Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nice snatch. . . balance.

First, it needs to be said, yet again, that Olympic Weightlifting is the coolest sport on the planet. Yes, I said, the planet. Maybe not in your world, but it certainly is in mine. It’s beautiful and powerful, fast, precise and aggressive. It’s technical and intelligent. It’s everything I aspire to be. I’ve also found that girls with great snatches are very popular among certain crowds.

So, I had a 5 pound PR (personal record) the other day doing a Snatch Balance at 120#. What is a snatch balance, you ask? Well, I will tell you. But for all you non-lifters, I should first tell you what a snatch is. It is quite simply, the most awesome lift EVER. Okay, that’s my definition. Here’s the technical one:

The Snatch

“The snatch is the first of two lifts contested in Olympic Weightlifting in which the barbell is lifted from the floor to overhead in a single movement. With it’s unparalleled speed and extensive range of motion, it epitomizes mechanical power – the performance of maximal work in minimal time – as well as technical precision.” – Greg Everett, Olympic Weightlifting, A Complete Guide for Coaches and Athletes, 2nd Ed.

See, I told you. . . It’s the most awesome lift EVER. I mean, if you can snatch, you’re cooler than sliced bread. Seriously. Doesn’t it make you want to pick up a barbell and learn to snatch? Well, actually you’ll have to start with PVC to learn the elements of the lift. But that’s a topic for another day.

Today we are talking snatch balance. It is a part of the Snatch Balance Series which includes the pressing snatch balance, the heaving snatch balance and the snatch balance.

The Snatch Balance Series

"The series of snatch balance exercise adds dynamic entry into the (receiving) position with increasing complexity and speed in order to better prepare the athlete to receive the snatch successfully.” – Greg Everett, Olympic Weightlifting, A Complete Guide for Coaches and Athletes, 2nd Ed.

And don’t we all want to receive the snatch successfully? I know I do! So what do I do to achieve this glorious skill? I practice. I practice a lot. I tape my lifts. I watch them back in slow motion. I watch for what I did right -- seeing if I hit the different positions properly. Sometimes I am happy with what I see. More often I see things that need work.

Today for example, I was snatching with a light weight, just working on technique. Oh jeez. Today my snatch was ugly. U-G-L-Y. But that’s what also makes lifting so dang wonderful. You’re never done. There is always something to work on. Get better at. It is a constant challenge. And hey, in all honesty, the things we want most in life, sometimes present challenges, right?

So this brings us to the snatch balance. It’s a skills transfer exercise and a great training tool. Here’s why:

The Snatch Balance

The snatch balance “is an aggressive exercise and demands maximal speed and effort,” -- Greg Everett

I quote him a lot. He’s much smarter about this stuff than I am. He is Catalyst Athletics @ http://www.cathletics.com, a great Olympic weightlifting website. He’s also married to Aimee Anaya Everett, my lifting idol. Anyway, what and how does this lift translate to the actual snatch? What does this movement teach us?

It teaches us proper foot transition and speed, and increases strength and confidence – all very important things when weightlifting. The lift begins with the bar behind the neck, on the shoulders in the snatch grip. Feet begin in the pulling position. The athlete will dip and drive the bar overhead while quickly dropping and transitioning the feet into the receiving position. The finish looks like an overhead squat. When you get proficient at this movement, you should be able to snatch balance significantly more weight that you can actually snatch. I don’t know if I could claim to be “proficient” at this movement, but my experience has proven this statement correct. My 1RM snatch is 100#. So yes, I snatch balance significantly more than I snatch.

I can snatch balance 120#. And that is so awesome. Until I can snatch balance 130#.

Monday, June 13, 2011

One is the loneliest number.

I love being a trainer. I am very lucky to do what I do. What I don’t always love is working out alone. It’s an entirely different feeling to hit your own stop watch. And saying “3-2-1 Go” to the walls of your garage seems a bit silly. Likewise, yelling “Done!” just isn’t the same when you’re talking to yourself.

There are several things I miss about working out with a group of people; camaraderie, pre-wod anxiety, laughter, chasing someone, having someone to chase, cheering someone on, and having someone cheering you on.

This is camaraderie in a CrossFit box: You pull in the parking lot. All of you have a similar feeling when you get out of your cars. Jitters, butterflies, anticipation, dread – all meshed. You hang up your bags together, read the board together -- and get the immediate urge to pee. You warm up together. Laugh a bit, sometimes laugh a lot, and tell each other that “this will be hell.” If you were Cari and I, a couple years ago, you’d wait until your coach walked in the house for a minute and you’d whisper to one another, “I can’t do this friend!” And then we would. We’d do it. Together.

Working out alone doesn’t provide me this same kind of experience. Do I still get a killer workout in? Absolutely. Do I still get jitters before I hit “start” on the watch? Yep. But what I miss is sharing it with someone. Some of my best workouts have been side by side with a great friend. You walk in, face the whiteboard, feel slight panic, gut it out and just freaking do it.

Working out side by side gives you someone to “chase.” There is nothing like having someone a couple reps ahead of you, to make you push that much harder, take one more step, or resist the urge to take a drink of water. In the same vein, being “chased” works the same way. You will do what you can to stay ahead of the pack. It creates unbelievable drive in an individual. I have experienced this first hand, more times than I can count. I firmly believe that your wod times are faster when you work out with others. I believe the group drives the level of intensity. In addition, a group provides a feeling of support. They sweat next to you. Feel pain next to you. There is a bond that forms with people that “suffer” together. If you finish first, you’re the one cheering everyone on. If you’re last, everyone is yelling words of encouragement. I’m telling you, it’s a great thing. This stuff is hard. But with a friend next to you, it makes the outcome that much sweeter.

So, I may not get the opportunity to work out in a group very often anymore, but there is so much beauty in what I get to do. Now, I get to live the experience from the other side of the stopwatch. I get to see friendships forged, and journeys shared. I get to watch people learn the value of competitive, supportive, sportsmanship. I get to watch them grow as athletes. I get to see them develop greater physical and mental strength. And although I am not arm in arm with them, I am next them. I am leading them. Every painful, and wonderful, step they take.

Consequently, I may be lonely at times, but I get to be a part of something I truly love. And it is a privilege.