Monday, January 30, 2012

Full Range vs. Partial Movements-More Evidence

Here is the iconic picture of Ivan Chakarov showing us what a full range squat looks like.
Below is an interesting post that I read recently. It gives further evidence for the principal that we have always promoted, that full range exercises are superior to partial movements, even when  only partial movements are needed in the performance of the target sport or event. Of course partial movements also have their place in the total training scheme, but not exclusively or at the expense of full range exercises.
Of course no single study can "prove" anything and I don't think this really "settles the squatting debate" as Coach Probst titles his article. Any single study has limitations and we don't know much about the subjects in this case. What is their training backround, how frequently were they training, and what kind of weights were they squatting? However this does lend support to the idea that merely mimicking the sport positions in the weight room is not the way to optimize sport performance. Get strong through a full range of motion in the weight room, then apply that strength and power as you master the technical aspects of your sport on the field, track, or ring.
Settling the squatting debate
Jörg Probst – Throws Coach

Posted on 21 January 2012
Recently I’ve been reading some articles by German sport scientist and strength guru Dietmar Schmidtbleicher, who has been around since I can remember - a terrifyingly long time.
The debate about how to squat (deep or high, front or back) has been ongoing for just as long, it seems.
Personally, I never deep squatted. Worried about my knees and convinced by the argument that you don’t have to go that low because the knee angles in the discus movement are never that low anyway, I stuck to parallel and quarter squats, and most of these were done with the weight on my back - at least before my back injury.
So you could say I was clearly in the anti-deep squat camp.
Recently, Schmidtbleicher and his colleagues addressed these squatting issues with two well-designed research projects. Three groups of about 20 subjects were assigned evenly according to their performance in the counter-movement jump as measured during the initial testing phase.
The subjects then trained over 10 weeks with either deep front squats, deep back squats, or back squats to 120 degrees. During the first 4 weeks they did 5 sets of 8-10 reps, for weeks 5-8 they did 5 sets of 6-8 reps, and for the last two weeks they did 5 sets of 2-4 reps, always with 5 minutes rest between sets. We’re not told how frequently they trained.
The post-training dynamic maximum strength tests were carried out 3 days after the last training session, the counter-movement jump, drop jump and isometric strength tests were done 7 and again 14 days after the end of the training period.
The results were staggering: The two deep-squatting groups showed statistically highly significant (p ≤ 0.001) improvements in the 1RM for all three squatting variations, whereas the quarter squat group only showed highly significant improvements in the quarter squat, but actually went backwards in the two deep squatting 1RM tests.
Also, both deep squatting groups showed very significant or highly significant improvements on the jumps tests, whereas the quarter squat and control groups showed no statistically significant improvements at all.
So the increase in quarter squat strength could not be transferred to the counter-movement jump and the drop jump, although the maximum knee angles achieved in these jumps are more similar to the quarter squat than the deep squat. In other words, there was no transfer of the more angle-specific, faster type of squat to the jumping exercises.
Judging by the average values achieved by the various groups, the study was conducted with a sports student population rather than performance oriented athletes, but nevertheless, the fact that the results are so clear-cut to me is a good enough indication that deep squats, in particular front squats, are more effective for improving maximum strength as well as power/speed strength, provided you execute the concentric part of the movement as explosively as possible.
These studies only confirm what Schmidtbleicher and others have concluded in previous experiments, and they also explain why my maximum strength and power levels were never as good as they could and should have been.
The results also confirm Peter Lawler’s and Vern Gambetta’s credo that it is crucial to perform exercises over the full range of motion whenever possible.
So in relation to squatting my advice would be to squat deep, and preferably use the safer front squat variety, executed always with correct technique and after warming up properly, of course. Overhead squats are also an excellent squat variation to develop correct technique. I also like to use overhead squats with just a bar as a warm-up.


■D. Schmidtbleicher et al. (2009) Vergleich unterschiedlicher Kniebeugentechniken zur Entwicklung der Schnellkraft, BISp-Jahrbuch – Forschungsförderung 2008-09, pp.97-102.

■P. Lawler (2011) Australian Track & Field Coaches Association 2011 Conference, presentation.

■V. Gambetta (2011) Australian Track & Field Coaches Association 2011 Conference, presentation.

■V. Gambetta (2006) 2006 en vision ASTYM.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Some End of the Week Inspiration

What's not to like about lifting heavy weights with your feet on the floor? A little inspiration on a Friday.....

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Penn State Way

For anyone who follows football here in the United States the passing Coach Joe Paterno is a very sad time. His longevity and success are unmatched. The Penn State program was held in esteem as an example of doing things the right way. The events of past two months have irreversably changed that image. As for me, I will wait until all of the facts come out before I can know exactly what to feel about it although it certainly doesn't look good. I have to admit to a mixture of admiration for what was accomplished there along with a great deal of sadness for how it ended for Coach Paterno and for those who were victimized by what appears to be a lone deviant who was covered for and allowed to continue in the program. Time will eventually shed light on what really happened there.
Below is segment on the strength training program at Penn State. Like other aspects of their program, they did it their own way and it worked for them. It has always been my opinion that they won games more in spite of their approach to strength training than because of it. But as the video testifys, many believe they are doing it right. One thing I have learned about training over the years is that good athletes make coaches look good and believing in a program is probably the most important ingredient. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the "Penn State Way" in the years to come.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Emperor's New Clothes

 Am I missing something? Can anyone tell me how this "POWER PLUS 2" is an advancement in training methodology?

I imagine most of us are familiar with the fable "The Emperor's New Clothes" by Hans Christian Andersen.  It takes an innocent child without guile to see that this special invisible suit is really no suit at all. This has always been one of my favorite stories as it makes fun of pompous political correctness and blind obedience to tradition.

I could be wrong, but this apparatus looks to me like a smith machine set up inside of two power racks. 

The emperor is naked.

Of course the promotional video is heavy on testimonials and absent of any hard data. But tell me, how does two people, moving two ends of a bar siamese twin fashion, build teamwork on a football team of 50+ players (or a volleyball team, basketball team....etc.) more effectively than working hard togather, practicing togather, and playing togather? How is this more effective at motivating athletes than keeping records and posting them?
How many programs will buy this invisible suit of clothes?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Heavy Lifting-Tim Tebow's VIce?

Tebow certainly looks like he trains hard and heavy.

I can't remember anyone who has taken more heat than Tim Tebow for being a great example and staying out of trouble. He is a great role model and conducts himself like you would hope a great athlete would, but seldom does. I think I've heard it all when this morning I read this segment in USAToday. Brian Billick, former coach of the Baltimore Ravens and currently a TV "analyst" said this....

As to what he'd do to improve Tebow's game, Billick offered something different than focusing on footwork, accuracy and reading defenses.

"I'm excited to see what happens with Tim Tebow in an entire offseason. He's gonna get a coach whisperer," said Billick, "to work on those mechanics.
"I think the No. 1 thing Tim Tebow has to do, I don't think he can lift the way he's lifted before. There's three people that can't lift the way Tim Tebow does: pro quarterbacks, pro tennis players and golfers."
Tebow packs 236 chiseled pounds onto his 6-3 frame.
"He has got to cut back on that rigid, thick (frame)," said Billick. "I know it keeps him alive as a running quarterback, but it does not bode well for his passing, the fluidity that he has to have. So that's, to me, job one in the offseason, he's got to change his (conditioning) mindset."

It's ironic to hear an athlete being called out for being to strong. The headline on the front of the web page said.....Analyst Billick: Tim Tebow must lay off weights  Actually, I don't interpret what Brian Billick is really saying as "don't lift", he is saying that maybe he needs to adjust his training to be able to focus more on the specific requirements of playing quarterback in the NFL. Whether his current physique and training is a liability or not, is open to debate and the future will answer that question soon enough. Personally, I like to see a QB who looks like he can mix it up with the other players and Tebow has proven that he can. Is there any truth to the "musclebound" myth? I thought  we laid that to rest decades ago. Whether Tebow needs more work on his throwing mechanics or flexibility is a question that I'll leave to his football coaches, but I don't think he is too big or too strong to be an NFL QB and I am looking forward to what he will do in the future as he gains experience in the NFL.

It's rare (like one of a kind rare) to see a QB with this kind of muscularity.
Personally I am not a big fan of these hip thrust exercises that seem to be the current rage among trendy trainers. I think you can get the job done much more comfortably and conveniently with RDL's and Pulls...etc. but if they float your boat, then go for it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Quick Comparison of Triple Extension Exercises

This little clip has been around for awhile. It was created by Safe-USA, an equipment manufacturer in Minnesota here in the USA. It does a nice job of illustrating the importance of the triple extension movements that are inherent in the Olympic style lifts. The split screen image of the clean next to the volleyball block is very effective in making the point to young athletes. A push press would also be a great comparison to a volleyball block at the net. The other examples are also very effective in showing how vital the triple extension is across a variety of sports. It shows the need for explosively training these movements in a coordinated total body manner.

Of course there are other means of training the triple extension in an explosive manner.Jumping drills emphasize the speed aspect and can also be overloaded with the use of vests or holding weights. Below is a machine that is marketed as a "ground based technology" that also allows an overload of the triple extension. Some claim that because the machine movements require less teaching, they are more time efficient and as effective in getting results. When one compares the time, space, and versatility of the equipment, I don't know how you can find anything more efficient than a barbell and a good coach.

Below is yet another try to duplicate movements easily done with barbells and dumbells with a more complex and expensive machine. To each his own.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Horse Turned Around

I can own up to a mistake. I am looking forward to making one sometime so I can prove it!

Seriously, after the last post it is clear that I misinterpreted some aspects of the video segment that we posted. Apparently Coach Cochran is not against power cleans. I have to admit that I really detest that whole loud football coach personna that is so prevalent in American football. I don't think it is necessary. Understand that I coached high school football for 23 years. Admittedly, I'm not Nick Saban. I can humbly say that I have a few coach of the year plaques and some championship trophies in my office, but winning was never as important to me as loyalty, honor, and relationships. I love seeing my former players succeed in life and I tried to be honest in all my dealings. Below is a link to an earlier post about one of my experiences....

When I saw that Hammer Fitness segment and Coach Cochran ranting football style, I figured he was giving the same old line I have heard in so many equipment sponsored clinics over the years, that the olympic style lifts are not worth teaching to other athletes and certain machines can do the job as well. I have heard the argument that the lifts are so technical that even top lifters are still trying to master them and so why should a football player be expected to learn them. I assumed that this video was in that genre. Of course assuming is never a good idea. Some of our readers have pointed out that Coach Cochran does, indeed, include variations of the olympic lifts in his programs. Below is some evidence. I concede that point. I was mistaken. However I would still encourage him to get his facts about Shane and his coaches as well as the state of lifting in the USA before he spouts off with such authority. I still believe most of the footballcentric "strength" coaches are a joke. They are high on motivation and low on actually teaching lifting technique. Luckily, at that level they are mainly teaching fish to swim (great natural athletes who are born to excel just as a fish doesn't need to take swimming lessons), in other words the athletes' talent level is such that almost anything that doesn't injure them will appear to work. Do no harm, yell alot, feed them well and everyone will think you are doing a great job. Anyway, I'm sure the Alabama coaches are riding high high right now and we wish them the best.
Julio Jones Workout
Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons and formerly a player at the University of Alabama learned a strong workout ethic mainly due in part to Scott Cochran, the man that takes credit for making a monster of a palyer with a lean frame with Julio Jones’ workout. Julio Jones has been a freakish athlete since High School and continues to pride himself on hard workouts. Here is a sample Julio Jones type workout.
Julio Jones Workout
Day 1
Hang Clean 4×5
Squat 5×5
Bench 5×5
Barbell Press 5×4
Auxiliary Lifts
Chinups 3×10
Push ups 3×15-20
Manual Neck 4×10
Weighted Sit ups 3×15
Ab Circuit 5×20
Rotator Cuff Circuit 1×10
Day 2
Hang Snatch 4×5
Step ups 4×5
Incline Bench 4×5
Clean Pull 4×5
Auxiliary Lifts
Glute/Ham Raise 3×10
Leg Curl 3×10
Barbell Curl 3×10
Manual Neck 4×10
Weighted Sit ups 3×15
Ab Circuit 5×20
Rotator Cuff 1×10
Day 3
Power Clean 5×3
Split Jerk 2×5
Squat 4×5
Bench 4×5
Auxiliary Lifts
Hammer Back Circuit 3×10
Plate Raise 3×10
Manual Neck 4×10
Weighted Sit ups 3×15
Ab Circuit 5×20
Rotator Cuff Circuit 1×10
Get an athletic body and workout

Nothing too unusual or innovative there, just basic and typical of what many football programs are doing with their "freakish" athletes. (their word, not mine) I wonder some about the order of the exercises listed. Like why you would do hang snatches, then step ups, inclines, then clean pulls? Leg curls after glute ham raises? Why both? Of course there may be a good reason or the article may be misprinting the workouts as well. This is, of course, just an example.
Below is a clip showing the Crimson Tide weight room. Very impressive and obviously equipped for doing olympic variations, although I personally prefer open platforms rather than the connection to the power racks,but that is the current rage.To each his own. Anyone would love to have a facility like this for training their athletes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The East End of a West Bound Horse

There is stupid, and there is assinine, but this is off the charts.I don't even know where to begin. What an idiot. What is this about Shane Hammen in 4 Olympics? Doing the power clean and jerk for a living? Two scientific looking coaches and a video guy following him around? What planet does this guy come from? Who let him on stage? Who is dumb enough to pay good money to sit and listen to this?

Somebody please tell him you don't have to yell when you have a microphone. This is the lamest excuse for a presentation that we've seen in a long time. Unfortunately this is what passes for a strength and conditioning coach at many footballcentric American universities today.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Talent Identification for Lifters, Throwers, or Any Athlete

This guy is better suited for volleyball, basketball, or maybe fruit picking, than weightlifting!

What talent identification criteria are important for you when working with a new lifter?
This is a really interesting discussion that I ran across recently. Posted below are some responses from some top American weightlifting coaches from past several decades. I would propose that identifying throwing talent would follow a similar paradigm.
I remember about 24 or so years ago Angel Spassov, who was billed as a Bulgarian weightlifting coach and sponsored by the NSCA, toured the United States giving seminars in several major cities. I attended his lecture in Phoenix. One memory that stuck with me over the years was when he was asked about "sport psychology" in Bulgaria. At the time this was kind of an emerging field here in the U.S. In fact I was just completing a master's program in exercise science at Northern Arizona University at the time we had just done a unit on "sport psychology". The main emphasis was on motivating athletes and facilitating the mind set for high performance. Well, I remember that Mr. Spassov did not understand what was being asked. I'm sure the language barrier was part of it, although he spoke very good english. It took a few attempts at questioning him to get to the crux of the issue. He said that in Bulgaria (at least at that time) that there was no such thing as "sports psychology". Athletes were motivated by opportunities for a better lifestyle and those who did not perform were sent home and replaced. Not much wisdom there for those of us in a free market economy where the opportunities are greater and where there are many more lucrative activities.
That is the gist of the responses below. All the inate talent in the world is worthless without the right competitive attitude and you can't really maufacture that. Sometimes lack of inate talent can be compensated for (to a degree) with a high level of competitiveness, determination, and hard, smart work. Of course there are limits to what can be accomplished without sufficient genetic potential, but who knows until we try. It is apparent that those who have dealt with it over the years prefer to work with those who really want to do it and don't waste much time trying to "sell" the sport to those who may seem to have the physical attributes but are mental midgets or emotional basketcases. Spoiled rich kids who have never had to fight for anything are generally a waste of time for anything beyond computer games.
In our last post we brought your attention to "Bones of Iron" by Matt Foreman. In the 4th chapter he also tackles this issue and is pretty much in line with the coaches below.

Gene Baker:
I have never had a talent identification day where athletes came to me to be tested to see if they are suited to be weightlifters.
I use the following criteria when working with athletes, primarily high school football and track athletes to screen them prior to teaching the Olympic lifts. After some observation and training time, I have suggested that weightlifting could be a good sport for them. Most of the time this is a smaller kid who may play some high school football, but at 5'2" and 110 pounds won't have a big time future in football. Or it may be one of my female throwers who is looking to do something after high school. Back when I was coaching weightlifting full time I was like Brian, and coached everyone that walked in the door.
1. General Physical Traits

Height, weight

Body proportions - Length of arms, legs, and back (helps in teaching technique that is most comfortable and powerful for the lifter)

Size of hands - Small hands may limit the lifters ability to hold heavy weights.

Flexibility - Look for good flexibility in ankles and shoulders

2. Athletic Ability
Knowing the new lifter's athletic background helps you determine if he/she is in shape, a good learner, and a good competitor. Usually if the new lifter is a star athlete, then teaching the lifts will be easy. If the new lifter has minimal athletic background or ability, then teaching the lifts can be difficult.

3. Heart
There are a lot of diagnostic tests used to evaluate athletic ability. You can measure speed, power, flexibility, etc. These tests don't tell you about the size of the heart of the competitor. The ability to compete and fight heavy weights is key trait for a lifter and must be considered. One thing I've done with new weightlifters and high school football players was to have a barbell loaded to 200+ pounds sitting in the weight room when the new lifters come in for their first workout. I watch for the people who walk up to the bar and try to lift it. This has been a good indicator in identifying who has the internal fire to lift big weights. Those who stand back in awe usually don't have the aggressive nature to attack heavy weights.

Brian Derwin:
Let me recall the first and LAST time I did talent identification. We did presentations at several middle schools and ran the kids through a battery of five or so tests. The top seven or so guys measured pretty talented and had NO interest in weightlifting.
What a complete waste of time. First and last time for me. I now coach any warm body that wanders in.

The pecking order of things I look for:

- A desire to do weightlifting as a sport (I have no interest in the strength and condition aspect for other sports)

- The discipline to prepare and an understanding of delayed gratification

- A modicum of flexibility

Pretty simple list, not so easy to find.

Harvey Newton:
As mentioned by my colleagues here, we all usually take whoever walks in the door. That's not to say we don't have an eye on certain characteristics, but who ever turns down a kid that says he/she wants to be a lifter?
A few years back, when no USA reps took part in a junior world championships (yes, at one time, we had the policy of 'no qualifying total, no travel'), Roger Nielsen and I traveled to the event. I officiated and both of us spent plenty of time talking with our international contacts. At one point, the Polish team doctor explained some of their talent ID criteria, which included looking at thumb length (key to a good hook grip) and blood testosterone (the higher, the better).
I asked the doctor what happens in the case of a young man wanting to learn weightlifting whose testosterone happened to be low? "Figure skating" was the doctor's response!

Maybe in a state-controlled system, but here we take whoever walks in the door. Vertical jump can certainly predict explosiveness. Flexibility, particularly of the ankles, hips, knees, elbows, shoulders, and wrists is crucial to early success.

Joe Hanson, well-known coach out of Jacksonville, FL, reminds me of an old adage I shared with him a few years back: "Nurture the oddballs." What I meant by that is, weightlifting draws out some non-mainstream characters, many very strong individualists. This is a challenge, especially for a dictatorial type of coach. But from this pool of "oddballs" weightlifting is likely to get its best candidates, at least in my opinion.

Roger Nielsen:
I simply look at the common traits of overhead squat for flexibility, pull-ups for upper body strength, and squatting for lower body flexibility and strength.

Bob Takano:
Motor learning ability, history of athletic participation, and strength potential in that order.
Daniel Coyle recently wrote the following on his blog (talentcode. com). Pertinent to the recent discussion.
So I recently returned from a London sports-science conference where the discussion revolved around the mystery of talent identification. All over the world, in everything from academics to sports to music, millions of dollars and thousands of hours are being spent on singling out high-potential performers early on. And the plain truth is, most of these talent-ID programs are little better than rolling dice.

 Take the NFL, for instance, which represents the zenith of talent-identificati on science. At the pre-draft NFL combine, teams exhaustively test every physical and mental capacity known to science: strength, agility, explosiveness, intelligence. They look at miles of game film. They analyze every piece of available data. And each year, NFL teams manage get it absolutely wrong. In fact, out of the 40 top-rated combine performers over the past four years, only half are still in the league.

 A lot of smart people have been thinking about this, and what they've decided is this: the problem not that the measures are wrong. The problem is that measuring performance the wrong way to approach the question.
According to much of this new work, what matters is not current performance, but rather growth potential – what you might call the G-Factor — the complex, multi-faceted qualities that help someone learn and keep on learning, to work past inevitable plateaus; to adapt and be resourceful and keep improving.

Thing is, G-Factor can't be measured with a stopwatch or a tape measure. It's more subtle and complex. Which means that instead of looking at performance, you look for signs, subtle indicators — what a poker player might call tells. In other words, to locate the G-Factor you have to close your eyes, ignore the dazzle of current performance and instead try to detect the presence of a few key characteristics. Sort of like Moneyball, with character traits.

So what are the tells for the G-Factor? Here are two:

 One is early ownership. As Marjie Elferink-Gemser' s work shows, one pattern of successful athletes happens when they're 13 or so, when they develop a sense of ownership of their training. For the ones who succeed, this age is when they decide that it's not enough to simply be an obedient cog in the development machine — they begin to go farther, reaching beyond the program, deciding for themselves what their workouts will be, augmenting and customizing and addressing their weaknesses on their own.

Another tell is grit. This quality, investigated by the pioneering work of Angela Duckworth, refers to that signature combination of stubbornness, resourcefulness, creativity and adaptability that helps someone make the tough climb toward a longterm goal. Duckworth has come up with a simple questionnaire that measures the responder's grit. It has only 17 questions, and the respondent self-assesses their ability to stick with a project, see a goal to the end, etc.
Duckworth gave her grit test to 1,200 first-year West Point cadets before they began a brutal summer training course called the "Beast Barracks." It turned out that this test (which takes only a few minutes to complete) was eerily accurate at predicting whether or not a cadet succeeded, exceeding the predictions of West Point's exhaustive battery of NFL-combine- esque measures, which included tests of IQ, psychological profile, GPA, and physical fitness. Duckworth's grit test has been applied to other settings – academic ones, including KIPP schools — with similar levels of success. (Here's a good story about grit.)

From Harvey Newton:

....The question resulted from discussion with Kyle Pierce, who told me that his recent experience with the Columbian team training at LSU-S caused him to reconsider the mainstream talent ID mantra of vertical jump, etc. In fact, he mentioned current US coach at the OTC, Olympic Champion Zygmunt Smalcerz, responded to Kyle's inquiry on this topic by suggesting the bench press (!) as a key to talent identification.
Before you move to another page, consider what Zyggie was really saying. He evidently prefers to watch the amount of struggle a novice lifter will put into a repetition bench press when instructed to continue to lift. If the kid works hard, perhaps distorting his/her positions, but struggles (not giving up) to make another rep, this is the kind of kid that Zyggie wants for weightlifting. He's looking for psychological fight (heart, see Gene Baker below), not necessarily anything to do with upper body strength.

Quote from Geno Auriemma- coach of the Uconn Womens Basketball team:

"I'm still trying to figure out what motivates kids beside anger," Auriemma said. "I am still working on it, still trying to figure it out.
You try to tap into people's competitive spirit. And the top thing you try to find when you recruit kids for UConn is how competitive they are. If they are, they will respond to anything. All you need to do is push them in the proper direction because they want to win, play well and they take pride in what they do.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

No Excuse For Sloppy Technique

Below is a great explanation of why lifting technique should be every bit as important as throwing technique or technique for any sport. The idea that "I'm a thrower (or football player, or wrestler......etc.) not a weightlifter, so I don't need to waste time perfecting lifting technique." has never made any sense to me. Below Matt Foreman gives us a great explanation why. Matt recently published a great book, "Bones of Iron" I got a copy for Christmas and would recommend it to any serious strength athlete. You can get it from Amazon or Catalystathletics. 

You don’t do sloppy work at your job, do you?
If you’re an airplane mechanic, you don’t just spray some WD40 on a malfunctioning engine and then say, “That’s all I can do. I hope this sucker holds together.”
If you’re a paramedic, you don’t give an aspirin to a screaming car accident victim and then go sit down to have a sandwich. 
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you don’t lie on your couch and watch soap operas while your kids pee in the sink and fire a crossbow at the neighbor’s dog. 
The answer to all of this is NO (I hope). So, having said that, why would you perform the Olympic lifts with sloppy technique?
The reason I’m asking this is because I see plenty of people in my YouTube travels who are doing snatches and clean and jerks like they have a death wish. I’m obviously not going to mention any specific names or organizations, but I have seen some technical displays that make it seem like these athletes made a special Christmas list where they begged Santa for SLAP tears, concussions, and hyper-extended elbows. These people are doing the Olympic lifts with dreadful technique, and they’re also loading up the bar with maximum weights. You can practically see the Grim Reaper floating in the background of the freaking video clips.
Now, make sure you understand that I’m not a snobby weightlifting elitist who dumps on the technique of every lifter I see. I think we should say that there is a difference between “sloppy technique” and “developing technique.” “Developing technique” is what you see with an athlete who is still in the learning progression. When you see these athletes, it’s obvious that they have either been taught by somebody competent or they’ve at least taught themselves with a solid level of discipline and precision. Most of the people I see who post their videos on the Catalyst Athletics forum and ask for help have developing technique. These people need a lot of fine-tuning, but they’re already doing some things right because they’re working really hard to perfect their skills.
 “Sloppy technique” is a whole different ballgame. These cats are doing the Olympic lifts with all kinds of massive, freaky errors in their form. Enormous swinging arcs with the barbell, rounded backs, duck-walking all over the place, elbows ricocheting off the knees in the bottom of a clean, extreme pressouts on every lift, etc.. When you see these lifts, you know what I’m talking about. And as you might have guessed, almost all of these people are trying weights that are too heavy for them. Every failed attempt looks like it’s right on the tightrope of total disaster. They’re going too heavy, too fast, with not enough time spent on proper technique development. 
If any of you who are reading this are sloppy technique people, make sure you understand that I’m not insulting you. No disrespect meant, but you need to be told that you’re doing these lifts the wrong way because you’re rolling the dice with your health and you’ll never lift really big weights if your technique sucks. Some of you big guys might be arguing with me right now by saying, “Bulls***! I’ve got sloppy technique and I can clean 300 pounds! That’s more than everybody in my gym!” Listen pal, there are 130 pound women in this world who can clean 300 pounds. Keep everything in perspective.
Many of you have less-than-perfect technique, but you’re looking for good coaching and you’re putting a lot of focus on your form. Allow me to express my gratitude to you. You’re doing the right thing because you’re trying to get better. And trust me, you’re the ones who are going to eventually come out on top in this sport. 
For those of you who are using sloppy technique and not really making much of an effort to fix it, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself.        
Matt Foreman was a weightlifter for the Calpians team under coach John Thrush. He is a regular contributor to the Performance Menu. Check out his book, Bones of Iron: Collected Articles on the Life of the Strength Athlete.