He patiently explained his ideas and applied some of them on us as well as showing us how to stretch each other properly. Here is a link to his mentor and flexibility philosophy. There are several other tricks up his sleeve, so I had a quick interview with him and will put this up over the next week.

For the first workout on the Friday, we worked on the Snatch and the Front Squat. As Murph correctly pointed out, on the video from Thursday's session I was too far behind the bar and I was also too low. Tom deliberately had me over-exaggerate these movements so that I could get the feel of a locked back with all the correct muscles activated. On the Friday, he had me apply the same principles but he got me to put my hips far higher and get over the bar far more. This was the teaching progression and although it was frustrating at first, it worked because I was able to Snatch 100kg with my hips high and back locked. It felt very different to anything I had ever done before, but when I came over to him last June for the first time, I would not have been physically ready for this position.

When we Front Squatted afterwards, he had me change my technique slightly in that I am not quite as vertical and my stance is wider. These squats murder my hips but they are a form of active and dynamic flexibility, which is a good thing! Zag was shown a exercise to help improve his Snatch recieving position that is very similar to one shown to Cathal Byrd when he was in the Ukraine training and it is in the video below. Neither of our upper backs or shoulder girdles are strong or flexible enough.

In the second session, we Snatched again but I only worked up to 80 and Zag up to 70. I Clean and Jerked up to 110kg for two singles and then we worked on our Back Squat technique which again was very uncomfortable, but effective. The idea was to open up the hips to allow the Back to stay locked and get the legs to do the work rather than the back. This mobility will greatly enhance our positioning in the Classical lifts and purposely going wider like this is fantanstic for improving my hip tragedy. The video below shows what I am talking about.

Tom's teaching style is to over-emphasise the aspects he wants to change so that when it comes to implementing them, there is a realistic balance between the new approach and what you have worked on before. I came to realise over the days that there was a clear progression from how he was coaching me from June last year to this last week and the progression was based on my improved technique, strength and physical condition.

At the end of the second session, Sander came into the gym and after every stretch I did 3 Overhead squats in bare feet and the progression in my positioning was staggering as well as the effect the work had on opening up my shoulder girdle, hips, upper back and chest. As soon as I can, I will post the interview with him which also has him working on Zag's shoulders.

Have a look at the video below and let me know what you think.

Saturday 3 April 2010

Thursday's tenacity

We only trained once again today and although it was frustrating working on weaknesses, that is why myself and Zag came here. The focus was on the first pull in the Snatch while yesterday it was on the catch portion of the lift. Tom had me start from the top of the first pull going down and we started off using 25kg bumper plates to raise the height. Within twenty minutes I was able to get down to the floor and get pretty well locked in from the bottom.

The main coaching queues were really forcibly getting the knees out in the bottom; focusing on gettting the scapula down and back, rather than just back which in turn got the chest out; elbows brought back around clockwise to open up the chest and lock up the upper back and the chin tucked in rather than jutting out. Obviously focusing on all these actions and tensing the appropriate muscles was tiring, but if it is turned into a habit and I get more efficient and mobile in those areas, all will be good. I worked up to a few Power Snatches with 80kg.

We also worked on the Power Clean and Power Jerk and the focus points were keeping the back locked a lot more than I had previously and to maintain that back lock in the catch. The principles seem to be the same throughout the lifts and I found this helpful. I worked up to 3 singles with 110 and then went on to his modified RDL exercise that is a great back exercise for me. I find it good for muscle education and also strength in the lower lumbar area. We did a lot of soft tissue work on the upper back and shoulders that we both found very helpful also.

David mentioned a valid point the other day when he commented that the weights we were lifting were too light and that we were doing too much functional work. Firstly, the weights were very light, but I think when you are trying to learn a new skill and also trying to get your body to function in a manner that it never has before, throwing too much weight on is not a good idea. Fatigue is not conducive to learning and what I am focusing on is learning skill for weightlifting technique and I am also trying to teach my body how to move in ways that it is capable of, but it still has to be learnt. When it is time to cement that learning with volume and intensity, then I will go hell for leather and I will enjoy the process.

Secondly, the reason why we do the functional training is for long term physical health. I will be weightlifting 2 years in May and I find that my physical condition is improving all the time. This is because of the time I spend improving my mobility, flexibility, diet and soft tissue health. There are weightlifters I know and their body is a mess. I do not want this. I love weightlifting and I love training. I think that weightlifting should improve one's health, not break down the body and it is my opinion that spending time working on the above factors is necessary for me in order to improve my body's ability to function and in turn, allow the body to lift with the technique that I know I am capable of. I will not compromise my long term health. Have a look at the video below and let me know what you think.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Wednesday’s wanderlust

Myself and Zag flew over mid-afternoon to Amsterdam and as usually happens when travelling, had far less time than we imagined to get ready for training. It felt great to be back in the Sportquest gym, and although I could feel the three flights in two days in my bones, I was happy.

We started off with an assessment of our quality of movement. We went on to work on some Overhead Squatting but in between we did various soft tissue release work focusing on our shoulders and pecs as well as some dynamic warm up movements such as a jumping squat and lunge movement. Tom then asked us to perform close grip (hand to hand) overhead squats. It’s a exercise/movement that he uses to analyse how mobile his lifters are from time to time. His lifter Safak had an extremely hyper-mobile back & shoulder girdle. Myself and Zag obviously need some work in this area.

We then went on to the Hang Snatch so that we could work on our catch. The main coaching point was to keep the back locked throughout the pull and the catch. Neither myself or Zag were doing this properly; both us of had the habit of keeping it relatively tight throughout the pull, relaxing on the way down and then locking it again. We also both have the habit of jutting our chin out throughout the pull and the catch and this causes the body to be out of line and also makes the catch harder. He was telling me in particular, to adjust the chin at the bottom of each rep so that it becomes automatic. I worked up to four doubles with 90 and Zag worked up to four singles with 80.

The Hang Power Clean and Squat Jerk were next. Again, neither of us were used to the Hang Power Clean and we had never performed the Squat Jerk before. One thing the latter movement is really excellent for is keeping the back tight throughout the catch. Any time I relaxed my back and shoulders at all, the barbell fell to the floor. After 15 minutes of this movement where I worked up to a few singles with 90, my basic movement skills and co-ordination were shot. The workout was pretty late and the travelling had both of us in a slightly altered state.

The last two things we did were an exercise that is like a Good Morning Lunge for a few very light sets and abdominal routine. Tom did some soft tissue work at the end where he rinsed out all around my hip area and my adductors—which are slightly bruised today!—and my hips felt the looser for it. I think it will take another day or two until I am at my sharpest, but we are both really glad we came over as there is a lot to try and learn in five days. Have a look at the video and let me know what you think.