Speaking on the podcast yesterday was a very surreal experience for me. I was on as usual with my co-host Glenn Pendlay as we caught up with ex Cal Strength/MDUSA athlete Kevin Cornell. I grew up in the sport watching these guys. I used to watch Kevin in awe of his speed and Glenn in awe of his coaching and the teams he had managed to create. And so yesterday as I sat with my laptop recording all three of us I became very aware of the situation I was in. I did my best to simply act as a mediator while the other two chatted about the good old days and their current projects...
As the three of us spoke the topic of atmosphere came up and how important it is in cultivating a blossoming team. Glenn of course used his teams with Kevin as an examples, but then drew upon my experience when training out in Kansas with him and the competitive atmosphere we managed to create. What I realised in that moment was that irregardless of recovery, diet, and the 'perfect program', competition was most important.
The most annoying answer to a question is 'that depends'. But to be honest it does depend. It depends on a few things. Not necessarily how much weight you lift, though that is a good indicator of your ability to improve, but more so it is to do with how quickly you are able to recover and how advanced you are at your given sport, in this example it is weightlifting.
The whole point of a training cycle is to produce a training effect. A positive adaptation to the sport. We do this by introducing our body to a stimulus, and then recovering from that stimulus, becoming a stronger/fitter athlete. The quicker you are able to recover from a stimulus the better. The quicker you can recover from an adequate stimulus the faster you can improve, and the shorter your cycles can be.
A beginner squatting 5x5 at 80% will not find it too much of a challenge to recover in a day or two. An advanced lifter may be unable to even complete this session and will certainly need a much longer period of recovery, the stimulus being far far greater for them. Not only will a more advanced athlete require a longer recovery period, they will require more variation in their training to cause further stimulation.
When you squat you don't drive through your heels. Or at least as a weightlifter you shouldn't. I watched a video today published by Juggernaut Training Systems involving Chad Wesley Smith and Max Aita talking about weight displacement in the squat. Generally whenever they publish anything, be it a video or a podcast, I take notice. Not only have they been successful athletes, but more importantly, they have been successful coaches.
Your weight should be directly over your mid foot. For a while I have been convinced of this myself, that driving through the heels isn't right, and now backed up by these two coaches, I feel confident enough to explain why.
It is worth understanding the importance of maintaining your weight over your mid foot. As a weightlifter, if you squat 200kg with your weight over your mid foot it is logical that you will be a more developed weightlifter, and that the strength you have developed will transfer better to your snatch and clean and jerk, allowing you to lift more than if you squatted 200kg sat far back on your heels.
There seems to be a general consensus in the weightlifting community that knee extension machines will not only ruin your knees, but they will likely kill you in the process. That there is something inherently evil about them. But let's look at them in a different light.
Why can't they be beneficial to me? Weightlifters have big quads, quads extend the knee, quads are the prime mover in the high bar squat, so why wouldn't knee extensions work?
Well I think they can.
I feel like yelling 'heels' is the most overused cue given by coaches. 'Sit back on your heels', or 'Catch the weight on your heels' are all cues that are used when they shouldn't be. I am going to do my best to stay calm, but this cue is just dumb.
Having heard this cue for so many years of my weightlifting career I just believed it was something I was supposed to do. Yet whenever I caught a snatch or a clean I knew deep down that my weight was not as far back in my heels as it could have been. I didn't tell anyone because I was doing just fine and didn't want to have to relearn the pull and the catch all over again. After a few years of lifting I thought about it more and more and realised how catching a snatch far back on your heels is just idiotic. It doesn't make sense. And here's why...
This article needs to be prefaced with a few statements. I believe weightlifting is a pretty dirty sport in terms of drug use. What I am going to talk about assumes drug use in many countries. I am not claiming that all British and American lifters are clean. Please don't get offended by this article!
Weightlifting training in America is not weightlifting training in much of the world. What I mean by that is that we train very differently, and we have to. I think that assuming that some countries are on drugs is not a far fetched belief. In the 2008 94kg class the 9th place finisher now sits in 3rd after drug tests. Whole nations are being banned from the Olympics. In fact the documentary 'Icarus' revealed that 100% of all Russian athletes at the Sochi games were on PEDs. On top of the constant drip of news that we hear about athletes being popped, I have heard so many stories from athletes at a high level. These other countries are not quiet about it. It is no secret. They talk about it. Glenn Pendlay has told me that he has spoken to other countries' coaches and athletes about their drug cycles. If you listen to the Jugg Life podcast with Max Aita and Chad Wesley Smith, they say the same thing. It is a different world in other countries. Drugs are seen differently. They do not hold the gravity and taboo that they do here. Last thing before I move on, I am not condemning anyone, nor do I believe that there is a way to trlly improve the drug situation. In fact I watch athletes who I believe are enhanced and watch in awe, repost their videos, and talk about them like they are Hercules himself.
The hip shift is something I ought to quickly define, though perhaps I will add a video just below to show you what I mean. The hip shift is a lateral movement of the hips to bias the strength of either one leg or one side of the body. The hip shift isn't a beginners problem, it tends to be as a result of incredible leg development, in fact I tend to see it in some of the best lifters ever: Naim Sulegmanoglu, Ilya Ilyin (watch how he shifts on his final attempt), Om Yun-Chol to name a few...
There is a similarity between these lifters that I believe explains the hip shift...
The push press is superior to the strict press for weightlifters in nearly every way. Is the strict press useless? Absolutely not. Anything that the Russians or the Chinese do, I'm going to take notice of. The Russians and the Chinese really don't mess about with unnecessary exercises when it comes to gold medals. So focused are they on winning that everything they do has an exact purpose in their development.
As far as I can tell, there are 3 main reasons why the push press is a superior exercise. I reference things explained to me by Ian Wilson and Glenn Pendlay in this short blog.
Power snatches and power cleans are a staple of weightlifting training. They allow us to develop several qualities desired for the training of a weightlifter. They teach us speed, they can improve technique, and they satisfy the pillar of specificity, all the while giving us a break from heavier lifts. We are able to exert maximum force into a max power whilst not developing too much fatigue.
The standard for a power seems pretty clear, right? You must catch the bar and decelerate it before your thighs reach parallel with the ground. Whilst this seems pretty clear cut, the standard is easily manipulated, especially in favour of certain lifters.
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