Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Surviving the Snatch, part Dos

I tried the new program I outlined in a previous post last night and today and not only do I really like it, but I feel great too.

Power Snatch from above the knee: 12x2 w/ avg. intensity of 50% (remember, speed kills in more ways than one, so I'm starting way, way light and trying to improve bar speed. Medvedyev recommends training from this position to improve explosive strength.)

Here are some things I noticed/accomplished:
  • Bar speed, way, way up. Don't ever remember being this fast, even at these lighter weights.
  • Waved the weights--thanks Pavel, for helping me finally understand the importance of training with a "series" for maximum increases in strength: (50kg/60/70/80) x3 series for 24 lifts total.
  • Bar position was different, better.
  • Trained in "long spine" or axially lengthened position for all reps. Dr. Cobb, Z-Health's creator, says this improves speed/power. I sure felt it.
  • Moved grip in approximately 1 1/2 inches from the collar. Felt better. Better start position pulling off the floor.
After I performed the following:
Back Squats: 3 ladders of 1,2,3 with the following weights: 100kg/110/120.

Again, more accomplishments/things I noticed:
  • I have always struggled with squats; they have never felt "right" probably due to the fact that I learned how to power squat before olympic squat. Before my injuries, I was never able to fully make the transition. Z-Health has reprogrammed my CNS and now I can do a real-deal-Holyfield olympic squat. Very, very cool.
  • I was able to use a clean-grip on the back squat, keeping the bar high on the traps. Up until recently, I had to use a very wide grip to keep my elbows open so I wouldn't feel my knees. (It's a Z-Health thing...I'll explain it later, but just trust me for now.)
  • Bar speed, again, way up.
  • Was able to lift in long spine, achieving a "wedge" position between me, the bar, and the floor. Very good.
  • Here's the best part: If you watch training hall tapes of weightlifters (from Ironmind), with moderate/moderately heavy weights on the squat, they perform consecutive reps, meaning, they don't reset at the top. They stand up and squat back down right away. This is obviously an advanced technique and requires a fair amount of control over the high-speed eccentric loading on the squat. Well, I haven't been able to do this since at least before my first hip injury in January 2005. I did it last night. It's probably been two or more years since I've been able to do that! Again, very, very cool.
If I've ever had a "perfect" training session, last night was a close as it's ever come.

Cleaning Up My Clean...

For some reason, the snatch has always been easier for me than the clean--don't know why.

Today's training session was similar to yesterday's: I performed a 3 series of power cleans (12x2) from above the knee. They looked like this: 70kg/80kg/90kg/100kg; 24 lifts with an average intensity of 50%. Again, all performed in long spine. They were all very easy.

Surpisingly, I used a hook-grip all the way through the session and was fine. All the hand and finger mobility must have really increased my strength. I used to use the straps at about 100kg before. No problem today.

I then performed some RDLs (OK, I just have to say that I know that there is no such thing as an RDL, just a properly executed stiff-leg deadlift. But "RDL" is much easier to type than "stiff-leg deadlift" and is still one letter short of "SLDL." So for economy's sake, I'm always going to use RDL--and I'm not sorry if that offends anyone :-) ) Again, I used a series performing 3 reps each set as opposed to 2. Here's what it looked like:

(110kgx3/120x3/130x3) x2 series

Very easy. Really felt the difference long spine makes on these as opposed to trying to lock everything down and squeeze--all my weaknesses were exposed and worked!

My major goal with these workouts are not only to survive them, but to conquer them. Conquering them means no more hip or knee pain within the workout, immediately after, or the next day. The jury's still out as to whether I'm surviving or conquering: too many other variables in the day. But, on a sliding scale, I'd have to say I'm up closer to the conquering end. Tomorrow's another day.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Surviving the Snatch

After seven days of the ever-so-slightly-modified 5x5x5, my CNS was just feeling too overloaded: knees started becoming painful and SI's started to lock up. Based on the results of my myofascial winding test yesterday, I think it was the snatch and/or the overhead squat. Having the bar overhead like that raises one's center of mass and creates more torque throughout the body.

So I took Thursday off, did light KBs yesterday, and met my weightlifting partner at the platform today. I only got 3 sets in before my wife called and we had to take my 13 year-old lab to the vet. I hit 50kg/2, 70kg/2, and 80kg/2, all from the hang above the knee. The 80kg was super-easy. I asked my partner how it looked to which he replied, "Like eighty" meaning of course that it looked light. It felt really light--almost like the bar--which hopefully isn't a tease, because it reminded me of the old days. Then I had to run.

Fast-forward 5 1/2 hours and I drove to the studio after a stressful day at the vet's. (My dog's going to die soon, just a question of when--hopefully not tonite.) I needed to blow off steam so I put the following two KB complexes together using 2x24kg:

A. Double swings x5
Double snatch x5
Double C+P x5+5
Front Squat x5
Double row x5

I performed 2 rounds. Each took approximately 60s and I rested 120s.

Then I went to

B. Double Hi-pull x5
Double snatch x5
Double C+P x5+5
Front Squat x5
Double row x5

I performed 2 rounds. Each took approximately 75s and I rested 120s. Really tried to make those Hi-pulls float.

I should be able to hit 5 rounds of one or the other or some combination of the two to be in good shape. Obviously, my GPP is down. I may include these as extra workouts to put some muscle back on--starting twice a week progressing to four times a week. We'll see.

Really feel my right adductor complex/gracilis, which is good, cause they've been underactive.

We'll see how everything feels tomorrow. I'm probably going to hit some cleans on the platform plus some back squats, as they have been the easiest on my knees (pain free) so far.
Thoughts on Pressing...

Back in April, during my initial Z-Health assessment, we discovered that my dominant eye pattern was looking up. I initiated all movement by looking up--probably from 10 years of looking up for 0-lifting. So, to correct that visual disturbance, I started looking down during all movements, which interestingly, was something I had started playing with on my squat after noticing that's how former heavyweight world champion Yuri Vlasov squatted.

The interesting phenomenon was during pressing, the bell/bar went up easier while looking down--but I had always been taught to look up. I noticed the same thing with my KB snatches--looking at the floor actually made them easier.

Neurologically, eye postioning is known to correspond with certain body movements: eyes down-flexion; eyes up-extension. So why does looking down while pressing feel easier? Here's my theory: The dominant movement while pressing is shoulder flexion. Even though elbow extension is involved, it is not the dominant movement: it is secondary. Since April, I've also paid a lot more attention to the jerks of the elite 0-lifters. They look down as they drive the bar overhead and as it is fixed at arms' length. This is especially true of the Chinese who are quickly coming to dominate the sport.

I wonder if this is a universal truism or just what works for some. Only time and experimentation will tell.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Myofascial Winding? You Betcha!

Had Tom, my business partner test me for myofascial winding today. WOW! I'm wound tighter than a drum--to the right! All my Z will be done now for the next couple weeks with my torso/spine rotated left.

I worked with Kevin Perrone later in the day, and he found that my left lat and my right adductor weren't firing. Makes perfect sense with the MW.

(Sidenote: As a business owner, I am very priviledged and incredibly blessed to have trainers like Kevin and Omar Clinton working for me/with me. There quest for knowledge is insatiable! We definitely undercharge our clients--but it's what the market can bear--for now.)

I grabbed a quick, light KB workout before my 6pm client: 1 arm C+Ps with the 32kg for 5x5 supersetted with close-grip chins, chest touching the bar. Kevin suggested trying them with my torso rotated left. That's exactly what I just did, but only 3 sets. Here's the really weird thing: C+P's on the R were much harder but on the L, much easier--the chins, just weird. Hmmm...I understand the L, but I'll have to give the R some thought. But on both the presses and the chins, I felt my L lat like I don't ever think I have.

I'll have to talk to Dr. Cobb and get his thoughts about the bilateral loading. May have to back off it for now--hope not. I may just go to the platform tomorrow and try some snatches and back squats. I'll have to see how I feel in the morning.
Myofascial Winding?

My lower back has been really tight since Wednesday. Feels like L1-L2 is out of place. As a result, my SI's are out of whack. Knee discomfort comes and goes. I'm loathe to go back to my chiro. I'm really trying to stick with this Z-Health experiment: Only Z till I'm fully able to get under the bar again.

My business partner is going to take me through some myofascial winding test today to see if I'm over-wound in a particular direction. Methinks so. I got some relief yesterday and today doing some specific work for that. But I sit down and I'm right back where I started. Anyway, we should know for sure today. May also get him to do some visual/vestibular testing to make sure that's all clear.

It's strange: I can perform non-weightlifting exercises and be fine. I think that I "poisoned" my CNS with all the heavy loading in and thru pain, that my body won't easily forget it...yet. I'm excited to see what the outcome is today.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I've been doing a version of Pavel's 5x5x5--5 exercises, 5 reps, 5 days a week. Except my range is 3-5 reps: 3 reps on the snatch, clean, and jerk assistance and 5 on the squats, overhead and front. Yesterday was the 7th training session.

I really like this training program except I think I cannot perform high skill exercises at this level of frequency yet. Too much CNS stimulation even though the loads are light. My SI function is starting to diminish and the pain in my knees is starting to creep back in. Not on every squat rep either--maybe only 30-40% of the reps. However, the goal is 100% of the reps pain free all the time, every time. It's a different knee pain in the right knee than normal. It's no longer lateral and IT Band located. It's patellar tendon/ligament located.

So, I will take today off from training and only perform Z and probably take the rest of the week off squatting. I'll snatch, clean, and jerk/overhead work and cut back the squats to twice a week. I designed a 12 week program to put back on some of the mass I've lost so I can fill out the 105kg weight class and break into increasing the frequency of squatting. I'll move from twice a week to three/four times a week based on how I'm feeling.

I think the program for the squat portion will look something like this:

Weeks 1-4: Neural re-adaptation: wks 1-2: ladders (1,2,3)3-5; wks 3-4: waves (3,2,1)2-4
Weeks 5-8: Structural Hypertrophy: 4-8x3-6 with 60-120s rest
Weeks 9-12: Functional Hypertrophy/Max Strength: 8-12x2-3 with 60-120s rest

For the o-lifts:

Weeks 1-4: 50-70% x 10x2
Weeks 5-8: 60-80% x 10-15x1-2
Weeks 9-12: 70-90% x 6-10x1-2

O-lift assistance will be some form of snatch pull and the RDL using various rep ranges.

After the 12 weeks, I'll hit a 12 week specific prep/pre-comp cycle which should take me to April. Hopefully by then I'll be able to increase my skill frequency. I'll also need to find a National Qualifier and Nationals are in May.

Those are my thoughts for now. I'm sure they'll change, so it'll be interesting to look back.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Back in the Saddle

It's been two weeks since I last posted and A LOT has occured in that time frame.
  • We've hosted another Z-Health R-Phase Certification.
  • I met with Dr. Cobb for a private and front squatted for the first time in my entire life without any pain in my right knee.
  • I spent last week in Hawaii where I experienced my first ever earthquake.
  • I've decided to start training for weightlifting competition again.

Z-Health R-Phase Certification

I just can't say enough positive things about Z-Health. This is it. This is the system in which all other sytems fit. I cannot be more succinct than that. It fits beautifully with the RKC system--both are based on the same principles: quality over quantity and perfecting technique are just two that jump to mind.

When I first started reading Chek and Clark and Gray and Cook and those guys, all from whom I some learned something, it was all about the muscles, the soft tissue. Z is so different because it deals directly with the CNS through active joint self-mobilization. It's freaky in a good way. To be honest, I don't even think in terms of soft tissue these days, only CNS stimulation/response. I think that can be good and bad.

I've tried many other soft tissue pre-hab based programs. None of them come close to the instant results of Z. I've tried almost every soft-tissue treatment out there for my right knee: none of them made me pain free. Z has. 17 years of pain/discomfort in that knee; 6 months of Z and the pain is gone. What kind of return on investment is that? A HUGE one.

We believe in it so much that by the end of December, we'll be the first company to have all their trainers Z-Health certified (there'll be eight of us). This is really the only way we can operate. We cannot have any stragglers because they just won't get it and will be left behind. They won't be able to interact with the rest of us on the same level. Sounds almost snobbish. It's not. Frankie Faires, a Z-Health trainer is fond of saying "Z changes EVERYTHING." I agree.

Front Squats

This was a simple fix, apparently. During my private session with Dr. Cobb, he noticed that while performing an overhead squat, my hands were holding the bar differently. It turned out that my right ring and pinky fingers were stuck in flexion--absolutely no extension. This was probably from some bite/infection on my knucle I had back in the early summer. That sucker was swollen for about 2 weeks. Anyway, some soft tissue work by Dr. Cobb on that, some hand mobility, and finger mobility, and the direction to perform all my R-Phase with my wrists and hands in extension, and I had my first ever pain free/discomfort free front squat. It was very strange--there was the distinct absence of any sensation whatsoever.

Apparently, lifters, rock climbers, and KB trainees spend so much time with their hands in flexion, they literally lose the ability to get into extension. This can have a lot of negative carryover in the body. So I've been doing lots of hand and finger work since. Front squat's still pain free. Feels good--real good.


Hawaii was cool. I went to Oahu and spent a couple of days in Waikiki. Beautiful place. I then had business up the Waienae coast. I got to spend some time by myself to do some thinking. Lots of that plus sightseeing driving around in my Jeep Wrangler with the top down. One of my major conclusions was to start training for weightlifting competition again.


I love the sport of weightlifting. For the past six years I've allowed life to stand in the way of competing. It's been a good life. Built a business. Made new friends. Gotten injured. Found the answer I've been looking for. One of the principles of Z-Health is that movement is a skill that can be improved. Now that my hips and knees are pain free, I can focus on training my weightlifting movements. One of the things Pavel pounded into my head is that strength is a skill and must be practiced.

I don't want to jump waist deep back into training, I'd rather take my time and wade in. Too many injuries jumping in right away in the past. I'm starting at about 50% for only one top set.

Here's the program:

Power snatch x3

Overhead squat x5

Power Clean x3

Front squat x5

Push press x3

Again, I'm starting at roughly 50% and using Pavel;s 5x5x5 program. I'm not sure how many sessions I'm going to use this for, probably 15-20 and then switch the program a little bit--drop the number of total exercises but turn some of the current ones into compound exercises, like snatch + overhead squat and power clean + front squat and drop the reps down.

Currently, I'm waving the weights weekly and adding 5kg per workout so the plan looks something like this:

Snatch: 60kg/65/70/75/80 and the following week, 65kg/70/75/80/85, and so on--you get the picture. I'll post how the week finished up. I took today off cause my SI's locked up about 11am for no particular reason. I spoke with Dr. Cobb about it and he said it may be the new enzymes I've just started taking in the past couple of days. They create a lot of movement and can be taxing on the body/system.

One thing's for certain, my appetite is up. I must keep eating because I'm dropping weight. I'm underweight from cutting down this summer, so I've got about 20lbs I'd like to put back on--carefully and slowly. We'll see how it goes. After this first break-in cycle, I may put in some time with some heavy squatting (and eating and sleeping) and see what happens to the weight.

More later...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Caught Off Guard...

Well, the knees were a little...tired...yeah, that's it...kinda tender, but not really any sort of pain.

Then, I was bored Saturday and grabbed my 32kg KB and did a 2-Hand Swing ladder: 10-20-30-40. I tried it twice but only got to 20 on the second rung. My grip (!) gave out--never expected that.

Sunday, hams were tight.

Monday, hams were sore and tight.

Tried squatting anyway: 120kg/(1,2,3,4,5) x3 for 45 total reps. Right knee a little "twingy" at the ITB insertion and a little tight in the patellar tendon. But it seemed to work out.

Here's the unexpected part: my left hip hurt.

Never expected that; I've been so focused on the knees I just assumed the hips were fine.

It felt funky on one of my sets of squats--3rd ladder, 3rd rep. I was playing with my stance--just in case I ever get back on the platform, cause the heavier the weight, the more you shuffle your feet--but didn't turn my feet out. Big mistake. Then went on and hit 10 doubles on the KB C+P using the 40kg--about 45-60s rest between sets. Z to cool down and went home. (Trying Keifer as a PW drink. Need the extra probiotics.) Went to bed, hip a little sticky. Woke up, hip a little sticky; right knee, hard to tell. Not perfect though.

Anyway, worked out the hip and the knee with some Z pre-workout today. No problems during workout.

120kg/(1,2,3,4) x3--60% of yesterday's volume--30 lifts.

A little stiff afterwards. Here again was something unexpected. Trying to get back into KB snatches for metabolic conditioning: the left hip started grabbing again!

I wonder if I can mix the squatting and the KBs in the same cycle or if they will have to be separtate.

I see Eric Cobb on Thursday. It'll be interesting to say the least. I've come a long way since my initial eval. in April. I wonder if I'll be able to get back onto the platform. Part of me thinks that would be great. Another part of me (my wife) doesnt' think so. Seriously though, I think I could just be satisfied with KBs and BDWT exercises for the rest of my life.

We'll have to see how I hold together tonite and see how I feel tomorrow morning.