CrossFit Pi in Exeter is the most spacious and well equipped gym I have seen in a long time. The owner Martin Uttley studied at Brunel University and was a high level rugby player before opening his gym. I am not sure what I like best about this facility, the coffee dispenser, or the platforms! But I do know that it is far nicer than most CrossFit facilities in the USA and both Martin and his staff seem to be great coaches and totally dedicated to making this facility the best that it can possibly be.
I flew into Bristol Friday April 14th and I have been doing seminars in the UK for the last two weeks. The first one was at AFS CrossFit inAndover which was a pretty big seminar with 31 people attending. AFS is a nice gym and quite a few good lifters were in attendance. Chris Murray was probably the best, he is moving to 77 from 69 and was weighing about 74 on the day of the seminar. Very quick lifter who was also very consistent with his movements the whole day. He was able to snatch 125kg and tried 133kg for an all time PR but missed. He still had a hell of a day. Quite a few people also attempted the Pendlay certification with several passing. Overall a great introduction to the UK!
So the official start date was December 3, but somehow that got changed to December 2, still not quite sure how. and the first athlete showed up on the 1st! I suppose I could have let everyone take a day or two to get acclimated and rest from their flight or flights or their drive but I though that seemed like kind of a waste of time so we got started immediately. Friday as folks got here we did some hip extensions in the first workout, then did snatch and clean from the hip in the evening workout. Saturday morning we did snatch in morning to warm up, then did a max front squat then finished with isometric holds with a snatch grip. On Sunday we did snatch pulls with bands, and maximum effort on the muscle snatch.
Monday AM we did power snatch up to a max, then cleans with 80% and finished with back extensions. I was really surprised by how strong some of these guys are at back extensions in face Christian might be the strongest buy I have ever seen at that exercise!
12 years old is a great age to start weightlifting. Most kids are old enough by that time to have a long enough attention span to complete a workout that lasts 45 minutes to an hour, and enough motor control to do the movements required in the sport safely.
Most 12 year olds should still not train more than 3 days a week though. A Lot of parents and coaches are very tempted to push kids to train more often that that, but if you do you run the risk of them burning out before they ever reach the age when they should be performing at their best. Because the goal should be to develop future Olympians, pushing kids into 5 or 6 workouts per week then watching them burn out before age 18 is not a great strategy.
But 12 years old is a delicate age. Successfully coaching this age group requires keeping the interest and motivation high, while also keeping them from burning out. Keeping then training only 3 days a week goes a long way toward keeping burn outs from happening. But many kids get really, really bored doing workouts which require sticking to a certain percentage of their maximum snatch or clean and jerk. Kids love to lift heavy, and they love to max out. Unfortunately, constantly doing nothing but maxing out is not really conducing to their long term development in the sport. One way to get around this is to let them lift as heavy as they want but using a plan where most workouts contain complexes containing 3 to 5 total reps.
I have had really good luck allowing kids to go as heavy as they can, but holding the weight down by making sure that most of the exercises they do were complexes involving a total of 2 to 5 reps. Things like 2 snatch pulls + a snatch + and OHS, or a snatch + a snatch grip push press + an OHS both work great for the snatch. A clean pull + a clean + 2 front squats, or just 2 clean pulls + 1 clean and jerk work great for the clean and jerk. Using complexes like this allows the coach to let the kids train right up to their absolute maximum ability most days but still make sure that most days they cannot go beyond 90% of their best snatch or clean and jerk. Personally I have had good luck using complexes on Mondays that require a total of 4 to 5 reps in one complex, complexes which require 2 to 3 lifts per complex on Wednesdays and then complexes with only 1 to 2 lifts on Fridays.
Working up to a maximum on a snatch complex like this, then a maximum on a clean and jerk complex, then 3 to 5 sets of front squats or back squats is a workout t hat takes most kids in the middle school age group about 45 minutes to 1 hour. It gets results, and because the kids are always pushing for a new maximum on whatever complex we are doing that day, they never seem to get bored. If you are working with this age group, give this type of workout a try!
Most lifters know that while you are on a high volume squatting or strength phase your snatch and clean and jerk are likely to go down temporarily. Of course when you recover from the intense strength work your lifts usually take a jump and more than recover any lost ground.
While practice on the snatch and clean and jerk is important, don’t forget that strength increases are the real driver of long term progress in weightlifting. The competitive lifts are often talked about in terms of their relationship with the squat, and it is safe to say that no one will ever snatch or clean and jerk more than they squat. Both competitive lifts will always be a PERCENTAGE of your squat, and that percentage will never be equal to or greater than 100%. Usually about 65% for the snatch and 85% for the clean and jerk are thought of as the maximal efficiency that a lifter can achieve.
As your strength increases, so does your POTENTIAL for a big total in weightlifting. But the temporary decrease numbers for the competitive lifts while you are on an intense strength cycle seems to make some coaches shy away from programming a lot of strength work. You see this most often in online programs like Train Heroic. While some of t he weightlifting programs (like the california strength programs) are great, there are some have a real lack of strength training to go along with the technical work. While this is a great way to drive progress for a short time, for the long term it falls short.
If you are following an online program, ask yourself what percentage of the work is geared to strength development, and what percent is geared towards technical improvement? A good way to quantify this is to look at the amount of time you spend on the snatch and clean and jerk vs. the amount of time you spend on squatting and other strength work. If you are spending an hour training the snatch and clean and jerk, then only half that long doing strength work then there is something wrong.
A good rule of thumb is that during most phases of training you should spend AT LEAST as much time on squatting and other strength exercises as you do practicing the snatch and clean and jerk and other related lifts. Make sure the coach who is writing your programming is not sacrificing long term progress for short term gains.
If the program you are on is only geared toward technique and gives the acquisition of strength the short end of the stick, then take a hike and find another program. There are plenty of good programs out there!
The most important thing you can accomplish as a beginner is to build great motor patterns. This is priority number one. I believe in lots of drilling as a beginner, and a great way to accomplish this is with EMOM sets. The beginners group that I program for online does up to 18 minutes of EMOM work per lift every Monday, and this is a big part of the program. You have to keep the intensity between 70 and 80% but even at these percentages EMOM sets can be a challenge. And as I have written before, in an EMOM set the fatigue works with you, and not against you. The fatigue actually helps you refine the movement over the course of the workout.
The second most important thing is the workload. This is not only built with the weightlifting movements but also with a large variety of assistance movements concentrating on the muscles that are important in weightlifting. I am of course talking about the hips, the hamstrings, and the back. On my X-Files program we do between 80 and 100 reps of things like glute ham raises, back raises, reverse hypers, and various rowing motions every training day. We usually put this in its own workout, and many lifters choose to do the first workout, rest an hour or two, then come back and finish the accessory work.
Strength is of course important, but I find that by doing plenty of work on the classic lifts then doing a large amount of work on assistance exercises you not only develop a large work capacity but strength increases almost as a by-product.
Accomplishing this as a beginner will set you up to continue making great progress as an intermediate and advanced lifter.
Are you setting yourself up for success? If you are not sure, look at my X-Files program.
No one wants to be labeled a beginner. No one wants to do a beginner program. But skipping agead to an intermediate or advanced program WILL NOT make you progress faster. In fact it will slow down your progress, and could even decrease your long term potential for attaining a high total.
The first 6 months of your weightlifting career are when you should be building good motor patterns that will last throughout your career. These months are also when you will build most of the work capacity that will become so valuable in the years to come.
The beginner period is one of the most difficult periods in terms of training intensity. You will be doing a TON of work. In my X-Files program the only athletes who have ever thrown up have been on the beginner program. This has not happened on the intermediate or advanced program. The whole training program is fast paced and a high workload, but the beginner program is definitely HARDER than the other programs.
The drop-out rate is high, but if lifters can make it through the first 4 weeks they usually are able to stick with it for the long term and become intermediate lifters, and even advanced lifters. They and up winning, first on the local level, then the national level.
Do you have what it takes?