Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Weightlifting and Mobility

Thanks to all those who have attended the Weightlifting for CrossFitters seminars. You have without exception been a pleasure to teach and we hope that you continue to reap the benefits of the seminar in your training.

Those who attended will know that I regard flexibility or mobility as important to the point of critical in olympic lifting. Without adequate mobility, attainment of the different positions will be challenging at best or impossible at worst, with the additional factor of increased injury risk. I describe four stretches for improving the key positions seen in olympic weightlifting. These broadly improve mobility at the ankle, in the squat, in the front rack and in the over head positions.

As I have mentioned at all the seminars, there are a range of resources out there for people looking to improve their mobility. Here is a collection of my favourites:

Scott Hagnas at the Performance Menu - videos of great drills to improve your mobility and 'flow' between positions

MobilityWOD - the popular daily mobility workout by CrossFit coach and physical therapist Kelly Starrett

Bulletproof your body @ T-Nation - by Tony Gentilcore, this has various assessments to make sure you have adequate mobility in the most important areas

Take care of your mobility and your lifting will improve considerably.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

CrossFitters' views on the Olympic Weightlifting seminar

We have had a great time coaching numerous athletes at various CF boxes around the country. Thanks to all those who have come and been such a pleasure to work with. We have included a sample of anonymous feedback left by those who have attended.

"Very good course. Clearly presented. Lots of practical! Approachable and friendly instructors. Brilliant."

"Wish I lived closer to Manchester so I could be involved in more regular lifting sessions with them."

"Definitely planning to add regular Olympic Lifting practise to my training schedule."

"My technique and confidence in two massive lifts has improved greatly!"

"Excellent coaches, very helpful. Would definitely recommend to other CrossFitters."

"Well structured and it was delivered in a systematic way that broke the lifts into easy to follow sections."

"Awesome course guys, informative and inspiring. I think I have taken a lot from this course, thanks for your help."

"Both coaches had a lot of time for each individual and tailored advice from their experience to our needs."

"Great one day course. Loads of info and tips on technique/form. Over time I am certain my lifting will significantly improve."

"Enjoyed a lot, learned a lot and would like to thank you both for a great seminar."

"I think both Jamie and Fay were very thorough in their coaching style and teaching points. Both were clearly passionate and it showed throughout the day."

Email for more information

Friday, 17 June 2011

Olympic Weightlifting for CrossFitters

Fay and I are running a one-day seminar on Olympic Weightlifting for CrossFitters, at various CrossFit affiliates in the UK over the next few months. Please follow this link to get more info! Olympic Weightlifting for CrossFitters

Friday, 10 June 2011


Technique is everything in weightlifting. The best lifters in the world have the best technique. Strength is important, but getting stronger on its own will not make your PBs increase. To this end, time spent practising perfect technique at weights below your max is far more likely to improve your maxes, than chasing PBs and missing more often than you make. No-one cares how much you can miss. If you haven't been weightlifting for long (or even if you have), make it your goal to never miss a lift in a session, and pick your weights accordingly. The greatest progress I have made in the last year and a bit was when I did sets of 2-5 at 75-90% for a few weeks, then attempted big singles again.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Bar Path and the First Pull

Wanted to show using videos what I was talking about a fair bit this Sunday, which was the path the bar travels during the pull from the floor to the point of explosion. The sole purpose of the first pull is to get the bar from the floor into the optimum position for driving it explosively upwards. If the bar is not in the right position, then despite the lifter's best efforts at explosion and then the pull under, the bar will not land in the right place, either resulting in a miss, or a struggle to stand.

The bar must move slightly backwards and into the lifter as it rises during the first pull. To allow this, it must start over the middle of the foot (around the laces on the shoes), not right up on the shin. The lats should be engaged slightly in the start position to stop the bar drifting out. As the bar is lifted, the weight should be on the heels. The knees should be pushed back and flared out to the sides to move the bar upwards, with a focus on keeping the back angle exactly the same. Once the bar reaches the explosion point (mid-thigh on snatch, a bit lower on clean), then the jump/hip thrust is initiated to drive the bar upwards.

Watch the video below and note the path of the bar. It comes in on the first pull, then goes out slightly due to the explosive contact of the hips. Its movement is always upward primarily. The pull of the arms drives the lifter under and brings the bar back and over the centre of gravity.

In the below video, the bar path is forward off the floor. The lifter is too far over the bar, with his weight well on his toes and the pull is rushed. As a result, he jumps forward and has to fight to catch the bar. At a heavier weight, this would undoubtedly result in a missed lift.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Hang Snatch and Warm-up Videos

Here's a nice video demonstrating technique for the hang snatch. This guy does one hang power snatch and one hang snatch, which gives a nice comparison between the two, but more importantly shows that the pull and explosion look exactly the same, regardless of where the bar is received. Look for the good contact at the hips, as well as the strong position in the hang with flared knees and hips back.

I also wanted to post a video of the standard warm-up that we do each session. This is by no means a definitive warm-up and if you have specific mobility issues then they merit extra attention. It does however a provide a nice general warm-up to establish range-of-motion at each joint. Coupled with a few sets of dropping snatch balance and muscle snatches with an empty bar and you are good to go.

Finally, just on the subject of handcare, I picked up a big tub of Emulsifying Ointment from the pharmacist's the other day. This is perfect for putting on your hands after training, and costs a fraction of the price of the brand-name stuff (£3 vs £12 at my local shop). It is exactly the same stuff, but wasn't on the shelf at my pharmacist's, I had to ask for it. So if you're after some greasy ointment for your hands, look out for this. Don't forget to sand your calluses down with medium grit sandpaper first - this will stop then catching on the bar and tearing.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Contacting the bar

In class today we spent a lot of time working on a good contact of the bar on the thighs in the clean and at the hip crease in the snatch. This slow-motion video demonstrates extremely well what I am talking about. Notice how, once the bar has passed the knees, the thighs are explosively driven against the bar as the torso moves back. This achieves the most powerful jumping position to propel the bar upwards. As soon as the aggressive contact occurs, the movement is reversed, flexing the hips hard and pulling under  the bar into a squat. This is what we want to achieve.

Hand Care for Weightlifters

Back to business as usual now with this brilliant video from Donny Shankle (US 105) and Glenn Pendlay (coach at CalStrength, home of some strong boys and girls) on hand care for weightlifters.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Few items for sale

Just a quick one to say, I am selling my drumset and 2 bikes on ebay. Anyone interested, please have a look on Ebay!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Weightlifting in Slow Motion

Youtube is such a good resource for improving your weightlifting. I wanted to put up this brilliant video, which features slow motion footage of various 69kg lifters snatching. Of particular note is the contact of the bar at the hips. This explosive effort to contact of the bar once it has passed the knees it what drives it upwards. There is a distinct difference between the pull off the floor and this explosive second pull. Immediately following this explosive hip and knee extension, there is dramatic hip and knee flexion and a driving down of the body under the bar by the arms. The arms keep the bar close and moving in a straight line, finally punching out to lock it out overhead. All effort is directed into moving the bar up then moving the body under the bar.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Stretches for Weightlifting

A few stretches for weightlifting that I am using at the moment.

Calf Stretch
To improve the squat. Sit somewhere comfortable and, keeping your heel on the floor, drive your knee forward so the ankle is maximally dorsiflexed. Now put some weight on top of the thigh to aid the stretch. 20-30kg does well for me. You can contract-relax here or just sit it out. Its not too painful or awkward as stretches go, so is good for long periods sat in front of the TV. In fact, I'm doing it as I type.

Thoracic Mobility and Posterior Capsule Stretch
You need a foam roller and a disc for this one. 10kg is a good start, graduate to 20 or 25 as your mobility improves. Prepare for some pretty impressive crunching noises as well. Basically, lie on the foam roller, and imagine melting your upper back over it, extending as much as possible. Relaxed, deep breaths in and out and help open up the ribcage as well. The weight can be held on the chest, or out in front on straight arms to get a sly posterior gliding stretch at the same time. Work slowly up and down your upper back to open it up. Good for the overhead position

An exercise borrowed from the bodybuilders, but great for opening up the thoracic spine and stretching out the overhead position. Lie on the foam roller again and grab a light plate, 2.5-10kg is plenty. Tighten the abs, melt the thoracic spine over the roller, then lower the plate to the ground, pushing your head through as in a good jerk receiving position. Keep the arms straight and squeeze the shoulder blades down and back. Hold for 2, then pull back and repeat for reps.

Flexibility is paramount for weightlifting and I know as well as anybody that I don't have enough and need to work on it more. Stretching sucks, everyone hates it, but it's gotta be done. Do these at home in front of some good TV (not Britain's got talent, a complete misnomer judging from what I've seen) and improve your lifting.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Some videos from training

Thought I'd chuck up some videos from training recently and also mention my new role as Editor of SEMSoc - The sports and exercise medicine society. This society is run by myself and a few other medical students at the University of Manchester. We post regular articles and other resources on sports medicine, provide a forum for networking and organise lectures for interested students and professionals.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Injuries, Rehab and Self-reliance

Firstly, it has been a long time since I last posted. The reasons for this are multiple, but can mainly be traced back to laziness. I hope to put up some more videos of shoulder exercises in the near future and some mobilisations that I have found particularly useful.

One of the most important things I feel I have learned during my training and rehabbing of injuries along the way is the importance of understanding your particular problem and experimenting with exercises, stretches and other methods to try and find what works best for you. As an example, I discovered the other day a mobilisation for the thoracic spine, ribs and scapula that produced more improvement in my overhead position more in a few days then I have seen in months. I haven't been having any particular problems with my shoulders recently, but this has given me improved scapulothoracic mechanics to help avoid problems in the future. This mobilisation was discovered free-of-charge on the brilliant Mobility Wod , which I cannot recommend highly enough.

This has not been an uncommon experience for me. Whenever I have experienced an injury, my initial reaction is to research it; find out what causes it, how it presents and what treatment options exist, etc. The more you educate yourself about an injury, the better placed you are, both physically and mentally, to do something about it. I will then start rehab as soon as possible, experimenting until I find something that helps. It is true that we can injure ourselves badly in the gym, injuries that require expert input. But on the flipside, it is possible to suffer significant discomfort and drop in performance for something that is actually easily remediable. A classic example is a muscular trigger point; when released, the pain disappears dramatically.

This is why it is so important to stretch, to get on the foam roller or hockey balls, to try different exercises and see if you can't fix the problem yourself. To this end, expert input can be very useful. If you have done yourself a mischief, then get some who knows what they are doing to take a look at you. Better still, get several opinions. Just like rehab exercises, no one person or style of therapy holds all the keys to fixing your injuries and what works for one person may be totally disparate from what works with another. Get advice on your posture, strengths and weaknesses, then go work on them yourself, empowered with the new knowledge. Similarly, if what are you doing isn't working, discard it and try something else.

There are a huge number of ways to treat musculoskeletal dysfunction out there. Find what works for you and don't stop searching if you haven't yet found it.