In the January 2018 issue, Mike O’Hara focuses on strengthening your hamstrings. Exercises to make your hamstrings stronger, not longer are given along with video demonstration. Jeff Tirrell tells us how to make incremental changes in our diets to see positive changes, and the spotlight is on Fenton Fitness member, Robin Forstat–a nationally ranked power lifter.
Do We Really Need Them?
I had my first introduction to Weightlifting (often referred to as Olympic lifting) in my high school football days using the Bigger Faster Stronger program. Power Cleans were a staple of this program and the Power Snatch was also introduced to us during a clinic our football coach put together. Over the last several years, weightlifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms. These movements include the Snatch (bringing the bar from the floor to overhead in one fluid movement), the Clean & Jerk (bringing the bar from the floor to overhead in two distinct movements), and their derivatives. Though there are several reasons to include these movements in programs, there are far more reasons, in my professional opinion, not to.
The primary reason one would or should be using Olympic lifting movements is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD). RFD is a primary determinant of success in many sports. This is what allows you to accelerate quickly, jump higher/farther, and change direction quickly. There are volumes of research on the Clean & Jerk, Snatch, and their variations which demonstrate that these movements work very well at improving power and RFD; however, these lifts are not the only means of accomplishing this. Moreover, there are multiple reasons not to incorporate them:
Weightlifting movements are incredibly technical and take massive amounts of time to learn and perform correctly. Most successful weightlifters at the international level have spent decades learning and perfecting their craft. It is not uncommon to see weightlifters performing upwards of 10-12 training sessions per week. The only other sport I can think of that takes this level of technical prowess is gymnastics. While this is admirable for those choosing to compete in these sports, the level of time commitment is not practical for the average fitness enthusiast.
Due to the speed and dynamic nature of the Olympic lifts, there is a much higher probability of something going wrong. Additionally, the vast majority of the fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises. In some fitness circles, you will see these movements programmed in for very high repetitions. When this happens, you are ramping up fatigue which makes proper technique/form nearly impossible and minimizes power/RFD adaptation which is the whole point of these exercises. These lifts should be programmed at 1-5 rep sets with 2-5 minute rest intervals between.
For most people, time is a constant barrier to improved fitness. For competitive athletes, they must balance the demands of sport practice, strength training, conditioning, skill practice, and recovery. For this reason, the primary goal of a quality program should be to maximize efficiency of training. Due to the mobility demands and speed of the movements, the warm ups required can take 15-20 minutes. Combine that with the longer rest periods required and you barely have time to get in enough quality work to see optimal adaptations. It is not uncommon for a weightlifter to take 90-120 minutes to complete a workout.
You may be asking yourself how to maximize power if you can’t perform the Olympic lifts. Many people feel these movements are imperative for optimal fitness and performance. In February of 2017, I traveled to Ohio State University where I heard the head Strength and Conditioning coaches for the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, and Arizona Cardinals speak. None of them use Olympic lifts with their athletes. If arguably the top athletes in the world don’t need these movements, then I think the rest of the population can get away without using them as well.
Over the next several weeks, I will introduce fourteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency. Stay tuned for exercise descriptions and video demonstration.
-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1
Nothing slows down your progress toward greater fitness and better performance than an injury. Bad combinations of exercises during a training session can set you up for a big crash. Poor exercise programming produces the joint overload or connective tissue stress that produces pain. Lumbar flexion activities combined with an exercise that compresses the lumbar spine is one of the more common killer combinations.
Here are some examples of lumbar flexion activities combined with exercise that increase lumbar intervertebral pressure. I am seeing these killer combos more frequently during my visits to the gym.
-Ten GHD sit ups followed by fifteen American Swings.
-Twenty medicine ball rotational crunches followed by a sixty yard farmers carry.
-Rowing machine for 500 meters followed by barbell on back walking lunges.
-Five toes to bar and then five barbell cleans.
-Five minutes of super slumped power texting followed by three heavy deadlifts.
This month’s issue has information on the lumbopelvic hip complex including written/video exercises. Mike O’Hara also gives information on unstable pressing exercises to improve posture and improve motor control and symmetry. Also read about the Becoming Unstoppable clinic for athletes 13 years and older that will be help April 30th at Fenton Fitness.