I want to apologize to the lifters who kept their training logs on the PENDLAY forum. The forum was taken down today with no warning. I would have liked to have given all the lifters who kept training logs on the forum advance notice, but I did not have that opportunity. I’m sure some of you lost valuable data. I know there are people who kept training logs for years and I am deeply sorry.
So you were not designed by God specifically to break world records in weightlifting. Yes, that is a tough pill to swallow, but it is what it is. So you probably can’t simply max out on the competitive lifts your whole career. You will have to find a way to fix yourself. Your future probably holds various exercises like squats, push presses, and deadlifts or pulls. But look on the bright side, if you are like most people reading this you have two working hands to grip the bar and a body that works well enough to actually do a snatch or clean and jerk. Some people are not so lucky.
But there remains the question, how to make the things we have to so beside snatch and clean and jerk carry over to snatch and clean and jerk as much as possible? As I sit here writing this, I am watching Rachael Davis do push presses. I have told her and told her to separate each rep with a pause on the shoulders. Yet when she gets a little tired and finishing the set is in doubt she still lowers the bar straight into the dip portion of the dip and drive. This makes the set a little easier to finish. For most people anyway. It is not really cheating, and the difference is slight, but there is a difference.
But, for an exercise to carry over, it not only has to work the same muscle or muscle group as the movement you want to affect, it has to use the same movement speed, the same basic force curve, and the same range of motion. The more similar the two movements are, the more the carry over. So if you want your push press to help the jerk, separate each rep with a pause. Make most of your reps fast, as fast or almost as fast as a jerk. Avoid ‘grinding’, or any reps with a noticeable slowing of the bar. Dip to the same depth on every rep.
If you try to do this it still won’t make your push press carry over perfectly to your jerk. But it will make it carry over a hell of a lot more than if you do them sloppy and slow.
An example that is a little more obvious is the deadlift. In the past I have not been a proponent of deadlifts for weightlifters. But after coaching enough lifters with a long torso/short leg body type I have softened by stance. I am still not a big fan of pulls, feeling that the deadlift can be done heavier and at least in theory should lead to faster strength gains. But if you have a strength deficit on the pull and are going to deadlift you sitll need to not only keep the same joint angles as when you do the weightlifting movements, you need to keep the same bar speed when possible. So there should be very few pulls when the bar is just crawling up your leg. When possible, the bar should be moving at roughly the same speed as it does in the snatch or clean. If the start position is the same, and the bar moves at roughly 2 meters per second, there should be a lot of carry over.
In my next blog in this series I will talk about how Caleb Ward made sets of 5 in the back squat as specific to the clean and jerk as possible.
If no assistance exercises at all is the ‘perfect’ training program, why do so many people do so well using assistance exercises for the bulk of their training? Some people try a program with a brief exercise list, do badly, then switch to a program more like the Russian system, with a ton of assistance work, and do much, much better. Why?
The answer is simple. Most people are not genetically ideal for weightlifting. As I sit here writing this blog, I am looking at James Tatum. A very good lifter. But far from a ‘perfect’ lifter. His legs and arms are too long. He is not a very good squatter because of this. Recovering from the clean is very hard for him. Recovering from a heavy clean and having enough energy left to complete a jerk is even harder. On the other hand, with a 160kg (U77) snatch in training during the last training cycle, he is a pretty good snatcher. And he is tough as hell, and sometimes able to pull off lifts that look so hard, they make my teeth hurt to watch. But even so, if I was God and trying to design the ideal olympic weightlifter, it would not be James.
Jared Fleming has done some great lifting here at Muscledriver. He is one of the most exciting lifters to watch. Definitely one of the most exciting that I have ever coached. But his torso is too long. Because of this, the pull off the floor is really, really hard for him. True, once he gets the bar close to his hips he can make some crazy things happen. But the pull off the floor is sometimes so slow I doubt he is ever going to get it to his hips! But in spite of this, he owns the American record snatch in the U94 class.
Travis Cooper has got to be everyones favorite. He is such a nice guy. And that goes way beyond weightlifting. He is genuinely one of the nicest and best people that I have ever known. But his arms don’t lock out quite right. So the lockout on both the snatch and the jerk are always very hard for him. We do a lot of extra work trying to make his lockout as strong as possible. In fact all three of the athletes I mentioned do assistance exercises to help them build up their weak points.
Cooper is always trying to improve his push press, James knows his success or failure as a lifter is going to depend on getting his squat up higher, and Jared does deadlifts, a lot of deadlifts, to improve his bar speed off the floor.
Figure out what your weak point is, and pick assistance exercises to help bring the weak point up. If your parents did not give you the ideal body for weightlifting, build it yourself.
Everyone knows how to make the body adapt. Simply do an exercise that you have not done before. Or do several sets in a rep range that is outside the norm. You will get sore, but over the next few days the soreness will go away, and when you repeat the exercise again and again, you will have less soreness each time. Eventually you will have none. The body has adapted.
But as weightlifters, we do the same exercises over and over gain. Not exactly ideal for adaptation. But if all you do is snatch and clean and jerk with near maximal weights, it is ideal for SPECIFICITY. Every adaptation that your body makes will be perfectly suited to the task of heavy snatches and clean and jerks.
If you add heavy squats to the mix, it will surely help make your legs strong. But, the increased leg strength will not be perfectly suited to the snatch and clean and jerk. Squats do not occur at the same speed as the snatch, the force curve you need to apply with your legs is not the same as the force curve in a snatch, and the range of motion in the squat is not the same as in a snatch. It is the same with every assistance exercise that we do. Doing things other than heavy singles in the competition lifts allows us to greatly increase the adaptations in our bodies, but those assistance exercises also cause the adaptations to be less than perfectly suited to the of maximal lifts in the snatch and clean and jerk. So there is a trade off between adaptation and specificity. What is great for one, is bad for the other.
Abajiev was a proponent of training with a short list of exercises. He pared down the 50 or 60 exercises used by the Russians until he was left with only the competition lifts, front squats, and the power versions of the competitive lifts. But even that was not as far as he wanted to go. He theorized that the PERFECT training system sould be maximal singles in the snatch and clean and jerk, and nothing else. No squats, no front squats, no pulls. He wanted to try this but he said the people who were paying him were paying for a proven system and he was not sure that a system without squats would work. His system WITH squats definitely worked, so to make sure he kept producing he continued with the proven system.
My next blog will cover the REAL reasons we do assistance exercises!
A few years ago I heard something that really made sense to me. I did not know it at the time, but it would eventually really change the way I coached the lifts, and thought about programing. I did not hear it straight from the source, only 2nd hand, actually it might have been third hand now that I think of it. I did not know Joe Mills at all. Never even met the man. But every time I hear someone talk about the things he used to say, I pay attention because it seems like so many of those things really, really make sense.
I believe it was Joe Dube that told me Mills told him that after a training session you can often tell if your technique was correct by where you are sore, and what muscles are fatigued. Actually it might have been another lifter from that era telling Dube that Mills used to say that, I forget. But however Dube heard it, the principle remains the same.
Mills believed that after a hard training session, the body as a unit should feel fatigued, but there should be no one area that feels especially tired. If the fatigue is centered around your legs, or centered around your lower back, it means you are doing something wrong and overusing that particular part of your body.
That simple statement has huge ramifications. Think about it for a while. Think about how you feel halfway through, or after a training session. What does that tell you about how you are doing the lifts? This is a typical Mills quote, seemingly very simple but only after months or even years the importance of it finally sink in.
Leo Hernandez is a 26 year old lifter who was born in Cuba. He began weightlifting in the Cuban sports system. He began training at age 9, he says he would go to school for half the day then after school the weightlifters were picked up by the coach and driven to the weightlifting training center. He says they trained 2 or 3 yours, but the training in Cuba for lifters that young did not emphasize heavy weights at all, nested they were “graded” on their technique.
Leo says that the program was very well rounded, and emphasized GPP and lots of basic physical skills designed to prepare the kids for the heavy specialized training they would have to do as teenagers. There were lots of sprints and jumping, and a lot of different variations of the snatch and clean and jerk. Leo entered a sports school at age 12, and at that time his training increased to 6 days a week. At the sports school, the athletes went to school for only half a day, from 8 am till noon, then the afternoons were reserved for training.
While in this training camp the athletes followed the Russian school of lifting using a very periodize approach, lots of volume, and a large variety of exercises. Leo says he make good progress every year till he was 16 at which point he went into the Cuban military for 2 years. Once out of the military he opted to go to university instead of taking up his weightlifting training again.
At age 22 Leo immigrated to the USA. He did not resume his training immedietly though, instead he worked for a couple of years, but people kept asking him about lifting, and why he had given it up. So, eventually Leo decided to resurrect his career. He says that starting to train again was the hardest thing he has ever done. His first competition he snatched 130kg and clean and jerked 156kg. At the 213 Arnold he lifted 135kg and 165kg, and the next year at the Arnold he increased that to 141kg in the snatch and 170kg in the clean and jerk. At the 215 Arnold he did 148kg in the snatch and 184kg in the clean and jerk, but bombed out at the 2015 nationals.
The bomb out at nationals forced him to go to a Grand Prix in China to earn a spot on the world team
here is a quick peak at how leo is training for the 2015 Worlds.
70/4 80/3 90 4/2
Push press 2 sec stop in the deep
100/3 110/2 1253/2
Snatch + OHS
70/3 90/3 100/2 110 /2 120 2/2
Clean and Power Jerk
100/3 120/3 140/2 147 2/2
140/4 160/3 185/3 200/2 220 3/2
Accessory 20 min
70/3 90/3 100/2 110/2 115 3/2
Power Clean and Jerk
100/3 120/3 130/2 140 2/2
170/3 195 3/3
Accessory 20 min
90/3 110 /3 130/3 145 3/2
Hiper snatch pull
70/3 90/3 110/3 120/2 1302/2
Clean and Jerk
100/3 120/3 130/2 145/2 155 2/2
140/3 165/3 180 4/2
Accessory 20 min
70/3 90/3 100/2 1103/1
100/4 120/3 1303/3
Accessory 20 min
70/3 90/3 100/2 110/2 122/2 132 3/1
Clean and Jerk
100/3 120/3 140/2 155/2 162 3/1
160/3 180/3 200/3 215 3/3
Mobility 20 min
Power snatch of the blocks
70/4 90/3 100/2 110/2 1173/1
Power clean and push press
90/3 110/3 120/2 135 2/2
Accessory 20 min
Jessica Lucero is a 26 year old weightlifter from Florida, and found the sport though the Florida high school program. Danny Carmargo was her first coach, and he actually worked at her high school in a city funded after school program. Jessica used to train for the high school sport (which is bench press and clean and jerk) during the school day, then start working with Danny right after school.
She describes her program during that time as very basic, just the competitive lifts and the power versions and squats and pulls 5 days a week. Jessica says she always had problems doing lifts in competition that she had done in training, and shis is one of the reasons she rarely finished in 1st place. But in spite of a long like of 2nd and 3rd place finishes, she continued to improve her total.
Jessica lifted as a 53kg lifter in high school, but became a 58 lifter while going to Northern Michigan for college for now year. After leaving Northern Michigan, she moved to Idaho for a year, and trained with Michael Conroy. Eventually she was offered a resident spot at the the training center in Colorado Springs, and she took it. She trained at the OTC for almost 2 years. then moved to California to train at Catalyst athletics in for a year, then moved back to Florida to live with her parents.
At that point she met her husband and moved with him to Colorado. She is currently living in California again, staying with her husbands family so that she can train full time. Jessica has medaled in almost every national meet in 2013 and 2014, but 2015 is her first time winning Senior Nationals. It was at that meet where she qualified for the World team.
Jessica says that strength has come easy for her, but self confidence and the mental side of the sport has been more difficult. But she says that her present coach, Aimee Anaya-Everet has been a big help with mental preparation, and she feels that she is in a very good place right now with a lot of self confidence.