Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Olympic Lift Variations Worth Doing: Part 2

What variations of olympic lifts would I use?

1) Unilateral Dumbell Snatches.

It's much like the kettlebell swing. Quick learning curve. Athletes learn how to load their hips. It's unilateral so your strengthening and reinforcing good movement patterns. The gripping hand and the opposing hip are having to work synergistically to move the weight in an explosive manner. It's plain and simple a great exercise.

2) Unilateral Dumbell Jerk

I wouldn't use this as a max effort movement, I'd think of this exercise as more of a core exercise. Being on one side displaces the lift so you load your hips differently providing a change in stimuli.

3) If I were to do Snatches w/ a barbell

I have a client I've worked w/ for a long time, and he loves doing cleans and snatches. So like I said in Part 1, if your main goal is a PR in cleans and snatches then great, do them.

But I'd make one little change. Bring your hands in. The only reason a wide grip is to decrease the distance the bar has to travel and so the catch is easier when sitting deep underneath. That's it.
See what I mean? Grip width doesn't really matter until you start maxing out.

So make your hands the same width as your shoulders, just like a clean grip. You'll go down in weight a bit but this will really save you and your shoulders a ton of headache.. Then once a month whether it's just to practice or actually max out take your normal wide grip again.

We Don't Do Olympic Lifts: Part 1

I've said it before and I'll say it again. We do NOT do olympic lifting. This is not to 'try' and be different or to create some kind of separation from other coaches. I simply feel that the affect produced by the movement is not worth the process/learning curve and that there are other movements and lifts that do a better job and have a faster learning curve.

Simply put the juice is not worth the squeeze.
And neither was she in that movie....just sayin.

Just to be clear and for those that are not familiar w/ the olympic lifting game. I'm referring to barbell:

Just as a side note:
I realize just how ludicrous it seems to hear and how quickly this post will be dismissed by many but after years of arguing w/ myself this is the conclusion that I have come to. I'm willing to bet that a lot of people will be surprised in a couple years when enough studies have been done that come to the same conclusions as I have, mark the date it's Wednesday, May 11, 2011. I'm sure they'll be able to convey a much more scientifically based message as well.

If you are unwilling to give up your clean that's fine, it's your program but I at least hope that:

A) you can keep an open mind throughout this post and
B) I hope your not a coach/trainer/person that emphasizes the 'shrug' while teaching/doing cleans, that is not what the lift is about.

Sure the clean is great. And the process for teaching it can be great as well. Everyone knows it:
1. Teach kids how to hang pull quick w/ stiff arms
2. Teach a high pull from hang clean position
3. Teach hang clean
4. Teach power clean

This is a hang clean, much like a power clean you just don't take it all the way to the floor and it's extremely technical. Your main pull is only about 5"-8" and momentum should carry it the top. I also don't like messing w/ the wrist in/flexibility.

But this process takes an entire month. My athletes don't have an entire month, and neither do I. I consider myself a very patient person, but I hate waiting on things (and I realize how much that might not make sense at first). But an entire month to get a lift?

Mainly I don't feel the "product" of a clean and snatch are all that great.

Yeah they're post chain dominant, triple extension, explosive movements but the affect we get from them is not enough to program them above other exercises. I'd rather get my athletes going on swings and trap bar deadlifts and do it the first day. I feel like they get a better training affect, can control and feel through the motion better, and athletes pick both up extremely fast, I'll go into more detail about this later.

A closer look at Snatches (not a joke)
Now the reason I or my athletes don't do barbell snatches is a different deal. To me it seems that if you'd like a shoulder impingement then snatches would be a good decision.

This idea started back in the summer of 2005. Before attending Wartburg I'd not done many snatches. After one season of Wartburg football workouts I'd done hundreds. We always dropped the weight from the top, which was a first for me, but when I lifted back at my high school over break I couldn't drop the weight and had to catch it. I don't know if I remember feeling my shoulders wrench like that in my life. I wrestled, pitched, have had one dislocation and two third degree AC seperations, and both shoulders were doing it w/ each catch.

Fast fwd one summer during my internship w/ Coach Matt McGettigan (of which I'm extremely thankful for this guy he's an incredible coach and I would suggest working under him even if just for a short time). I asked Coach McGettigan why he didn't have his athletes doing snatches, I mean we did them at Wartburg all the time. He said, "If you like shoulder impingements." And it makes sense, on the way down you're catching the weight w/ your shoulder in it's most vulnerable position and you have X lbs on the bar. Looks bad to me. Same reason I speak against upright rows.

Can you imagine catching this on it's way down?

Getting into the Jerk
We also did tons of jerks at Wartburg. I don't really feel like I should need to explain this to anyone, b/c it seems so obvious. But basically this movement really doesn't have much carry over to the field, mat, court or track. If you're a powerlifter or olympic lifter then great, you gotta do them. It's like a basketball player shooting hoops, of course it doesn't aid his/her athleticism but it definitely makes them better at their sport.

This is a clean and jerk. Obviously this guy is an olympic lifter and that's his thing so of course he should do it. But my athletes aren't going for a one rep max jerk. So we do things differently.

Outside of actual olympic lifting competition I'd say the jerk is not much more than a core exercise. But it'd be a very good core exercise. Holding that much weight above your head, you'd be bracing and stabilizing like crazy. But the jerk doesn't really take us through any range of motion.

So there's my reasoning for why my athletes don't do olympic lifting. Mainly b/c they're high school athletes playing multiple sports like football, wrestling, baseball, volleyball, etc. This requires them to move in multiple planes, and they're programming needs to reflect those needs, of which olympic lifts don't fit w/ as well as other lifts and movements.

I do use some variations of olympic lifts which I'll go over in Part 2.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Stuff you should read: Nutrition

It's pretty well accepted at this point that w/o a solid nutritional foundation we're going to be sick, stupid, and fugly. I'd say that the majority of people know that eating at McDonalds 3x/week is not a good nutritional strategy. But I'm also surrounded by people that are either on their way to becoming more healthy or they already are extremely into nutrition.

This is a collection that comes from some of my best nutritional resources.

And it's great b/c........they're all FREE!

John Berardi

Brian St. Pierre

Jonny Bowden

Stuff to watch

Food Inc. was a great movie and well worth the watch. Safe to say that you'll never look at chicken the same way again.

Stuff to watch for:

Forks Over Knives hasn't been released yet but I'm excited to see it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

4 Stretches for tight hip flexors

The average athlete walking into see me looks approximately like this.

This is almost exclusively caused by tightness in the anterior portion of the hips.

Typically a combination of all 4 hip flexors: TFL, Psoas, illiacus and Rectus Femoris. Some people don't consider the Rectus Femoris as hip flexor b/c it is actually a quad muscle, but I assure you it flexes the hip and you use it every time you pick up your knee.

Mobilization and stretching is absolutely pivotal in this situation.

Here are a few of the main stretches we use.

This is a simple hip flexor stretch however I often see people not doing the it justice.
Tightening the abdominals and glutes will increase the precision of the stretch.
This stretch will also behoove those w/ TFL and Psoas issues much more than people those w/ rectus tightness.
And it's convenient when working at a desk for continous amounts of time. Throw a pad down and switch knees every 15 minutes or so.

You can also use a box to create a deficit

Creating a deficit like this forces the hips closer to a neutral position causing the opposing muscle groups to stretch each other.

Here we're going to be stretching much more than just the hip flexors. We'll get some hamstring and adductor as well but will greatly increase the stretch and learning curve for the stretch from the above example.

The Rear Foot Elevated Hip flexor stretch can be done multiple ways. At GRIT we almost always use the wall.

If you have rectus tightness you'll know right away w/ this one. We use it w/ every athlete and every workout.


The Rear Foot Elevated Hip Flexor Stretch targets the rectus femoris (not exclusively). As you can see by its attachment points. Just by elevating the back foot we greatly increase the stretch through this muscle due to its nature as an extender of the knee.

We can also group these stretches.

I feel like you get more out of the stretches this way but some people are just plain not flexible enough to get into position in order to perform it.

I call this the Rear Foot Elevated Hip Flexor Stretch from Deficit. Longest name of any stretch I've come across yet....just sayin.