Wednesday 15 September 2010

Murph's magic

Our esteemed friend, the Reverend Andy Murphy, has written a guest blog that I hope you folks enjoy.

Some people argue about the use of various hang lifts and the usefulness of such exercises. I believe they have their place for a number of factors.

• Allowing lifters to train when injured
• Providing variation in exercise (the whole variation and injury debacle)
• Making it easier for rugby heads to do the lifts
• Skill work transfer i.e certain lifters are unable to get the bar into the correct position when lifting off the floor therefore getting them into the correct position and then working this starting position down lower until you eventually reach the floor (that’s if you believe in teaching down instead of up which I do most of the time )
• Their ability to target and develop specific strength qualities

I believe the final point is one of the main reasons I include hang lifts in my own training and why they should be included in the training of many others weightlifters and non weightlifters. This is something I have pondered for a long time and from watching hours and hours of lifting and reading various texts on weightlifting, power lifting, bodybuilding and other sports and also from seeing the way other coaches programme.

In the lifts the so called second pull/ where the lifter generates some decent speed on the barbell/ or to quote a famous American lifter where you rip the head off the lion is one of the most important areas for the successful performance of the lift. In the lifts from the floor when the bar enters the area of the “second pull” it is already moving and thus making it move faster is not too hard well should not be too hard anyway or so they say. If we can alter the conditions of the barbell at this position we can directly influence the specific strength qualities that we target. With the use of the many different hang lifts we can manipulate the conditions in which this bar is presented for the “second pull”.

The way we perform the lifts has profound effects on the way we adapt to the lift performed. With the use of various starting conditions we can target specific strength qualities that are required by an athlete or that are lacking. The use of intra- rep pauses in the middle of the lifts whether it is full lifts or pulls or squats to develop starting strength or the use of a quick reflex for lifts from the hang or pulls from the hang to develop speed strength or weightlifting plyometrics.

Intra-rep pauses are where the lifter pauses in the various hang positions either by descending down into this position before pausing or taking the bar from the floor and pausing in this position on the way up before completing the lift the latter I find further shifts the emphasis to building starting strength. It requires a great amount of effort to generate the required force to overcome the less than optimal starting position and complete a successful lift. The repeated use of these techniques enhances the starting strength of the athlete. The use of pauses in the lifts can also further enhance positioning and skill in the lifts as the lifter gets a feel for the correct positions and this is most evident with the use of pause snatches just off the floor or below the knee the lifters becomes familiar and strong in such positions and thus is more likely to hit these correct positions during a full lift. However there are negatives to use of pause such as the development of high amounts of muscular tension in certain positions which may “slow lifters down” and also the worry of lifters breaking the lifts down into two or three phases and pausing in their full lifts. However I believe with the appropriate use of these intra rep pauses in conjunction with bucket loads of full lifts benefits can be gained outweighing the use of bucket loads of full lifts alone.

A further advantage of hang lifts comes in at the other end of the specific strength qualities speed strength. For the optimisation of such qualities it is a requirement that we descend into the hang position and immediately complete the lift utilizing the full benefit of the stretch shortening cycle “plyometric weightlifting” if you may (damn you Poliquin you have written about this before I got to empty my mind. For example you take the bar from the floor with a snatch grip and stand you then descend into a position just below the knee and upon reaching this position immediately perform a full snatch without any pause below the knee. The uses of such techniques are to increase speed of movement. Theoretically practicing at higher speeds should result in the ability to lift or perform at higher speeds. Obviously using a fairly violent reflex at the bottom of the descent or hang is going to put a serious strain/ loading on the lower back but I think if they are done sensibly and introduced slowly can really increase lifting speed without the worry of injury.

Like all assistance lifts I think it is important that they are used as assistance lifts in conjunction with the full lifts and people do not become obsessed with a certain variation that they are very good at it I think if there is a certain variation that you are rubbish at it might be the area you need to address. Obviously there are disadvantages to the use of hang lifts such as lack of specificity (not the same as a full lift in terms of tempo and starting positions), incomplete range motion and many other however I believe with the correct use of hang lifts from various starting positions one can address areas of their lifting and specific strength qualities that are beyond the possibilities with the use of just lifts from the floor.
Hang = not from the floor it can be from below the knee or at the knee or above each of these have their own merits which I will not touch upon in this waffle
Plyometric= a bastardised term thrown around to mean jumping exercises for the arms and legs

Here is an example of an elite Russian weightlifter working from the hang:

If you have any thoughts on this article or wish to publish some of your own thoughts, please leave a comment below. Thanks again Murph!


Sean Flanagan said...

great article thanks for sharing it..

Eamonn Flanagan said...

I believe Sheyko recently failed a doping test. Disappointing as he a lifter of massive promise, only 20 I think. Still though, should I really be disappointed by "Russian strength athlete in doping shock!"?

Anyway here is another awesome video of the young Russian beast:

andymurphy said...

Hi Barry
The lifting in the video is from blocks which is a whole other story than going from hang in terms of the requirements of the lift. Although the lift is from a pause ie dead stop as its on the block i think this is very different and places different demands on the lifter than pause work from hang.

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