Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Russian perspective on the Bulgarian system

Awhile ago, I ran across this article by Glenn Pendlay, then of California Strength. This was a group of serious lifters here in the U.S. Glenn has been very successful here developing young lifters. I really agree with what he is saying. Learn from everyone, then find what works for YOU. I believe this applies as much to throwing techniques and training as much as lifting. Good stuff.

by Glenn Pendlay MS

My new friend Ruslev Khomenko, a Russian coach of Junior athletes, and I talked a fair amount about the Bulgarian system of training. When I first brought this up, I expected him to dismiss it as inferior to how he trained athletes. He did not do this, in fact he said it was a GREAT system, maybe the best. The qualification was this, it is the best, IF IT WORKS FOR YOU!!! In his opinion, it only works for some people… and if you dont belong to this select group, you can still be a great lifter, you just have to try something else. His best results were 135/160 at 62kg bodyweight, not good in his estimation, and the Bulgrian system hadnt worked for him. According to him, some people get a real deterioration in technique when they train to max all the time, others, for whatever reason, get more and more effecient. Some people thrive on frequent squatting, some simply dont.

This strikes me as a common sense attitude. Do what works. The Russians believe their “system” works for a wider variety of people, and doesnt produce as many injuries. But they, or at least Ruslev, agrees that the Bulgarian system is the “ideal” for a person with no weak points.

All of this brings up another interesting observation. There doesnt seem to be that much discussion among coaches from other countries about whos system is better or worse, who is right or wrong. Based off of a weeks worth of conversation with coaches from multiple European and Asian countries, it seems they agree on a few things. One is that effecient technique needs to be taught. Another is that a lifestyle has to be provided to the athlete and followed by the athlete that allows them to handle a high training load. Another is that the athlete has to continue to follow the program, increase the workload and increase the weights. Concerning training programs, I get the feeling that a lot of Europeans feel about the same way about this as Americans feel about the brand of shoes that a lifter wears. Yes, everyone has a preference, but does anyone really think that the brand of shoes that one wears will determine whether he or she will become a champion or not?

I got the feeling over and over while talking to coaches who have a history of producing multiple Junior World champions, World Champions, and even Olympic medalists that we here in America are worried about the wrong things. I got the feeling that we might better worry about sleep habits, eating habits, and various recovery methods than how often we go to maximum. Of course, all this only after we worry about picking the right people to coach in the first place. But I prefer to concentrate on what I can control.

This is not to say that how you train doesnt matter. It shouldnt be hard for anyone to think of several training programs that would not work at all with little problem. But the parameters that a successful program must exist within are well established, and it is also well established that many different programs exist within these parameters.

What are these parameters? Based on conversations with 8 of the male medalists and 3 of the female medalists at the 2010 Junior Worlds, as well as conversations with the Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Turkish coaches, here is how the best are currently training. The minimum training sessions per week that I encountered was 5, maximum 12. Minimum hours spent training per week was about 8, maximum about 18. I did not talk to the Chinese, who I dont doubt top this number. Everyone snatches. Everyone clean and jerks. Everyone squats and front squats. Everyone does power snatches and power cleans. Most do pulls. Many do some sort of pressing or push pressing. This group of exercises makes up most of the work done. Many have some sort of exercise which they do which isnt as widespread, some do jumping exercises, some bench press. A few do some sort of good morning exercise or stiff legged deadlift variation. Some do some variation of back raise, back extension, or Glute Ham raise. In no instance which I encountered did these “extra” exercises make up any sigificant part of the training load. No one does only singles. No one does sets of 10. Most use a variety of reps between 1 and 5. Most do snatches and/or clean and jerks, or some close variation, every workout or almost every workout with significant weights. The most interesting thing I encountered was a Russian coach from Chechnya who advocated lots of Kettlebell work for beginning lifters, including the throwing of the KB behind ones head. He only advocated it as a warmup for lifters who are not beginners.

If the preceeding has closed one mystery, it has certainly opened another. If the sets and reps, and time per week we go to maximum arent what is holding us back, then what is? If we dont do enough pulls, or do too many… if this is not the problem, then what is? Well, I do not know if I know the answer or not. But if the answer to that question is the same answer as to the question “what are the differences that I saw between us and the medalists?” then I have a few observations.

And that will be another post…


Monday, July 25, 2016

Teaching Weightlifting to Athletes From Other Sports

In 2016, most athletes from almost any sport use the lifts in training.

In a post last week we talked about the Olympic lifts and how we felt about them as training tools. A good discussion followed. A couple of the comments made clear to me that two of the main obstacles that keep many coaches from implementing these lifts are the idea that it takes too much time and that they have too many athletes. I would like to put these two myths to rest. First, it doesn't have to take alot of time. Of course, if your goal is to develop high level competitive lifters this is a time consuming labor intensive task. But to get athletes from other sports to master the basics safely need not take more than a couple of sessions. In that same vein, it isn't that difficult to teach a large group of athletes togather at the same time. Of course that is not how to train champions lifters, but athletes can pick up the essential skills in this fashion. Below are 2 segments of a friend of mine, Mike Burgener, who is well known among lifting enthusiasts. His son, Casey,has been and is one of the top American lifters recently. Mike is a humble high school coach, recently retired, who now is heavily involved in the cross-fit craze as an instructor. These segments demonstrate how to teach large groups in a short time.A solid enough foundation can be developed in a few sessions which will allow your group to get started and then refine and develop their technique. I could explain in greater detail, but as the cliche goes, a picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth ten thousand.Watch and learn from a master teacher and coach. Mike is not alone in doing this nor is this the only way to accomplish it. Many other coaches across the world are getting the job done. Tell me you don't like the lifts, fine. Tell me you don't know enough to teach them effectively, I say learn.Tell me you don't have the right equipment, I say find a way. But don't tell me you don't have enough time or that you have too many athletes. I won't accept that lame excuse. Below that is a clip of the Houston Track Team doing some credible lifts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dimas Part II

More video biography of Dimas. Essential watching for any serious athlete. Here in the United States, we have cause to celebrate. Pyrros has been hired as the new Technical Director for USA Weightlifting. It will be interesting to see how he impacts our training here.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Alternatives to Olympic Style Lifts?

Strong Alternatives
My first reaction when anyone talks about alternatives to the Olympic lifts is to say, "No, there are no alternatives!" I will readily admit to having some bias on this issue. I come by it honestly. This is coming from someone who grew up in Pennsylvania in the United States, not too far from York, the Mecca, Muscletown, USA. I visited the old York Barbell Company as often as I could when I was growing up. My daily choice of clothes usually included a York Barbell T-shirt. I have always been fascinated by weightlifting and what it could do for a person's body.I have conversed with John Grimek, Bob Hoffman, (I still have my signed copy of Strength and Health magazine) and watched Bob Bednarski,Bill March, Rick Holbrook, Gary Glenney, Bill Starr, Tommy Suggs and many others train. In other words, lifting is in my blood. All my children (both sons and daughters)grew up with a love for lifting that paved the way to competitive success as well as a solid physical consitution for other sports.So when someone talks about alternatives to the lifts, there had better be a good reason and the alternatives better be really good. As the years pass and maturity sets in, I have to admit that there are circumstances where an alternative or variation can be beneficial, if it is for the right reason. Following is an article I came across recently. I have to admit, I agree with some of it. As usual I will include some comments in Blue.

By Rich Jacobs, MS, SCCC, CSCS
Though Olympic lifts are great in many ways, like any training tool, they have limitations such as environment, training goals, or sport coach's expectations. These days, there are many (I would say more like a few )alternatives the strength and conditioning coach can use to build a comprehensive program that will increase power while mimicking the movement and results of Olympic lifts.
Before discussing alternatives, let's take a look at the purpose behind the Olympic lifts. Touted as the most powerful lifts by research and practitioners, they are primarily used to train powerful triple extension and utilize a full body movement that requires coordination and skill. Triple extension is the explosive concentric contraction of the glutes, quadriceps group, and gastrocnemious in unison to provide acceleration in all planes. Therefore, these lifts make sense to be used in athletics since every movement in sport requires triple extension. This is not the only reason however. The lifts are also great for developing total body coordination and summation of force. They stimulate the metabolism and promote a balanced "finernails to toenails" development. They are also fun and add a level of competitiveness to training, not to mention promoting dynamic flexibility. While these lifts are fantastically effective, there are a variety of ways (as effective?)to achieve powerful triple extension without requiring the extensive amount of time to teach these very complex movements. Does it really take that much time to teach an athlete?And in some cases, the alternatives are better when athletes display a lack of lifting skill. Why not work with them and improve their lifting skill? It's not "rocket science." In addition, performing an Olympic-only program may not provide sufficient opportunity to benefit from injury prevention techniques and body composition changes. Arguable, I think the lifts do. Another disadvantage is the limitation of multi-planar training. Olympic lifts are performed in the sagittal and frontal plane, and the transverse plane is left untrained. But the stabilization required for overhead lifting supports rotation. Other rotational exercises can easily be added.Am I saying that Olympic lifting may not be the best option for a strength and conditioning program? No. Good judgement there.It is important to understand that some strength coaches are met with many obstacles that may get in the way of developing their ideal training program. My opinion is: remove the obstacles. Don't let limitations define your program. Sport coaches may not like certain exercises, the facility may not have the proper equipment (bumper plates and/or platforms), or the head strength coach has a different philosophy regarding weight training. But no matter the obstacle, there are other ways to achieve an explosive triple extension without using a traditional Olympic lift.

At Xavier University, we do not have platforms, bumper plates, or the space to perform many Olympic lifts, so I am forced to adapt to the environment by using plyometric boxes, dumbbells, Olympic bars, the Vertimax, and kettle bells. This doesn't make much sense, a good bumper set, while expensive, is still probably cheaper than all that other junk. I hope in the meanwhile you are doing all you can to get the right equipment. Armed with these alternatives, my objective is to achieve an explosive triple extension through movements other than the traditional Olympic lifts.
The Olympic lifts have been scientifically proven to be very powerful, so I feel that alternatives must also have some validity to them as well. Through research, it is proven to achieve a positive adaptation with 0-15% of the athlete's body weight when training for lower body power. It is also possible to increase power through an increase in strength according to the power formula (Mass x distance/ Time). By using scientific data, the possibilities appear to be endless.
All of my programs start with a foundation of what I want to implement. As I have mentioned in past articles, I always meet with the head coach to understand what he or she wants accomplished for their team. Good job.After the coach has voiced their expectations, I complete the program to please all parties.
Working with the women's basketball team here provides me with opportunities to highlight explosive movements in all three planes. Our off-season program consisted of two arm kettle bell swings, barbell power shrugs, high pulls, and push jerks. These movements are building blocks to the clean and snatch, but I am not actually performing the catches/rack and recovery. Why not? These athletes can learn those movements if they can learn to play basketball. However, I am achieving triple extension and activating the full body to incorporate a core component.
In the past, I have used the Vertimax to achieve an explosive triple extension. I like how easy the Vertimax is to set up and use to enhance vertical power, so it is a good tool to have in the box.
The preseason program builds on the off-season program. I progress the movements to a single-arm dumbbell snatch. The post players perform the dumbbell snatch, (actually more complex than the two arm movement) two-arm kettle bell swings, and the barbell power pull once a week on separate days. We do lateral and rotational reaction foot drills to incorporate the other planes of movement.
The guards went through the same progression from off-season to preseason. The preseason program for the guards is a little different from the posts because I add single-leg rotational jumps and broad jumps to attack the other planes. The entire team performs medicine ball work that focuses on extending the hip upon release of the ball to produce as much force as possible. Some examples are the lateral rotational throws and overhead throws. These power movements are done in two to four sets of a 15 set program. The bulk of the program is strength and effort to affect the 'mass' variable in the power equation and injury prevention.
I explain that we are working the muscles being used to rebound the ball or shoot the gap on defense and our team takes pride in working to improve these aspects of their game. They feel like the program will help make them better players.
When it comes to baseball, most coaches want to avoid compromising positions like the catch phase of a clean or anything overhead for pitchers. Why? I don't get that.That can be somewhat limiting when using Olympic lifts. We as strength coaches understand the importance of training in full ranges of motion and the benefits of catching the bar at the end of a clean or snatch. However, as discussed earlier, we may need to compromise with the sport coaches or do a better job of educating them on what we know. I prefer the latter, but ego sometimes dictates the former.To incorporate power movements into the baseball workout, we perform power shrugs. Through this movement, I am able to train explosive triple extension without compromising the wrists. Why not develop wrist flexibility? As a result of performing this movement without the catch, I am able to progress weight a little faster which will also increase power through strength. Following fall ball, we add another day with power movements by incorporating kettle bell swings.
To achieve multi-planar power for baseball, I use landmine rotations, rotational dumbbell presses, and medicine ball throws. These movements require the body to rotate through the transverse plane while achieving the triple extension needed to produce force quickly. It is usually not hard to motivate a baseball player in the weightroom, so convincing them that these lifts will help is easy. However, I take the time to show them how a powerful hip extension through the power pull may help them on the bases and that exploding through the hip with the medicine ball or landmines builds power in their swing and throwing motion.
Strength and conditioning coaches should be versatile in their philosophy when developing programs in order to adapt to the situation. There are many options for the strength and conditioning coach to build a comprehensive program that will increase power using alternatives to Olympic lifts. No matter what your resources or situation, there are enough options for achieving an increase in performance regardless of philosophy.
I believe that the lifts can be used safely and effectively in most situations. Injury or other problems may dictate some variations, but usually the reasons the lifts are not used is lack of flexibility on the part of the athlete,....so improve it! Or lack of knowledge on the part of the coach,... so improve it! Lifting a weight from the floor to overhead is becoming a lost art and that is only to the detriment of the athlete.Rich Jacobs, MS, SCCC, CSCS is an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Xavier University. He can be reached at: jacobsr1@xavier.edu.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Do You Belong in a Weight Room?

A certain Republican Governor on his way to lift....(somewhere in New Jersey)
Top 10 signs you are a dweeb that does not belong in the weight room

Written by: Charles Poliquin

10. You slap each other across the face before you do your rotator cuff lifts.

9. You take your fat burners with your weight gainer shake

8. You chalk up your hands before leg curls

7. You wear a tank top at your sister’s wedding.

6. You yell “all yours” as your training partner begins doing crunches.

5. You think your thighs rub against each other because you squat so much…NOT, it is the Krispy Kremes and the xeno-estrogens from your moisturizer that got you there.

4. You do curls in the Smith Machine

3. Your squatting depth and technique portrait to us that what a penguin have a Grand Mal seizure would look like.

2. You and partner spot every set and reps, including the warm –ups..

And finally number one…
1. You go online between sets.

This guy belongs in the Gym!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Lifting Weights As You Age Cuts Your Risk Of Early Death By 46%

Nothing new here. Just more evidence of what we already found to be true. A generation ago, when I was a youngster, we were told that lifting weights would make us stiff, muscle bound, and cause all types of health problems for us as we aged. Never happened. In fact, now evidence is that lifting weights is one of the best things a person can do for themselves.

The secret to a longer life may be a barbell: Strength training as you age reduces your risk for death, according to a new study from Penn State College of Medicine.
Researchers surveyed people age 65 or older about their exercise habits and then tracked them for 15 years. Nearly a third of the study participants died during that period.
Less than 10 percent of the subjects strength trained, but those select few were 46 percent less likely to die during the study than everyone else.
Sure, you could say that older folks who lift must be in better health to begin with. But even after adjusting for BMI, chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension, and habits like total physical activity, drinking, and smoking, lifting was linked to a 19 percent reduced risk of death.
Together, those factors reduce your risk for falls and fractures—major causes of disability for older people.
Plus, you’ll burn more calories throughout the day just by having more muscle mass on your frame, which helps you maintain a healthy weight, Dr. Kraschnewski says.
So if you’re already lifting, don’t retire your dumbbells.
Want to start? Strength training can be safe for just about anyone, but if you’re over age 65 and inactive, talk to your doctor about any special precautions you should take, she says. Consider enlisting a trainer to create a program designed around any creaky knees or tight hips.
Don’t think that your age will hold you back, though.
“Older adults have the ability to achieve strength similar to those decades younger by engaging in simple strength training routines,” says Dr. Kraschnewski.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

I Love This

Orrin Whaley doing a little exercise on his mission in Florida.

Having been a missionary myself, knowing that missionaries only have about 30 minutes a day to spend on exercise, this is pretty impressive to me. I wonder who this guy is and what he did before his mission.

CrossFit recently posted this video to their Facebook page, along with Janowitz's praise for the missionaries: "Three missionaries walk into the gym... "One of them takes me up on my bet. "This was awesome!"

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Essential Dimas Video

This video was produced by Debbie Millet, Utah's weightlifting promoter extraordinaire. It is a very great look at one of my all-time favorite lifters. He talks about his development from a young age. A must see for any serious lifter.