Monday, April 30, 2007
Check out this feature by CSTV on Sam Turnbull. Sam began lifting in the Spruce Creek High School program in Port Orange, Florida. She is now a resident athlete at the OTC in Colorado Springs and trains under the direction of Bob Morris. Sam recently moved up from the 48 kg class to the 53 kg class and has really improved, getting much stronger. As you will see in the video, she has tremendous natural ability and explosiveness. If she continues with the sport, she will be the heir apparent to Melanie Roach and has the potential for a 2012 and 2016 Olympic team.
Sam will travel to Sicily to compete in the Jurnior International Tournament and then Peru to compete in the the World University Championships later this summer. Go Sam!
Thursday, April 26, 2007
In the spirit of getting terminology straight, I'd like to suggest we use the term hip extension rather than back extension. In my book and with my people, the spine is stable and technically, the entire torso is moving in relation to the legs so it is the hip that's doing the work. I've spent many hours discussing the finer points of these terms with some weightlifting coaches. I'm all about spine/torso stability--not mobility--with this exercise and I like it for pretty much everyone. See the good vs the bad position of the spine?
If athletes cannot master this movement, then they have no business even attempting SLDLs or Good Mornings or RDLs or whatever you prefer. The necessity of these movements for athletes is the topic of another blog.
I think the traditional "back extension" or hyper apparati (?) are too aggressive for many people. Hey, if you are looking to do loaded spinal flexion/extension/hyperextension, have at it. I'll pass. And I'm a bit overwhelmed by the multitude of glute/ham thingys on the market; I have never really used one and am not sure they are essential. I'd be happy to discuss their merits over a cold beverage at the NSCA in Atlanta--anyone?
I learned to use the 45 degree apparatus while working with Derrick Crass at his clinic and I have one at home. Derrick and I used it with all back patients. Basically it is a progression of the infamous Shirley Sahrmann "Waiter's Bow." Studies show that people with back pain have problems distinguishing the two. IMHO, everyone will benefit from learning to perceive spine vs hip movement--and this seems to help with perception of lumbar spine vs hip position in squatting and lifting. I too, Joe P., like the fact I'm weight bearing through my feet with the 45 degree apparatus.
Make sure the pads are adjusted BELOW the hip joint / PSIS so that the hip can move! If the pad is too high, you will automatically beforced to do spine flexion and extension.
I don't normally use any load except that of bodyweight and I typically use reps of 10-20+ and do multiple sets. Stuart McGill probably thinks this stuff is too agressive, but if taught properly, I think it is a valuable lifetime exercise. When my back gets a little cranky after sitting through a whole weekend of a weightlifting meet, this exercise seems to relieve the compression discomfort.
Interesting tidbit: For those of you that have Harvey's Explosive Lifting for Sports, check out the model in the pics for traditional back extension exercises. You'll see she has a freakin' 20 kg bar on her back. Let me tell you, that was one of the most challenging things I've ever done. How much longer am I going to have to hold this bar here???!!!! Take the %$#@! picture already!!! So to set the record straight, I don't recommend those to anyone and I'm not sure Harvey does anymore either--except for maybe the elite lifters. I think I managed to get him to let go of the rounded back DLs and GM's too.
Ye olde press behind the neck. It isn't much in favor these days--for good reason. Few US athletes have the shoulder mobility to do them properly. They are too busy doing that "other" press that shall not be mentioned here. I have cringed many times watching burly football players try to finish their summer workout doing PBNs; they have no business doing them. Their shoulder mobility sucks and they wallow in weight training programs lacking full ROM shoulder movements that perpetuate poor shoulder mobility. And so it goes.
That said, PBNs are a staple of weightlifting, but the weightlifter learns not to be dependent on the ability to press--that's an infraction of the rules. Snatch grip and clean grip presses, push presses and jerks behind the neck are used all the time. But these are people who have to put stuff over their head all the time; and the strongest position overhead is slightly behind the ears, just like Shannon Sheesley demonstrates here (on the L) with 80 kg. Carissa (on the R) is struggling with 110 kg here because it is out in front, where she is forced to use her strength to hold it vs hitting the strong, stable close-packed position of the shoulder in maximum flexion/ER. And guess what? Carissa is coming back from shoulder surgery--she had poor shoulder overhead mobility before and injured her shoulder. Now she is back, and has snatched a PR 91 kg and jerked 114 kg (at 63 kg bw) but she has to work like a dog to get and maintain proper shoulder mobility with her overhead lifts.
Personally, I like PBNs and do them all the time with the empty 15 kg bar or more in an attempt to create and maintain full shoulder flexion. I also do headstand to handstand push ups for the same reason. If gymnasts can do it, why not me? Same movement, just closed-chained. But I have built mobility first before attempting any strength, e.g. I have created the proper context. Few athletes need a bunch of strength in this range, but they could sure use the mobility and a basic foundation of strength. For sure, the movement of the bar from the upper back to the overhead position demands a distinct ROM from the glenohumeral joint, the scapulohumeral musculature and the thoracic spine. If the pecs and internal rotators are tight, this movement will be challenging and could present problems.
Furthermore, most weightlifters are not pressing maximal weights from behind the neck. They usually push press or jerk heavy weights behind the neck--and I think this is key: That most challenging ROM just off the shoulders to the top of the head is "bypassed" by the legs moving the bar quickly in an "unweighted" state. Once the bar is above the head, the final press out is easy. In the jerk, the bar may not even move above the head, as the lifter pushes their body under the bar. There is no stress of bearing weight in the hands in the most challenging ROM behind the head.
Here's a tip: When the bar is overhead, the wrists should be pronated, but fully extended, the scapulae depressed and the shoulders externally rotated as much as possible. If the glenohumeral joint is internally rotated, it is bad news. Get your elbows in line with or behind the ears. Play with the PBN movement with PVC pipe or a stick. Feel the difference when you actually externally rotate the GH joint with the empty bar/pipe/stick overhead and your wrists pronated & extended. It is a different movement that few people actually do. I think this is key to safely doing overhead movements. For the weightlifter, it is essential to protect the elbow with good wrist and shoulder positioning when receiving the bar overhead in the snatch.
I would love to hear from anyone who has actually had someone injure themselves with PBNs--neck, shoulders??? I once heard a DI strength coach talk about fearing cervical herniations from this exercise. That seemed a little paranoid. Cervical herniations don't appear to happen in weightlifting training. If we never let kids bench press and everyone did handstands and PBNs from day one, would we even have this question or debate? My guess is probably not. But our collective tight pectorals and lifestyles have us rarely putting our hands above our heads, from day one. And thus, many are ill prepared to do PBNs and would be better off with dumbbells.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
This public service announcement will play on CSTV when they broadcast the 2007 Collegiate Nationals in May. Werksan Barbell, the OFFICIAL barbell of USAW (as Leo Totten, president of Werksan and BOD member of USAW would say--it's a cozy relationship), paid for the commercial. The woman who snatches the weight is Natalie Woolfolk, currently the reigning 63 kg National Champion and American record holder.
Give credit to Werksan, Joe Delago and Leo for contributing to the promotion of the sport.
The front squat, a staple of weightlifters, is a fabulous lower body pushing for any athlete. It helps to create and challenges lower body mobility, shoulder girdle mobility and torso stability. If you can overhead squat and front squat, chances are you are pretty good to go with your basic lower and upper extremity mobility.
I prefer not to do more than 5 reps in a set, ever. I require all athletes learn to use the "clean grip". There is no crossed-arm front squatting in my house. There are no Sting Rays either. There are no straps. And I haven't come across anyone who hasn't been able to master this grip with a little effort and practice--unless there is a fixed wrist deformity secondary to injury. That's another story.
If the athlete has lat/teres major tightness, do a little contract relax work with an empty bar in the hands. The position may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable to the athlete at first, but with practice it will become second nature. Learn how to elevate the shoulder girdle to support the bar and put the bar on your deltoids. The elbows are up, up, up as your hips go down, down, down. You should not have to hold the bar in your hands.
If you are an old fogie like me and male, you might have to work a little harder to rid yourself of your shoulder girdle inflexibility. If your athlete exhibits excessive thoracic flexion, you need to work with him (and it is almost always a him that has this issue) and help him get it before he attempts higher weights.
This lift is ESSENTIAL and a prerequisite for anyone who is required to learn a power clean or clean. Why it is not regularly and properly taught in many high schools is beyond me? Is it because the staff cannot do it themselves? Hmmm....
My preference is to teach this lift in conjunction with or possibly even prior to a back squat. If the athlete has hammy/posterior hip flexibility issues, they should be able to front squat without lumbar flexion. They will learn to descend by lowering the hips down vs. sitting back. Burly high school males cannot get away with cheating on this exercise and will be dissuaded (hopefully) from loading the bar with stupid weights. Young women will enjoy a new level of confidence doing this exercise with terrific mechanics in a co-ed weight room.
And "mature" women will command a level of respect in a co-ed facility or high school weight room. Nothing better than knocking off 3 sets 5 @ 70kgs in the midst of the football team or the 24 Hour Fitness goombahs. The plateheads will afford you any area you want in the free weight area--kinda like the Alien worker-bees backing away from Ripley when she wields the flamethrower in the Queen Alien's chamber. And the football kids will say "yes ma'am" when you tell them to take some weight off the bar and do that set again, correctly, with a proper grip.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Sometimes I fall into the "fixed" mindset, thinking I'm a complete failure because I don't have an MD, JD or PhD behind my name, a book of my own, or a spot speaking on the NSCA docket yet. And while I do my own thing business-wise, I don't have a fancy facility or slew of coaches or athletes following me on a regular basis. I'm not bringing in six figures. Aren't all Chicago/Wash U grads supposed to be doing that?
Silly? Yes. It's not an all or nothing gig, life. Letters and degrees don't necessarily mean one contributes to society in a positive way. And I'm certainly not the only one still paying off student loans--and that just sucks. Somebody please tell Congress to jack the interest rates back down to a reasonable level!
Occasionally I get a really neat note from someone via this blog or YouTube. The notes come from Australia, the UK, Argentina--all over--and they usually thank me for some tidbit of info that has helped them with an athlete or simply thank me for putting up some inspirational or informational video. These notes help remind me that I am contributing and slowly but surely, finding my way in this world.
P.S. Got a really cool note last night from a certain weightlifter thanking me for sending him/her video. This person is now easily making close to PR marks in training, consistently, and believes my work has been imperative to him/her better understanding the lifts and thus making the necessary changes to improve his/her technique. This athlete has a shot at making the 2008 Olympic team and it would just make me so happy to see this person achieve that goal. We'll see what happens in 3 weeks at the Nationals. It should be a great competition and people will be scrapping for every kilo to improve their rankings for the Pan Am and 2007 World Championship teams.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Talk about getting back to basics.
You don't always need fancy training equipment to be successful. You need a creative, thoughtful coach to plan, set goals and then lead you through the work to reach those goals.
BUT, on the subject of fancy equipment (well, a laptop and a digital video camera)--namely use of video feedback with the elite lifter--I was excited to see the Polish teams using the technology they had available to provide immediate visual feedback of bar trajectory, velocity and acceleration--back in the 70's! It is very easy now to get this data for our athletes with Dartfish. You don't have to have a V-scope ($10,000) or a PEAK system. Slowly, but surely, some of my weightlifting friends are using video to help them make the changes they need to make with their athletes. And hopefully I will get the opportunity to help USA Weightlifting really bring this technology to the athletes at the OTC and NMU, as well as spur the development of better coaching education materials (print, web, classroom) and resources for athletes and coaches at all levels.
Am I overly optimistic? Maybe. I'll continue to squeak and maybe the powers-that-be will finally get it.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Every Monday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch publishes their Health & Fitness Section. Sometimes it has some decent information. Other times it simply perpetuates the latest fitness gunk that you see in the Shapes, etc of the fitness industry. I'll let you be the judge of this effort.
Here's a link to the full article and even a video. At least the technology now allows us to see the full movements. Most of the time, stills--even sequence stills--have a hard time fully communicating the movements.
I always wonder where publications get their referrals for the fitness people they profile.
Any comments from the blogosphere on the article, stills or the video?
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Take the Metra from the 53rd Street stop to weightlifting and indoor volleyball at McCormick Place East? Woo hoo! Take the #6 Jeffrey Express to track cycling right on Lake Shore Drive??? Swimming at UIC??? Come on University of Chicago, put your brains, connections and money to work and help the USOC win the bid. Make the South Side shine!
An Olympic Stadium in Hyde Park? Man the thought of that just blows my mind....Nothing like taking in some Olympic sports and then hitting Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap for a beer and the Medici on 57th for a late night basket of fries. I might just have to break down and have my old favorite omelet at the Salonika at 58th and Blackstone.
What would Amos Alonzo Stagg think? Is Robert Maynard Hutchins turning in his grave?? Hey, as long as we've got DITKA on our side, how can we lose?
C-H . . . Chicago!
C-H . . . Chicago!
C-H . . . Chicago!
What is C H for?
WAVE THE FLAG
Wave the flag of old Chicago,
Maroon the color grand.
Ever shall her team be victors
Known throughout the land.
With the grand old man to lead them,
Without a peer they'll stand.
Wave again the dear old banner,
For they're heroes ev'ry man.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Kurt Vonnegut dies from complications following a fall. Falls are a physical therapist's worst nightmare--traumatic brain injuries, hip fractures, ect. The morbidity and mortality related to falls is amazing. Do everything you can to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy, mobile, strong and with good basic balance.
I say we make a "Burn with Vern" t-shirt--kinda in the Napoleon Dynamite "Vote for Pedro" look.
The St. Louis Marathon is this weekend. They say there are about 24,000 people in town for the various races over two days. Wonder how this group will mingle with the 50,000 NRA members who are also downtown for their national convention?
Death by trainer interval workout today. Survived a decent trainer workout (for me). I have the aerobic endurance of a house cat. 20 min warm up with 4 x 5 min intervals with 5 min recover spin in between. Here is a shot of my HR at the end of the 3rd interval. No power meter yet for this geek.
If you have Versus, check out the coverage of Paris-Roubaix this Sunday. This bike race isn't nicknamed "The Hell of the North" for nothing. Lots of cobblestones. Finishes in the Roubaix Velodrome. Sweet suffering.
I'd heard about this footage but never seen it until today when someone posted a link to it from the ever wacky GoHeavy forum. This is part of a Polish training video that apparently used to be available from the NSCA a while back. If anyone out there has a copy of this or knows someone who does, please have them contact me. I'd love to get a full copy.
Just the bare necessities to train and even the old Universal gym getting a real workout from the entire Polish national team. Watch the entire thing to get to the accessory training--kettle bells, Universal gym, stall bar work--at the end! Note these guys have to effectively lower the barbell from overhead and the shoulders. No excessive slamming of the weights on the floor just because they can.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The St. Louis area has some fine boys high school and club volleyball. Check out the video and see what good boys volleyball is all about. Many of the larger schools in the area sport THREE teams: freshman, JV and Varsity! How cool is that to see these young men working together and duking it out on the volleyball court in the spring!
Here's the link to an embedded WMV file of about 6 minutes of highlights of a 90 minute match. Right click on the video to zoom into full-screen viewing. Feel free to click on the DeSmet Volleyball link at the top of the page, go to the video box and download the 23 MB file if you want some footage of boys volleyball.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Weightlifting movements are an end in themselves for the athletes that compete in the sport. The assistance movements are a means toward the specific end of performing the classical lifts (clean, jerk, snatch). Assistance movements can be used by other athletes for the purposes of learning how to generate vertical forces, being explosive, etc. They can be used to help athletes develop basic strength, power, stability and mobility.
But every coach must ask her or himself whether or not certain movements are the best means of achieving the end for that specific athlete. "The Olympic Lifts" are not the be-all, end-all in athletic development. Weightlifting athletes are not the best/fastest/most powerful athletes on earth--watch out for the overzealous sweeping generalizations. They are the best at lifting heavy weights very fast. What else would you expect??? Some are VERY good all-around athletes, but not all. There is nothing magic about the sport of weightlifting.
In my opinion, the power clean is the most abused, bastardized movement in the college/high school and fancy sports performance weight room. Very few athletes really know what they are doing and why they are doing it; the same goes for most of the sport coaches who teach it. It looks and sounds cool and it utilizes those fancy barbell sets and platforms the DI schools and the wealthy facilities like to show off. Some strength coaches and athletes get it. Others really lack the foundation to successfully use this tool. It pains me to see the end results.
Here is a little story. Back in the spring of 2005, I was hired to be the associate director of a new franchise sports performance facility opening in St. Louis. I was supposedly hired for my knowledge of weightlifting, weight training and my rehab background. (Did I mention my husband is the AD of the largest private high school in the state too?) Hot damn, my dream job. I could finally put my ideas to work and reach out to coaches, athletes and maybe even the national franchise. What an opportunity! Two weeks after opening, we put on a very good clinic for the high school coaches. I was then asked to revamp the franchise weight training plan for our facility, as we were given the okay to develop something better than what the other franchisees were currently doing. Now this particular franchise devotes 30 min of a 90 min session to resistance training. I spent several weeks working on a framework where kids would not just be put in age groups, but would be methodically introduced to appropriate resistance training movements and principles, and then progressed when they met key performance criteria.
One of the key points in this plan, was that the athletes NOT be introduced to the "Olympic Lifts" until they had passed certain criteria and had been through a 2-4 hour special class that reviewed the rationale for and the foundations of these movements, and assessed the athletes' physical readiness and their ability to attend to safety issues. There was no way in hell I was going to throw these kids on the platforms without proper preparation. Yes we had 4 beautiful bumper sets and platforms, but that didn't mean ANYONE was prepared to use them properly. Nor did we have enough properly trained staff.
I spent the entire 2005 Memorial Day weekend typing and formatting this plan in a grand document. When I presented it to my superior, I got the following reply: I don't have time for this. I was heart-broken. It became clear to me that the bottom line was the bottom line. It was sell the Olympic lifts and our beautiful equipment, and do them regardless of the readiness of the athlete or the time we had to prepare the athletes. Tell the parents and coaches their kids will be doing this cool stuff that will make them the best athletes. Don't try to educate parents as to why don't do this stuff yet. We were not going to take the time to implement a comprehensive developmental program that attempted to build foundations and progress kids when appropriate. Just do something; it doesn't matter if it isn't done well, as long as the kids sweat and appear industrious.
Three months later I resigned, as did the guy who was next in line for my position. We both decided we needed something different; not just the bottom line. I don't know what this facility is now doing with all the nice platforms and Uesaka bumper plates, but I do know there haven't been any more coaches education clinics. They are too busy trying to herd kids in the door and keep them there. Sell, sell, sell!
I don't automatically teach my athletes any barbell weightlifting movements. Maybe some dumbbell options; maybe a push press. But the power clean or any other weightlifting movements aren't the only or best movements an athlete can do to further develop their general athleticism or their sport-specific abilities. If they want to be a weightlifter, fine. If they are being asked to do it in their high school or future college program, I will help them learn to do things correctly. But I don't do them just to do them or because I think they are essential for any athlete at a given point in their career.
Make sure you understand why you are on the bandwagon before you make the leap. Use the tools of the trade wisely and remember there is nothing magic about them. How appropriate that I'm listening to Manfred Mann's Earth Band sing "Blinded By the Light" on my latest Midnight Special DVD (1977).
With a boulder on my shoulder, feelin' kinda older,
I tripped the merry-go-round
With this very unpleasin', sneezin' and wheezin,
the calliope crashed to the ground....
But she was...
Blinded by the light,
revved up like a deuce,
another runner in the night
Friday, April 06, 2007
She's doing bodyweight work and some work on her own at the Y. Basic stuff.
I'm so excited for and proud of her. She was dreading track and now she's found her niche and seems to be having a blast. She's embraced doing more quality speed work and has overcome her fear of running in front of the crowds. I'm looking forward to watching her run at the All Catholic meet next Saturday.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
I've put together some warm up and competition footage of Melanie Roach, Carissa Gump, Natalie Woolfolk and Doreen Fullhart from the World Team Qualifier in early March. As of April 4, 2007, Melanie is ranked 6th in the world (53 kg class), Natalie is ranked 4th (63 kg class) and Doreen is ranked 11th (75 kg class). Carissa is coming back from shoulder surgery and needs to add about 20 kgs to her total to get into the top 15 in the world. Note the empty bar work Natalie does in preparation for competition. This is an example of dynamic warmup and should give you an idea of the shoulder, hip and ankle flexibility these athletes have.
By showing these women in action, I hope to debunk some of the negative stereotypes that people have of female weightlifters and weightlifting in general. Slow, inflexible, BULKY--you know the drill. Melanie is married, a mother of three, a former gymnast and owns a gymnastics school. Natalie is a former Level 10 gymnast and lives at the OTC, where she trains with Doreen (a former Div I collegiate thrower) and Carissa (all weightlifter, since 8th grade). Doreen (the tallest lifter) and Carissa are married and both of their husbands are also resident athletes (wrestler and weightlifter, respectively) at the OTC. Sorry fellas, Natalie is currently dating Casey Burgener, the top 110+ weightlifter in the US.
If anyone would like to purchase a high quality copy of this video, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The music from this video was purchased from www.magnatunes.com, a website that promotes independent artists and gives people like me the opportunity to purchase and license/use great music at a low cost, while giving the artists the majority of the profits. Check this site out; you can download a cool variety of music file types and share your downloads legally with three other people. It is fabulous.
Check out Brad's blog and his bio--these pictures are from there. You can read about his journey into cycling, puberty and his battle with disordered eating. Check out his race resume. No magic; just hard work, one race at a time.
Parents, take heed. Not all elite athletes are born with their respective sport ability oozing out of their pores at the tender age of 10. Not all have a team of personal coaches or personal trainers. High school or age-group athletic success or lack-thereof does not always predict adult athletic ability. Many successful elite athletes journey through a myriad of sports before they find their mojo.
I don't know Brad personally. I've watched him race in person. Had my butt handed to me by his girlfriend back when she was a lowly Cat 4. But his story is an inspiration to all of us familiar with US and Missouri cycling. Just a real guy, a passionate competitor and clean athlete, who is finding his own on the elite road and the track, after a long and winding road through amateur sport. GO HUFFY GO!