Tag Archives: clean and jerk

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.

 

 


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.


Mindset

I am again closing in on a sub 7 minute 2k.  One thing that I have noticed about rowing is that the effectiveness of a workout is directly related to how miserable you are during.  Any effective workout is going to be absolutely miserable.

I have tried to lower my 2k time by doing long slow rows, like 10k or longer, and I have tried short intervals even as short as 200 meter sprints.  I found that doing things to decrease the misery factor also decreased the effectiveness of the training.  Really long rows are probably good for something, but they don’t seem to directly affect my 2k time.  To effect that, I have to concentrate on distances closer to 2k, and row at a pace that is also closer to 2k pace.  Which also puts the misery level closer to what I feel during a fast 2k.  A 2500 meter or a 3K row done just slightly over 2k pace might even be worse than a fast 2k.

Really short intervals like 200 meter sprints, while being fun and often not miserable at all, also don’t seem to help much.  For intervals to really help, I have to make them at least 500 meters, and limit the rest period.  Multiple 500 meter intervals with 1 minute rest period are a pretty useful workout.  But doing 10 sets of this interval again might actually be more miserable than just doing a fast 2k.

In short, there is simply no way to get around the discomfort of the training process.   In this, rowing is much like weightlifting.  The things that are useful are hard.  Multiple heavy sets of 5 on the back squat.  Heavy deadlifts, heavy pulls, or heavy push presses.  All hard.  All miserable if you push yourself hard enough to actually move the weight up over time. Maxing your snatch is not miserable.  For many who “dabble” in weightlifting it is fun.     Everyone loves to max the snatch.  But that is not weightlifting.  It is not the sport I fell in love with.  The sport I fell in love with is hard.  Brutal even.  And to succeed in it you have to have a certain mindset.  A mindset that develops over time and comes to not only accept the discomfort and sometimes downright misery of the training process, but to welcome it.  To look forward to the misery.  To fall in love with it.5961860-orig_orig

As a competitor I fell in love with weightlifting, even with all the misery involved.  Now as a rower and I am trying to appreciate the misery in rowing.  But even more important to me is to foster the love of of weightlifting in a new generation of lifters.  Even with all the discomfort of the training process, it is a great sport to love!


Your daily minimum.

I wrote this for the athletes on the PendlayWOD, but I think it applies to most lifters.5961860-orig_orig

Wednesday is going to be your worst day most weeks when it comes to top performance. Obviously the reason is that Tuesday is the high volume squat day, and a killer. Most of you are sore and stiff from squats on Wednesday, yet most of you are either making PR’s on either power snatch or power clean, or coming very very close.

I firmly believe that the ability to perform at 95% even on a bad day is even more important than the ability to perform at 101% on that day when you are rested up and everything is perfect.

I believe some coaches refer to this as your daily minimum. This is the weight you can make no matter what. No matter how bad you feel, no matter how sore you are, no matter how tired you are.

When your daily minimum goes up not only are you stronger, but you are more consistent. And consistency matters in competition. What good is a 150kg snatch if it usually takes you 3-4 tries to make 140? Not much. But when you can hit 140kg consistently in ANY situation, now you are going to get a chance to show that 150kg lift in competition!


Evolution

Most people realize that training has to change over time.  For beginners, often changes no bigger than a gradual increase in the weight lifted is adequate to stimulate continual adaptation.  But as you move further and further away from your natural ability and strength levels further adaptations become more difficult to achieve.  Some try to stick with a program they are comfortable with, and are very hesitant to change anything.  But without changes, the program slowly loses its effectiveness. This often leads to frustration, then abrupt wholesale changes.  Changing the whole program, the volume, the intensity, EVERYTHING all at once.  This can lead to a vicious circle where you learn nothing from years of training experience, and only hit upon a result producing routine once in a while by dumb luck.  

In a perfect world, you should never make more than one change in your training at a time.  If you change two things at once and make 5 kilograms of progress on the snatch, how do you know which change is responsible?  If you were doing 5 doubles on the snatch with 80% each workout, and you increased that to 8 doubles with 85%, was it the increased volume, or the increased intensity that is responsible for you new ability.  You would never know for sure.  But there are FAR more variables in a training program than just intensity and volume.  Training should be changed via an evolutionary process, NOT a revolutionary one!  Small changes, made one at a time.  And after each one, take stock in the effect the changes caused. The answer is often not to just work harder, it is to think harder, and work smarter!