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Instant gratification

What is the biggest problem with American weightlifting today?  The pursuit of instant gratification.  This has always been a temptation, but with the advent of the internet (and social media) the temptation has become overpowering.  And unfortunately, the training that leads to the most dramatic short term gains often isn’t what leads to long term progress.

Case in point:  Almost everyone understands that fatigue from a big squat workout is likely to lower your capability in the clean and jerk for at least a day or two!  And the kind of strength program that leads to bigger numbers in the squat and deadlift and vastly increased potential clean and jerk is likely to leave your weightlifting numbers depressed for a while.

As a beginner, you should be completely recovered (or close to it) before every workout.  Every workout holds the potential for new records not only in the snatch and clean and jerk, but also in the strength building lifts like the squat, deadlift, and push press.  But as your career progresses it takes more and more training stress to cause an adaptation.  Soon squatting hard enough to make continual progress in the squat means you will not be able to approach each and every workout in a completely recovered and fresh condition.  At some point, the start of a training cycle becomes the time to work on weak points and improving the squat and deadlift, and the end of the training cycle becomes the time to put it all together and use that strength to lift new numbers in the snatch and clean and jerk.

In fact the more you advance as a lifter the more you have to live with delayed gratification.  Not being able to take the long view is the sign of an immature mind and an immature lifter.  If you know it takes time to build a big total you might be ready for a program that requires more than simply maxing out every day and hoping for the best.  For those of you who enjoy a challenge and have the maturity to stay the course, the X-Files might be right for you.




Second City CrossFit

My last seminar (at least the last one on this trip) was in Birmingham at Second City CrossFit.  The drive from Wales to Birmingham was less than 2 hours and we stayed the night at Seb’s mothers house.  The fact that we stayed only about 5 minutes from the seminar allowed us to sleep a little late and this is always welcomed when you are doing two seminars back to back the same weekend.  Second City CrossFit is one of the biggest, most spacious boxes I have been in, even being larger than most in the US.   I also loved the fact than they had a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy penned up in a little kennel in the front of the gym.  I know right away that I am going to love a gym if there is a cool dog running around.

Where the seminar before this one had a mix of advanced lifters and complete beginners, this seminar had more intermediate lifters.  Since this is the group I get the most satisfaction out of coaching i had a really good time here.  I also felt really good about the fact that several of the attendees seemed to really understand the concepts and make big strides while we were going over snatch pull technique.  All in all this seminar was a success!

Willpower weightlifting club

We did a small seminar in Wales on Saturday at Willpower weightlifting club.  We set this one up at the very last minute but I was really just as interested in meeting the owner, Justin Holly, and eating one of his meals as I was in doing the seminar.  I had heard from Shankle that this man could cook and it turns out he was right!  I got there Friday night and Justin cooked us a 7kg rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, and potatoes that were roasted to perfection.  Justin threatened to also make peas but they never materialized. But even without peas the meal was among the best I had ever eaten.  I simply don’t know how that rib roast could have possibly been better.

The lifting was a mix of really great lifters and total beginners.  Jordan Sakkass, Welsh junior champion and commonwealth youth champion was probably the best with lifts of a 145 snatch from blocks and a 170ish clean and jerk at age 17.  There were 4 other lifters from Willpower who were very nearly at the same level.  There were also several other lifters who also trained at Justin’s club who were more beginners.  In fact one of them did his very first snatch during the seminar, he had come mainly for the programming lecture so that he could apply some of the ideas to his powerlifting training.  For a seminar that was set up basically in 36 hours I think it went pretty well.  Especially that rib roast and the Yorkshire pudding…


CrossFit Pi

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.

Tour of England


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!

Christmas Camp.



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!

Coaching 12 year olds

IMG_118412 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!