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View Full Version : Specificity? State your position.


Dave Van Skike
02-18-2009, 02:38 PM
An interesting thing to me is the degree to which people in strenght sports in particular place on replicating positon for one movement into the positon of another:

examples from Oly include...

replicating your clean position when pulling deadlifts

replicating squat stance and pulling position

hand position for presses same as jerks.

Examples in PL include hand position for presses same as bench. In strongman maybe it's how you set up for a tire or set shoulders for the pick on farmers...

Certainly one doesn't want to set up randomly for each movement, a consitency is required to a degree.

Not trying to rehash the LBBS vs. HBBS controversy and I understand how complicated the Oly movements are.
But, perrsonally, I've gotten so much more out of doing different variations of a movement to get past a sticking point, that that I can picture why it's neccessary here.

I'm interested to hear a good case for this hyper specificity. Is it important at all. Does one really get confused on accessory movements? say between DL and cleans or rows or hi pulls? Is it just a matter of removing a variable so you don't have to think about it?

Kevin Perry
02-18-2009, 03:55 PM
I'd say it's only important if say the person is a competitive athlete but for someone who just wants to really nail down their form and improve then practicing all the assistance exercises that need to be worked for a specific exercise and adapting the form wouldn't suffer from using the positions of an Oly specific movement with deadlift, etc.

Not a big deal with crossfitters because they only need to know enough to get through the workout but when a speific lift begins to suffer then they will focus on that specific lift and eventually work through all the different aspects that improve that lift.

I have found my cleans to improve dramatically when I started using a clean grip on all my pulling movements as an example.

Not sure if im making sense.

Mike ODonnell
02-18-2009, 04:18 PM
Variety is good...but not at the expense of neglecting progression of volume/weights.

glennpendlay
02-18-2009, 06:29 PM
Dave,

As one who has competed in powerlifting, and even trained "westside" for several years (they are the kings of variety) then switched to weightlifting, I have seen some differences in how variety can be applied to each sport. In powerlifting, there is no question that variety works... all kinds of it, variety of movements, variety of exercises, variety of speeds, it all seems to work.

In weightlifting, it seems some variety works, some doesnt. For instance, there is a fair amount of consensus that pulling from different heights works. Many, probably most, coaches use blocks to pull off of, some have multiple heights, some even use blocks to stand on to extend the pull. I have used these methods, and agree with the consensus that it works. Curt White, one of the all time best US lifters, reportedly used a lot of variations in his grip width while snatching, using various grip widths that were from one inch narrower than his competition width to almost a clean grip, while snatching. This is not as common, but it worked for him, and I have seen evidence of this in the training of both Russian and Chinese international level lifters.

In contrast to this the pulling position seems almost "sacred". Lifters and coaches go to great lenghts to avoid any bad habits creeping into the pulling position. The vast majority of lifters and coaches avoid even pulling weights too heavy to follow the same line of pull and "tempo" as a competition lift.

My experience as a coach makes me tend to agree with most of the conventional wisdom.

Dave Van Skike
02-18-2009, 08:30 PM
thanks glenn, that's interesting. i'm certainly not a student of the sport's history but was it this way when the press was still a lift? the same for splitters?

Garrett Smith
02-18-2009, 09:27 PM
I'm no Glenn Pendlay, obviously, here's my $0.02 anyway. :)

I try to do different variations when I can and when I think the variations have benefits. If I'm doing a variation on a "major" lift, I try to make sure it is different enough than the most important version to not confuse the motor patterns.

For example, doing "B" squats as a portion of my back/front squat sets. Different enough not to confuse motor patterns for sure. I think "B" squats are highly underrated and underutilized, along with having athletic benefits from the staggered stance.

I would use my clean grip (including the hook) for my DLs, along with a similar stance, as my OLs will always have priority over my PLs.

I would use the same grip on all of my presses. That said, I get all sorts of extra "different" work pressing with the gymnastics stuff (no bar most times, obviously).

I don't have a specific goal though, other than enjoying my training, feeling athletically "capable" and being competitive in Master's OL in a couple of years. I figure if I stay healthy (by doing variations to both stay strong in many different ways while minimizing repetitive mechanical wear patterns on the joints) than there won't be much issue.

For those who wish to be specific and as competitive as possible, I don't believe my approach to be optimal in any way.

Greg Everett
02-19-2009, 10:10 AM
There are two basic fears in regard to changing positions - one, that it won't develop the strength optimally for the ideal position, and two, it will create bad habits or similar but different enough patterns to confuse you neurologically for the correct ones.

I think both have their merits, but also that both are occasionally taken to extremes unnecessarily.

I do think the strength side of the argument is more important for non-novice weightlifters. we all know (at least most of us - I can think of at least one exception) that strength isn't some magic fairy dust that simply pervades all muscles and positions indiscriminately - it's quite specific. That being the case, if we're training for specific lifts, we're best focusing the bulk of our energy on strengthening the associated positions and movements.

There are all kinds of fancy arguments regarding the movement stuff, especially focused on snatch and clean pulls in OL. The idea is that because you can't perform a pull exactly as you would in a full lift, you shouldnt do them at all because you're just contributing to a diluted ability for precise execution.

Granted, there is no such thing as a perfect pull - no style can replicate the pull performed in the actual lift. But this difference is quite confined to the very last moment of the pull - from the floor up, there isn't really any difference (or at least there doesn't need to be). So we can still reap a lot of benefit from this when prgrammed appropriately. Like Glenn said, the key is not going to heavy - they need to remain quick and snappy, and in the same position for as much of the time as possible.

Similar for the DL - if it's not so heavy that it turns you into a question mark, you can use it to strengthen the appropriate position of the early parts of the pull - and it's arguably different enough at the top that it won't interfere with the real pull. But again like Glenn said, these can't be super heavy or you lose that position, which defeats the whole purpose.

Where it gets a little trickier is in learning lifters who are having enough trouble already learning technique and anything other than the basics confuses them. In these cases, I dont see a problem with deadlifts, and I use them to teach the pull from the floor after having taught the rest of the lift from mid-thigh. With strength training, I'd generally avoid pulls very early with a lifter and stick with DLs because their puls will be so squrelly anyway, they wont be that helpful, and then we avoid any technique confusion problems. But with a more experienced lifter, I really don't see a problem with pulls, although Im not with the team of folks who use them constantly.

Kevin Perry
02-19-2009, 10:40 AM
lot of good information here especially from Glenn and Greg, awesome.

glennpendlay
02-19-2009, 11:08 AM
Dave,

I dont have any direct ties to the pressing era. The knowledge I have of that is the same as any of you, what I have read and heard, maybe with one exception, and that is my friendship with Tommy Suggs. Suggs was a York barbell lifter in the 60's, trained with the whole gang back then and was an editor of strength and health magazine. I coached his grandson for a while, and he was always kind of an "honorary coach" for us, coming up several times to visit for a few days the week before a big meet to kind of inspire the kids. Suggs held the american record for the clean and jerk briefly 40 years ago, and now at over 60 years old he still has abs and veins in his delts.

Anyway, according to him, he now thinks (or did think, its been 4-5 years since we talked about this) that they did way too much training for the press when it was a competitive lift. And yes, they did do a lot of variety, some isometrics, partial range of motion pressing, etc. I am having a hard time remembering exercises mentioned to me, but i think they included dips, bench presses, and some various tricep isolation exercises. But based off what I can remember, the partial range of motion presses seem to have been the most favored assistance, or variety movement.

glenn

glennpendlay
02-19-2009, 11:14 AM
Greg,

have you ever seen a video of steve goggins deadlifting? I know you always talk about a round back when pulling heavy, and of course that is 99.99% right, but goggins is the other .01%, the guy pulled 800+lbs many times with a back straight enough from top to bottom to make any OLer jealous. weird back strength. He was limited only by his grip.

Just some interesting trivia....

Glenn

Dave Van Skike
02-19-2009, 11:57 AM
Thanks for that Greg and Glenn. pretty cogent arguments...here's a sideline hypotetical, how do you deal with somone who's PL or SM, strong but has shitty technique at the oly lifts. I'm thinking every heavy or super heavy SM competitor I know who wants to improve his explosive pulls.

Guys like this pull from about 7 million different positions and recieve the weight in a split, a splot or a jerk seemingly at random. Would you use the same advice to refine their pull and recieving positions?

On the one hand, I could see the argument of taking it back to zero and breaking every bad habit he's got but on the other hand, he's tossing 300 pounds of bb, axle or log into the rack whenver he wants and these implements are never going to behave properly. On the other hand, you can SM guys like Misha that pull heavy deadlifts that look like a clean pull with very little rounding at all.

It's sort of a different question but what's your experience here?

glennpendlay
02-19-2009, 12:44 PM
Dave,

I would train such a person the same as anyone else, that is, try to teach good form and use as a primary training weight the most weight he could so with consistently good form.

Ive actually coached a LOT of guys like this, most came from PL, very strong and had done some powercleans and such with horrendous form in high school or whatever. The first ever national junior squad member and one of my first national champions was such a guy, Justin Schlager. Good kid, came to me with a 400lb bench, 600lb Pl squat and deadlift. He was doing 130kg snatch and 160kg clean and jerk in less than a year. Good kid.

Since HS powerlifting is a varsity sport down here in Texas, i have gotten a lot of these kids right out of high school, strong from powerlifting and have done their particular football coaches version of powercleans and maybe powersnatches, but WILD technique. Most of them have done well in OL within a year or two.

glenn

Greg Everett
02-19-2009, 04:37 PM
I'm with Glenn - Really no different, other than that you may need to work around a bigger ego when convincing said dudes to use weights they can actually handle correctly. Really it's just a matter of making them understand that committing to technique work for a bit will in the long run get them much farther much faster.

Glenn and I actually talked about this yesterday - it's a hell of a lot tougher to train someone who has some poor experience with the lifts than none at all, and I think even tougher when that latter person has a ton of strength because they're more apt to believe they're a lot farther along in the game than they really are.

Rick Deckart
02-21-2009, 10:13 AM
Glenn,

if you don't mind... in such a situation, do you use the most weight the athlete can handle in good form for the squat or do you restrict this to an intensity much closer to the maximum clean & jerk? I know partly this will be reduced because of the likely switch to an olympic squat, but that should still be way ahead of the clean & jerk.

Dave,

I would train such a person the same as anyone else, that is, try to teach good form and use as a primary training weight the most weight he could so with consistently good form.

Ive actually coached a LOT of guys like this, most came from PL, very strong and had done some powercleans and such with horrendous form in high school or whatever. The first ever national junior squad member and one of my first national champions was such a guy, Justin Schlager. Good kid, came to me with a 400lb bench, 600lb Pl squat and deadlift. He was doing 130kg snatch and 160kg clean and jerk in less than a year. Good kid.

Since HS powerlifting is a varsity sport down here in Texas, i have gotten a lot of these kids right out of high school, strong from powerlifting and have done their particular football coaches version of powercleans and maybe powersnatches, but WILD technique. Most of them have done well in OL within a year or two.

glenn

glennpendlay
02-21-2009, 11:04 AM
Peter,

In a situation like that, we will basically do maintanence work on the squats for a while. But usually in this situation, you find a guy with a a big backsquat, and no front squat. Pretty common for an ex-powerlifter type. So if thats the case, we will let the back squat ride for a while, and do all or almost all the squat work on the front squat and try to get that up to par. Ive seen quite a few guys who came on board with big back squats, like in the 600lb range, who couldnt stand up with a 275lb clean. Seems odd but it happens.

And these guys all dont like the programming, because they miss the heavy benches, deadlifts, and squats, they miss the feeling of training hard... because they arent doing that anymore, and they arent good enough on the Olympic lifts to really use heavy weights or really challenge themselves from a strength standpoint. So we try to find "strength lifts" which are more appropriate to OLing. RDL's, overhead squats if they can do them, push presses or military presses, front squats, etc. They can do these "slow" movements and they can push themselves and get the same feelings they got from bench presses and deadlifts, it helps the transition both mentally and physically from the powerlifting workouts to the OL workouts.

glenn

glennpendlay
02-21-2009, 11:15 AM
And one other thing. You would be surprised how much a big powerlifting style squat DOESNT apply to a big high bar squat. I coached one kid who had just done over 600lbs in competition a month or two before starting OL, and he struggled, and I mean really struggled, to do 385lbs on a high bar squat for a couple of reps. thats not uncommon. Some of these kids have never used their quads in their life. You ask them to keep the chest up and squat all the way down, they are incredibly week. I was pretty much the same way when I started OL, had an PL backsquaqt of over 800lbs, couldnt hibar squat or front squat my way out of a wet paper bag.

But its a mistake to just hammer the back squat in this situation... they inevitably bend over every time it gets heavy... simply because that is the position they are strong in. Better to keep the back squats light or non-existent for a while, till they have built some quad strength with OHS and/or front squat, both of which pretty much FORCE you to do them right or you dump the bar.

glenn