If you searched around on the internet for a way to improve your performance as a weightlifter (or as a practitioner of the Olympic lifts), you would find a thousand ways to do it. You might read that you need to improve your overall strength or that you need to do more of a certain lift. Others might advocate changing the whole training plan altogether. On the other end of the spectrum, you might find people that advocate you to work on certain aspect of your weightlifting technique. All of these answers are geared towards improving the physical state of the athlete and they might – or might not- be good. Obviously, there are many ways to skin a cat. However, there is one important concept that is rarely talked about and that you should be aware of. It is, to me, the most important concept to be aware of as an athlete.
Maximal Neuromuscular Power Depends On Specific Characteristics Of The Central Nervous System : Part 1
The understanding of [sport] movements requires the knowledge of neuroscience notions. Many people over the years have focused on mechanics of movement – that is biomechanics- and have offered very valuable insights into weightlifting technique. If one is trying to understand how movement efficiency is achieved only through the analysis of the angles of body segments , one can’t fully appreciate the reality of said movement without considering neural factors. After all, the central nervous system is the reason why those segments actually move in the first place. How to develop maximal neuromuscular power is one – if not the most- important concern for the weightlifter. Understanding how neuromuscular power is achieved, and how different neural factors can influence it, allows you to be as specific as you can so that real progress can be made. This educational article seeks to explain in layman’s term important notions of neurosciences that will positively change your training.
In defense of Sport Science : what it has given us and how it can help us solve weightlifting problems
There seem to have been a disconnection between what sport science really is and how it is believed to be. I noticed that there seems to be a common belief that sport science is not useful to coaches or athletes. Because my mission with First Pull is to produce educational material and discuss ideas, this disconnection, between the reality and the popular belief of sport science, is a problem I want to address. The general idea being that without sport science, there is no such thing as effective training methods because the knowledge of the mechanisms implicated in weightlifting (skill acquisition, movement specificity, anatomy, recovery, etc.) would be unknown. Here is my rebuttal to the dis tractors of sport science.
Transfer of learning : Importance in skill acquisition of weightlifting & implications for coaching and programming
In my last article about skill acquisition, I made the statement that improvements, in the cognitive stage of skill acquisition, are mainly due to thinking and planning as well as the ability of the athlete to uses existing knowledge/skills as a basis for the new skill. I gave the example of a lifter that I coach. I mentioned that most of the technical errors in her lifts came from previously learned skills that she was trying to consciously – or not- repeat in Weightlifting. I received many e-mails about this statement which lead me to believe that perhaps I should extrapolate on this concept. I will discuss the definition of what transfer of learning really is, its importance for coaches as well as its many possible applications.
The recent ”spurt” of popularity of Weightlifting, by different actors such as Crossfit, may also have given the impression that weightlifting is a ”work out” which in turns may influence the way the lifts are being programmed in Gyms. We are seeing the lifts performed with major technical flaws on T.V (Here is an example by a very famous non weightlifter Athlete) and programmed in ways that do not lead to proper skill acquisition/refinement, which makes the general public believe that 1) weightlifting is just like any other resistance training movement 2) technique – or technique development- does not matter. It isn’t and here is why.
I wrote earlier about the special conditions women have in the sport of weightlifting as well as important notions to be considered in planning their training. Since then, I have been contacted by many to expand on one of the point I made in the article. The point was that the constant improvement of women weightlifters over time is due to the improvement of their technique as well the use of gender based programs. In this article, I will review three studies that have been conducted that could be explaining this type of improvement.
In weightlifting, the first pull is defined as the moment where the bar leaves the floor until it reaches the knees. This small window of time allows the lifter to set himself up in a good – and previously learned- mechanical position in order to initiate the second pull. This position is defined as a position that offers the best leverage for maximal power output as well as the best bar trajectory. The second pull is where the explosive power of the hip, back and knee joints propels the bar upward to allow the lifter to pull himself under. The speed of the first pull is extremely important if you want to achieve maximal power output in the second pull. Here is why your first pull should be relatively slower than the rest of the lift.
The split jerk has been around pretty much since the beginning of weightlifting. It goes without saying that the split jerk consists of ”throwing” the bar above head (while using a clean grip, but different grip width have been used), while simultaneously throwing the feet in a split position which allows for a fast descent under the bar, and ultimately allows for a proper catch. You actually use the momentum induced on the bar to propel -or to push yourself- yourself in the receiving position.The jerk is the lift that is the most often missed in competition so a review of the jerk seems important.
One important thing you have to be conscious of when coaching weightlifting is the need for individualization of weightlifting technique. Weightlifting technique depends on an individual’s morphology, preference, strength or weaknesses and, ultimately, on learned behaviors and adaptations (coordination, speed/explosiveness, etc). Sometimes some ”mistakes” or ”pre-lift routine” can also become part of the overall technique. It’s always about having the right amount of individualization and the right amount ”text book” technique. Learning mistakes is never good, of course. Today’s article is not about reviewing scientific papers but just an overall look at some of the most interesting example of individualization of technique among great weightlifters. Videos included.
A recent study by Whitehead et al., published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning research (published August 2013) has looked into this matter. Whitehead et al. studied and analyzed the best three snatch attempts by individuals lifters in each weight class at the US national Championship (2013). The result indicates that rearward displacement, or commonly called ”Jumping back” by most coaches and trainees, is globally happening in top snatch performances in the US. The authors states : “These data seem to suggest that rearward displacement in the drop-under phase in the snatch is not detrimental to performance and actually seems to be a preferred technique in US national-level lifters”.