Tag Archives: weightlifting

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.


Pendlay WOD

The Pendlay WOD is programmed in 8-week training cycles.  I do it this way because this length of cycle works the best for the most people.  Training cycles work for a simple reason.  Neither the human body nor the human psyche react well to monotony.  We thrive on change, particularly when it comes to stress.  So we constantly change the stressor.  On the competition weightlifting movements, every week brings a change in the intensity and the volume.  We also do variations of the weightlifting movements such as the power variations, or lifts from the knee or the hip.  While the competition movements are done weekly with moderate intensity, we do the variations with high intensity, often going right up to our maximum. We can do this indefinitely because we change which variation we are using every week or two.  The combination of doing the actual competition lifts with moderate intensity and different variations with maximal intensity while regularly changing the variation works.  But it is only half the story, or actually 1/3 of the story.  Doing only the snatch and clean and jerk doesn’t make an effective program.

 

As amazing as an exercise like the snatch is, it is not all that effective for building maximal strength and muscle.  For that, we have to do movements like the squat and deadlift.  Ideally the exercises that we use to build strength and muscle will work the body through the same or similar ranges of motion as the weightlifting movements but will use much heavier weight and therefore slower bar speed.  The exercises that work the best are the back squat, the deadlift, and the front squat.  The use of training cycles is even more important for continual progress on the squat and deadlift than it is for the snatch and clean.  Each 8-week cycle on the Pendlay WOD moves the athlete from higher volume training on the squat and deadlift at the start, to lower volume and higher intensity by week 8.  Each 8-week cycle should end with PR sets in the squat and deadlift as well as PR lifts in the snatch and clean and jerk.

 

The combination of moderate competition lifts and maximal lifts on a variety of variations is  1/3 of story, an effective strength program is another third, and the final piece of the puzzle is something that few weightlifters like to do.  Assistance exercises like glute-hamstring raises, back extensions, hip extensions and other similar things done for sets of 10 at the end of every training session.  No one likes to do these exercises.  No one looks forward to their time on the GHR.  But just because they are not fun doesn’t mean we don’t do them.  Exercises like the back extension and hip extension build muscle and strength where we need it most, in the back, hips, and hamstrings.  They also build tolerance to workload and enable an athlete to handle MORE squats, snatches, and clean and jerks.  With each successive 8-week cycle you get stronger in the snatch and clean, stronger in the squat and deadlift, as well as in better shape and able to handle a higher workload.

 


Size verses Strength

On the podcast this morning, we got on the topic of how muscle size relates to strength.  Many do not realize this, but size of a muscle is very, very closely related to the strength of the muscle or amount of tension that muscle can produce.  So why aren’t the biggest bodybuilders the strongest athletes?  Well, strongest at what?

 

This is an interesting question and the answer is part physiology, and part physics.  The physics part is pretty straightforward.  The human body applies strength through a system of levers, or bones.  The arrangement of these levers is just as important to how much force can be applied in any movement as the amount of tension the muscles involved can generate.

 

Let’s look at an example.  Donny Shankle is a pretty strong guy.  He also has an extremely long spine as a proportion of his height.  For a lifter proportioned like Donny, flexion/extension of the torso is always going to be difficult.  If you have trouble imagining why this would be, imagine you tried to hold a 1 meter stick with a 10 pounds attached to the end perfectly vertical.  Not too hard, but now imagine you tried to hold it at a 10 degree angle.  What about a 45 degree angle?  The 1 meter stick represents Donny’s spine, or the spine of anyone built like him.  Imagine how much easier it would be to hold the stick either at either angle if it was a 1 FOOT stick instead of 1 meter.

 

This is why Donny is a superior front squatter, where the torso is kept very close to vertical, a reasonable back squatter where the torso has a moderate forward lean, and a terrible deadlifter where the torso developes lots of forward lean.  Do you ever wonder why the world record holder in the squat rarely also holds the record in the deadlift?  Same reason.

 

Luckily for Donny, he chose a sport (weightlifting) that utilizes the body God gave him very well.  But the reason why the biggest muscle isn’t always the strongest has a physiological basis as well as a physics basis.  The weightlifting snatch and the powerlifting deadlift at first glance would seem to be very similar lifts.  Yet one regularly leads to the development of pretty big muscles, and one rarely does.  Now I love Weightlifting as much as anyone, and more than most, but let’s be honest.  A big snatch doesn’t automatically mean big muscles.  Developing a big snatch is as much about speed as it is about strength.  Applying force at high rates of speed is a neural adaptation more than a muscular one, and developing motor patterns is more important to snatching big than big muscles are.

 

Bodybuilding and weightlifting are two activities at opposite ends of the spectrum, and powerlifting is somewhere in the middle.  But just as you will never see a 500 pound bench press and a 5 minute mile done by the same person, you will never see a 20 inch arm and a 200kg snatch by the same person either..   Some things are just mutually exclusive.


Build it Yourself.

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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.


Where Does it Hurt?

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

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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.

Monday

Muscle Snatch

70/4 80/3 90 4/2

Push press 2 sec stop in the deep

100/3 110/2 1253/2

Romanian Pull

120 4/6

Afternoon

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

Back Squat

140/4 160/3 185/3 200/2 220 3/2

Accessory 20 min

Tuesday

Power Snatch

70/3 90/3 100/2 110/2 115 3/2

Power Clean and Jerk

100/3 120/3 130/2 140 2/2

Clean Pull

170/3 195 3/3

Accessory 20 min

Wednesday

Snatch balance

90/3 110 /3 130/3 145 3/2

Hiper snatch pull

155 3/3

Military Press

100 5/3

Afternoon

Hang snatch

70/3 90/3 110/3 120/2 1302/2

Clean and Jerk

100/3 120/3 130/2 145/2 155 2/2

Front Squat

140/3 165/3 180 4/2

Accessory 20 min

Thursday

Rest day

Friday

Power snatch

70/3 90/3 100/2 1103/1

Snatch Pull

150 3/2

Push press

100/4 120/3 1303/3

Accessory 20 min

Afternoon

Snatch

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

Back Squat

160/3 180/3 200/3 215 3/3

Mobility 20 min

Saturday

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

Clean Pull

185 3/3

Accessory 20 min


Jessica Lucero

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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.