Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

2007 American Open Promo Video by Iron Maven (Hey that's me!)

Leg Circuits for Breakfast--YUM!

I put together some workout suggestions for the DeSmet v-ball coach re: pre-season workouts. Now, ideally, the kids would have started this stuff a while back, but several play football and most play club all year round so it is tough to not overload them. Anyway, the boys always lament Coach Mrs. Fober showing up in the weight room, because they know they will have to actually work. And work they did, from 6:30 to 7:30 am.

Thanks to Vern Gambetta for showing me the value of various squat series and leg circuits, way back in 1998! Perfect for team workouts and for young athletes who need to build a good base, without any equipment but maybe a med ball, plate or a dumbbell.

Of course, we had to share the weight room with a few young football players, who bestowed upon us their killer workout, while also poking fun at my guys for actually having the balls to work up a sweat. Here's what two kids actually did:

1. Enter the weight room
2. Walk directly to a bench press station
3. Place a 45# plate on each end of the barbell
4. With partner spotting, complete about 5 reps
5. Repeat for 3 sets
6. Exit the weight room

'Tis a shame so many young guys fall into this trap.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Youth (Flexibility) Is Served

This is dedicated to my CrossFit friends who are working so hard to learn the lifts. These schoolage lifters demonstrate the flexibility you need to do the full lifts. If you lack the flexibility for good lifting positions--and someone should help you determine this--you need patience. One lift at a time. Hammer your flexibility deficits with lots of deliberate practice. There's nothing wrong with doing the power versions of the lifts to work on receiving positions. Gentlemen, please master the front squat with high elbows before going gung ho with heavier, full cleans. Stay light and move fast. Meet the bar; receive the bar; don't just fling it and let it crash on you. Use DBs, KBs or power cleans for that crazy Linda and Elizabeth, if your scapulohumeral flexibility is poor.

I realize the CrossFit world finds the weightlifting world a little anal and boorish, with their low reps and snooty technical attitude. But there are good reasons why they look at you with a raised brow when you tell them you want to do cleans for three sets of 21-15-9 reps with 135 lbs. There is a method to their madness, and you (and CrossFit) will win their respect by being good ambassadors of the lifts. (Yeah, I know CrossFit doesn't need the sport of weightlifting, but the sport deserves your respect.) Trust me, if your technique is ugly, it will eventually matter. Your musculoskeletal system will revolt with an overuse injury, or the barbell will bite you in the ass--or the shoulder, elbow, wrist or back. Break long sets down into 3s at the most; keep it lighter and give your nervous system a chance to move well. Or use DBs or KBs if you really want to make these met con workouts.

Yes, the strong survive, but the injured go on the disabled list. I realize aches and pains happen when working hard, but I don't buy the "that which doesn't herniate my disc makes me stronger" bull. As Vern says, think about whether you are using an optimal load, vs a maximal load, for you and your goals. I really, really like my CrossFit peeps and how they roll; but man, sometimes you guys make me nervous.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The American Open is Next Weekend

Some scenes from last year's 85 kg clean & jerk session. These guys weigh 187 lbs or less. The final weight lifted, was 436 lbs (198 kg), an American record at the time, by Kendrick Farris, age 20. Note the number of athletes who do not use belts or any knee/wrist support.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

For Orie & Dan

Fellas, your hard work is paying off. Keep at it. Now here's some fun. These are sequence shots of under-17 national record holder, Kelly Lynch (69 kg), at the 2006 American Open, successfully lifting 86 kg. No arm-pulling! "Beeg legs" and "all the way up" as her coach, Boris says!

And here's the video from that performance:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The 411 on Back Angles and Torque When Squatting

The angle of the torso, when squatting, is not a function of whether or not the bar is high or low on the back. The angle of the torso (and thus torque on the spine) is primarily determined by the angle of the shin, a.k.a how much the ankle dorsiflexes. AND IN MY BOOK, THIS IS THE KEY TO BEST BACK TRAINING PRACTICES. GET IT??? MAKE YOUR QUADS, HAMS AND GLUTES DO THE WORK. If your shin is perpendicular to the floor, then your torso will incline forward to keep the CoM over your BoS, regardless of how low the bar is on your back. And your back will be forced to handle higher torque.

A good, general rule of thumb, IMHO, is to keep the shins and the torso parallel, from an inclination standpoint. This could change with femur/torso length issues (tight adductors and hips in general can cause issues too), but this method is pretty good to help someone figure out whether or not they have decent ankle flexibility when squatting. And this will minimize torque on the back, as we will deliberately NOT use torso lean--and not preferentially recruiting glutes/hams--as the primary method of keeping the CoM over the BoS. There are lots of other things to do to train lumbar spine/pelvis awareness and glute/ham strength. I prefer not to do it with maximal squat poundage.

That said, I am not preparing anyone to compete in a powerlifting meet. Personally, I could care less about most people squatting or DL'ing 3 times their bodyweight anymore. If ya' want to, fine; be my guest. I don't believe those movement patterns are best for the majority of the general population or for most athletes. And I said "most" not all; we can talk about that in a different post. There are some weightlifters who need better absolute strength off the floor. However, for 99% of the people I come across, I will train and encourage people to move in a manner than relies on comprehensive leg mobility and strength, vs. a back and glute/hamstring dominant movement pattern that requires little ankle flexibility.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy Birthday to the Swim Coach!

It's 47 for the swim coach! Wish him a Happy B-day as he embarks on his final state championship meet today, after 23 years as a head coach--AND NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THOSE YEARS HAS HE HAD HIS OWN POOL! Despite less than stellar training facilities, the Coach has produced several NCAA All-Americans, one national champion, a MO state runner-up and a MO state championship team. But better yet, he's had a positive impact on hundreds of young men and women, helping them to enjoy and learn from their high school and collegiate athletic experience. He leads by example and works his tail off to make sure the young people under his guidance work hard and have fun. Cubby, you are a good dude and we love you so much. Thanks for all you do. And we'll always remember:

"The race isn't swum, until it's swum."

-Kevin Fober

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Sally O'Malley Ride

Because she's FIFTY! Yep, my friend (and Masters National Champion) PJ ever so gently demanded I meet her--and newbies Chris and Terry--at Creve Coeur Park for a nifty 2 hour ride this morning. At 9 am, the temperature was 32 degrees. But the sun was out and the wind was negligible. So, off we went for about 1:40. My legs moaned as the newbies pushed a steady pace. Yesterday was a big squat day and I could feel the effects. But it was all good to be out with three other women, all older than I am, braving the cold fall temps. By the end of the ride, it was a balmy 45 degrees.

I want to be able to kick, stretch, kick, squat, ride, pull up, sprint, push up, press and kick way past 50. And PJ is one of my heroes, for showing us all it can be done. I'm proud to say she's 50 and a complete studdette! She kicks my ass on the hills and the flats!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Yes, Virginia, There Are People Who Cannot OHS Without Practice and Improved Flexibility

This post is for Anonymous who thinks I might have staged the pic of the kid trying to do an overhead squat. Nope. I wasn't criticizing the lack of ability or poor form of the kid in the picture. My goal was to illustrate the importance of ankle flexibility in the full snatch/OHS position. If anyone out there is hell-bent on doing or teaching full snatches or OHSs, then you'd be wise to fully understand the musculoskeletal variables that might interfere with your ability to do the exercise.

Back in 2001, I was shopping for some high school athletes to appear in a potential book and video for a friend of mine. A local football coach suggested these guys--and I needed a tall athlete--as possible subjects. They were both pretty athletic football players. So, I put them through some paces, to see how they squatted, cleaned, snatched, pressed, etc. Snatches weren't really a part of their weight room work and they were unfamiliar with most snatch-related movements. I was dumbfounded in their inability to do an OHS with a mere 55#, but now I have a better appreciation for the demands of the movement.

Here is their squat technique, with an empty bar:

Lots of torso inclination, little ankle dorsiflexion--knees not past the toes, lack of full depth; but it looks like a squat to most people. Now, give these guys even a 55# bar and change the system center of mass by making them put it overhead in a snatch receiving position and this is what you get:

They are about to fall over--despite trying as hard as they can to keep the bar overhead and get lower. There is also some lack of shoulder stability/flexibility, thoracic spine mobility and hip flexibility coming to play here, along with a motor system that has never been challenged in this way.

There are plenty of athletes--young and old--who look like this, when you first ask them to OHS; especially when all they've really done is mostly low bar, hip-dominant back squats and bench presses. Just wander into any local high school weight room or globo-gym in this country and you'll find plenty of people who cannot OHS. The OHS requires a level of total body flexibility and stability 95% adult Americans (MHO) do not have. And it requires some purposeful, deliberate practice and education regarding the stability and flexibility requirements, so people understand what they need to do to eventually perform it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Got Ankle Flexibility?

Rybakou does. That's the only way he can have this narrow receiving position and keep a world record 187 kg snatch over his head, i.e. an upright torso in a basically full overhead squat. Thanks to Rob Macklem for posting another one of his awesome images on GoHeavy.

Compare that to this young high school dude trying to overhead squat. So, what's the deal? What's so important about ankle flexibility? Does it matter for everyday fitness and health? You bet it does. And it is a fairly common obstacle--and potential contributor to back tweaks--for many adults who dive into the CrossFit world of full ROM cleans, snatches, front squats and OHS's.