Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sloppy Technique vs. Developing Technique

Clean sequence photos shows the bar brushing the upper thighs.

Below is another great article from Matt Foreman whom we have featured many times. He hits the nail on the head in this discussion of lifting technique.  "Perfect" technique is an elusive goal that even top flight lifters continually pursue. Athletes who do lifts like power cleans and power snatches are not going to have perfect technique either, of course. But the pursuit of developing better technique should be an ongoing process. Settling for sloppy technique is both dangerous and shortsighted.
At the bottom of this post are several Youtube clips of cleans and hang cleans, so common on the internet as Matt points out. The first one is labeled as "perfect form!" It certainly is better than many, but there is a glaring deficiency as lifter fails to bring the bar into his body. Granted he is certainly quite powerful and he does catch the bar with a solid rack. It is quite impressive what he is able to do, but how much more efficient he could be if he understood how to bring the bar in while getting his knees in front of the bar as illustrated above. The claim of "perfect form" shows that the coach in this case does not really understand solid clean technique or the myotatic stretch reflex.
The second video is more typical of the football mentality. The rack is poor and begs for wrist, elbow, shoulder, and low back problems. Shoulders are never over the bar during the pull and my pet peeve of claiming a 480 lb. lift when doing a much lighter weight for reps. This video alone proves that the whole concept of extrapolating a max single from reps is futile.
In the third video the key moment of the lift is partially blocked, but the lack of a good tight receiving position is obvious. The attempt to replace knowledge with cheerleading is also obvious. But, that is what many coaches think coaching is. Get fired up and just do it! Motivation is great, but first you have to know your rear end from a hole in the ground if you really want to get long range results and avoid injury.
Some bad technique flaws can cause immediate injury, such as a strained or broken wrist due to a poor rack. Other flaws such as catching a bar with a hyper-extended lumbar spine will cause disc deterioration that may not show up for awhile, but down the road when picking up a loose plate off the floor or unloading a bar the deteriorated disc will blow out and the poor athlete will say "All I did was bend over...."

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 is the football and track & field coach at Mountain View High School in Phoenix, AZ. A competitive weightliter for twenty years, Foreman is a four-time National Championship bronze medalist, two-time American Open silver medalist, three-time American Open bronze medalist, two-time National Collegiate Champion, 2004 US Olympic Trials competitor, 2000 World University Championship Team USA competitor, and Arizona and Washington state record-holder. He was also First Team All-Region high school football player, lettered in high school wrestling and track, a high school national powerlifting champion, and a Scottish Highland Games competitor. Foreman has coached multiple regional, state, and national champions in track & field, powerlifting, and weightlifting, and was an assistant coach on 5A Arizona state runner-up football and track teams.

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