Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It Hurts to Express Nonchalance...

This past weekend, Michael and I attended an Olympic weightlifting seminar. The Olympic lifts, for those who are as unfamiliar with the sport as I was a few months ago, are the snatch, the clean, and the jerk. Usually, people do the clean and the jerk together and jerk from the front, unlike the video I just posted, but you get the idea.

Crossfit, which you have all heard about from me and Michael on this blog, incorporates the Olympic lifts into the workouts. Now, I feel like you can read a few articles on the web, buy a pair of running shoes, and take up running on your own without significant risk of injury. However, if I am going to be expected to lift 100 lbs or more over my head, I think I want someone who knows what they're doing to give me some instruction. Heck, even bailing out of a lift (meaning stopping in the middle and putting the bar down if you realize you're not going to be able to complete the lift) takes some skill if you don't want to drop the bar on your head or your lower back in the process. By the way, for a nice demonstration of doing this poorly, watch the "jerk" video until close to the end. Not that I'm ripping on Nicole (the girl in the video). She is a very impressive athlete, but I learned this weekend that almost decapitating yourself with the bar is, surprisingly, NOT the correct way to bail out of a lift. Huh.

The seminar was a day and a half long...it was amazing to me the number of things there are to think about and the level of detailed instruction it takes to just pick something up off the floor and hold it over your head! It was definitely helpful for me and I learned a lot. Of course, I'm incredibly sore now. Although we were not using heavy weights, we did LOTS of reps and we practiced the receiving position (which is basically a reeeeally deep squat) many, many times. So, my legs are quite tired and so are my shoulders. So, if I feel blase about something in the next few days, do not expect me to shrug. It's just not gonna happen, people.


  1. Yes, I found the seminar quite helpful. It's amazing how much goes on in the 1 or 2 seconds that a snatch takes. There's a lot to think about simultaneously. At least, if you want to lift the greatest weight possible and do so without wrenching your back or dropping 1.5 times your bodyweight on yourself.

    I can confirm that doing deep squats all day does indeed induce soreness in the legs and buttocks. Just sitting on a hard surface can be painful.

    But really, we had a good time, and we learned a lot. If you need any heavy weights lifted overhead, feel free to call us. As long as said weights are barbell-shaped.

  2. Anonymous12:54 PM

    Lucky bastards. The closest olympic lift seminar we've spotted around here is an hour and a half drive each way, and calling it expensive would be like saying .50bmg would be a bit large for a handgun cartridge. The problem though is that it would probably really help.

    The bitching and moaning is impressive when cleans and such come up on the WOD, because every time I do one, no matter how many times I watch the demonstrations or how hard I try to get under the bar and into that deep squat it basically winds up being a deadlift with a reverse-grip curl/power clean bastard love child.

    Mildly frustrating, to say the least.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Stingray.

    Our seminar was pretty expensive, too, but it was also a charity benefit, so I feel better about that.

    I feel your pain. I haven quite used the "bastard love child" you described, just a power clean. Still, that limits my performance. Do you mean a hang power clean, by the way?

    Alison and I aren't sure how we'll be able to use our new skills, since we don't have bumper plates and probably shouldn't be dropping things on our apartment floor, anyway. Our apartment is located directly over the leasing office. They have been quite understanding when I set down a 300-pound deadlift a little more quickly than I meant, but I don't think they'd look too fondly on barbells falling from 5 or 7 feet.

    We've thought about getting some bumpers and going outside, but there isn't really a good place to do it, and it's starting to get cold here in the evenings. Dark, too. Sigh.

  4. Anonymous4:46 PM

    What I mean is that for pretty much anything involving the clean, the "catch in a deep squat" part doesn't come together; it's basically ground to shoulders in one go, and any attempt at including knee bending after the bar is off the ground comes out awkward at best.

    I sympathize with the plate situation. In our old place we had to keep all the weight stuff on the 2nd floor as well, which had the same "not too heavy dammit!" drawback, and this was gov't built housing from shortly after the project days. Doing calf-raises (this was before we started crossfit) and feeling the floor flexing under me was not the most reassuring experience.

    If you don't mind my asking, how bad was the price tag on your seminar? Crossfit Albuquerque's class is $400/head, and not for charity.

  5. $400 a head? Yikes! Ours was $200 each, which seemed kind of expensive, but justifiable.

    I always had issues with the clean, too. Mostly, I think I was kind of scared to really go for it and dive under the bar because of how it presses up against your throat. It always seemed like the bar would slam into my throat or collarbone and be really painful, but the seminar certainly helped with that.

    We actually practiced just "jumping" out into the receiving position quite a bit to get the squat position just right and set it in our muscle memories. Maybe drilling that a bit would help with your issue?

  6. Anonymous8:01 PM

    There may be cheaper seminars closer in Santa Fe (45 min each way instead of 90), but what I know about gyms down there is basically "There must be at least one!" The gym in town seems to just be supplement-mart with more machines than free weights.

    It isn't so much that I'm worried I'll crush my throat or anything, it just sort of "Well, the bar is already 85% of the way up, give it a little forearm power and it's in position." Trying to jump into a squatting position without weight might do the trick. Did you practice going from "I am picking up the bar" to landing in a squat, or just standing and jumping into a squat, or some other method that my clean-handicapped butt doesn't fathom yet?

  7. So, he started the seminar by asking us all to do a squat. We all pretty much did the usual air squat people do where you end up with your legs at about 90 degrees and your body leaning forward. So, he then spent quite a lot of time contrasting this position with the correct Olympic squat. He had us get into the Olympic squat position several times without jumping...just squat down and try to think about all the things that need to happen position-wise and stretch out your ankles a bit. Then he had us do it jumping from the pulling position (feet under the hips) into the squat we had just gotten a feel for. We did that a whole bunch. Then, later, he had us do it from the hang position with PVC pipe instead of a weighted bar. So, he kind of taught it as a progression.

    I hope that helps! He kept saying throughout the day that if you can identify some particular part of your lift that is off, try to figure out a way to isolate just that movement an drill just that part. So, maybe just practicing the squat and then practicing jumping into it will help you.

  8. Stingray,

    If you want, I can send you the 43-page document we received along with our seminar. Have LabRat/CritcalCat PM epigirl on the dog board with your/her e-mail address, and I'll send it out tonight. The document is no replacement for the seminar, but it's pretty detailed.

    By the way, I want to emphasize that the "jump" from the top of the pulling position-essentially standing up---into the receiving position is not so much a jump as a fall. It looks and sounds like a jump, though, because you pull your feet up a little faster than you are falling so that you can reposition them into the receiving position. Does that make sense?

  9. Anonymous12:54 PM

    Both comments make sense, and I'm much obliged for the copy on the doc. Since I'm not exactly training for the olympics, I could probably get away with just subbing some other workout when cleans come up, but it's just one of those niggling "Why can't I do this?!" things by now and I want to get it right sooner or later.

    Jumping such that it's more a fall could be difficult though. The only time I've jumped in such a manner that my feet were tucked up before I started to descend was when lightning struck about 100' away one day. 'Course then I not only got my feet up before I started back down, but I also had them engaged for fast forward motion, but still.

    Again, much obliged for the assistance. :)