Monday, September 14, 2009

My Sentiments Exactly

With permission, I've copied an excerpt from Greg Everett's article in the September Performance Menu--a publication I highly recommend to any affiliate owners or interested people. I am often asked to teach small group classes at local Crossfit affiliates, and many of you know I struggle with how these lifts are used in certain Crossfit workouts. From my perspective, most people have no business doing these barbell lifts for high reps for time.

If you want to jack your back, shoulders, elbows, wrists or hands up, go for it. If you truly want to learn to do the lifts correctly, you are probably setting yourself (and good technique) back with every poorly executed rep you do. During my classes, I really try to thoughtfully convey my concerns on this matter: These lifts are best done in 1-3 rep sets and in a rested state. The full lifts need to be practiced purposefully and frequently if you wish to do them well. They are complex, full-body movements used to train and develop lower body power. If you want to burn calories or have a high-intensity circuit workout, there are better choices.

Here is what Greg has to say about using the lifts for metabolic conditioning workouts, and I agree with him:

The Lifts within the Training Program

All this talk of mixed skill levels and the importance of
technical proficiency begs the question: How do we
use the Olympic lifts within metabolic conditioning
workouts in a group? The easiest answer is not to. The
reality is that the overwhelming majority of CrossFit
clients will never reach a level of technical proficiency
that makes the lifts’ use within metabolic workouts
a great idea, simply because the proportion of their
training time dedicated to the lifts is minimal.

There are better options for conditioning that won’t
hinder further development of lift technique while still
providing a large metabolic dent—arguably more of
one, in fact. Additionally, dumbbell, sandbag, and
other implement variations of the Olympic lifts can be
used to provide most of the metabolic effects desired
from the lifts—these lifts require far less instruction and
practice to be effective and are distinct enough to
not interfere with technique for the barbell lifts. (It
should be noted that these exercises do not include
the medicine ball clean, because it is hopelessly lame
and has no place in anyone’s training.)


Anonymous said...

I love Greg's article. The more you get into weightlifting (three years for me now, training for two hours four times a week with a very good coach, and my technique still needs LOTS of work; I am competing at 69, current best 157; have been doing CF since 2005) the less you like what you see at some CF affiliates. Some of the Max "Snatch" attempts at CF games 09 were especially painful to watch. Well, some great lifting was going on there, too.

Morgan said...

Couldn't the same critique be made for virtually any powerlift or complex gymnastics movement? Why are O-lifts so incredibly special that they can't be used the way other movements are? Crossfit uses O-lifts for a different purpose than traditional O-lifting.
Yes there is benefit to doing small sets. But why does this preclude the benefits of using Snatches and C+J differently?
I do get PM, I have been to Everett's clinic, I go to an O-lift gym. But in my opinion Everett and O-lifters in general are simply being territorial.

Steffi said...

To learn a competitive (read: heavier load), good daedlift form takes some weeks. It is a simple movement. To learn to snatch or jerk (not so much to clean) takes some years.

Brian DeGennaro said...

Morgan, it's because the lifts always end up being extremely muscled in WoDs, especially by people who do not know how to do the lifts. The leg and hip extension becomes second (or third) to getting the weight from ground to shoulders or overhead. In most cases the third pull is neglected as well.

The Olympic lifts are about power, more specifically the aggressive hip extension and aggressive hip flexion that occurs when lifting weights. This gets neglected when anything says "for time" next to it. At the point of forgetting all form of the movement and getting from ground to shoulders/overhead, you are no longer doing the lifts but merely muscle clean/snatch ... maybe.

Boris said...

The problem is that people aren't interested in mastery... of anything really. They want what they want NOW. To become proficient with the lifts requires more time and concentrated effort than most people are willing to give. They assume 'good enough' is good enough - it's not, but best of luck convincing them of that.

If people can't coach or do a kettlebell swing, or front squat properly, what chance is there of doing an OL properly?

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think sometimes good enough IS good enough. The Olympic lifts are a tool. I understand the concern that practice with poor form will create bad habits that are hard to reverse. However, I think the work it takes to teach someone to do the lifts safely and "good enough" is not the years it takes to become a competitive lifter. And I think learning to do the lifts "good enough" can be of tremendous athletic and fitness value to people looking for general physical preparedness.

Could these things be done with other implements? Yes. And they should. But a bent back sandbag clean or a poorly performed dumbbell snatch is not SAFER than the barbell movement. So the only REAL justification for avoiding the barbell versions of the lifts in high rep metcons is that it will hinder mastery of the lifts. But if you aren't looking for mastery of the lifts and are fine with safety and proficiency, go for it. The fact is that half the people doing olympic lifting in this country today wouldn't be doing them AT ALL if it were not for CrossFit's use of them in the both high and low rep modalities.

As for the Games Snatch, ugly doesn't even begin to describe it. But who cares. Get it over your head. Would a dedicated O-lifter have crushed that? Yes, but in all the time he or she was practicing the snatch they likely would have neglected their trail running, rowing, muscle-ups, longer metcon, none of which are LESS valuable than o-lifts for someone whose goal is fitness rather than lifting competitions.

The reason CF uses barbells is because they are a tool. They allow you to move larger loads, longer distances, more quickly whether it is 30 reps to 1 rep. There is no substitute. And for someone interested in our definition of fitness, you need to be able to express that power across broad times.

Teach safety, teach proficiency. Make sure people understand that this is an expression of lower body power so that is accomplishes our goal. But if the lifter does not have the perfect bar path or begins the second pull an inch lower than they should, or lacks the flexibility to receive the weight with their a$$ less than an inch from the floor, I am still comfortable allowing them to do the lifts for high or low reps.

We have 4 coaches at our gym that are USAW Certified and 4 that have completed Mike Bergener's CF certification. We take it seriously as should all the other affiliates. But that some affiliates have less than stellar coaching (true of ALL aspects of CF, not just oly lifting) is not reason to say the o-lift prescription is CF is flawed or that we should all aspire to the same lifting skills of a competitive lifter.

That was long. Sorry.