We have had some questions related to why we do pauses when Olympic lifting. I wanted to share some information to help you understand the importance of the drill and what you should be looking to accomplish when using pauses in our strength cycle. Why do we pause? Strength in Key Positions – Using pauses in key positions will strengthen you isometrically more so than with regular lifting. If you aren’t strong enough isometrically to hold the body in perfect form at the most important points in the range of motion, that’s where your form will break down when under maximal loads. For example, if you can’t maintain a tightly arched back when the bar is just below the knees in a pull, this weakness will manifest itself as a sticking point when you attempt maximal weights. The stronger you are isometrically at those potentially weak positions, the less likely you are to have a form breakdown. Now, when you lift regularly you build momentum gradually throughout the movement, and the momentum can help you blast through the key positions. Likewise, the use of light weights will allow you to compensate for being weak in those positions, but not so with big weights. The stronger and more solid you are in the key lifting positions in a movement, the better your performance. Strength to lift the barbell – Most of your strength should be built via regular sets (no pauses) on the big lifts. However, the strategic use of pauses can help strengthen weak parts of the range of motion. When you lift submaximal weights (85% or less), you’re able to produce a lot of momentum from the start. As a result of this momentum, the body becomes “lazy” during some points in the range of motion. It ends up reducing muscle at those points because you don’t need maximal force production. As a result, the body learns to modulate muscle activation in such a way that you develop weak zones that end up being sticking points while using heavy weights. A lot of sticking points are due to suboptimal […]
Some common problems I see with toe-2-bar each week are that members have not developed the prerequisite strength to kip T2B effectively, losing active tension while bringing your feet down from the bar, and not understanding the relationship your chest, hips, and feet should have to the bar in order to effectively perform the movement. Prerequisite strength: as with every CrossFit movement there is a progression to being successful. Strength should be built through a strict range of motion before adding a kip to the movement. While it may be an aggressive prerequisite for kipping T2B, I feel if you have 5 consecutive strict reps that learning to then kip the movement will be much easier. I commonly see frustration in the gym from people trying to kip movements that they cannot perform strict for even one rep. Get strong by doing the movement strict and then develop the skill of kipping; don’t think of kipping as a shortcut to do a movement sooner. Active through the entire range of motion: when kipping a T2B getting your toes to touch the bar is only half the battle. I frequently see people swing their feet up to the bar for a successful rep only to allow their bottom half to drop like a sack of potatoes on the return back down. This turns your kip into a swing and nullifies any efficiency you could hope to have in the movement. Instead, once your feet reach the bar you must actively bring them back down through the same path they went up. The entire movement is active on your part, there is no passive portion where you are taking a break. Relation of chest, hips, and feet to the bar: there is a reason we practice our hollow and arch positions each week as they are the building blocks for kipping T2B. During effective T2B in the bottom position your feet are behind the bar and your chest is in front of the bar. Conversely, in the top position your chest is behind the bar while your feet are in front of […]
How many fingers should be on the bar when you front squat? The answer depends largely on your flexibility. When new members start front squatting I assess their mobility restrictions and often tell them to use a two finger grip when front squatting. This allows elbows to be in good position and to get the bar on their shoulders instead of in their hands. However, I also tell new members, while I tell you this is correct today I reserve the right to tell you something different in 30, 60, or 90 days. This is because learning with two fingers may be the easiest but it doesn’t mean it’s the best way to hold a bar when front squatting. As seen in the pictures above of world class weightlifters, Mattie Rogers and Dmitry Klokov, actually having a four finger grip is something you should aim for. This is because you want to activate your thoracic spine musculature when front squatting as much as possible. You don’t often miss a front squat because the weight is too heavy for your legs to squat. If we put the same weight on your back, squatting it would be no problem. The issue is losing your posture and leaning forward; the bar moves too far forward of your center of mass and you miss the lift. Activation of your thoracic spine musculature helps to maintain your upright posture. If you have been a two finger gripper for a long time I can promise you this change will feel odd. However, if you have the flexibility to grip the bar across your calluses for the entire movement I highly recommend making the change to improve your front squat long term. If your flexibility limits you to two fingers that is okay but please realize you should be improving your mobility and striving to improve your grip. Watch the following video from former Olympic gold medalist, Aleskey Torokhtiy, for a brief discussion and demo of the front squat. Make sure to turn the subtitles on!
Olympic lifting is a staple of our programming and I don’t see that changing. Clean and jerks and snatches improve your speed, strength, power, coordination, mobility, agility, endurance, balance, and accuracy. I’m sure I can come up with more but you get the point. While the people in the gym that really love these lifts probably already know this but the Weightlifting World Championships are this week and they are being held in Anaheim, California. The event being held in the US is a nice perk because the pacific time zone makes the action much easier to follow than when the event is held on the other side of the world. While I understand that watching this event is like watching Lebron James play basketball or Serena Williams play tennis and that our skill sets don’t exactly translate to what we are seeing. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the sport and the lifts. I know every time I watch a live event streamed I pick up at least one thing I didn’t know from the announcing team. The links below bring you to a couple websites so you can stream the event live, get an official start list for anyone you may want to follow, and a list of the USA Weightlifting team members there participating STREAM THE EVENT START LIST USA TEAM MEMBERS
A quick technique note on improving your rope climbs! To improve your rope climbs consider the following tip to get a more secure hold with your feet and therefore take the onus off of your arms. When scooping your bottom foot to create a foot lock simply continue the bottom foot over the top and step on the forefoot of the other foot. The first picture shows the very common but not as secure foot lock used in the gym. However, the second picture shows the foothold with the scoop foot over the top and on the other foot. This foothold is more secure and will not require more time on your part. After getting used to the change you should expect rope climbs to be less fatiguing on your upper body. Also check out this short video from CrossFit games competitors, Matt Chan and Spencer Hendel, explaining how to properly secure this foothold.