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.


Anonymous said...

Tracy, Would that be us? Haha. Very well written. I certainly don't find pleasure in seeking heavy loads and lifting them in the ugliest of fashions. I too raise an eyebrow on some CrossFit workouts and I'm an affiliate! But I think that is fine. Certainly we rely on our good senses and many times there is lack of agreement on many training methods. After 3-5 reps, I'm winded and the technique is harder. I agree on taking a KB when the demand is high rep. When doing W.O.D.'s for time, I think O-lifts are not the best choice. There are so many other movements.

The Iron Maven said...


I know you guys are working on your skills. And I've seen them improve, massively. I know you guys think about what you are doing; and sometimes we all push ourselves to a greater limit and pay for it the next day. The post is more directed at others out there who might not have someone as reflective as yourself, Orie or Brandon helping them.

Please know I am not making fun of Orie or Brandon in this video. Orie's elbow touch is indicative of many new CrossFit lifters out there. And Brandon's "Oh my word" just says it all--"I gotta go to work on this." That self-awareness is what we all need to make sure we are moving well, before we really get after it.

I just want to help people out there realize--especially those without an affiliate to help them--that these movements are not just playing around. They demand technique, dare I say a bit of specialization, that doesn't come easily or quickly to many of us. It is up to the CrossFit affiliates to help their people make good decisions and develop better technique.

I applaud CrossFit DesPeres and CrossFit St. Louis for doing an excellent job with the O-lift movements.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree re flexibility and form. Sometimes I find the xfit online coaching a little inconsistent, too. ("Should you use good form or go fast? Yes", but, "If you're working hard enough, your form will start to fall apart".) The serious o-lifters who taught me the lifts laughed when I said I was going to do (for example) 5 x 15 hang-squat-snatch, but having people who pull themselves under really big weights correct my form made a lot of difference. Of course I can't lift anywhere near as much as they can, but they gas after 5 reps, so we're even.

Second great video I saw this a.m., Tracy. Xfit's site has some "lunchtime lifting", some of which is just ... sweet. You can almost hear the kids click right into the right groove. But your video of cartwheels and backflips might top it.

Jen said...

"I realize the CrossFit world finds the weightlifting world a little anal and boorish, with their low reps and snooty technical attitude"

Iron Maven, No, No I don't I love learning from you and other respected weightlifting coaches. one of my goals is to spread the need to master more of these weightlifting ideas with some of our lest receptive people. Even with-in the coaching circle (I'm pretty new to all of it.) I find that it's really hard to get some of the male coaches to heed my advice to have people go a bit lighter until they get more of a grip on form. Thankfully I work with someone who is very open to my input. If I talk to him about my concerns he does respect my opinion.

As much as it's about going heavy it's not. Does that make since?

We do high reps in a lot of our workouts. I would much rather people drop there weight by 15 or 20% in order to have better technique and form as the get fatigued.
Try telling that to some CF'er who came to get worked and are mostly guys. Or to a male CF coach who wants to push the women in a class up to the next weight before they are ready. With having so many affiliates so fast it's very hard or even impossible to make sure people are on the same page.

With-in our classes I will say we have a lot of our core group going to get coached be coach B. Which is awesome and I can't wait to go myself after I'm healed up and able to do overhead work.
Technique, Form and flexibility are my main goals, not just for me but for our weekend warriors. It's proved to be a hard task with some.
I've been running and Elements class at our local Crossfit. It's an elements class....not just a class for the out of shape people. But I can't seem to get across how important it is to make sure your Tabata squats are of more then decent form to people who have been coming for a year. I know that the CF squat and the Oly squat are different, but if you can improve your form in one then you can do the same with the other a tad easier.
I will end my ramble on this. Why do you think it's so hard for people to understand that technique and form is so very important. I'm not perfect in my form but I work as hard on form as I do in any given workout. Because CF is a mix of so many disciplines it's very hard to be great at all of it. Which is the draw for me. Flexibility, form and understanding the movement should be the main goal. OK, I feel better...
As always thanks IM!

Joe P. said...

Great topics that always encourage further questions I-M, except when I'm too lazy to ask. My two:

1. As far as ankle flexibility goes, is the lift itself the fix? Are ankle excursion exercises helpful, or are they not task specific enough?

2. I read your post on Vern's site regarding the drugs. What do you think is hurting the sport the most in the U.S. Lack of talent identification? Lack of popularity? Are our lifters "cleaner" than other countries?

The Iron Maven said...

Joe P and Jen:

1. I additional stuff to work on ankle flexibility--squat related & weightbearing.

2. Poor talent ID programming, constant drug testing, and low overall numbers all hurt US weightlifting. It is a very money-poor sport and since there are no superstars (like in T&F) to protect, these people are tested constantly at home, in and out of competition. No NCAA programs here and other countries have professional leagues where athletes can earn a living. We are behind many 8 balls.

3. Jen, I don't know why the "more is always better" mantra is so ingrained in our ideas of fitness. It is rampant with some of my cycling/tri friends. If the goal is to produce form breakdown via fatigue, then what can you say?

Some people won't change/listen until they are burned by overtraining or injury. Some will be fortunate enough to tolerate whatever is thrown their way. Some will not.

Egos loom large when there is a competitive/comparative nature to an activity. And dudes sometimes have to be dudes when other dudes are around. Something about that Y chromosome I guess. Brains and braun aren't necessarily mutually exclusive traits, but I guess they can be.

Andrew said...

Great post, i'll put it on the CF board if it's not already there.

Jerimiah said...

I will keep this brief since a lot has already been said, but I hope no one from the crossfit community has given you the impression that we feel that way about the olympic lifts. I just had my first training session with a competitive olympic lifter this last weekend, and he was wonderful and very complimentary of the quality of my form without any formal training. I have never done any heavy OL for the very reason that those lifts need their respect. Everything I have ever heard or read from the crossfit headquarters has been nothing but reverence for the powerful, yet dangerous nature of the lifts. I am sure there will always take the wrong approch in a community this large, but I have not seen it in my local gyms or from the headquarters.


Keith said...

I agree totally. Mechanics, Consistency, then Intensity. I am a CrossFit trainer and find it terribly frustrating to try to get people to scale down the loads and intensity and work their form until they're ready to go heavy. Getting people to stretch would be nice too, but that's almost as difficult as getting them to clean without curling the weight.

Anonymous said...

I think the biggest problem for the Crossfitters is a lack of experienced coaches. The lifts are harder to learn how to teach than they are to learn how to do. A good coach identifies the technical problems quickly and knows the right cues and drills to fix them. But a coach who has never hung around competitive weightlifters might take months to teach someone an acceptable power clean instead of hours.

In 2005 there were a dozen or so affiliates. Now there are 300? That means many Crossfit coaches have been teaching the O-lifts for less than two years.

The other problem is a lack of decent peer review. Most kids learn the jump shot, the touchdown pass, the slap shot, the curve ball and so on from other kids. Not so with weighlifting in the U.S.; it's like trying to learn baseball while living in France.

But we'll get there. Lift the light weights like they are heavy and the heavy weights like they are light! Watch more video like this one!!!

Thank you Iron Maven for all that you do.


Anonymous said...

Tracy, Just noticed you put B and Orie in the video. I was dying with the "Oh my word". Really great article and it sparked some interesting conversation. Thanks for taking the time.

Keith said...

Further to Lincoln...true there are a lot more inexperienced coaches out there. But on the bright side there are A LOT more coaches out there. 5 years ago you couldn't find this much discussion about the olympic lifts. You did not have nearly the amount of lifters lifting or competing. In a few years these inexperienced coaches will have a lot more experience. CrossFit is single-handedly resurrecting Olympic weightlifting in this country.

Did USAW open 300 more affiliates or clubs in the last 2 years? No.

Right now we are seeing a lot of new lifters and coaches and they look pretty green. After a few more years of experience they'll look better and there will be a lot more peer review. To that end the CrossFit website is the only site that offers digital coaching to anybody that wants to post a video of themselves lifting.

Yes form is crucial. Yes good coaching is crucial. CrossFit is growing a whole community of lifters and coaches and in another few years the question will be why isn't USAW doing more to promote lifting like CrossFit does. Why can you not find any description of how to do the clean, jerk and snatch on the USAW website?

In the world of olympic lifting, Crossfit is young and enthusiastic, but that's a good thing.

Gant said...

Nice post, Maven.

I also agree with the above post that CF will resurrect OLY. I found the lifts via CF and am competing in my first meet next weekend. I'm too old and beat down to be worth a crap, but there are some young bucks out there that might make some pretty good weightlifters one day.

kecks said...

I am a 28 years old female and I found the Olylifts trough Crossit, too. I just cleaned and jerked 75kg yesterday (personal best) at 68kg Bodyweight, and I am going to compete at the German Nationals tomorrow (finishing last place, to be shure, but I'll take it as a learning experience...).

Like the posts above stated: CF is resurrecting Olylifting, even across the ocean.

The Iron Maven said...

Yes, you guys are so right. The administration of the sport in this country would do well to embrace CrossFit.