I posted this on the Pendlay WOD over the weekend. Are doing everything possible when it comes to building pulling strength?
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.
Justin Brimhall is one of those lifters that made coaching fun. The first time I saw Justin and his brother Zack was at a high school football game. I watched him walk down the aisle and sit down, and I can’t really tell you what made me think this, but I immediately thought “those guys would make good weightlifters”. I was sitting with one of my lifters so I sent him over and told him to ask them if they were possibly interested in weightlifting, and if so to ask them to come over and talk to me. They were, and they did, and I invited them to come to MSU and check it out. The both showed up, and yes, they both seemed to have natural talent for the sport. Maybe because their mother was Turkish, and actually lived pretty close to the Turkish training center when she was growing up? Zack was a pretty good lifter and a great guy, but Justin took to weightlifting like a fish to water.
The first time I saw him, he had a ton of curly hair. He was also skinny as a rail. The combination of the skinny body and this huge mop of hair made me comment at his first practice that he was so skinny we could turn him over and use his head for a mop. The nickname stuck. I gave it when he was 14 years old, and even after graduating from college and becoming an officer in the Marine corps I still call him Moppy and so do most of those who lifted with him.
Moppy is one of those guys who had so many interesting quirks to his personality I could write a book just about him. I also to this day can’t so much as think about Moppy without a big smile spreading across my face. He had this one unique ability that he called the “Turkish hop”. It demonstrates a unique combination of athletic ability, balance, and explosive leg strength that I have never seen demonstrated by another human. To do the Turkish hop, first do a pistol, or single leg squat. Then stand from the squat so fast that you are able to JUMP about 5 feet, landing on the other leg then without any hesitation performing another pistol with that leg that ends with another jump. Moppy could do this for 40 yards or more with absolutely no hesitation whatsoever. Just leaping from a pistol with one leg to a pistol with the other. But the real kicker is that he could do this while holding a 25kg plate at arms length overhead. I have never met another human who could come anywhere near being able to reproduce this feat.
Moppy did some amazing things in training, like jerking 170kg for a double as a 16 year old weighing 75kg. He had trouble in competition though. He was one of those lifters who would get so nervous that he would often throw up at some point between the weigh in and the warm up. In part because of this he was never able to do the lifts he was physically capable of when it counted. But in spite of this, I think I speak for everyone who ever came into contact with Justin Brimhall when I say that I am lucky to have known him. He is one of those unique people who just made life more interesting.
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.