Thursday 30 June 2011

Friday's feast day

I trained twice on Friday and even though I was not as sharp as I would have liked, it was nice to be able to lift without severe DOMS. I did some hip mobility drills in the morning and for the first session I simply Back Squatted. I worked up to a single with 175kg and I failed. Very embarrassing. I followed this up with a double with the same weight and I got a nice little pb double in the Back Squat. My positioning felt rough, but I just needed to gut it out.

In the second session of the day, I lifted in the awesome gym, United Barbell, owned by Jenny Werba and her business partner. It is a Crossfit gym and it is fantastic! It has beautiful Eleiko weightlifting equipment and a nice platform. Max Aita was coaching a few of his lifters there and I was allowed join in. There was a really fun and intense atmosphere there with Kirsten, Joanne and Jenny kicking ass and taking names. I started off Snatching and worked up to a double with 100 and I failed the second rep with 105. I then did singles with 110 and 113 and I failed 115 and then Clarked it. I worked up to 128kg in the Power Clean and Jerk and I finished up with the Back Squat. I ended up hitting a double with 177kg and then I got a single with 182kg which felt great in regards to my form. We were rushing off, so I did not have time to finish off with a pb set of 5 which I know I would have hit.

Max was helping me out technically and there were a few points that he was making that hit the nail on the head. The important thing is that what Max was saying, was very similar to what Kelly Starret was telling from a completely different perspective when I saw him about my hip. I need to digest this more and I will write a full post on this also alongside my overall reflections and experiences from my trip.. Max said he would write a guest post for Weightlifting Epiphanies also, so that should be something to look forward to.

Here is an interview that I know will help an awful lot of people out there who are trying to set up their own weightlifting clubs and gyms. David Spitz owns California Strength and he wants to help you:

Monday 27 June 2011

DOMS domination

Well, Monday was one of the best training sessions I had ever had in the sport of weightlifting. The following day, only the soles of my feet and my scalp did not hurt. I understand what was happening and why it was happening, but holy sweet mother of God did it hurt. Every part of me that is. I had a token workout on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning. In both sessions, I was basically just trying to get the blood flowing and some active recovery on board.

For the Wednesday afternoon workout, I had a nap before hand and some caffeine. I was still really stiff so I Snatched from the blocks and was able to muster out 110kg which I was happy with considering the circumstances. Sami was able to Snatch high pull and then hang snatch 100 pretty easily too. He destroyed 120 in the Clean and Jerk afterwards also. The Clean and Jerks were hurting pretty badly and I had to summon up the fury of the gods to hit 130kg. Glenn told me to do a few Clean Pulls with 135, but the general whole body pain was too much and was something I have not experienced since I played rugby. I tried to squat after, but that was a no go also.

The Thursday morning workout was also a washout. Last year I would have been incredibly frustrated by this, but I knew what was happening; DOMS is something I have not experienced that much in weightlifting, but Monday's workout was incredibly taxing but worth it. I was able to conquer my mind on Monday and even if I could not lift for the rest of the week, it would be worth it.

Here is an interview I had with Kevin Cornell and it is very different to the ones I have done before; Kevin's journey as a weightlifter has been interesting and something that a lot of us can learn from:

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Monday's mutilation

I woke up in a haze of pain and body confusion, but thankfully I ended the day well. Myself and Sami had our best sessions of the trip and these were needed very badly. All the guys were sore and tired from the competition on Saturday and there was a general sense of fatigue.

Our first session was 25 Snatches every 90 seconds. I had to Snatch off the blocks and Sami joined me there. I started off struggling to hit 90kg, but around 15 Snatches in, I worked up to 95 and then a few Snatches later, I worked up to 100; a few later I went up to 105 and for my last Snatch I worked up to 108kg; not a heavy weight but it felt far better Snatching this than Snatching 90kg for my first one or two singles. After the session, I chilled out and rested. It was actually a struggle to force myself to eat because when you are that tired, it is the last thing you want to do. It is quite weird because it is the same when I need to sleep very badly: it is really hard to go to bed and sleep and when I am feeling very tight and inflexible, the last thing you want to do is stretch. Counter-intuitive it may be, but it is still there.

The second session had us start off with Back Squats and we were all going for pr's with our five rep maxes. Jon hit 220kg for five reps which turned out to be a 10kg pr. Sami hit 150kg, Kevin hit 222kg for four reps. Spencer just missed squatting 280kg for a single. I went up to 170, but only hit 3 reps with it; I could not get through the sticking point with the fourth. I went back down to 162.5kg and got my five for a 2.5kg pr. Embarrassingly small, but 2.5kg less so.

We then moved onto Clean and Jerks and we had 20 to do every 90 seconds. I worked up to 130kg and started from there. I needed to hit this figure and try to get over my fear with the Clean. Everyone really pushed it in this session and it was the most intense training session I have ever had in the sport of weightlifting. It felt far longer than the Snatches and everyone's legs were already shot from squatting to maximum. After 15 Clean and Jerks, the fatigue really started to creep in and I had to switch off the mind completely in order to get through the lifts. Every now and then just at the mid point of my pull, that little doubt would creep in and try to screw me over. I had to try and not think about it at all. On my last Clean and Jerk, I worked up to 135kg and forced myself to lift past the point were that devil whispered in my ear that I can't do it.

Here is a video of the Clean and Jerk part of the session. Everyone was sweating really badly and everyone was hurting from the squats; it is only really in the last ten minutes of the video that you can tell people were hurting.

I did a massive amount of active recovery after the session again, with an ice bath and later that evening some contrast water therapy also.

Monday 20 June 2011

Sacramento slip up

Sacramento was about an hour and a half away and we were all looking forward to the competition. The gym was amazingly awesome and the competition was a small one for American standards, but still had over 70/80 people competing in it. The organisers were really efficient and everything ran very smoothly. The MC's in particular were instrumental in keeping the action moving and in getting the crowd involved before and after. The only Irish person who could possibly compare would be if Paudie Roche took the mike in a competition.

Donny and Rob both lifted very well and hit total pr's; Rob hit 127/153 and Donny hit 166/203, but he narrowly missed 210kg. Jon hit 152/185kg and Spenser hit 155/195kg. These were big numbers and the Cal Strength team took the overall medals. Two female lifters Joanne and Jenny bot qualified for nationals. Sami ended up with 100/126kg and lifted three out of six.

The gym has a powerlifting club, a crossfit club and a weightlifting club. It has absolutely everything a gym can want and it is all contained in what looks like an outdoor shed/warehouse. It was very hot that day and even when we were in the shade, we were effectively outdoors. We Irish boys were not quite used to that.

When we got there, we registered and ended up weighing in and waiting around for a few hours to lift. I was very stiff by the time that I started warming up, so it was a relief to get a bar in my hands at last. The plan was to open with 115/140. I warmed up in the usual manner and ended up missing 110, which was supposed to be my last warm up. I asked Glenn to put me up to 116kg as an opener so I could actually make 110 in the warm up room. For my opener, I only high pulled the bar. I then missed it out front and I ended up making the lift on my third attempt. The relief was enormous and it was not nice staring down the barrel of bombing out. This did not go as planned, but what can you do?

I had a good rest for the Clean and Jerks and I warmed up to 137kg. I asked Glenn to bump up my opener to 142 and after I hit that, I ended up only high pulling 148kg twice. This was extremely humiliating, but there is no choice but to simply get on with it. I wanted to hit this lift very badly, but fear clearly won the day. Frustrating, yes, but this will be one hell of a challenge to overcome and it will make me a stronger person when I do overcome it.

After the competition, I felt just like every single one of you reading this blog have felt when something you want really bad does not come out the way you have worked so hard to achieve. Everyone feels disappointment, but not everyone reacts in a positive way. Which am I? This is what I feel like:

Here is another cool video:

Friday 17 June 2011

Thursday and Friday's fingerfood

After our intense sessions on Wednesday, I was generally stiff and sore the next day. My lower back was quite tight also, but I did not mind this because I trained well on Wednesday and I had two days to recover for Saturday's competition. On Thursday we only had one session and it was Power Snatch and Power Clean. I only Power Snatched because my back was stiff and sore. I worked up to 90kg and then I tried to Power Snatch 100 twice but only managed to bring it to parallel or lower. I left the Power Clean and had an ice bath. Spenser hooked me up with a quick back massage after as well, which felt good.

On Friday, all the guys were pretty focused on the next day's competition and basically went through the motions in training. I only went up to a few reps with 50kg, 70 and 90kg in the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. Sami did the same. The rest of the guys went up heavier. Jon went up to around 120/160, Rob 110/130, Spenser around the same as Jon and Kevin also.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Wednesday's wiping of our floor

We did two sessions today. All last night and this morning I did some active recovery things that made my back feel good going into the morning session. All the guys trained really hard and were pretty wiped after the day was out.

In the first session, we all started off with a Snatch High Pull followed by a Snatch from below the knee. I only worked up to three of these with 90kg and Sami got some excellent technique work done with Glenn. Kevin Cornell was the beast of the morning and hit a high pull and Snatch from below the knee with 140. It was awesome and he has impressed myself and Sami massively since we arrived. Himself and Jon are going to push each other massively over the next few months. Donny Snatched 160, Clean and Jerked 185 and Back Squatted 270kg in the morning session alone. He is a machine.

The guys then went on to do the same with Cleans, but I skipped that to protect my lower back. I went on to do Jerks from the blocks and I ended up hitting 150kg for a pr. Once I get used to this exercise, I should be able to put up a good bit more weight because I have power to spare in the Jerk. The rest of the lads then went on to do Jerks from behind the neck off the blocks and Sami hit an easy 110 for a triple. Jon hit 160kg for four reps. Kevin hit 160 for five reps and 170kg for three.

For the second session of the day, everyone was having their last maximum intensity session before the competition on Saturday. It was intense and there were some big weights. Myself and Sami struggled in our first afternoon session because it would be three or four in the morning at home while we were training. It was a strange sensation feeling like you should be asleep but adrenaline coursing through you at the same time. Jon Snatched 147kg and Clean and Jerked 175kg, which was impressive because he was working for hours before the second workout and had eaten very little all day. Kevin Snatched 140 and I am not sure what he Jerked. Donny had 195 overhead in the Jerk and Snatched somewhere over 160kg. Spenser Clean and Jerked 180 which was impressive considering he has had a sore knee all week. Rob hit 120/140 and Brian just did pulls because he has a sore wrist.

Sami was zonked and hit 95/115kg despite being practically asleep. He finished off with an easy 160 squat and called it a day. I had a decent second session. In the Snatch, I worked up with one Power Snatch and a full Snatch with 50, 50, 50, 70, 90, 100 and then I hit 110 and 115 twice for two singles in the Snatch. I was happy to get them considering my turnover and lifting in general was pretty slow. My first 115 was like a delayed high pull followed by a dive under to catch. I hit it again and it felt like that was the end of the road. I intend to open with this on Saturday, so I was happy to hit it twice. In the Clean and Jerk, I did doubles with 50 and 70. I then did singles with 95, 105, 115, 130 and 140kg. I wussed out of 145kg which was embarrassing because it was there and I could not control my mind. I finished up with some Back Squats and did a double with 100 and singles with 120, 140, 160 and I missed 180 twice which I found surprising. Maybe the jump was too big, but I will get it next time.

All in all, it was a good session in that I got a lot of work done; I hit a pb in the Jerk from the rack and I hit my openers for Saturday. It is funny for myself and Sami, because our lifting is literally in slow motion compared to the other guys and it is awesome watching guys lift so quickly from the floor to the catch. We are both enjoying training here immensely and are enjoying the Cal Strength hospitality from Glenn and the boys.

Tuesday's talent for not hurting myself

Sleep, active recovery and simply being able to lift was the name of the day. Ice baths, jacuzzi contrast work and some anti-inflammatries and a good sleep left me feeling ok today. I woke up and did some trans-abs and lower abs work in the morning to try and take the strain off my lower back; I followed this up with a mwod workout and ended up feeling good in the morning, determined to be careful and not ruin myself.

We were supposed to have a Power Snatch and Power Clean workout. I decided to Power Snatch off blocks because it is at the bottom of the pull where I feel it the most. I started off with triples with 40, 40, 60 and then a double with 80. I then did singles with 90, then three singles with 100 and I finished up with 105kg which brought me down to parallel.

I left it there with the powers so that I did not make the same mistakes of the previous day. Instead of doing Power Cleans and loading my lower back again, I went on to behind the neck Jerks off the blocks. I had not done this movement in around a year and a half and I wanted to get 160kg. I worked up to 150, but 160 was just beyond me today.

I tried 160 three times, but it was not there. I finished off with some flexibility work and one set of reverse-hypers to get some blood flow into my back. I then spent some time in the pool with a few of the guys and after lunch, I had a lovely ice bath to cap things off.

All in all, this was a light day for everyone. All of the guys looked pretty beat up and lifted like it too. There will be two training sessions tomorrow and everyone will more than likely be more fired up for them than today. There is a competition in Sacramento on Saturday that most of the guys will be lifting in. Glenn put myself and Sami down also, so I am really looking forward to it and I want to make sure that I can lift properly and do myself justice. Today was an important day for me because I was able to train with moderate intensity and without pain. I was stiff and sore afterward, but that can be worked around. Once I am intelligent in my training over the next few days, I should be fine and lift well on Saturday.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Cal Strength sign in

Myself and Sami arrived in the airport at 4am and flew from Dublin to Paris and then from Paris to San Francisco. Glenn picked us up and we got a quick bite to eat and we were straight into the gym for our first workout. 14 hours of travelling after only two or three hours sleep is generally not conducive to hard training, but we made it work.

When we arrived into the gym, it looked very similar to last year, but it was far busier. There were lots of High School kids training there and pretty much all of them had some form of the Olympic Lifts in their training, just like East Coast Barbell. It was a real pleasure walking in somewhere where people are training hard and weightlifting is the norm as opposed to the exception. Again, this is one of the main reasons myself and Sami started ECB.

When we were driving to the gym, Glenn said we should have a workout to help us sleep that night and get over jet lag, but that we should keep the weights light for obvious reasons. When we started warming up, I surprised myself by feeling ok, and generally pretty loose. I had seen a physical therapist who helped me with my lower back the previous day and I was not sure how I would feel, so I used a belt for support also. Myself and Sami warmed up with the bar and then we both worked up in doubles in the Snatch with 40kg for a few, then 50, 60, 70 and once I hit 80kg I did a single with that, 90 and then 100kg. Sami worked up to 90 and then we thought that was that. But no, not he wasn't. Glenn said we were Snatching once every 90 seconds on that weight and we thought he was joking. But no, no he wasn't.

My first rep with 100 felt light but very rough. Five reps in I started to find my rhythm and my Snatches felt really smooth and generally pretty powerful. Sami was Snatching the best I have seen him in many months--he had been on holiday for the past ten days and had not touched a bar at all-- and I could feel my lower back, but it was not sore. I was going to leave it after 12, but I felt good so I kept going. Sami was spent after his twenty lifts and developed a weird pain in the left arm and shoulder, so he could not really Clean and Jerk afterwards.

I rested for fifteen minutes and I said that I would skip the 20 Clean and Jerks that the other guys were doing and just work up to a single and leave it there. Jon North and Kevin Cornell were starting with 160 with Spenser also. Rob Blackwell started with 120 and Power Cleaned because the low catch hurt his back. Donny had just worked up to 170kg in the Snatch, so the atmosphere was set. I worked up to 120 and then for some unfathomable reason, said maybe Power Cleaning would be easier on my back too. I worked in with Rob and we both did five or six Power Clean and Jerks and my back felt stiff, but ok. Then on the next rep, I felt it give out and it was almost like I fully contracted it for the first time. Very strange. I left it there, cursing myself for not listening to my instinct and calling it a day after the first 120.

The real fireworks began after Jon and Kevin began to creep up the weight after ten singles or so from 160, gradually to 170. After the twenty reps every 90 seconds, they then started trash talking and worked up to 175. Then Kevin hit 177.5kg for a pr (after 20 singles!) and then they both hit 180, again, Kevin got a pr. The intensity in the air was palpable and myself and Sami were wishing we could have gotten in on the action. Sweat was flying everywhere and Jon was ranting incoherently at the bar and all around him. Kevin had just ripped up his finger quite badly changing weights and they were both somehow managing to keep increasing weights despite their lungs nearly coming out of their mouths. Here it is:

Video streaming by Ustream

After we finished training, we all ate an outrageous amount of food in Glenn's at an impromptu team bonding session. He also gave me a go on his ems unit to help loosen up my back which had tightened quite rapidly. We finished up with a few trips in Jon's hot tub and then we slept the hell out of it after 28 hours of little or no sleep.

Lessons learned:

1. Follow your instinct: I said I would take it easy in my first workout, and I predictably let myself get caught up in the atmosphere and kept training on when I should not have. I am an idiot and did exactly what I said I wouldn't. It will take me a few days to get back to where I should be, but I will not make the same mistake again.

2. Tempo lifts are awesome: When myself and Sami were doing the classical lifts every 60 or 90 seconds at home, it was great for our lifting because you let the rhythm of the movement take over rather than trying to overpower the bar. This is a vital aspect to lifting and the fact that you do not have time to over-analyse also helps smoothen out your creases.

3. We need to get stronger and stop worrying about technique. I have said this a few times and yesterday simply reinforced this indisputable fact.

Sunday 12 June 2011

Sunday's slight back strain

Over the last six weeks or so my back has been gradually getting more and more stiff and on Thursday, I strained it with a 95kg Snatch. It was nothing major, but it was the same area that has been at me since I got back from holiday. I felt it go with a light Snatch and it got worse as the day went on; I definitely strained it. I went for a swim in the sea both days after and took the appropriate anti-inflammatories and fish oil etc. I felt ok and I did some bar work on the Friday and felt fine and had another swim in the delightfully cold sea to help things along.

I drove up to Belfast hoping to compete yesterday and fifteen minutes into the warm up, I had to call it a day. Lifting from the floor was painful and I could not generate any power at all. I left it at 100kg and I was disappointed, but I knew that if I lifted I would have injured myself badly, rather than having a simple enough strain. Also, I am going to California Strength with Zag tomorrow for two weeks and that is definitely the priority. I am glad i listened to my body, because usually my default position would be to dig in my heels and "man up" even when it would be silly to do so.

I am seeing a physical therapist today and hopefully he can help me before I leave for California so that I can train to a full extent. Last year I went over to train with the lads and do as many sessions as I could with them. I knew it would burn me out, but I wanted to experience it anyway. This time, I will formulate a plan with Glenn; myself and Sami will go over with specific goals in mind, rather than to lift as often and as heavy as we can. Last year I came back in a heap and this year I want to build on my last few months training and take it from there.

I am still worn out from the last few months, but so is everyone else reading this blog! I will get my energy back in a few days and then hopefully I will have loads to write about in California. Bring it on!

If this does not make you laugh, God help you:

Sunday 5 June 2011

Sunday's stranger moments

Like I said last week, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. The past month has been manic and it has taken a toll on my lifting. My squatting has continued to improve however and I have gotten my first squatting pb's in a year and a half.

Last week I equalled my pb double with 155 in the Front Squat and got a double with 170kg in the Back Squat. This week I got a triple with 170 and a double with 160kg in the Front Squat. I then went for a double with 165, my one rep max, but I could not get through the sticking point.

On Monday, I Snatched 105 and missed 110 twice with it being slightly out front both times. I worked up to a Clean double with 120 and a single with 130 and then I hit 160 for a double on the second attempt. On the Wednesday, I Power Snatched 95 and hit 100 but it was a full Snatch. I went on to Power Clean and Jerk my old pb of 130 despite struggling to Clean it two days earlier. Very strange. I then Back Squatted a triple with 170 and I was going for a double with 175, but the previous effort took it our of me and I could only get a single. The third repitition with 170 was one that breaks your form and your back, but you get it anyway.

On the Friday, I Snatched 105 and Clean and Jerked 130. I was not able to even try and Clean 135. I have no idea why not, but I was not able to make myself do it. I then was determined to get a double with 165, but I was only able to get one rep with it.

All in all, this was a very strange week's training. My lower back has been very stiff and sore for the last few weeks, but this week it was stopping me getting into good positions from the floor.

I have been trying something a little different this week also. Because my schedule changed a bit, I had a bit of time to combine squatting while working during the day. Around afternoon time, I would work up to a conservative max single where I would not push it. I would then train as usual later that evening and I would find it helped me squat heavier weights later in the day. I wanted to focus more on my squat this week because they were going well and also because I knew how hectic my scedule would be. Equalling my Power Clean pb after not hitting close to it for over a year and a half was also an unexpected surprise, but I will take it when I can get it.

I am competing next Saturday in the Ulster Open up in Belfast and I am really looking forward to getting out to the platform. I need to get a bit rested and train intelligently this week. I am not tapering for the competition but I want to lift well for it. On the 13th of June, I am also going to Claifornia Sterngth for two weeks to train with those boys, so that should be fun also. It will be a novelty to be able to focus sloely on my lifting and not ECB or anything else, so bring it on!

Watch this video. Kolecki is unbelievable in it and he was only 18 years old!