Thursday, January 28, 2016

Is There a Sports Gene?

Is Chinese weightlifting success genetic? Or is it result of their system of training? I would argue that both factors are influential along with the socio-economic environment as well.

A few years ago a book by David Epstein, a Sports Illustrated writer, caught my attention. "The Sports Gene: Inside the science of extraordinary athletic performance". To be honest, I never buy Sports Illustrated and seldom read it. If I do read it, it is usually while waiting at the dentist's office or somewhere similar. In this case however, a student asked me about an article about "sports genes", then gave me a copy. While it is in the usual Sports Illustrated style of spectacular superficiality, it was interesting. Interesting enough that I bought the book. The author makes the claim that scientists have identified the specific genes responsible for human traits such as speed, vertical jump, explosiveness,...etc. Personally, it is hard for me to believe there is a vertical jump gene, a sprint gene, a strength gene, or a gene responsible for any movement quality. It is not hard for me to imagine genes responsible for charactieristics such as muscle fiber types, tendon insertions, or body segment proportions all of which would influence movement.It seems to me that genes would dictate structural traits, not movement traits. Of course the structural characteristics have great impact on the movement characteristics, but do not fully determine the way that the individual develops these natural endowments.

The author goes on to point out that as elite athletes from various disciplines were examined, few were "genetic outliers". In other words, there are many less talented individuals who have the same genetic makeup as say, Usain Bolt. So obviously there is more to becoming a great athlete than just genetic potential. No surprise there. While "choosing the right parents" is definitely a desirable advantage, it is neither a guarantee of success, nor a sentence of failure.

Champions come in many shapes and sizes from all corners of the world. As we mentioned Usain Bolt above, it is ironic that his height and limb length, which now are viewed as reasons for his amazing performances, were originally viewed by his coaches to be a barrier to sprint success. In fact, his coaches originally thought that he could never be successful in the shorter sprints like the 100 meters because of his height. Now he is held up as an example of the future of sprinting. I guess that is why I am wary of any so called "experts" who spout their perspective as fact. The only facts that exist concerning human performance is that we really don't know what an individual might be capable of.
The famed Kenyan distance runners for example, were not able to be identified by their genes. The main predicting factor was whether or not these athletes were from an area where they had to run to school and back each day.
Yes, choose your parents wisely, but if you feel like you wish you could choose again, take heart in the fact that you have more to do with your ultimate success than your ancestors do.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Performing at your Best When it Counts

Halil Mutlu always seemed at his best when it counted the most.

Being able to summon your best performance at the right time is a very individual and inexact science at best.
Not long ago I had a short conversation with one of our legendary American throwers, Dr. LJ Silvester, and he expressed the opinion that peaking for a single competition was not a realistic goal. He said that the best one could do was to train smart, stay healthy, and give it your best each day in practice and competition. When you feel good, train hard. When you don't, back off. In his opinion there are too many factors in life to try to control and reach an elusive optimal level on a given day. Just do your best under the circumstances, whatever they may be.
While I am not against a long range training plan (and I don't think he is either), I have to admit that my experiences as both a coach and athlete validate his opinion. While I have studied and applied the periodization models that are part of the "body of knowledge" based on science and research,the real life process of training and competing is much more art than science.

It is my belief that you should begin training with an end in mind. It is vital to have a goal to train for. Long range planning includes infusing variety and progression into training.
But can even the best designed program insure success in competition? Of course not. Feeling ready to compete is very individual. Many benefit from more rest prior to major competitions. Last year in an article in the Arizona Republic newspaper, world class shot putter Ryan Whiting mentioned that he did no weight lifting the last 2 weeks of the season. Yet there are others who prefer to lift the morning of a competition, although this is usually very light and quick work like hang power snatches with 50-60%. I have seen athletes who could sleep under the stands or on the bleachers until minutes before their event, while others were "wired" and nervous before a PR performance. I have had great performances when I was rested and also when I was under stress and tired.
There is a cliche that says, "Success is when preparation meets opportunity." Preparation should be a constant process, we can't always control when the opportunities will arise. A Warrior attitude does not acknowledge fear of failure. Warrior attitude is having the mindset of competing in the moment. When I was a teenager, we used to cut school early on Wed. afternoons and hitch a ride across town to workout in the Allegheny Mountain Gym (which was in Les Cramer's basement) Once I showed up with a bad cold and mentioned it to him that I was not feeling good. He told me that I should have a great day then because you are actually stronger when you have a cold. Low and behold I squatted more than ever that day. I really believed for years that having a cold made one stronger. It wasn't until years later that I found out that he was full of it. Still, the lesson was not lost on me. The mind is powerful and what you believe can affect the reality of a situation. Do not get so dependent upon a routine or program to the point that it dictates your performance. Poor nights sleep? Tell yourself that you don't need sleep. Sore? Tell yourself that you throw better when you are sore. Weather bad? Tell yourself that it gives you an advantage because your opponents will let it bother them. In the mind of a Warrior, every obstacle can be used to their advantage. The bottom line is that smart preparation is desired, but competitions are decided in the moment. Prepare smart, then compete like a warrior.
Chinese lifters prepare to perform.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Jerk Supports Revisited

The best weightlifter of the year, ilyan ilyin,  breaking the world record at World Weightlifting Championships 2014105kg Men

242kg clean and jerk
A solid Jerk is essential to lifting success and strengthens everything from the fingers to the toes.

A few weeks ago we posted some videos and descriptions of some overhead support expercises that we like and feel are under appreciated and under used by many strength and power athletes. We were gratified to see Jim Schimtz post a similar article on the Ironmind website. Below is his article and a couple of videos of Kendrick Farris, an 85 kg. class American lifter doing some heavy Clean and Jerks. Kendrick uses the power jerk style rather than the more traditional split style. On limit lifts he drops extremely low under the bar into what is termed a squat jerk. Very impressive. Kendrick trains in Shreveport, LA. Check the archives on this site to see the original article with some demonstration videos of how to do these great exercises.

By Jim Schmitz
U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team Coach 1980, 1988 & 1992
Author of Olympic-style Weightlifting for Beginner & Intermediate Weightlifters Manual and DVD

Jerk support and jerk support and recover are two exercises that I think are fantastic and yet not utilized enough. I first heard about them in Strength & Health magazine some time in the early 1960s. York Barbell Company had developed its power rack and was promoting its many uses, from isometrics to partial lifts. I go to many weight training and weightlifting facilities and see many modern power racks and none of them look like the old York power rack: 8' tall with 6" between the support racks. I wonder why? Anyway, let me discuss the jerk support and jerk support and recover.

The jerk support is done by placing the bar in the rack at just above your head, maybe an inch or two above; if it is your first time I recommend 2 inches above your head. As you get better at it you lower the starting position, but not any lower than your head. You use your clean and jerk grip and your feet are hip- to shoulder-width apart. Squat directly underneath the bar with your arms extended and locked out directly above your ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles. Your arms, head, body, hips, and ankles must be directly in line under the bar in what is called the power position. The power position is the position where you catch or receive your power snatch and clean: approximately a quarter squat. Tense or tighten up all your muscles, and then stand up by pushing up with your arms and down with your legs. Practice a few times with a naked bar; then start adding weight. It will surprise you how wobbly you are at first. When you are fully erect, hold the weight for 2 seconds or so: the bar should be directly over your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. Lower the bar under control and repeat.

The jerk support and recover is different from the jerk support in that you start from the jerk split position and then recover to the standing position with your feet in line directly underneath the bar. You are trying to simulate your actual split jerk recovery; it won't be exact, but come as close as you can. Get your jerk grip, set your feet in your split position, and make sure you are directly underneath the bar with your arms straight and locked directly in line with your ears, shoulders, and hips. Tense up your muscles as in the jerk support and slowly and deliberately recover, bringing your feet in line as you stand up. This is actually quite tricky and has to be done in small steps: front foot comes back a little, back foot comes forward a little, front foot back a little more, and then the back foot comes forward and should be in line with the other foot. This may not be done as you would normall recover, but it is still very beneficial. This exercise really helps you develop control of the barbell over your head and will help you save record jerks.
The first few times you do the jerk support and jerk support and recover you will be all over the place. It's quite comical and always gets a smile and a laugh from first-timers and those watching. My 8' York imitation rack is only 6" between the supports and you are not supposed to hit them or slide up them—you are supposed to lift the weight without touching the racks, but everyone always hits the racks the first few times. I used to say that for every time you hit the racks you buy me a beer, but I had to stop that as I could never drink that much beer.

I recommend that you master the jerk support before going on to the jerk support and recover. I would also recommend that you only do the jerk support or the jerk support and recover once a week. Also, I like to have my lifters do the jerk support for 4 weeks then switch over to the jerk support and recover for 4 weeks then repeat with the jerk support. For reps and sets, I like 2 reps working up to a training weight and doing 3 sets of 2 reps. For example, if you clean and jerk 140 kg, you might do the following in the jerk support: 110 x 2, 130 x 2, 150 x 2, 160 x 3 x 2. For the jerk support and recover: 100 x 2, 125 x 2, 135 x 2, 145 x 3 x 2. You will handle less in the jerk support and recover as it is a more difficult movement. Also, how much weight you are able to lift will depend on the height at which you place the bar: the higher up the more weight.

I'm very surprised that I don't see more lifters and strength athletes do these two exercises. When you hold a very heavy weight over your head, every muscle in your body has to work, from your nose to your toes. The benefits are tremendous for developing tendon and ligament strength without the risk of injury as you are moving the weight a relatively short distance in the safety of a power rack. I do have to say there is one downside and that is loading and unloading the barbell. It's a fair amount of work lifting all the plates up and over your head and putting them on the bar and then taking them off. Maybe that's where you get all the strength development.
Enjoy and have fun doing the jerk support and jerk support and recover. I'm sure by doing them, IF you clean it, you WILL jerk it!

It's nice to have someone with the credibility of Jim Schmitz to concur. Remember, you saw it first here on HASKE WARRIOR STRENGTH.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Go My Son


A departure from lifting, but this site is about the Warrior Spirit. This has meant a lot to us for many years. After the Navajos returned to their own land following the long walk to Ft. Sumner at Bosque Redondo, their war leader, Manuelito, was one of the first to send his children to the govt. schools.

A few days before his death in 1893, the great chief, Hastinn Ch'il Haajiin (Manuelito) said, "My grandchild, education is the ladder. Tell our people to take it."

A young Navajo girl, Arlene Nofchissey Williams wrote and performed this song in the 1960's. It has been important ever since.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

"Romanian Deadlift" or RDL

Vlad doing some heavy back work.

The Deadlift movement has been making a comeback in strength and conditioning circles over the past several years. The CrossFit influence is a big reason. The types of deadlifts that we see commonly used are the conventional Deadlift, Sumo style, and Romanian deadlifts or RDLs.  While deadlifting is certainly a basic closed kinetic chain total body exercise; I think some caution must be used in integrating heavy deadlifting for training for sports other than Powerlifting. Personally, I do not think that sumo style deadlifting has much value for athletes involved in sports other than Powerlifting.It purposely shortens the range of motion to allow more weight to be lifted and the wide stance is not used in other sports.The conventional deadlift is an option, but some understanding is needed. The direct stress to the lower back requires to sufficient recovery time and the alternating grip causes torque in the back that is needs to be dealt with, Cycling really heavy lifts is vital. The over/under grip needs to be alternated if used.  I prefer pulls with both a clean and snatch grip (overhand of course) or even clean style deadlifts with a shrug. All are done with a flat back. What follows is an explanation by Jim Schmitz of the origin of a special pulling/deadlift type exercise that has come to be widely known as the RDL. This explanation was posted on the Ironmind website. Below Jim's story are several video clips. One is a pretty good IMO demonstration of the RDL. The feet stay flat, weight is shifted to the heels as the hips drift back. Back is locked in and arched while the bar is lowered close to the body to below knee level. Below that clip is an example of a pretty strong guy doing an exercise that is not really an RDL. His back rounds and his hips do not really move back. Also, he is wearing a belt. Kind of ironic to wear a belt for extra support of the very muscles that you are trying to strengthen. DON'T WEAR A BELT TO DO RDLs!!!! Finally the last clip is the man himself, Nicu Vlad winning gold at the 1984 Olympics. he went on to become the heaviest lifter ever to snatch double bodyweight doing 200 kg in the old 99 kg weight class.

RDL: Where It Came From, How to Do It
By Jim Schmitz

U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team Coach 1980, 1988 & 1992
Author of Olympic-style Weightlifting for Beginner & Intermediate Weightlifters Manual and DVD
"I get quite a kick out of all the mileage the RDL (Romanian deadlift) has gotten in the world of strength and conditioning. It seems I almost always come across the RDL exercise in every article written about training for power and sport in all the journals on the subject. The reason for my amusement is that the “discovery” of the RDL was in my gym, The Sports Palace, in San Francisco in 1990.

Olympic and world champion and world record holder Nicu Vlad, of Romania, and his coach Dragomir Cioroslan were conducting a clinic there. They were in the U.S. for the 1990 Goodwill Games that were being held in Seattle and Spokane, Washington. USA Weightlifting, for which I was president at the time, invited Nicu and Dragomir to conduct some clinics while they were here, and my gym was one of the locations. Part of the clinic was Nicu doing a workout where he cleaned and jerked around 220 kg to 230 kg, and then he proceeded to do this lift, a combination stiff-leg deadlift and regular deadlift, but actually neither. He did several sets, working up to 250 for triples.

Someone watching asked what the exercise was he was doing. Nicu just shrugged his shoulders and said it was to make his back strong for the clean. Dragomir also said the same; it was just a lift that Nicu had developed for his back and clean. Well, then everyone was really interested and asked Nicu to demonstrate it with lighter weights and describe how to do it. Someone taking notes asked what this lift was called. There was a long pause and Nicu and Dragomir didn’t have a name, so I said, “Let’s call it the Romanian deadlift or RDL for short,” and every one agreed and there you have the birth of the RDL. MILO publisher and editor-in-chief Randall Strossen was there taking photos.

Let me tell you how to correctly perform the RDL for those who may not be sure. You grab the bar with your clean grip, pull the bar to the tops of your thighs, but don’t complete the lift: knees are not locked out, chest is out, and back is flat. You then lower the bar to about two inches from the platform, keeping your back perfectly flat or arched and your knees slightly flexed, then you return to the almost erect position—but is very critical here not to fully lock the knees—then repeat. Two very important details are 1) your back stays flat or arched at all times, and 2) your knees stay slightly flexed at all times. This lift is almost all low back, glutes, and hamstrings. I recommend 3 to 5 reps with a weight 80% to 100% of your best clean. An interesting side note here is that Yoshinobu Miyake, Japan’s 1964 and 1968 Olympic champion, was at the clinic and he said he did the same exercise back in his prime, the 1960s."

Vlad demonstrating RDL

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Fastest, Most Significant Way to Lose Weight with Minimal Effort

Leanness does not come cheap.

The article below tries to explain the title. It's really misleading. There is NO fast, low effort way to lose significant weight. It takes time. It takes wise food selection in both quality and quantity. It takes effort in the form of exercise. If one is willing to invest time in learning what to eat, exercise discipline in portion sizes, and be physically active, then significant results are possible. There are no shortcuts. Nothing new there.

An exercise scientist reveals the fastest, most significant way to lose weight with minimal effort
Business Insider By Erin Brodwin
So you want to lose a few pounds.
You've heard the mantra: "Eat right. Work out."

But when it comes down to it, which one of those things will make a bigger difference in helping you achieve your weight-loss goals?

Is it really better to hit the gym four times this week or to order a salad instead of fries at lunch?

We asked Philip Stanforth, a professor of exercise science at the University of Texas and the executive director of the Fitness Institute of Texas, whether diet or fitness was more important for weight loss, and his answer surprised us.

"Studies tend to show that in terms of weight loss, diet plays a much bigger role than exercise," said Stanforth.

Here's why:

Exercise requires time and consistent effort, and it takes longer to see its results, said Stanforth. It also burns far fewer calories — and takes more time — than most people think. Alternatively, there are several high-sugar, high-fat, high-calorie foods that we can cut from our diets to see a pretty big change in our waistline, sometimes in a fairly short time period.

Stanforth puts it this way:

"You'd have to walk 35 miles to burn 3,500 calories. That's a lot of walking. But if you look at eating, a Snickers bar might have, say, 500 calories. It's going to be a lot easier to cut the Snickers bar than to do 5 miles of walking every day." (A single Snickers bar is about 220 calories, while a Snickers '2-to-go' is 440.)

Several studies back up Stanforth's suggestion.

One large review of 20 studies involving more than 3,000 people published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014 found that high-protein diets and meal replacements (low-calorie substitutes for heavier meals) were linked with better outcomes in terms of helping people keep weight off after a reduced-calorie diet period when compared with exercise. And a 2011 review looking at the relationship between fat mass and physical activity in kids concluded that being active is likely not the key determinant in unhealthy weight in children.

Still, exercise may come into play later on. Other studies, for example, suggest that people who lose weight and keep it off eat right and work out regularly.

Plus, exercise has other benefits, from helping to boost our mood and protect our bodies from the detrimental effects of aging to helping us manage the symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety. And building and maintaining muscle can often mean your body will actually burn more calories throughout the day.

So if you want to lose weight in 2016, consider adjusting your diet. And if you want to keep it off, get moving.

It feels great to be strong!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Lifting King Kong

On of the funniest things I have seen in awhile. I first saw this when reading Dave Boffa's review of it on the website, http://www.theoliftmag.com/
 Dave is a really great writer who makes very readable and humorous reports on all things dealing with lifting. This is an actual film made in South Korea that says in the English subtitles that it is based on true story, with a question mark. A retired (due to injury) lifter starts a weightlifting team at a girl's school. Apparently the South Korean film industry takes a different approach to film making than we do here in the U.S.A.  I wonder how a North Korean film would look? Of course it would have to include the Great Leader himself. Wouldn't that be inspiring?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Relieving Stress

View image on Twitter
I'll admit that I've felt like doing this more than once!

For the first post of 2016 we'll repost one of my favorite events of 2014. It's great to start a New Year stress free, but if that isn't possible, and for just about all of us it isn't. Then the next best thing is to b begin with a stress reliever........
They say that stress is resisting the urge to strangle someone who desperately needs it. Well, in this case there is a great stress release. It makes me feel good just to watch it. It's nice to see immediate justice meted out to ignorant meatheads. In front of a hundred thousand people no less.
It's nice to be strong.
Here is to a great 2016!