Monday 31 January 2011

ECB echelons

Here is the new East Coast Barbell video I made. Our beginner weightlifting classes are going really well and all the lifters are improving rapidly, so if anyone is interested, email to join up. I hope you like it:

Along with my friend Cedric Unholz, I have also organised for Glenn Pendlay and Jon North to come over and do a seminar in ECB on Wednesday, March the 23rd from 6-10 pm. This is going to be amazing and the cost of the seminar is €120. I only started to let people know about it today and already we have 8 places out of 20 booked. We are limiting it to 20 people because we want it to be an optimal learning environment. That weekend on March 26th and 27th we will be hosting a two day seminar in Edinburgh and this will be a more in depth look into how Glenn trains people. There are only 8 places for that left though. If anyone has any interest in attending either seminars, email me at in order to book your place.

Here is a video of Jon Snatching 155kg; he has actually hit 160kg in competition. Jon will be demonstrating Glenn's coaching methods and will assist in helping to coach others.

In other news, I had a good session today. Today focused on the Snatch and I worked up to 12 singles with one and a half minutes between each lift. I started with 95kg and went up in one kilo increments until I hit 102kg which I stayed on for four reps and I finished up with a really comfortable single with 103kg. Here is a video of my last lift:

I then did my RDL's and Box Squats and saw an improvement in both. A good session tonight and I felt even more comfortable with a slightly narrower grip again.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Saturday's splurge

Life kicked my ass this week and I had to alter my training accordingly. Competitions always drain me and last Saturday was no exception; my hip was quite sore also and I had an extremely busy week work wise. Therefore, I had to alter my training and drastically reduce volume. This was not ideal because I wanted this to be my first week in my month cycle, but my hip hurt and I could not have Snatched properly anyway. Here is one good thing I did on Thursday though: a bodyweight Clean grip Snatch. The higher hip position did not hurt so I went for it:

I still got my squats in and I got some work done, but not what the plan was. I found it hard to take a few steps back and listen to my body; over the last two and a half years I would have simply gone on training and done whatever I could push myself to do. This never worked out for me though, so I ended up in a better place today because of the change in pace and I ended up having a good session.

Because my hip still hurts when it is at the end range of motion, I decided to move my Snatch grip back to where it use to be, but a finger width wider. This put my hips in a pain free position and it also felt great lifting from the narrower grip again. As in very very great. I started the day off working up to doubles with 80, 90 and 100 and I missed a single with 105kg. Something felt slightly off though and I could not pinpoint it. I was very loose off the floor. I went back to 100kg and really focused on tightening up my scaps and upper back and this proved to be the winning coaching cue for the day. I ended up Snatching 100kg for ten singles very comfortably and actually brought my tenth single down to the hang and did 3 consecutive Hang Snatches with it after the full Snatch. I have never done this before, but I saw a few of the guys in Cal Strength do it and I had to have a go.

After that, I worked up in the Clean and Jerk determined to so something I had never done before, which was Clean and Jerk 130 for a double--quite embarrassing really. I started off with a few doubles with 70kg and then I did singles with 90, 100, 110, 120 and I went up to 130kg. I hit it for a double, but I pressed out the second Jerk so I did it again and actually hit a third Jerk with 130 after getting my double. It was outrageously pressed out and I nearly broke my back bringing it down, but I got it. This left me gasping though and definitely affected my squats. I only hit 150kg for four reps in the Box Squat which is better than two weeks ago, but I really should have gotten the five reps.

So, where does this leave me? I am really enjoying training again and I am really looking forward to the competition on February 19th in Coolmine. I talk to Sami, Wayne and Harry and we will decide togther exactly where to go with my training. I know the tempo training is really helping my lifting and I know thatmy squat program is also working because my hamstrings are getting stronger and even though I am kitten weak in the box squat, I am improving.

My biggest issues are sleeping earlier and therefore recovering and dedicated training time during which I don't coach anyone--it is very hard for me to do this because I love coaching, as in, I REALLY enjoy coaching people. Not in a creepy way though. The learning process fascinates me and I love how everyone learns similar principles in a different ways. Example being Eamonn, a Crossfitter who came to East Coast Barbell today for a visit. He was a Power Snatch lifter and when he Snatched to depth, he split Snatched. Within 30 minutes he was fully Squat Snatching with more than he had Split Snatched and his technique was actually very good. I coached him in a completely different way to how I have ever coached the Snatch before, but it seemed to suit him and he learned very quickly, which says more about him than me though! Dee also visited and how we worked together was completely different. She lifted very well and is making great strides in her lifting despite the fact that she is going down in weight classes. Ed also came and lifted more than he has lifted in 9 months. Ed and his awesome beard are awesome. It was a pleasure having them lift in in ECB.

For anyone interested, ECB is trying to promote weightlifting and we hold beginner weightlifting classes on Monday and Wednesdays from 6.30 to 8pm. We only charge €40 for 8 sessions, so be sure to take advantage of the offer and pop down to learn more about an incredible sport that has an enormous effect on training for other sports also.

Have a look at my video below and leave any constructive criticism you can:

Saturday 22 January 2011

Limerick lechery

I was really looking forward to my first competition of the year and it did not disappoint. It was a very small affair with only ten lifters, but everyone enjoyed it and generally lifted well for the time of year.

Sami came down to coach for two reasons: the competition did not fit into his training schedule and he also had to coach four lifters through the competition--I was one of them. There were some great performances: Byrdie hit a big pr total with 114/152 at 81kg bodyweight. Sinead Ryan hit 50/70 in a great six for six performance and Gillian Roddie hit three sweet Snatches with 52/55/57, but still felt the after effects of the Irish women's training camp, succeeding with an easy 70kg Clean and Jerk. The Reverend hit 95/115 weighing in at a svelt 73kg and this competition coincided with the end of his general preparation phase, so there is far more to come from him. Stephen Kinsella got fantastic pr's with 73/98 in only his second competition. He is rapidly improving in strength and skill and his work ethic is an example for others to follow. Paudie Roche also competed well considering he is coming back from a hip injury.

As for my own lifting, I am relatively happy with my five out of six performance. I had a quick twenty minute warm up after the weigh in--I was 96.2kg--in order to get the car journey out of my system. I worked up to a double with 80kg in Snatch and left it there. This was badly needed and meant that when I began my actual competition warm up forty five minutes later I was already feeling loose and ready to go. I did two doubles with 50 and a double with 60 and 70. I then hit singles with 80, 90, 100 and 105kg.

All my warm ups felt pretty good, so out I went with 108kg as my opener. It flew up and the lift was successful, but I made it harder than it should have been because I underpulled it quite a bit. I then went to 111kg and this was a far better lift and felt great. Sami then made the call for me to stick to 114kg for my final attempt and even though I could feel that I messed up my first pull, I just cranked that bit harder and got it overhead. Sami made the right call staying conservative, because it is the first competition of the season and I have not Snatched this much since last May when I hit 118kg. I also had a month of lifting 20 reps in 20 minutes in both the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk which is not that conducive to max single attempts. I am capable of lifting more but I need to be patient in my build up.

I chilled out for ten or fifteen minutes and then started my warm up for the Clean and Jerk. I felt great and my final two warm ups were a Power Clean and Jerk with 120kg and a single Clean and Jerk with 130kg. These all felt very easy and in the groove so I opened up with 138kg which I made. My balance on the platform felt quite strange though and something felt different. With my second attempt, I went up to 143kg and my left foot slipped back a few inches, which was weird. I ended up not pulling the weight over my waist. I retook it and got a shaky final lift. It felt like I massively overpulled it and the weight fell down on me, causing me to stall in the bottom of the Clean. All my Jerks felt very solid though and I knew I would not miss them.

I finished off with a nice stretch and after helping Murph and Byrdie clear away the platforms and weights, myself and Murph had a short swim and sauna; I felt far better after this and it will definitely help speed up my recovery. I am still focusing on improving my hip flexibility but instead of doing what I usually do, I am working on one stretch and that is it. This stretch is my nemesis and my number one weakness, so I work on it everday on at least five seperate occasions. Here is one example of how I stretch my piriformus out; I actually use a variety of surfaces:

As a result, my flexibility is improving rapidly like never before and even though I am still pathetic in the stretch, I am now able to get into this pathetic position when before I was unable. I have been stretching like this for the last three weeks and I have seen major improvements so when I get my flexibility in that position to a decent standard, I will focus on my next weakest area while maintaining the previous one.

I have another competition in four weeks time and one a month after that. This suits me really well because I know that in each competition I will raise my game and continue lifting heavier weights. My training is going well and the next few months is vital: I need to stay focused on getting stronger and more consistent with my lifts. That is all I need to in order to get my 272kg total.

Friday 21 January 2011

Friday's fringe benefits

What are the benefits of massively reducing training volume? You guessed it. A fresher, happier lifter. I needed an extra download week than I had originally planned because the previous weeks were demanding training wise, but work and the gym were far more demanding. Training stressors are easy compared to life stressors, so one of the main things I have learned over the last two and a half years of training in the sport of weightlifting, is that when you need to take a step back, do it. There is no plowing ahead when you have responsibilities above and beyond weightlifting. The ego finds it very hard to take, because you read everwhere that you just have to get on with it and fight the good fight. I have tried this so many times you would not believe. It has always meant that I end up taking two or three steps back rather than the planned one step that facilitates future improvement.

I trained twice this week and worked up to two singles in the Snatch with around 85% of my training max (97.5kg) but I know I will lift far far more in competition tomorrow. I then did the 5x5 in the box squat and did not start where I left off two weeks ago--this is another mistake I have made so many times-- and I have doms in the upper hamstrings two days later. You have to love the box squats: they do exactly as they say on the tin. I finished off with a step loaded 5x5 in the press.

I only Clean and Jerked 120 yesterday and it was a rushed session because we were busy in the gym. Again I will probably end up opening with around 137/138kg on Saturday. I always lift far more in competition than I do in training; I love competing and the emotional arousal cannot compare with training.

I have my first competition of the season tomorrow and I am really looking forward to it. It is not an important competition and ideally I would have had a regular training week rather than another download week, but I had to make a priority call. I still trained twice and kept the intensity up, but dropped the volume completely. I feel great coming into Saturday, but also for my next training phase coming up where, you guessed it, I will focus on getting stronger and getting more consistent with the rhythm, tempo and positioning of my lifts.

To finish off with, this is the kind of gym I want to train in:

Sunday 16 January 2011

Saturday's stilted work week.

I had a devilishly busy week and I was really glad I emptied my training of volume. On the Monday, I Snatched doubles up to 80 and then did 9okg three times and 100kg once. I followed this up with Power Clean and Power Jerks up to 120kg. I have not done these two movements in a while and it was nice to do something different. Very low volume with a slight increase in intensity. I enjoyed the session.

On Wednesday, I ended up training very late because I was really busy in the gym. I did some Snatch Pulls but I spoiled it by going to heavy, particularly when I was tired. I did some Clean and Jerks and finished with 120. I wanted to hit 130, but I was too wrecked at that stage.

On Thursday I did some Presses and Pendlay Rows and on Saturday I trained after coaching for five hours. Here is a video of my session. I was actually quite happy considering how crazy my week was and that I was coaching all morning.

Snatch: 1x2@40, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 1x1@90, 95, 100, 105, 110xxx

This was the first time I have lifted 100kg or over in a few months and it felt a little weird. I should have hit 110 the first time, but I pulled back on it and I left it out front. The other two misses were too slow. No worries, I know I will hit it and more next Saturday in Ul in the first comp of the year.

Clean and Jerk--1x2@60 1x1@70, 80, 90, 100, 110, 120, 127.5, 132.5, 137.5x, 137.5

I felt good working up with the Clean and Jerks and I missed the 137.5 first time because I was thinking of the next lift. I focused on it and nailed it. All in all, I was content with the session because I was and am, knackered. I was planning on having the first week of my new program next week, but I was not ready for that yet. Life took over this and week and will do so next week so I will have two easy enough sessions and hit it hard in Limerick for what should be an awesome competition.

I also spent the weekend coaching in the women's national squad in ECB on Saturday and Sunday. All the women lifted very well and worked really hard. It was definitely a positive experience and I know the Irish femal weightlifters will continue to progress, just like the men are.

Saturday 8 January 2011

Saturday's school report

Ok, I can report back from my four week training program that I posted a while back. I actually did three weeks of that exact program and a week of the squat progression and 20/20's in the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. I have a very busy week coming, so this is the perfect time for a download week.

Here is where I wrote out my actual program for the month and here is my school report over the last month:

Texas Method squat routine: A

I started light because I was not used to the 14 inch box squat exercise and the volume. Week one I started off light and hit the 5x5 with 125kg and 130kg for the intensity day. Today, four weeks later, I hit 145kg for five reps and earlier in the week I hit 132.5kg in the volume day. Embarrassingly weak, but a start to get my strength levels back up and actually improve on them. The 5x5 is a tough protocol after the twenty Snatches in twenty minutes, but the squat routine does exactly what it says on the tin: it gets you stronger. Simple is beautiful. The light Front Squats also have my squatting to full depth and reinforcing the movement pattern that I am trying to and am changing. So, I am getting stronger and getting a better squat technically. So far at least.

RDL's: B

I included the RDL's in the program on Day one after the Snatches and squat volume day. They were originally before the squats but Zag correctly pointed out that I was emphasising the squat so that was what I should be prioritising first. I have gotten stronger in the RDL's and I picked the movement to work on mainly because it works on my weakest areas: my posterior chain and strength staying over the bar. I started off with three triples with 120kg and this Monday I hit 130kg with strict technique. I find this exercise very difficult which is a sure sign that I need to stick with it! When done properly, this is a very tough exercise for me and I am shockingly weak at it. This and the squat MUST get stronger and so far, they are. Enough said.

20 Snatches in 20 minutes: B

I am extremely happy with how my Snatch has progressed over the last month. I started off light with 90kg on day one and today I did my twenty lifts with 96kg which is between 80 and 85% of my 1RM which is 118kg. I had been really struggling with positioning over the last six months and my hip injury made matters worse as did an enormous case of paralysis by analysis. When I lift on the minute, I get around 40 seconds rest and there is no time to think or over-analyse. My positioning has vastly improved as has the tempo and rhythm of my Snatch because of the nature of this loading protocol. I am forced to stay lighter where I have better positioning and it becomes more automatic.

20 Clean and Jerks in 20 minutes: B

This is far tougher than the Snatches for obvious reasons and your heart and lungs really feel it--as do my hands! I started off with a modest 110kg and today I hit 117kg. Over the month, like the Snatch, I was hitting far better positions consistently and getting a more fluid tempo with my lifting. With the Clean and Jerks, you get around 35 to 40 seconds rest in this loading protcol. I adapted nicely to the demands of lifting on the minute and even though you are breathing hard, you can keep going and let the rhythm and technique do the work rather than relying on what I used to do, which was simply horse the weight up. I think I had an epiphany with my Clean today with Wayne's help, but I shall discuss that in another post.

Press/Pendlay Rows: B

I have not done any upper body strength work in over two years so it was fun doing these two exercises once a week. In both, I used a basic step-loading 5x5 protocol and essentially only ended up doing one top set in each exercise. In the first week I finished with 4 reps with 67.5kg and two weeks later I finished with four reps with 72.5kg. Embarrasingly weak, but I will press bodyweight in no time. I also really like the exercise alongside the Pendlay Row. Here is the Glenn Pendlay demonstrating the exercise:

I finished off with 5 reps with 75kg in the first week and two weeks later I did five reps with 82.5kg. These do not feel heavy at all but I am being very strict and taking my time learning the movement properly. As a horizontal pull, these hit the obvious muscles but they also work the rest of my posterior chain isometricaly, which makes me like the exercise even more. I take this exercise pretty easily but I will start to push myself more on the numbers side over the next few weeks.

Overall impressions:

This program has been hard and I could not train any more than three days a week with it, but everything I needed to work on improved slightly. Because of my manic life over the last six months and the fact that my hip injury set me back, my overall strength and weightlifting conditioning slipped back quite a bit. This program has gotten me back on track.

I will regain my previous strength levels and surpass them. It will take more time, but not having a double bodyweight back squat is possibly the most excruciating thing to admit as a weightlifter, but if I do not admit it, then I won't get better! There, I said it. A 180kg Back Squat weighing between 95 and 97kg would get someone stabbed, or at the very least slapped in some countries and rightfully so. This can no longer be the case and it won't.

Anyway, back to the effects of my program. I have better general weightlifting conditioning now and I was happy with how quickly I adapted to the lack of rest. I was really happy with how this loading protocol affected me physiologically and technically. What is tough is obviously the volume coupled with the squatting program. Both are working nicely and both are tough. Today, after my Snatches I felt great and it turned out that my twentieth rep was my best of the day. After the Clean and Jerks however, I was feeling pretty woozy and I took ten minutes to get some sugar and recovery before the max set of five in the Box Squat. My hamstrings were screaming at me later that day, but that means I am hitting the right areas so I am happy.

I was chatting with Wayne and Sami after the session today and we will decide where I will go from here. As Murph very correctly pointed out in a comment on the page I linked earlier to what the full program looked like, there needs to be a better overall structure to the program. Four weeks will not burn anyone out, but a poorly executed plan will. I basically wanted to do something different than I had ever done before and work directly on my weaknesses. I will have to decide where to go from here and will listen to what Wayne, Harry and Saami have to say. If you have any advice, please leave a comment below. There are a few things I know I am sticking with:

The Texas Squat method--I want to get up to 5 reps with 160kg and then I can either transition to the 12 inch box or simply squat ass to grass again.

RDL's and once a week upper body strength work--I really enjoy doing them and the RDL's focus on where I am weakest.

20 reps in 20 minutes: Even if I only do them once a week, they have a very positive effect on my lifting. Positive is good. But proper structure and positive is even better.

Core work: I have enjoyed doing this twice a week again and it is very basic hanging window wipers and horizontal extensions on one day and the good ole' ab wheel the next day. Strong core is good and the ab wheel feels nice for counter-acting the weightlifters' lordosis.

Flexibility: I have been stretching my hips a lot following Kelly Starret's approach and principles. His coaching methods and hip flexibility make me want to be a better man. Because I stretch every day--I did not stretch on Christmas day and Stephen's Day though--I am not better in the starting position and getting locked into the lifts in general. I also like the fact that I am improving my hip flexibility. The reality is that if I do not stretch every day at least twice a day, I will not improve to where I need to be. You do it and shut up, or you don't do and shut up. I was just not doing and not shutting up.

Enjoying training again: I have really enjoyed my last month's training and that is the most important thing. I can be my own worst enemy in weightlifting and if you need to enjoy what you are doing. I am and I hope you are.

How are you training and what do you think of my weightlifting school report?

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Tuesday's trinket

This is a very short post due to time constraints. A while back, John Broz asked me to take down the interview with Pat Mendes because he was looking for some big sponsors; the sight of Pat cursing and discussing steroids was not ideal for these circumstances, so I took it down for him. I decided to put the full thing back up on my blog however, because this will not be as widely spread--as is nine and a half people read this blog--and Pat actually has a very interesting story to tell, so here it is: