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-   -   Specificity? State your position. (http://www.catalystathletics.com/forum/showthread.php?t=3889)

Dave Van Skike 02-18-2009 02:38 PM

Specificity? State your position.
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


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


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.


glennpendlay 02-19-2009 11:14 AM


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....


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