Tag Archives: pendlayWOD

I posted this on the Pendlay WOD over the weekend.  Are doing everything possible when it comes to building pulling strength?5961860-orig_orig

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.

 

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Breaking PR’s.

Going to maximum is a skill, and the only get good at it is through practice.  You have to challenge and break your PR’s again and again and again.  This is a mental challenge as well as a physical one, and requires both mental and physical toughness.

 

Snatching 101kg for a new PR is physically similar to snatching 100kg to tie your PR.    But mentally it is a whole different ball game. Breaking into uncharted territory and lifting something you have never lifted before requires a little more commitment.  It requires you to fight and win a battle within your own mind.  Anyone who has ever had problems committing to a snatch knows exactly what I am talking about.  But with practice, you can get better and better at winning this mental battle.

 

This is one of the reasons why I advocate keeping track of your PR’s from the hip, and from the knee as well as from the floor.  I also keep track of doubles from these positions and other combinations such as 1 snatch from the hip + 1 from the knee or one from the knee + 1 from the floor.

 

Keeping track of a variety of PR’s and constantly challenging them insures that you are training at maximal intensity, getting enough variety so you don’t get stale, AND constantly practicing the mental skill of breaking into uncharted territory.  As you get physically stronger, you will also be getting mentally stronger!

 

Any lifter who competes long enough is eventually in the situation of having to make a new PR to win a competition, qualify for a national meet, or to beat a rival.  Who do you think is more likely to make the lift when it matters?  Someone who challenges PR’s in training on a consistent basis, or someone who doesn’t?5961860-orig_orig


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!


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!


Misery

In any athletic event, winning is at least partially determined by how much discomfort you can tolerate. Some sports are well known for producing discomfort.  Everyone can imagine how the athlete must feel at the end of an endurance event like a marathon.  But shorter events can be miserable too.  Many consider wrestling to be the toughest sport.  I certainly remember my high school wrestling days and the how bad I hurt at the end of a match or a particularly tough practice.

But weightlifting has its own special brand of misery.  There is truly nothing quite like it.  The lifts don’t take that long, and they usually aren’t, or shouldn’t be, painful.  Misery in the sport of weightlifting isn’t in the competitive event, it is in the training and it is all about fatigue.  It is not the sharp pain of a pulled muscle, but the dull ache, the bone crusing ache, of fatigue.  To become good at this sport you have to learn to live with that ache, and continue to train and push yourself anyways.  You have to get to the point where you actually like it.

In the end, this is what is going to determine your success.  Whether you can shoulder yet another set of squats and start to descend on the first rep even though you know the misery that has to happen before you can rack the bar.  Whether you can jump under a clean or snatch with absolutely NO hesitation even though you are scared to death.  The mental challenges of weightlifting are at least as great as the physical ones.  And when you reach your goals you will find that although your physical changes are huge, your mental changes are even greater.

 


Dealing with Imperfections.

This is one question that never goes away.  We all want to improve, most of us are willing to work our ass off the improve, but most are plagued with doubt about which program to use, and why.  Every aspiring champion has doubts about the program they are using, and whether or not it is the right one.  And who can blame them?  The Bulgarians maxed out constantly, and they did pretty well.  The Russians and others did a more varied program, with lots of different exercises and rep schemes, seemingly a whole different style of training.  So what should WE do?  Who should we copy?

 

I for one don’t think we should COPY anyone, but we can certainly learn from everyone.  America is a unique country, and we will need to come up with unique methods.  We are one of the only countries in the world with a large population of recreational weightlifters, or lifters for whom winning is not part of their livelihood.  Some think of this as a disadvantage, I disagree.  It simply makes the genetic pool we draw from bigger.  This pool is where we will eventually find the people who will move us back to the top of the sport.  I am biased towards the Bulgarian way of doing things, and always approach training with the mindset of wanting to go as heavy as possible, as often as possible.  I am impatient, I want to move that max clean and jerk up as fast as I can.  But although my default position is always to max out, I know there are a lot of reasons why a constant diet of nothing but maximal lifts often doesn’t work out for American lifters.

 

For one thing, we are not all perfectly suited to the weightlifting movements.   None of us were selected at age 9 for perfect limb lengths or other factors that make superior lifters.  Some of us are just built wrong!  Whether the problem is a spine that is too short or two long in comparison to our legs, or elbows that don’t completely lock out, these physical imperfections mean that we are not lifting machines designed solely for weightlifting!  This does not mean we will never snatch or clean big weights, it does mean we might have to resort to extraordinary means to do so.  Whether this means that you have to do way more push presses than jerks to build the necessary strength in your shoulders and triceps, or whether like Jared Fleming you have to resort to isometrics to build the necessary pulling strength to break an American record reaching your best total is likely to mean more than just maximum snatches and clean and jerks.  In fact you might have to resort to completely different methods of training, like Jared did.

 

Most lifters who do not quickly become national champions or world team members are lacking strength in at least one particular motion.  Fleming lacked pulling strength, others might lack strength in the squat or lockout strength on the jerk.  If you have lifted for a year, and you have not yet qualified for nationals or aren’t yet high on the ranking list for the world team, don’t fool yourself.   A lack of strength in some movement is the problem.   The Pendlay WOD uses lots of back squats and push presses, and even deadlifts for part of every 8 week cycle as the fastest ways to increase pulling, squatting, and lockout strength.  These strength exercises are programmed twice per week with one higher volume and session and one higher intensity session every week. They are pushed HARD.  If you are allergic to grinding our heavy sets of squats, this training program is not for you.  On the other hand, if you believe gaining muscle and getting strong are necessary parts of the sport of weightlifting, come on over.  We will get along just fine.     


The Life of a Samurai.

Louie Simmons said something to me several years ago that resonated with me.  He said “Glenn, I have lived the life of a samurai”.  What I believe he meant by that is that he had devoted his life to one thing.  Louie’s one thing is strength, and the development of strength.  He became a master in the development of strength, his one thing.   I do not pretend to compare myself to Louie, but I have pursued one thing in a similar fashion.  My one thing is weightlifting, the snatch and clean and jerk.  I have given up a lot in pursuit of my “one thing”.  A marriage, a successful business, and many of my friends.  Even my relationship with my son has been strained almost to the breaking point.  I have walked away from everything that didn’t fit in with my pursuit of producing a bigger total in an American weightlifter.

 

From time to time I question if it has been worth it, or if it will ever be worth it.  I have one friend who I believe is as obsessed as I am with weightlifting.  Donny Shankle and I have never spoken about the subject in these terms but even without speaking about it I know he would understand perfectly.  He would understand because he is as obsessed as I am.  Just the fact that a like-minded person is out there makes life easier somehow.

 

I continue to believe that if you succeed at doing one thing really, really well everything will work out.  Your life will have been worthwhile.  Your life will have been a success.