Wednesday, June 29, 2016

American Youth and Weightlifting

It's been an amazing week for Team DCL Weightlifting.  I had the privilege of taking Danielle and Makinley to the USAW 2016 National Youth Championships and our girls performed phenomenally over these past few days.  Over the weekend I had made several observations of the future of weightlifting in America.

This past weekend there were over 700, 731 to be exact, young athletes show up to The National Youth Championships in Austin, Texas.  It was a great weekend with some amazing athletes.  The biggest take away was how many of them qualified.  To see so many young people interested in the sport of weightlifting was so great to see.  To watch these young kids be so passionate about a sport that, until recently, has seen very little interest in our country.  What I witnessed was nothing short of exciting and filled me with so much pride.  I saw 16 and 17 year olds clean and jerk over 100kg/200#.  I watched a 14 year old girl snatch 84kg/185#.  These kids are doing amazing things and putting up higher numbers than most 20 year olds i’ve seen.  I, like most people, never got involved in the sport of Weightlifting until I started doing CrossFit.  Although I still consider myself a CrossFitter, I am hooked on this sport as well.  One thing that has always gotten me about this sport is the lack of interest in America.  I consider myself a red blooded American though and through.  I love my country and I love sports and I want to see my country excel in all variations of fitness and sports.  For the 1st time since getting involved, I can see a future for our country in weightlifting.  Just yesterday, I watched CJ Cummings set a junior world record and a senior American record on the clean and jerk for his weight class. You will find female athletes like Mattie Rogers and Jessica Lucero setting multiple records in meets and lift heavier weights than most males their age.  These are amazing athletes to watch.  We have to keep our youth interested in this sport.  Weightlifting, like most sports, has to be trained and developed when these kids are young.  We can't wait until we are in our 20's and 30's and expect to compete with the rest of the world.  We as a country have to get rid of this fallacy that lifting weights are dangerous.  It really angers me when people who have no background in strength and conditioning try to tell us that lifting weights is dangerous for young kids.  Weightlifting is statistically safer than football and basketball, yet we don't see people warning us that these sports are dangerous.  As with any physical activity, there is a degree of danger; but with proper coaching, that risk is dramatically reduced.  We have some stellar weightlifting coaches here in America and I'm proud to say we have some great coaches here in Tennessee.  This was very evident as we had multiple athletes at the National Youth Championships from the state.  

I am extremely proud to say that the future of Weightlifting in America is bright.  We have some top level athletes coming out from our younger age groups.  I just hope to increase the interest in the sport to kids in our community and develop athletes in future national level competitors and if we are really lucky a future Olympian.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Are you a competitive CrossFitter or are you looking to be fit for life?

This article is intended to address where we have come as a sport in CrossFit.  The concept of CrossFit was ingenious.  We are told to focus on functional movement patterns and movements to increase our general physical preparedness, or GPP.  The idea is great and the methodology is without question changing the way we view fitness.  The question for most is do we participate in CrossFit for GPP or for a sport.  Chris Spealler said it best, there is a huge divergence of the sport of CrossFit and the methodology as a life style.  

For those people who participate in CrossFit as a life style we need to start looking away from our times on the white board or leaderboards.  The idea behind the methodology of coming in and working out with a class is designed to make you feel good about yourself.  Majority of us are confined to cubicles at work are are working jobs we don't love.  When you come into a CrossFit gym you should feel at home.  Working out with your class and talking and joking is just as important as hitting that big PR back squat.  Why is that?  The endorphins that your body creates will make you better mentally and the calories you burn should make you feel better about yourself.  A personal record, PR, is great but the fact you made it into the gym is an accomplishment in and of itself.  We live in a sedentary society where people who move and exercise are hard to find.  Come into the gym be happy and have fun, your body will adapt and you will experience change. 

I often get asked why then don't I see changes.  I always go to two questions, what is your diet like? And how many days do you go to the gym?  Usually I am told "I eat really healthy" but if I made you write down everything you eat for a week one of two things are discovered.  A) you aren't eating as healthy as you think you are or B) you aren't eating nearly enough.  There are many resources out there for you to change your eating habits.  Results don't come easy and they won't happen in a day.  I tell everyone to give a diet 30 days and after 30 days then you can make changes.  2 weeks is not enough to see change.  The second part to the question is, how many days do you go to the gym?  By far the most popular membership in my gym is 3 days a week.  This is the most popular option because it's the cheapest option.  The problem with this is you are putting your wallet over your health.  Yes I know that not everyone can financially afford to go to the gym that much but I know many people who get paid the same and they come more than 3 times per week.  What's your excuse now?  It's all about priorities.  You can pay the gym/grocer now or you can pay the doctor later.  If you only work out 3 times a week, what are you doing the other 4?  You are literally doing nothing less than you are working.  Again people tell me , oh I'm doing stuff other than the gym.  Ok great but are you really?  A study was done at a "globo gym",I won't go into names, but in the study they asked people how much time did they spend in the gym a day and they usually responded with1-2 hours.  But when they were asked to swipe their card every time they entered and left they were surprised to find that time was far less and much of that time was spent on the hydro message beds or the tanning beds, not much time was spent working out at all.  My point here is how much work are you doing outside the gym?  If I were to "scan your card" would you be shocked to learn that you don't do nearly enough to stay fit?  You only have to be honest with yourself.  

The next part of this article is to talk with those who do CrossFit competitively.  If you want to compete in the sport of CrossFit you first have to understand that this sport is a professional sport now.  The winner of the CrossFit games now receives a purse of 2 million dollars.  People who are in the sport at that level are working out 3-4 times a day working with specialized coaches on gymnastics to weightlifting, powerlifting and anaerobic capacity.  They are shelling out thousands of dollars a year to compete on that stage.  Very few, if any, can handle a day job and compete on that level.  So you have to be honest with yourself.  Did you play on a competitive collegiate level team?  If not then this level may be out of reach.  I'm not saying don't try but again I'm saying be honest with yourself.  If you realize that this level is out of your capacity then look to compete locally.  These events are always, in my opinion, way more fun because more communities are involved.  I once had an athlete who said "Matt as long as I can win money to pay for my trip to be here then I am happy", and I think that's the attitude more of us should have.  It's not about how many sponsorships that you can throw on your Instagram account it's about having fun and if the competition ends up paying for itself that it's a double win.  Sponsorships are great and who wouldn't want to compete at the CrossFit Games, but you have to ask yourself "at what cost"? CrossFit Games athletes obliterate their bodies and are injured more than they care to admit.  Case and point last year we saw Scott Panchick and Emily Bridgers both admit to have pretty serious injuries after the games.  Doing high intensity workouts at that level will do this to you.  The emotional side is just as damaging.  How much time is spent in the gym and away from family.  This can be seen in the case of Rich Fronning who opted to go teams as he wanted more time to spend with his daughter and his wife.  Being a professional athlete will tear apart relationships if you aren't careful.  Egos and stress can get the best of anyone.  So be aware of what you are getting into if you want to be on that level.  

Again there is difference between CrossFit as a fitness methodology and CrossFit as a sport.  CrossFit as a methodology is changing the world and we have yet to see its true potential.  CrossFit as a sport is exciting to watch and amazing to see what the human body is capable of.  From Masters all the way down to the Teen division, athletes are showing tremendous ability to perform on levels we have never seen before.  Know why you do CrossFit and do it to the best of your ability!!! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

1st pull in the snatch and clean

If the Pull is off, the lift will be as well.
The 1st Pull in the Snatch and Clean makes the difference between a successful and missed lift.

Trenz Pruca - March 17, 2016
The importance of the 1st pull


A lot of powerlifting coaches will tell you if you have a bad lift in the squat then the rest of the meet will go poorly .  It's so important to start off on a good note.  By the same token, it is vital to have a good 1st pull on your olympic lifts.  Kelly Starrett says it all the time, "you can't regain a good position from a bad position.”  One of the biggest faults I see in my training of Weightlifters is poor positioning from a bad first pull.  A bad first pull is the difference between a PR and not even hitting lifts close to your max.  If this sounds like you, don't fear, it's an easy fix for most:  The key is patience.  
Faults in the 1st pull can and inevitably do vary.  You will see several faults, such as yanking the bar off the ground to a deadlift set up.  Let's talk about this fault in particular. The most common error I see even from some "advanced" weightlifters, is yanking the bar off the ground.  Over and over again I see this fault as one of the most problematic.  Like I stated earlier, patience is key.  As the weights get heavier athletes have a tendency to try to pull faster off the floor.  I tell everyone the same thing, you need to pull 135lbs the same way you pull 300lbs.  When you change your pull your timing will be off as well as your ability to meet your positions.  Many people do three position snatches and cleans, but very few people understand their importance.  The whole point of the drill is to understand physically and mentally what each position feels like so as you pull the bar you know you are hitting all positions correctly.  When you pull the bar too quickly off the floor your first position will be off, and if position 1 is off the other positions will be off as well.  You have to remain patient off the floor and pull to your knees in a controlled manner, wait until you get to your "power position," and then speed up through your second and third pull.  One drill I use for this is the pause variation of the snatch or clean.  I force the athlete to pull easy off the floor and keep the shoulders over the bar as long as possible.  Once the athlete passes the knee, there is a pause in that position. I then will give the cue of "launch" or "go."  Over time this will drill into the athlete's head to remain patient over the bar and also learn the positions.  
Second common fault I see in the first pull is the athlete setting up like a deadlift.  What I mean by this is the knees starting too far back, almost perpendicular to the ground.  This makes it nearly impossible to load the hamstrings properly.  As the bar is lifted off the ground, the the athlete needs to be able to push the knees back so as to load the hamstrings and accelerate the barbell as it goes up.  If the athlete sets up with the knees vertical, once the barbell comes up he or she is forced to use the lower back as the primary mover.  This makes the movement far less efficient and also has a higher chance of injury.  The proper set up would be to have the knees slightly over the bar.  The first movement would be to push the knees back and out of the way of the bar which then loads up the hamstrings.  Your hamstrings load like rubber bands.  In order for the body to properly launch the barbell you want to then release the built up tension in the hamstrings.  The tension is released by moving to your launch position.  Your launch position pushes the knees forward slightly and shoulders back and now the bar can accelerate further through the movement.  If your knees set up to vertical and you rely on your lower back the bar will decelerate and result in a failed lift at maximum weights.  
Setting up properly and performing a proper first pull is imperative for a successful lift.  Be patient over the bar and keep your shoulders over the bar for as long as possible.  Lifting should be fun, don't get frustrated, and always go back to the basics.  Get a good 1st pull and the lift will take care of itself!!