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The Notorious “Pull More”

When you’ll most likely hear this cue:

From an error or improper form in the second pull, mostly in the snatch.

Translation:

  • Your muscles weren’t engaged properly, therefore letting the bar loop away from you- jumping or missing forward.
  • You’re not staying close to the bar, landing with the bar over your head instead of shoulders and/ or being rejected in the catch.

Possible solutions:

  • Make sure that off the ground: you draw your shoulders back and engage your lats (retract your scapula). What will happen now is your shoulders move back and down. It’s easier to learn how to get into this position when using an empty bar in a standing position, then going to the hang and then squatting it down to the start position.

*Note- Keep your head up in flexion, this will help turn on your upper back as well as help you keep your center of gravity in a more favorable position (belly button over the bar)

  • Sometimes the bar path will be completely straight -good for you- but if your body doesn’t move around the bar as efficiently as possible, you’ll end up with missed or ugly lifts. The point of weightlifting is to lift the weight. By extending away from it you’ll end up being inefficient in two ways. One, by not being over the bar thus not being able to keep pulling up on it (you do have to move back just enough to get out of its path when its time to turn over). And two, by having to move diagonally instead of straight down, back into the spot to receive it- I call this dive bombing.

*Note- When someone comes in and has a hard time with moving around the bar I like to set them up against a squat rack with a PVC pipe and tell them to go through the movements as if they were snatching on a smith machine.

To interpret

Here’s the tricky thing. When a coach simply tells you to ‘pull more’  its hard to know when to pull more. Instead of just pulling more, next time ask- or try to figure out where the bar went off its bar path or you weren’t as close to the bar as you could be- Then emphasize on pulling it towards you at that moment.
Alternative cues

“Keep it close”

“Pull it in”

“Jump and pull”

“Pull early”

“Lats/ Shoulders back”

“Elbows back”

“When giving a cue, you don’t want to actually ‘fix’ their mistake but make them aware of what their body needs to be feeling in the moment that made them miss the lift. You need to train them to be able to feel it in themselves what was wrong, giving them cues of what to be thinking about instead of what to be doing. When coaching, you need to find what cue, mantra, phrase, relation, sound, feeling that will make them understand what needs to be done and then ingrain it in their mind so far that it becomes second nature to them.”

Photo: Hookgrip

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By |May 26th, 2014|Articles, Blog|Comments Off on The Notorious “Pull More”

Coming Back After The Holiday Lay Off

By now, most of you have resumed your regular training, but there are still a few of you missing! This article is aimed at you, and those of you who might be reading, and trying to figure out how to get back into your groove after the holiday break. This article will be aimed at two groups: those of you who took less than or a little more than a week off, and for those that have taken close to (or maybe a little over) a month off. In this text, I’ll briefly discuss three major issues you need to know about to get back at it. With introductions out of the way, let’s begin.

1) Getting Back Into the Groove

If you’ve taken a significant amount of time off, then, getting back into serious training can feel daunting. The most common reason for this is that people have unrealistic expectations. They think: “Oh, there’s no way I can do what I did before,” with an attitude of “why bother?” following shortly. Well, you’re absolutely right. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to do what you did just before taking a break, and even if you can, you probably shouldn’t (I’ll explain shortly). The key is to not pressure yourself about performance. In fact, the only performance goal you need to have is actually picking up a bar again. If you’re going to give yourself a goal, make it the most immediately pressing one: getting back into the gym. We can worry about displaying the best of your abilities later on. The most crucial point is returning to a consistent pattern of training attendance. If you can do that I guarantee you’ll be back to your best faster than you probably think.

 

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Ideally, you remember (and read) a bit of what I suggested in my last post about resolutions. Don’t think “gee, I really should train three times next week.” Think “I need to go to the gym today.” Getting that first workout in is always the hardest part thus it is your first priority. Everything gets easier after that. This is where we come to step two. You’ve made it to the gym. Now what?

2) What to expect in your training after coming back from time off.

When it comes to the actual training part you have a few things to consider, the most significant being the actual amount of time you took off. If you took less than a week off, then, it might only take a handful of workouts to be back to where you were. If were talking over a week you can expect some detraining to have occurred. Give yourself at least a week to get back to where you were. If we’re talking close to a month (e.g. >2.5 weeks), then, the detraining effect will have been much more profound, and it can take just as long, possibly longer, to return to your previous level of performance. How long this process takes can be, and usually is, influenced by factors such as training experience, injury status, age, and your recovery strategies.

In your first workout back remember this: it pays dividends to be cautious. From a coach’s perspective, I’d rather see you get some practice with something challenging multiple times than going all out trying to hit your old numbers. Quality reps are what count. The reason being is that there’s less risk of injury, and more opportunities to get back into your “groove” (especially if you’re a weightlifter). This approach will readily serve to wake your nervous system back up, while stressing your body’s structural components (i.e. muscles, connective tissue, etc.) just enough to ensure you’re adequately prepared to train hard again.

3) What to expect in your recovery from these first few sessions.

Recovery, in this context, can be considered in two ways. Firstly, how your body responds to the immediate training stress you apply, and secondly, what you actively do to recover.

Regarding the former, it’s important to remember that recovery, just as with your ability in the gym, is a process that can be improved through training, so the opposite is also true: your recovery ability can become detrained. Immediately noticeable things such as soreness from training will often correlate with just how much time you took off. The best remedy for this is to train as often as you would otherwise, but in the context of what you’re currently capable of (i.e. don’t get overzealous and injure yourself). This is why I mentioned being cautious in your first workout, and I’m going to say now that the same is true for the next few as well. Soreness can interfere with technique, so if you’re feeling particularly beaten up it’s important to be aware of how you feel affects your training ability in terms of technique and the loads you can handle. This is a particularly easy time to pick-up bad habits because you feel too sore or stiff to do something correctly. Using loads that allow you to, as comfortably as possible, move with a full range of motion will help you recovery by keeping loads in line with how you’re recovering. The other important reason for doing this is to also reinforce, and ensure you heal with maximal mobility.

As far as what you can actively do to improve your recovery the first thing to consider is resuming quality eating habits. Now, because diet and nutrition are such a vast topic to discuss, I won’t spend any real time broaching that here. What I will say is: the best thing you can do at this stage is to simply focus on food quality. The majority of your calories should come from high-quality meat, vegetables, and fruits. Following this, make it a point to get ample sleep. I know life can get in the way of both of these pursuits, but the better you are about them, the better your recovery will be. The more adamantly you follow this the quicker you’ll return to repeating (and beating) your best performances in the gym.

4) Putting It All Together

The easiest way to put this all together is to resume a schedule that makes training a regular part of your life. Second to this, making the time to eat well, and sleep enough. Be humble in your expectations when you train; remember that your goal is to efficiently return to where you were before, not eclipse it (yet). Finally, remember why you trained before: because it’s fun, challenging, and immensely rewarding.

By |January 16th, 2013|Articles, Blog|Comments Off on Coming Back After The Holiday Lay Off

Skip The New Years Resolutions-How To Become Your Own Resolve

Here we go again. It’s the start of a brand new year, and just like every year that preceded it, it’s time to make that infamous list… That’s right, your list of New Years Resolutions. I’m going to get straight to the point: I don’t like New Years Resolutions. I think that, as well-intentioned as they may be, you should skip them entirely. In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I’m going to extend this statement even further into uncomfortable territory: If you’re making the typical resolution for one or more goals in 2013 then you’re already planning your own failure.

I’ll readily admit that this is a bold claim, one you probably don’t like. But, if what I’m about to say can help you, then, I’m absolutely okay with that.

Just before this new era of our lives begins, tradition says that we’re supposed to indulge our imaginations and think about our personal possibilities in the coming year. Following this, we write our little lists, and hope for the best, thinking we’ve just made that big, first step. The problem here is that we actually haven’t.

Let’s take a peek at the typical quality of a New Years Resolution. Often times we desire transformative goals hence why something related to body image (e.g fat loss) is almost always at the top of the list. This is the first issue we encounter. Many people confuse the action of creating a list as the commencement of their transformation. In reality, a list is more suited to being an organizational tool. It’s not the powerful statement or experience needed to initiate the kind of personal shift we desire.

Think of it this way: If you just wrote a few goals down on a piece of paper, slapped that onto your fridge with a magnet, how much effort did you really put into into it? You have a list without planning, without any kind of commanding trigger, and this is supposed to push you into action? Granted, some people take this one step further and talk to their friends or colleagues about their list. Then again, how often is this actually just a social event that’s used to make future failure okay? Ever notice how everyone half-jokes about their goals within the group, making their desires known, yet subtly admitting defeat before anything is ever even initiated? This phenomenon is so prevalent that the gym industry has its own category of clients known as the (surprise!) “resolutioners.”

I could go on and further put-down the New Years Resolution (really, I can), but I think I’ve made the most important point clear: The New Years Resolution, despite its best intentions, is not the best way to begin changing yourself for the better. So, for those of you who have or wish to make resolutions for 2013, what should you do?

Step one, the most crucial step, is holding yourself accountable. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I’m going to tell you the why and the how. Why? Because accountability is necessary for valuing yourself. If you don’t value yourself, how can you value your goals? You need to have an active stake in your success or failure, and that stake must be you. How? You must take the time to create an intrinsic link between you and your goals. Sounds odd and complicated, though, doesn’t it? It’s not.

Let’s go back to the title of this article, the whole “becoming your own resolve” part. If your goal is to be a weightlifter or to attain that physique you’ve always wanted, then you need to embody your goal(s). I admit, this must still sound cryptic, but it’s actually quite simple. Which do you think is the better question to be asking yourself: “I really should try and make it to the gym three times next week” or “I have to train today?” See any differences? The former statement is uncertain, lacking clear commitment whereas the latter possesses immediate intention, placed in a timeline that makes it much likelier to be achieved. Let’s extend this further.

Ask yourself: “do I workout or do I train?” Working out doesn’t imply much beyond going into a gym for a session to “exercise,” it lacks commitment and specificity. Training indicates planning and working towards a specific end, a concerted effort. Your mindset must be one that embodies focus and action. That is why the language you use to think about your goals must always be precise and intentional; there’s no room for wavering. Learning to think this way is no different from training; the more practice and effort you put in, the better you’ll get. And, when this sort of mindset becomes natural, then, failure becomes the unlikelihood rather than the likelihood.

Step two: planning. Just as with the way you think about yourself and your goals, your planning must be active and intentional. Planning is often presented as a linear activity, but this is only partially true. The planning process may start as a discrete organization of ideas, but the performance of the plan will be anything but. This is why it’s crucial that you take the time to develop your sense of accountability, as this will be the foundation upon which the performance of your plan will rest. Things will go wrong, and events will occur that you can’t predict. You have to be able to fall back on yourself first before the plan, as it will be your sensibilities that dictate how you respond. An example of this is when some people miss a workout, and they utterly give up on their goal. One step of the plan didn’t work, ergo, the whole plan won’t work. The plan was likely fine, it’s that they had no sense of accountability for the plan to rely on.

The reality is that a meaningful goal is a challenging one. If you don’t have a personal foundation to support your transformation, nor a meaningful stake in the end result, you won’t make it through the process. Not only will you be more sensitive to the unexpected (and often negative) realities on the path of goal achievement, but you’ll be that much more ready to quit. It’s a synergy of failure. However…

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You don’t have to do it alone. In fact, I suggest that if you embark upon a path like the one described here that you do it with other people. At JustLift, this is the fundamental reason we use a class structure for training sessions; just as we train together, we succeed together. The reality is that there are very, very, few people who’ve ever accomplished anything great by themselves. Working with other, dedicated people that have a course to navigate comparable to yours? That’s a synergy of success.

There’s a certain sense that comes with using the end of a year to take stock of your life, what you want, and who you wish to be. It’s certainly convenient, and perhaps that’s the greatest fallacy of the New Years Resolution. It’s both a casual and a convenient act, and yet, I can say with certainty, there is nothing casual or convenient in the act of evoking change in yourself. However, if you can take that first step towards accountability, your chances of achievement have already dramatically increased. Just remember, your resolution cannot truly begin with a seasonal list; it must be cultivated from within. Think of that first step as an initiation into a new phase of your life. So, let’s stop fooling ourselves and drop this resolution business. Begin by planting the seeds for change in yourself, and save the sticky note for your groceries.

By |January 4th, 2013|Articles, Blog|Comments Off on Skip The New Years Resolutions-How To Become Your Own Resolve

Getting It Done On The Road

One of the hardest obstacles to consistent serious training is if you travel a lot. I spent this past week on a training course in Myrtle Beach, SC for my day job. This meant a lot of time in airports, in a plane, in taxis, having to get up early, and having to stay up late. It also meant having to make a lot of choices, basically every time I had to eat there was a myriad of choices presented to me.

I’m not going to say I made the best choice at every meal, but I did make an effort to minimize the damage that can come from the indulgence that is the Southern United States. Myrtle Beach is definitely a tourist town, and the tourist traps are all over the place. I mean, this is the kind of temptation I had to deal with:

 

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IT’SUGAR!

When it comes to eating though, at just about every normal restaurant, there’s usually a salad option, and the option to add meat. Sometimes the dressings can get kind of junky, but just stick to something oil and spice/herb based or a simple vinaigrette. Most of my lunches looked like this, and some of my suppers as well.

Breakfast was actually pretty simple to do, as the hotel I stayed at had a buffet that included eggs, bacon, sausage, and lots of fresh fruit. It also had a whole table full of breads, cereals, and a waffle maker that I stayed far away from! For suppers, a few starchy carbs found their way onto my plate, but I kind of allowed myself this as I managed to get evening training sessions in Mon, Tue, Wed, and Thu. Sunday was a travel day, as was Friday, so they kind of became my rest days for the week.

As far as my training sessions went, I planned ahead and researched a few weightlifting friendly gyms in the area. There was a social event planned for our course the Monday night, so I thought I wasn’t going to have time to train, but there was a small window between the end of the coursework for the day and when we were meeting for supper. Anyway, it wasn’t quite enough time to go out to one of the gyms I researched, so I went to the Planet Fitness that was just around the corner from the hotel. Big mistake.

After paying my drop in fee, I changed and wandered aimlessly around the sea of machines in search of a squat rack or barbells. Surely a large (probably 10,000+ sqft) and expensive looking facility would have such basic workout equipment. I wasn’t expecting a set of Eleiko competition plates or anything, but a squat rack, is that too much to ask? I went to the front desk after my search and asked them if they had any squat racks. They told me no, and that Planet Fitness doesn’t allow them. I turn around. He yells back “We have Smith Machines!” I keep walking away, grab my bag from the locker room, and go back to the front desk and ask for my money back…Lesson learned.

I ended up that night at the Gold’s Gym just down the street toge, and they at least had a squat rack and some barbells!

 

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Fitness Edge MMA/CrossFit Grand Strand

The next few nights, I spent training at Fitness Edge MMA/CrossFit Grand Strand. This was the main spot that I researched and Coach Mike Kelley and I had about a 17 message e-mail exchange. The guys there were pretty awesome and super accommodating. They let me take over a platform and squat rack and just do my thing. They even had a few members that were interested in improving their Olympic lifts that I was able to coach in between my sets. I had a lot of fun training here, and it was well worth it even though it was a bit further away from my hotel and I had to fight a bit with rush hour traffic (which is apparently way less this time of year). It was great to see a few of their athletes really want to improve their technique though. They were super attentive, ready to learn, and worked hard! You can’t really ask for much more than that.

 

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CrossFit Grand Strand Crew Post-WOD

So yes, it is possible to keep things going on the road. It’s not going to be ideal, but with a little bit of work and planning ahead, you can come up with something that works!

By |November 11th, 2012|Articles, Blog|Comments Off on Getting It Done On The Road

The FIT Principles – Keys to Making Progress in Olympic Weightlifting Training

Many of you may ask yourself, “how do I get better at Olympic Weightlifting?” Generally speaking, if we take a relatively average person with little to no exposure to Olympic Weightlifting, well, the good news is that for the most part, we can get someone past the novice stage and performing the lifts competently within 1-3 months. Competent being proper technical execution of the lifts (would be judged acceptable at a competition) and lifting more than they can just throw around with no effort. When someone is first learning the lifts, some very rapid progress can be made when it first clicks that they have to accelerate the bar and move fast. This is great and those “beginner” gains stimulate that initial euphoric high of accomplishment.

Many people will reach this point and think that they’ve got it “figured out” and never move on from there. That’s too bad, because that’s when the fun really starts.

F – Frequency

One must be consistent in their training. You have to keep showing up! Of course, you can consistently show up once a month, so it’s really the frequency that matters. The frequency of sessions must be enough that one does not “unlearn” all the gains they made from the previous session. Our general recommendation for this is a minimum of 3x a week with no more than 2 days off in a row. Any less than that and the time between sessions is long enough that you will spend most of the next session trying to remember what you learned from the last session and never progressing.

 

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Some of us train so frequently, top of the line weightlifting shoes last less than 6 months.

I – Intensity

You can’t progress unless you are training at a high intensity. By intensity, we mean what weight you are using relative to your 1 rep max. The weight has to be heavy. It has to be hard. If you only ever practice using light weights, you’ll only ever get good at lifting light weights. You’ll never learn what a heavy weight feels like if you never attempt it. Positive adaptation will never be made unless the body is challenged. You may look technically amazing, but the whole point of these exercises is to get stronger, faster, more powerful. The intensity also needs to be there mentally. If you’re not fully concentrating on the lift while you’re standing over the bar, you’re not going to be able to lift to your full capacity. The mind – body connection has to be there to channel all your energy into completing the specific task of throwing heavy weights over your head.

 

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T – Technique

After the basic technique is learned, further progression is made by constant minor adjustments and fine tuning of the technique. When one is in the beginning stages of learning the technique, the variability from rep to rep is often very large. Once you get to a point where every rep starts to look similar, then small corrections can be made that will increase your efficiency. This is where one really needs the “coach’s eye”. An experienced and qualified coach can properly identify which adjustments need to be made, and what the best cue is to give the lifter such that the corrections will be made. You’ll make that change and hit a new PR, and then when you add weight again, a new problem will creep up! It’s these small adjustments and improvements that make weightlifting such a challenging, but rewarding sport!

 

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Fine tuning the jerk position; any small variance away from the midline is magnified when the weight is held overhead.

FIT – Frequency, Intensity, Technique – Follow these basic principles and you’ll keep progressing! If just one of these principles is missing from your training, don’t be surprised if you aren’t making progress. Identify the changes that need to be made and follow through!

By |October 21st, 2012|Articles, Blog|Comments Off on The FIT Principles – Keys to Making Progress in Olympic Weightlifting Training

The Importance of Rest for Power and Strength Development

If you poke your head into one of our JustLift weightlifting sessions, you will probably see a lot of people sitting around doing nothing. You might ask, what are they doing? The simple answer is that they are getting strong.

Unlike circuit training or long slow distance training, the goal of training for power is to target the phosphagen (aka ATP-CP) energy system where the primary fuel source is Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP,e.g. three phosphates). This differs from circuit training (primarily glycolitic) and long slow distance (primarily aerobic). The ATP-CP system is high energy, which allows the athlete to generate maximal force for short periods of time (efforts much less than 30s).

 

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Ideally, we will rest 2-3 minutes between sets to replenish our ATP stores. Much longer than that, and you’ll start to cool down and the body’s nervous system will go into recovery mode. Shorter than that, and we probably haven’t maximized our ATP stores. Occassionally, we have to be able to lift with less than 2 minutes rest in between sets, as this situation may occur in a weightlifting meet when there’s some shifty weight changes being made by crafty coaches. However, this isn’t ideal from a training perspective.

 

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If you want the basic bio-chemistry lesson, the energy comes from ATP being broken down to Adenosine Di-Phosphate (ADP, e.g. two phosphates) and a free Phosphate. The breaking of the bond is what releases the energy. Now, to replenish the ADP and recombine it to ATP, another phosphate is needed, which comes from stored Creatine Phosphate (CP). So, if you’ve heard of the use creatine as a strength training supplement, this is the reasoning behind it. The more CP you have, the more ADP you can convert back to ATP, allowing you to do more work. So creatine doesn’t make you stronger directly (as far as neuromuscular activation), it just allows you to do more work. The cool part is that energy is required to recreate that bond, and that energy ultimately comes from fat!

So hopefully that gives you an idea of why a lot of us are just sitting around picking at callouses, checking our phones, or updating our status with our latest PR’s. We’re getting strong!

By |October 8th, 2012|Articles, Blog|Comments Off on The Importance of Rest for Power and Strength Development