Go for it.

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You should never make 100% of your lifts in any session.    If you do it tells you one thing, you are training too LIGHT!!!  Many people talk endlessly about the evils of too many missed, and there is no doubt lots and lots of misses are a bad thing.  But making all of your lifts is probably even worse.  That means that you haven’t even had the guts put the weight on the bar.

Putting 100 kg on the bar is the absolutely necessary first step in snatching 100 kg.  Have the courage to load the weight.  Of weights that you do load on the bar, my belief is that you should make about 85% of those lifts.  I have put this number between 70% and 95% at various different times, when I was in various different moods.  But 85% is a good middle ground.  If you usually make too many more than this, you may be training too light.  If you make too many less than this you may be training too heavy and not developing good motor patterns as quickly as you could be. This applies mostly to singles and doubles, but when using an RM of 3 or 5 reps, when do you call it quits?  I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule.  BUT, if you are doing a 5RM and rep number 5 is picture perfect and your name is not Caleb Ward, you are training too light.  Form breaks down with heavy weight.  And for a normal humans it is impossible to be moving picture perfect on the last rep of a 5RM.  Period.  On the other hand, if rep number 1 is dangerously bad, take weight off the bar.  Most 5RM’s will break down between rep 2 and 4 to some extent.

But every weightlifter should remember that the whole point of weightlifting is to lift the most weight.  So if you are going to err, err on the side of GOING FOR IT!  Don’t fail for lack of trying.

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Weightlifting Diet addendum III

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My last blog on the weightlifting diet focused on eating the right carbs.  In a nutshell, ditch the bread, pasta, rice, and white potatoes in favor of more nutrient dense and high fiber foods.  Sweet potatoes, squash, zucchinis, carrots and other vegetables like these are much healthier because they contain way more nutrients, are more filling because they contain more fiber.  They also don’t lead to overeating like the “lazy” carbs do.   It is hard to get fat on zucchinis and carrots. It is easy to get fat on bread and pasta.

The weightlifting diet also needs to contain protein.  Just like the carbohydrate choices, your protein choices should be  nutrient dense.  Eggs are a great protein source.   Better if you eat the whole egg including the yoke, even better if  it comes from a free range chicken and not one that lives in a cage and eats only chicken feed.   Chickens that get plenty of exercise and eat a natural diet have a higher percentage of a omega 3 fat versus omega 6 and this helps a hard-traning lifter fight inflammation.

Other nutrient dense protein sources are organ meat and wild game.   Organ meats like liver have some of the densest nutrition of any food and I recommend eating liver  at least every couple of weeks. We had liver once a week the whole time I was growing up, it’s not my favorite but it certainly didn’t kill me to eat it.   Any wild game is usually more nutritious than what you buy at the supermarket.  It is almost always lower fat and the fat it does have will contain a healthier ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats.  Venison, pheasant, quail, and rabbit are all healthy and tasty.

The protein sources that are probably the least healthy are the ones most of us like the best, higher fat cuts of beef and convenient sliced lunch meats.   A good corn fed ribeye steak is probably the tastiest piece of meat you can eat. It is also one of the least healthy. Not only does it have more fat than it should, the ratio of a omega three to omega six is not the greatest.  It’s probably better for you than highly processed meats like most sandwich meats, but is being healthier than salami and pepperoni really enough to recommend it?

Protein is important for the hard training lifter, and should include a variety of protein sources. But cutting down on the lunch meats like pepperoni and salami and eating more wild game and organ meats instead will make you a healthier person and a better weightlifter.

 


Weightlifting Diet Addendum 2

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For most civilians, adopting a good diet usually involves losing weight.  Since you are a competitive weightlifter losing weight is usually not a problem, nor should it be your chief concern.   Being in optimal health should be your chief concern.  After all, the healthier you are better  you will recover from training.

If you are training 3-5 times a week (and you should be) you will have an above average activity level and above average muscle mass.  Both of these things mean the accumulation of excess body fat should not be a problem.  If you do need to push your bodyweight up or down you can do so by controlling what I call the “lazy foods”.  Bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes.  If you need to push your weight up like David Hamor, chow down on some pasta, bread, and the like.  In his case, chow down on a LOT of it.  If you need to drop a kilo or two or if you are dropping a whole weight class like Sal Badali, be extra strict with consumption of foods like bread that aren’t nutrient dense, and that are easy to overeat.

You will find that if you get most or all of your carbohydrates from foods that are also high in fiber and bulk, it will be very difficult to put on body fat.  In the same way that we have devolved into eating   carbohydrate sources  that are less than ideal the protein sources often aren’t ideal either.   We will talk more about healthy protein in addendum 3.

 

 


Weightlifting Diet Addendum 1

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One of the benefits that you will notice immediately when you cut candy and junk food from your diet is a change in your taste buds.  If you constantly eat candy and crappy food, you will have a drastically decreased ability to taste normal food.  You will NEED crap like tons of salt and sweetener for food to taste good.  This is not normal, and it is not healthy.  After about 10-14 days of no concentrated sweets, and no super salty processed foods like pizza, and your taste buds will revert to their natural ability to taste.  You will find that many foods that you used to eat now taste way too salty.  And foods that you never realized were sweet, start to taste sweet.  Like milk.  If you have not had concentrated sweets for a while regular non- sweetened milk will taste sweet to you as will many things.  And I am not just talking about fruit, but you have to stop eating candy and junk food for a while before you can taste it.

 


Weightlifting Diet

There is no doubt that the diet of an average American stinks.  But as a weightlifter, you shouldn’t be eating like the average American.  How should you eat?  Well, many books have been written about that, but I think I can boil it down to a couple of key rules.

Rule 1:  Do not eat candy or sweets.  This takes zero smarts to figure out.  This includes candy bars, Pop tarts, most breakfast cereals, potato chips, cokes, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, and other crap like that.  Including anything that has high fructose corn syrup.  When you start reading labels you will be amazed at how many things are made using this crap.  It is literally everywhere.

Rule 2:  Little as you can of high carb items such as bread, potatoes, corn and rice.  These are filling, but low nutrition foods.  They are also easy and convenient.  Actually too easy convenient, which is why I call them lazy foods.  For many people, if they took junk food and lazy food out of their diets, they would starve.  These are the foods that are making America fat and unhealthy.

Rule 3:  Eat more vegetables of all kinds, except the really high carb ones like potatoes and corn.

Rule 4:  Eat a variety of protein items like meat, nuts, and eggs. 

Now, if you are anything like me, when you first start eating like this you will struggle a little bit because out whole society is based around eating a certain way, with bread being a major part of most meals.  At first it will be a struggle to replace all the bread you used to eat with other items.  It might be hard to maintain your weight at first.  You will find that you have to eat A LOT of vegetables to get enough calories to replace the bread that you used to eat.


I posted this on the Pendlay WOD over the weekend.  Are doing everything possible when it comes to building pulling strength?5961860-orig_orig

In week 2 (starting Monday, October 9) we up the intensity compared to last week. The most important exercise for the next 3-4 weeks is the snatch grip deadlift. This is the heaviest pulling exercise we do, and therefore the one which will provide the biggest and the quickest increases in pulling strength. Pulls, high pulls, and the actual competition lifts assist in transferring this strength into increased bar speed in the snatch and clean but it all starts with brute strength and the deadlift builds that.

One thing that makes the pulling exercises more effective is doing them with an emphasized eccentric. You should try to lower the bar as slow or slower than you raise it. No need to do any super exaggerated 30 second eccentric, we just want to lower the bar either at the same speed or SLIGHTLY slower than we raise it. Usually in practice this means keeping tension on the bar, and not just dropping it. Some of you have seen me comment about breaking eggs, this just means you should imagine that you are setting the bar down on an egg carton, and trying to do so such that the eggs aren’t smashed.

We also want to lower it reverse order of how you raised it, so at the top you will first break slightly at the knee then flex at the hip joint until the bar is past the knee cap then squat till the plates tough the floor. After the plates lightly tough the floor reverse directions by extending the knee until the bar passes the knee cap (and the shins are vertical) then extend the hip on a deadlift, or extend the hip and shrug to finish the rep if it is a pull or high pull.

Doing deadlifts or pulls this way is harder. Sometimes much harder. The last rep or two of a set you might now be able to do it perfectly. Hell you might be hard pressed to do the first rep perfectly. But work as hard as you can to ATTEMPT to do it. Getting stronger is not easy.

 

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Tank

 

I believe I learned more about weightlifting from Caleb than from any other source.  I think he learned some things from me, but overall I think I got the better end of the exchange.  Every single lifter that I have coached since Caleb has benefitted from the relationship we had and the things I learned from him.

Caleb was a very unique lifter.  First because he decided to devote himself to weightlifting at a young age back way before the CrossFit boom and the huge rise in popularity of the sport that CrossFit created.  Second, because even at the ages of 12 through 20, he was able to keep his attention focused like a laser on his weightlifting goals and never let it waver.

This, I believe, is the most useful trait that a young lifter can have.  And Caleb Ward had it in spades.

I met Caleb through his older brother who I had coached for a couple of years.  Josh was a physically talented lifter, who actually was the first lifter ever in our club to clean and jerk 300 pounds.  Josh had mentioned the fact that he had a little brother that might also be interested in weightlifting.  Josh insisted that his little brother was somewhat of a cry-baby who was likely to quit as soon as training got hard or became uncomfortable.

At some point the little brother came in and after a week or two it became obvious that Caleb, or “tank”, as we all came to know him, had talent for the sport.  At first glance, Caleb did not look very athletic.  He was just a chubby kid who had eaten too many chips and spent too much time on the couch.  But he also had these huge thighs, elbows that slightly hyperextended, and in general great joint mobility.  I didn’t know it yet, but Caleb was also extremely explosive and by the time he was 15 would have no problem doing standing back flips at 5’ 9” and 270 pounds.

He was also an extremely determined young man.  Over his first several years of training Caleb surprised both his older brother and me by displaying a maturity that was downright shocking for someone his age.  I remember a conversation we had when he was 14, and was thinking about taking a month or two off during the summer.  He had been training about 2 years at that time.  He told me that he felt that he could definitely continue with no break, but was worried that if he didn’t take at least a little time off, it might negatively affect his long term desire to stick with the sport.  We talked about it, and he decided to take about a month off.  He came back 4 weeks later chomping at the bit to train.  Now what other 14 year old would display this kind of maturity?  In many ways, he was displaying more maturity that I had.  I was coaching a group of teenagers, and mainly concerned with keeping them in the sport and enthusiastic about the sport. I was way more concerned with what happened next month than looking forward years into the future to the future of an athletes career.

Besides determination, the trait that I believe was the most useful to Caleb Ward was an almost insane attention to detail.  Even at age 12, lifts that even I could find no fault with were not acceptable to Caleb.  Seemingly nothing escaped him.  He picked apart joint angles at different positions, the relative speeds of different parts of a lift, and even the slightest hesitation during a snatch or clean.  Many of the coaching points I still talk about during my seminars today originated during the first seminars I did many years ago using Caleb to demonstrate the lifts.

One of the things I did right while coaching Caleb was to focus much more on movement patterns, the rhythm of the lift, and speed than on strength.  I believe that the first person to discuss this with me was Jim Moser, the father of James Moser.  He was a big believer in two things.  The Bulgarian system, and using heavy snatches and clean and jerks to build most of the strength needed to do heavy snatches and clean and jerks.  I differ from Jim in training philosophy, but the difference is one of degrees, not one of direction.  I can remember conversations where Jim talked about coaching his son James and how to minimize the amount that James would have to squat and front squat to eventually clean and jerk 500 pounds.  The fact that James would eventually do 500 pounds was assumed, but Jim believed that if along the way he developed the sincere belief that clean and jerking a weight was actually easier than front squatting it, that belief would go a long way toward insuring his eventual ability to clean and jerk it.  Jim convinced me of the validity of this line of thought.  This became the basis for my belief that when learning the lifts, it is an advantage do do the initial learning when still weak.  A large amount of strength allows the lifter to lift in inefficient manner yet still make the lift due to an abundance of strength.  If you do not have an abundance of strength, you are forced to lift efficiently to make the lift.  There is no doubt in my mind that one has to become very strong to be a great weightlifter.  But the lifter who waits till technique is firmly ingrained before attempting to build that strength is going to have a big advantage in the end.

Through the first 7-8 years of his career Caleb focuses almost exclusively on squats and the competitive lifts in training, rarely doing any other pulling exercises.  I also never tried to increase the squatting strength at any cost.  Caleb usually limited his back squat training weight to a weight that he was capable of clean and jerking.  When he could clean and jerk 160kg, he was able to comfortably back squat 160 for a set of 5, and do so with a bar speed that was very near to the bar speed of his maximal clean and jerk.  His best front squat triple usually did not exceed his clean and jerk, and if it did it was not by much.   My belief was that Caleb should develop a lifting technique that utilized his strength in the most efficient manner possible.  Once he did that, there would be plenty of time to worry about strength later.  I still believe that efficient technique is the proper focus for a lifter or coach who has the aim of becoming or developing elite weightlifters.5961860-orig_orig

I owe so much of my coaching career to Caleb and athletes like him it is difficult to talk about any of them and most of all Caleb without the conversation veering off into training and coaching theory.  But when I think back on Caleb and that whole group of kids I coached in Texas, the main thing I remember is fun.  We had a blast.  In training, at meets, doing car washes and other fundraisers, in fact in everything we did.  When I look back at that time in my life I don’t think about the politics of the sport, about the financial stresses of paying for travel or any of the negatives.  I think about the fun we had, and how lucky I was to coach lifters like Caleb.  It was a hell of a ride.