Wednesday, November 08, 2006

To Barbell or Not to Barbell?

That's a very good question. Vern Gambetta offers his take on using dumbbells here . I agree with what he says. And like Joe P. says, a good teacher uses many tools depending on the needs of the student--and uses them in their appropriate context.

I use my Power Block bells for db snatches all the time. They are a bit clunky for clean-related stuff, for my taste, but I don't have any issues with others using them. Many implements can be used with triple extension; the barbell is not a sacred cow.

That said...

The sport of weightlifting offers partial movements that can help anyone learn to be more powerful. And remember, it is a SPORT in itself; you must respect the complexity of the movements if you are going to use them with non-weightlifting athletes. Using the barbell vs dumbbells allows for maximum resistance, but presents some technical challenges. If the athlete has mobility issues (ankle, hip, shoulder) or is very tall, hitting the appropriate positions can be difficult.

If you are going to teach a novice with a barbell, I find it highly desirable to use adjustable pulling blocks (see picture). I learned this from Derrick Crass (physical therapist and member of the 84 and 88 Olympic teams in weightlifting). This allows you to start with the "power position" and work from there easily. I only start with straight-arm pulls; this ingrains the idea that the legs are doing the work, and not the arms. This is not an upright row.

I am NOT a fan of the "hang" movements with a barbell, with non-weightlifters. In my opinion, a lack of adjustable blocks and subsequent use of the "hang" leads to the many of the horrid movements we see in the high school and college weight rooms in this country. See this example. (I like much of what Mike Boyle does; but I do not believe this type of lifting is beneficial for any athlete.) Instead of a vertical, explosive triple extension, we see a big swinging counter-movement followed by a reverse curl--barely any hip extension. There is no ankle plantarflexion or knee extension. Oh yeah, forgot to mention the STOMP. I could write a whole book on that. Stomping is not necessary in a power clean or a clean. In this sense, pulls alone will keep the athlete focused on the real task. There will be less temptation to stomp. The only sound should be the sound of the plates clanging against the bar at the top of the pull.

I don't have a great clip of pulls from the blocks, but here's a nice clip of weightlifting coach Harvey Newton cueing weightlifter Jason Brown during snatch high pulls from the floor. Most athletes don't need to pull from the floor, but competitive weightlifters must learn this movement.

4 comments:

Katie said...

I agree with you, great post. I have a few "stompers" that I work with, and they refuse to quit. Do you have any good coaching points for me. Stomping would be a great topic for a post in the future.
Thanks
Katie

Katie said...

sI agree with you, great post. I have a few "stompers" that I work with, and they refuse to quit. Do you have any good coaching points for me. Stomping would be a great topic for a post in the future.
Thanks
Katie

Joe P. said...

I-M, How do you feel about, in leiu of blocks, standing inside a power rack, using the pins to catch the bar? Does it damage the bar?
p.s.= How about a video of wanna be olympic lifters doing the "stomp" to that "Stomp" song from the 80's?

The Iron Maven said...

Joe P,

I have used the p-rack method and like when there are no blocks. Hard to p-snatch, but at least you can clean. I'm not sure about the bar damage, but we can teach athletes to return the bar from the shoulders without just crashing it on the rack.

-Tracy

P.S. Ooohh don't tempt me with the video idea--lemme see what I have on the old hard drive....