So I don’t generally like putting out a bunch of informational content because whenever I see stuff like that, it usually looks like a bunch of broke ass, thirsty ass gofundme weightlifters or trainers looking to advertise with internet hits so they can do remote programming and fill their piggy bank.  However, I do like being helpful.  So if you have a question, just ask.

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Answering questions.  

So I was chatting with my homie TJ the other day and he mentioned that he’s like to start practicing the Olympic lifts but didn’t really know where to start.  He, like most people, work out in a bigger 24 hour workout type facility that is not equipped with bumper plates or lifting platforms.  TJ lifts.  He has covered his bases with the press, squat and deadlift and is a generally strong and fit person.  If this sounds like you, check out the video.  If that’s as far as you go with the lifts, that’s cool.  I genuinely think that most able bodied people should be able to do these movements.  These movements will also prepare you, should you pursue the lifts further by teaching yourself or finding a coach.

Enjoy.

-The Wizard of Occam

So you made weight.  Congratulations.  Now it’s time to do what you actually came here to do: the whole lifting of the weights thing.

I weighed in a whole kilo under what I needed to be last weekend.  and I was comfortable as fuck too which means I did a good job.  It then came time to ingest nutrients and more importantly, fluid as fast as possible so I wouldn’t be bloated and lazy when it came time to actually lift.  Remember, at BEST you only have 2 hours before your session starts.  I ended up with about an hour and a half.  So I took a grocery bag with me to weigh ins containing:

-Pedialyte

-Chocolate milk

-A banana

-Nutella

-Spoon

-Doritos

Remember a few key points from nutrition class: your body’s preferred fuel source is sugar, excess protein will basically be useless in the next 2 hours and fat slows down your digestion process.  So unless you want all this stuff sitting in your gut and not moving, I suggest you take it easy on anything fatty.  I had a spoonful of nutella to make me feel full and I was money.  The Doritos were just something salty to snack on but really served no other purpose.  The chocolate milk should be consumed first followed by you sipping on Pedialyte.  I drink other liquids as I compete, mostly just Redbull and shit like that.

If you start cramping while competing, don’t panic.  Just continue moving around and DO NOT sit down.  Pacing back and forth is preferred.

Once you’re done, go eat something delicious.  Just remember that you’re body will not be happy with you for the next couple days so don’t expect to feel really amazing right off the bat even after getting real food in you.

Hope this helps and good luck out there.

-Ben

I wrote this for my team the other day.  It’s something that I’m going to have to say again and again as long as I coach for a job.  At first it’s going to sound like NOT the right thing to say from the business standpoint.  But in my opinion it is the moral and ethical thing to say as a coach.  And the longer I do this job, the more comfortable I get and the less I care about what other people do besides myself and my group.  Personally speaking, weightlifting was not a healthy habit for me for a long time.  That doesn’t have to be the case for you or any of my lifters.  Hear me.

Gang,

Learning and eventually mastering a skill set is both a noble and incredibly difficult thing; even for such a skill as irrelevant to your life as weightlifting. But you have to enjoy going through it. You have to learn to take progress as it comes (and goes) and get some level of gratification out of it. If you can’t do this, then I honestly would rather you didn’t lift at all or lift elsewhere. We have an incredibly competitive but also a positive environment. I want you to enjoy it.
Do this after every practice:
Say to yourself TWO positive things that happened or TWO things that you are proud of that you did at practice.
If you can’t do that, it’s time to take a break. Progress and enjoyment while lifting weights is a lot like your world view. If you think you’re shitty and you suck then guess what: your progress and enjoyment will reflect that. The same goes for the opposite end of the spectrum.  If you’re overly satisfied with doing the work that is expected of you, then obviously you won’t be hungry enough to earn progress.  Somewhere in there, there’s a happy medium.
As always, I’m a resource for you guys. Take me aside during team hours if you’re having a rough time with training and we can find a solution to make your training work for you.

With care and respect,
-Ben

I have a message for you,

Nothing bothers you for the next 3 weeks.  Understand?  All your problems that you have right now, and there’s sure to be many because ’tis the season and all that, WILL be there when you get back from Florida.  So relax.  You’ve come this far.  You’ve obviously made weightlifting a priority in your life even if you’re there to get dead last in the J session.  So take it seriously.  Unless you plan on stepping on the podium, you’re going to Florida to lose.  And that’s OK.  Take it seriously and go out there and compete.  That’s how you have fun in this sport.

“But that’s not a balanced or healthy mindset.”

Guess what: neither is peaking for sport; which by definition is not natural or done for health.  You obviously don’t care about that since you’ve gotten unnaturally strong enough to compete at the American Open.  So live it up for the next few weeks.  And when it’s all over, eat too much, have a drink or two with your true friends and take care of the rest of your life.  Don’t go right back to the squat rack (unless of course you ARE one of the top lifters in the country and this is basically your job).

I’m going to eat one last decent meal on Thanksgiving and enjoy my family and friends.  After that, I plan on being as extreme as I god damn want to be.  I’ll see you on the other side.

That title in itself is sure to upset a keyboard warrior out there somewhere.  And actually he would bring some valid arguments as to why I’m incorrect.  So I’m just going to nip this one right off the bat.  We DO USE pulls of all sorts of variations to supplement our training.  In the sport of weightlifting, specificity is key.  So any exercise that resembles the contest lifts the most SHOULD have the most carryover; the key word in that being “should.”  In practice, this won’t always hold up as an absolute.

Young coaches, remember that before you address your trainee’s specific needs as a weightlifter, you must first cover their general needs as an athlete and a fully functional human.  The fact of the matter is that you will be coaching and dealing with regular people; people who go to school all day, sit behind a desk, stay up late with sick kids or arguing with their boyfriend.  ALL of these people will have some sort of movement pattern issue and the most common one you will see is people having problems with a proper hip hinge.  And while hinging at the hip obviously isn’t the ONLY thing that happens in a contest lift, it IS one of the most important moment patterns to perfect for the successful weightlifter.

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Image taken by THE Randy Strossen of Ironmind.  The RDL was originally brought to the USA by Nicu Vlad.  He demonstrated the lift to Jim Schmitz and others at the “Sports Palace” in SF and the term Romanian Deadlift was coined.

So, onto reasons why I teach the RDL before I teach the pull for the beginning/intermediate weightlifter:

  1. It helps to pattern a proper hip hinge.  Weightlifters (and most adults) will try to quad and low back their way through life.  DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN.  Develop the hinge pattern the way God intended; with ALL the muscles of the posterior chain involved as the prime movers.  The RDL isn’t the only way to develop the hinge; far from it (Wattup to all my Hardstyle Kettlebell homies out there).  But it is one of the best ways to LOAD the hinge pattern.
  2. Your trainee’s pull won’t even remotely resemble what a snatch or clean looks like.  This is why when I first introduce the pull, I’ll do it in a complex with a snatch or a clean.  That way the trainee will feel if they pulled on the bar the same for every rep.  This will help develop the rhythm and feel for when the trainee is finally ready to load up the pull as a legitimate assistance exercise.

Summery:

We DO utilize all sorts of pulls in our training so shut up if you’ve come here to defend the clean pull because there’s nothing to defend.  I simply teach the RDL first for the reasons above.  

Here’s a link to another bloggy blog for you.

Yasha’s Thoughts.

I don’t know Yasha personally but I know I’ve seen him at national meets over the years.  One of his blogs popped up on my FB feed.  Every one I’ve read since has been gold.  This one in particular is about the always under appreciated shoulder press as it is applied to weightlifting.

-Ben

  1. Rear leg elevated single leg split squat (driving through front heel to activate the glute).
  2. Single leg DB RDL.
  3. Behind the neck Dip N’ Split
  4. Single arm split leg DB press (pressing with the same side as the leg that’s out front.  Again pushing through that front heel.  Alternating feet.)
  5. High pulls (all variations).  We’ve always done them but they come up more frequently with the emphasis on upper body involvement and “activity through the middle.”

Come at me bro.

Honorable mention: Single arm farmer carry.  (Both lats engaged. Elbow slightly bent and reaching behind.  Neutral spine.)

Gems.

October 9, 2015

Greg Everett is an excellent communicator.  When he writes, his voice is succinct, specific and entertaining.  This little gem struck a chord with me this week.

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Sure it’s a common sentiment and blah blah blah but it’s worth more than 90% of the asinine quotes that people post on the internet every day.

A good coach is going to continually learn, add or change his perspective on his training process throughout his career.  New information can be gathered through the relationship he builds with his trainees, occasionally through his own experience, speaking to licensed and educated people in other fields or through looking at the literature (and I’m NOT talking about that shit you read for free on the internet).  In my opinion, only pulling from one or two of these sources, limits perspective when the goal is to try and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the trainee and the effect of your program.

I fell into some luck recently in my new situation by finding myself being surrounded by professionals who understand weightlifting but are also able to give me new insight on stuff we’ve been missing out on or neglecting.  As a result, I’ve made a few changes to my strategies that include sending athletes to get screened by professionals for muscle imbalances and getting them set up with the right corrective exercises.  One convenience is that since we all perform the same activity, we’re all going to have the same things to work on.  I’ve also implemented mandatory “prep” before my lifters are allowed to touch a barbell.  This prep changes day today and will change from training block to block to make sure all of our bases are covered.  This differs from my style even a few years ago where I would just leave it up to my lifters to take care of themselves before they lift.  Some would do a good job with a good mix of dynamic movements and activation routines, some would roll around on a foam roller for like 5 minutes and call it good and a few would do what I call “the Brett Farve warm-up” which is basically taking a knee or doing a few air squats before hitting the platform.

Here’s a little gem that I learned from a PT friend that I call “baby planks” because it’s part of a series that is based off of baby movements.  I’d like to state again that I DID NOT make this up and I’m not taking credit for it.  This particular version is the second step in the progression that gets pretty advanced.  Regular planks are pretty much useless because the stronger muscles lining your trunk will always take over.  Correctly set up, this plank is far superior for a number of reasons, the most important being that as weightlifters, we’re going to be prone to becoming lordotic if we don’t take care to correctly balance out our musculature.  Trainees might think that they’re building a strong ass but in many cases, they’re just getting more and more used to sticking their ass out; problematic when loading the spine and living pain free.

At the moment we run these 3x per week for just 5 ten second holds pre-workout.  It doesn’t take a whole lot to make sure your correct muscles are firing and we’ve got a whole series of stuff we have to get done before we hit the platform.

I could've done a better job getting rid of my lumbar curve. Next time I'm going to get a friend to tell me if I've hit neutral or not.

I could’ve done a better job getting rid of my lumbar curve. Next time I’m going to get a friend to tell me if I’ve hit neutral or not.

The set up is VERY important:

  1. Lie on the ground face down.
  2. Extend your arms in front of you, pinkies down.  Your finger tips should be touching and you should have enough space that your dome should fit in between your arms with room to spare.  DO NOT MOVE YOUR ARMS AT THIS POINT.  Trainees will try and cheat by putting their elbows lower.  Your weight will be pushed through your elbows engaging all the muscles lining your T-spine.
  3. Bring one of your legs up about 60 degrees.  This is the hardest part to get right.  The inside of your knee will be pushing into the ground with your foot in the air.  At this point, one of your hips will be raised.
  4. Bring your other leg up about 60 degrees.  At this point, your hips will be elevated with your belly still touching the ground.  This is your start position.  If somebody walks past you at this point, they’ll probably wonder what the hell you’re doing.  Just say that you’re “practicing” and they should “move along.”
  5. Elevate your torso.  Everything lifts up off of the ground at the same time by pushing through the inside of your knees and your elbows.  the lumbar curve in your spine should be disappearing.  If the trainee has a tough time with this, tell them to “Imagine that they are wearing a seatbelt.  Try and pull your seat belt towards your chest.”  Have a partner look alongside and make sure that all of the curves are taken out.  Some will be weak or hyper-mobile so keeping a neutral spine will be a challenge.  Some will begin shuddering like they’re doing 120MPH on the autobahn.  Rounding or bulging in the upper back is caused by dysfunction in the T-spine.

Say that 5 times fast.

Over the past month or so, I’ve been really stepping up my game on balancing out my team’s Olympic Lifting training with prehab exercises, functional movements and activation stuff to keep us healthy and prepared to train.  Part of this has been surrounding myself with the right people. Amadeo, the owner of CSP (the gym we share space with) is extremely educated on these movements and I do my best to steal information from him whenever I can.  Additionally, I’ve enlisted the help of a young hot shot who works at the premier athletic PT facility in Sacramento.  It never hurts to ask questions.  And I’m a firm believer that to be successful in the fitness industry, it’s best to stick to what you’re good at.  People don’t come to me to fix hips.  People come to me to fix their snatch, get stronger, faster, more balanced and better looking.  So I’ve been asking more questions and arming myself with more information. When the situation calls for it, I’ll ask others for help or even send my people elsewhere.

This handy little prep exercise is something I’ll throw in the beginning of a team workout or group exercise session.  I’ve been doing it myself for a few weeks now and it’s helped me uncover a gap in my armor.  Obviously this exercise is meant to prepare the glutes for extension (ya’know . . . like in Olympic lifting).  Having the calfs resting on the foam roller helps turn off the hamstring and keeps the exercise focused on the glute only.  If the trainee (in this case, myself) feels the movement work muscles in places BESIDES the glute, this could be a sign of weakness and overcompensation from other muscle groups.

The bottom from is the start position.  The top is the finish.  Have the trainee hold this position for 5 seconds or so until he/she feels the burn in the correct muscle (dat ass).

The bottom from is the start position. The top is the finish. Have the trainee hold this position for 5 seconds or so until he/she feels the burn in the correct muscle (dat ass).

2-3 sets of 5 on each leg is plenty.  You can superset this with other prep exercises in your toolbox that work different muscle groups.  In my case, I noticed that my left glute was actually significantly weaker than my right which may or may not be part of the problem puts me at a higher risk for low back injury.  I actually felt this initially in my right low back when I was trying to work my left glute.  Hold the top position isometrically for about 10 seconds until you feel your correct cheek come to life.  Other problems when doing this exercise is having the foam roller too low on the leg shank.  Put it high up on the calf so your brain doesn’t have such a tough time turning on the correct muscles.  Remember, this is for your ass, not your hamstrings.

Use this to compliment your hip abduction, external rotation and knee flexion prep exercises and your low half should be good to go with a proper dynamic warm-up.