Saturday, January 31, 2009

This Dude Gets Around

This is a cool time-lapse video of a 9 month old interacting with his environment. Pretty mobile for a non-ambulatory organism. And just dang fascinating to watch a tiny human build the foundations of physical strength and health.

(via BoingBoing)

Friday, January 23, 2009

The 2009 GAIN Apprentorship

I am looking forward to participating in the 2009 GAIN Apprentorship. This is a tremendous opportunity to interact with and learn from some of the best in the field of athletic development. I first heard Vern Gambetta speak in 1998. He has had a profound impact on my development as a physical therapist, coach and an athletic development professional.

I highly recommend this unique professional development opportunity. And I'm psyched that I'll finally meet Joe P. in person!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Werner Gunthor: One Powerful Dude

For The Thin Man (hey, it's in French), The Ab God, PB&J, The Big Red Machine and all my Crossfit Vally Park friends. One of my all-time favorites, the Werner Gunthor training video, is on YouTube. The graphics, music and hair are awesome; the content is priceless. Get strong, but make sure you learn to effectively apply it. The devil is in the details. Check out this segment (part 2). The best part starts at about 5 minutes in. Make sure you click through and watch the other three parts as you have time.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Is there OTW to pull?

Tastes great or less filling? Shimano or Campy? Mac or PC? iPhone or Crackberry? Kirk or Picard? Teach the double knee bend or not? As long at there are humans, there will be debates. And some people just get really fired up over certain issues. It's okay, as long as things are kept civil and the discussion is about the facts and doesn't degenerate into value judgements, personal attacks or whining.

Is there a one true way (OTW) to lift a barbell off the ground? Probably not. When human biomechanics and sport technique are involved there will always be some freak who defies conventional wisdom. Are there some best practices? Most people would probably say yes. Are there different approaches that are effectively used by various coaches and athletes? Yes.

For those interested in the particulars (especially pulling styles) of the quick lifts and the power lifts, let me suggest you peruse Dr. John Garhammer's web page of selected publications. In particular, his chapter five in Biomechanics of Sport is quite informative. You can download it in PDF form here.
Garhammer, J. "Weight Lifting & Training" (Chapter 5, pp.169-211). In: Biomechanics of Sport (C.L. Vaughan, ed.), CRC Publishers, Inc., Boca Raton, FL., 1989.
I think most people will find Dr. Garhammer's discussion of the mechanics of elite deadlifters and elite weightlifters quite interesting.

Personally, I think it is quite reasonable to think that a clean/snatch requires a different pulling style from a deadlift. They are very different movements with very different requirements with regard to bar height, velocity, acceleration and power output. It's like comparing hurdles vs high jump.

The weightlifter interacts with the barbell in a much more complex way than the powerlifter, moving the barbell a greater distance over a shorter amount of time. Weightlifters have to actually move their bodies around the barbell, while powerlifters do not. The complexity of the movement is not only reflected in the bar trajectory, it is also reflected in CoP (center of pressure) measurements of the foot during snatches and cleans.

While it would nice to be 100% efficient and have a purely vertical bar path, humans are humans and not pulleys. Humans are not world-beaters in mechanical efficiency of any activity. Thus, we see horizontal movement in bar path analysis of elite weightlifters. Most researchers have shown there are roughly 3-8 cm of horizontal displacement in the barbell trajectories of successful lifters. And there are even categories of bar trajectories. Tommy Kono has a very nice discussion of the various S-shaped barbell paths in his book.

We also see that most weightlifting athletes start with the barbell over the metatarsals, so the barbell can sweep in toward the body as it passes the knees to the mid-thigh (clean) or upper thigh/crotch level (snatch). While we want to keep the barbell close throughout the lift, it appears to be most effective for the weightlifter to start with the bar slightly in front of the lifter, rather than start with it close like the powerlifter.

Many times, if the lifter starts with the barbell too close the body (crowds the bar), the barbell has nowhere to go but forward, and the athlete ends up having to jump forward (see below). If the athlete is going to jump anywhere, backward is usually more reliable than forward. The athlete on the L missed; the athlete on the R did not. Most weightlifting coaches would say the athlete on the L started with the bar too close.

This starting position (bar over the metatarsals) also allows the weightlifter to use their knee and hip extensors effectively to push the weight off the platform during the first pull vs. pull the barbell off with a more hip/back dominant strategy.

So that's my take on the subject. Read the Garhammer chapter and some of his other published work, and see what you think. Is it reasonable to think the weightlifting and powerlifting pulling styles might be different, given the demands of the lifts and given the analyses of past and current elite lifters? Is there good reason for weightlifting coaches to teach pulling the way their do?

For those of you who haven't seen V-scope data of lifts before, below is the data from the best snatch and clean by Natalie Woolfolk (94 kg and Am Record 118 kg @ 63 kg bw) and Kendrick Farris (155 kg and 190 kg @ 85 kg bw) from the 2006 National Championships. Although you cannot see where the barbell starts in relation to the foot, you can see the horizontal movement in the bar path that is typical of elite lifters, and these are two of the best in this country.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

For Weightlifting Geeks

For those of you who enjoyed the January 5 post, here is the full lift by Jake Johnson, from two views. What do you notice about the lifter's starting position? Where is the barbell in relation to his foot? What happens as the barbell comes off the floor?

P.S. See Jon, he receives the bar below parallel. That's what you have to do to lift weights greater than double-bodyweight.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

From the Way, Way-Back Machine

If you ever need cassette tapes converted to MP3 files, Reclaim Media does a great job.

And remember, you might not score a bunch a points every night, but you can always play good defense, fight for rebounds and make your free throws. Hard work and sound fundamentals will eventually pay off.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Alert: For Weightlifting Geeks Only

When a weightlifting coach talks about "pulling under" or "shrugging down" against the bar, this is what s/he is talking about. Not a skill many other athletes need to learn, but one of the most important skills for the competitive weightlifter. Note the feet remain in contact with the platform as the barbell continues to move upward and the athlete begins to move down. This particular lift was a successful 155 kg clean and jerk by Jake Johnson (69 kg) at the 2007 National Junior Championships.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

PB&J Pierson

Congrats to PB&J on being one of the ten athletes selected to the All-Tournament Team for the 16-team Meramec Tournament. He had four consistent games, leading his team in scoring 3 of the 4 games.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


Amazing. There is an article from the AP in today's Post-Dispatch that says the digital television coupon plan may run out of money. $1.34 billion was allocated by Congress to subsidize the national transition from analog to digital television. Some consumers may not get their two $40 coupons. Tragedy of tragedies.

Let's see. We can find $1.38 billion and hours and hours of voluntary informative programming from local and national affiliates carefully explaining to us that we will miss Dancing with the Stars if we don't have the right television or television service. I find it absolutely obscene and indicative of our screwed up national priorities. Do you really think any American has trouble funding their television habits?

Imagine we made the same type of national effort to address some of the truly important aspects of national infrastructure, like public health. How about some government-sponsored coupons to subsidize joining the Y or having a session with a dietitian to learn how to eat better? How about infomercials about your local public health department and what low-cost or free health care services you can receive, regardless of income?

In my opinion, this whole digital tv thing is reflective of our society and our screwed up priorities. We choose not to invest in the important aspects of our national infrastructure. We make sure you can watch TV.

Thursday, January 01, 2009