We have lift-off!

Olympic weightlifting. I am suddenly obsessed. A couple of weeks ago I attended a weightlifting seminar run by California Strength. Rob Blackwell along with Jordan Weichers and Jaden Washington came to our CrossFit gym, I Will CrossFit, for a full day of coaching and training.

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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.

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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
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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.

 

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Saturday Suffering and Monday Moaning

WOD 16.2.13

Saturday’s Partner WOD

Saturday morning at I WILL CROSSFIT is always fun. For a given value of fun.

Coach Matt has us doing partner or team WODs. This Saturday we had a workout titled “Strung-out, Backwards, Upside Down, Fran.”  It was a tough one for me. Up until Saturday, I’d not been able to do Thrusters at 95 pounds, so I started the workout feeling rather nervous. My partner, Steve L., and I decided to split the reps and also to do 10 at a time.

After the 1 mile run, Steve made quick work of the first 10 Thrusters. I approached the bar with a boat load of trepidation. But Steve kept telling me I could do it. I reached down, raised the bar to my shoulder and went into the squat. Braced myself for a split second and pushed up. Transition into the press. I did it! I almost dropped the bar with excitement because I seriously didn’t expect I’d be able to manage. I calmed myself quickly though, there were still 59 more Thruster reps and 60 more pull-ups to complete before the workout was done. All-in-all, happy day for me. I was an exhausted puddle of sweat at the end but I feel a bit more comfortable about the Open now because 95 pound Thrusters are inevitable. Thanks for the encouragement Steve!

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Monday morning and the alarm goes off at 4:45am. Aaarggghhh. Already! Nooooo! I was still sore from Saturday. My quads, my abs, my lats, my shoulders. Actually, my whole body. I got ready anyway. The Open is less than two weeks away and I need all the training I can get. We always start our warm-ups with a jog up and down the gym track. This takes us by the WOD board and we all try and sneak a peek at what new torture awaits us. Today it was going to be a bunch of Clean and Jerks.

Cue further trepidation. My Clean technique is rather dirty. It needs a lot of work. I had maxed out at 145 pounds when we did baseline testing at the beginning of the year. At 155, I couldn’t get out of the squat. I was just stuck and ended up having to drop the weight.

WOD 16.2.15

Monday’s WOD

I started out conservatively – just the 45 pound bar for the first 6 reps – and focused on technique. It still sucked. I’m still working on the bouncing the weight off my hips on the way up. I lose power and momentum in that part of the lift. For the 5 reps I added another 20 pounds to the bar. Still manageable despite my fledgling abilities. Coach Matt pointed out that I could be more explosive on my split jerk as well. For the second set of 5 reps I added another 20 pounds (I’m more used to kilograms since I’m from South Africa, but with pounds it always seems like so much more, so I’m happy to report in pounds 🙂 ). Another 20 for 3 reps – still ok. For the first set of 2 reps I went up to 135 pounds. Pretty close to my 1 rep maximum of 145. I managed both reps but it was definitely more of an effort now. I took a bit of a longer break this time after loading the bar with a further 20 pounds. 155! If I lifted this, it would be a clean PR!

The other crossfitters all paused their lifting to watch and all shouted out various words of encouragement. I approached the bar. Set myself. And went for it. I got the bar onto my shoulders and went down into the squat. Here’s where I lost it last time. I gathered myself and lifted. And made it! Yay!!!! A clean PR!!! I still had the jerk to do and just about managed to get under the bar and lock out my arms.

A good day for PR’s. Steve S. also managed to improve on his clean max.

I only managed 3 rounds of the METCON but a good couple of days in the crossfit box for me. Still lots of work but I’m seeing the improvements thanks to brilliant coaching from Matt.

I’ve started cycling again. So look out for some updates in that arena soon.

Until next time. Thanks for reading and keep making a ruckus!