With CrossFit Games athlete, Alessandra Pichelli at the #liftlikeagirl seminar
On 8 September I attended the #liftlikeagirl Olympic lifting seminar at Diablo CrossFit. The coaches for the seminar are supremely talented athletes who perform at the elite level in their chosen disciplines. It was truly a privilege to listen to the wisdom and insight from Carrie Olsen (world record holder in her weight class for snatch, clean and jerk and jerk), Alessandra Pichelli (7 times CrossFit Games athlete; 1x team and 6x individual), Alyssa Ritchie (2020 Olympic hopeful with a 7th place finish in a recent world championship event)
With Masters World Record Holder, Carrie Olsen
The class was attended by 24 people (4 guys were not deterred by the title of the seminar and signed up) all eager to learn more about Olympic lifting. At the beginning, when the host asked people about what they hoped to get out of the day, there was a wide range of answers including learning to get under the bar faster, feeling more comfortable in the squat and figuring out how to jerk.
Since the last seminar I attended I have become more and more comfortable with Olympic lifting. It helps that at my gym, SchuBox Athletics, we have snatch and clean days every week. However, there’s always room to improve. Here are some of the cues and tips which I managed to note down in between everything. They are not exhaustive, nor will they necessarily make sense to everyone. They’re just a list of things which resonated with me and which I don’t want to forget about. Hopefully they’ll be useful for you too.
The balance point during the lift is from the mid foot to the back of the foot.
As you start the first pull and the bar approaches your knees, move them back in a manner that feels as if someone is pushing your knees backwards
All the power for the lift is from the legs and pushing through the ground is a good cue to unlock that power.
Actively pull the bar into your hips. Control this action. But keep your feet flat until the bar hits your hips.
In the set up, keep your knuckles pointing down – this helps activate the lats (which I wasn’t doing). It’s important to engage your lats and ensure that you have adequate tension in them. However, your forearms should be loose.
As you start the lift, look at horizon and lead with your chin.
Also during the set up and before starting the lift, feel as if you are bending the bar backwards
On the jerk, you need to drive your head through your arms aggressively
During the jerk, the bar should only move around 4 inches from your shoulder to the top of your head before you’ve dropped under it and begin pushing up with your arms. Feel the push in your quads.
There were loads of other pearls of wisdom shared with the group in the, all-too-short, 2 hours the coaches spent with us but those are the ones I noted and which resonated with me the most. I’m working to put them into action and hopefully improve my Olympic lifting. They mentioned that the plan is to host more seminars in the future, so keep an eye on the Diablo CrossFit website and Instagram account.
Let me know if any of these work for you and also feel free to share any tips and tricks that have made a difference to your lifts.
Meeting Greg Glassman at the 2017 California Regional
The CrossFit world is abuzz with talk of the new format the Games will be taking on. People are both skeptical and excited. Some feel that Greg Glassman has lost the plot while others jokingly hoped that this spelled the end of Dave Castro and his brutal Open workout programming. Still others mused about moving to remote locations where there are few affiliates and the chances of being crowned Fittest in the Country are higher.
The outlined updates may appear too radical but humans are always resistant to change. CrossFitters around the globe want the competition they know and love. But if you look at the history of the CrossFit Games, it quickly becomes evident that it has been in a constant state of flux since its inception. Greg Glassman, Dave Castro and co. have been leading the fans and athletes on an ever-evolving journey of fitness delight. From the Open competition through the various Regional events to the Games, the pursuit of the elusive and sought-after title, Fittest on Earth, has been a moving target. In fact, this is a large part of the appeal of CrossFit as practiced by affiliate athletes around the world on a daily basis and, also, the appeal of the Sport of Fitness that is the Games.
Whatever the future holds, experience has taught us that we’re in for a roller coaster ride of epic proportions. Whatever else happens, my hope is that the new rules will not be explained by Dave Castro on a chalk board…
It’s just been announced that the Dubai Fitness Championship is the first sanctioned event for Games qualifying and will now be the Dubai CrossFit Championship.
In the last few months, my running has been improving slowly but surely. I’m still in the middle of the pack but I’ve been trying to push a bit harder. This morning I was reminded of one of my earlier posts where I spoke about the advice one of my super-fast runner friends passed along. He said, “To run faster, you need to run faster.” Simple and to the point.
Keeping this in mind during the run portions of today’s workout allowed me to maintain a stronger pace than usual. Generally, for this type of session, I’d finish the first mile in about 8:20-8:30. I managed 7:59 and was able to begin the deadlifts almost immediately after. For me, that was a fairly significant improvement and I was able to deliver a similar effort on the 800m and 400m sections as well.
Our coach wanted us to do the deadlifts unbroken. In the early rounds I didn’t manage this but, somehow, in the last two, I was able to. I was pretty chuffed with that because earlier this year, in Open workout 18.4, I did all the 225# deadlifts in singles. For a long time push-ups have been one of my many nemeses. Today felt like a bit of a breakthrough as well. I managed to do sets of 10 and 5 throughout and finished with an unbroken set of 15. The sit-ups were a grind (especially after toes-to-bar yesterday) but probably the least taxing movement for the day.
I’m excited to be making some good progress. Faster on the run, stronger on the deadlifts and more stamina on the push-ups. Long may this trend continue.
The man, the myth, the legend! Coach Glassman himself. What a privilege this was.
I have to admit that I was a bit starstruck meeting the founder of CrossFit . The OG himself. He was incredibly approachable and friendly. He happily signed my shirt. He asked us some questions about where we’re from and which affiliate we belong to. Whether we were enjoying the Regionals. One of the highlights of the trip for me.
Over the coming days I’ll post some photos of the interesting people my friends and I met when we attended the California Regionals of the CrossFit Games in Del Mar, San Diego.
The first athlete I was able to meet and get a photo with was Jamie Hagiya.
What a class act. Jamie came out of the warm up area and interacted with fans for a good few minutes. She was super-friendly. She laughed with us and posed for photos. I posted this photo on Instagram and she even responded.
The Ireland reference is because my Cape Town accent prompted Jamie to ask where we were from. Answering, ‘Dublin’ was obviously confusing since I didn’t add California. It was cool to share a laugh with her.
Look out for Part 2.
Did any of you attend any Regionals events? Did you meet anyone fun?
What a great experience. We started off with quite a long warm up which Rob says he does on any day he is lifting (for the record, he has up to 9 sessions a week). It took almost an hour. By the end of it, your muscles and tendons are pretty thoroughly stretched and you’re sweating already. And the lifting hasn’t even begun.
Since I’m no expert, I’ll not try and explain the details of what we were taught. What I’ll do instead is give some of the cues and tips passed on by Rob and the other experts on the day. Things which stuck in my mind and which I’ll be working on as I strive to improve my technique. The day was well structured. We started with some drills to learn the snatch technique. This was followed by time spent working up to a one rep max for each of us. Rob, Jordan and Jaden then showed us how it’s supposed to be done. They demonstrated the snatch and moved weights which I can only dream of lifting. Totally impressive. We took a break for lunch during which Rob shared some great insights into the world of weightlifting. After lunch it was time for cleans (first we did an abbreviated version of the warm up). In much the same way as the snatch, we started with some drills and then worked on our 1RMs. Jerks were next. The demonstration from the pros was just as impressive for clean and jerks as it was for the snatches. Rob finished up the seminar with some accessory strength exercises.
Jordan (left), Rob (top right) and Jaden (bottom right) showing us how it’s done
On to the cues and tips:
the shrug is actually the start of pulling yourself under the bar vs a move to pull the bar higher
expect the bar – as the bar reaches its high point in the pull, expect the weight
meet the bar in the clean – it should land on your shoulders without hearing the sound of the weight or the spinning of the barbell
chest out throughout – pigeon chest
eyes up – looking down makes you fall forward
weight always on your heels except right at the beginning of the 1st pull when you move it to the balls of your feet
pull is almost straight up – Rob showed this to great effect by standing right in front of one of the lifters during their snatch. If the bar is on the right path it shouldn’t hit the person standing there
leg drive is upwards – you don’t drive your hips/waist forward – the bar meets the hips/waist as a result of the upwards movement
there is no leaning back
after full extension is reached, you need to stamp down on your heels as you receive the weight and go into the squat
your arms should not be involved in the pull except to guide the bar path – they should be relaxed and loose as the power comes from the leg drive
jerk split is forward and back at the same with bodyweight staying down the middle
core tight throughout – breath in to tighten everything at the start of the lift
17 year old Jaden Washington with a massive clean and jerk
I realize that these cues and tips may not make too much sense without the context of the lift so please reach out to me if you have specific questions. Some of them are quite general though and I hope they’re useful.
All-in-all it was a fantastic day. I learned a lot. I PR’ed my snatch and my clean. I feel a lot more confident about Olympic weightlifting now but I still have a lot to work on. I forget to breath in at the start (in fact, I breath out) for one and I look down quite often. My arms also swing forward during the final extension. I’m looking forward to continuing my practice and hope to improve my technique to the point were I’m comfortable with the lifts. I Will CrossFit is also planning to start some classes focused on Olympic weightlifting, which will be totally cool.
Thanks for reading. Any cues or tips and tricks from your side? Let me know in the comments.