the spaz of fitness has arrived

Olympic Weightlifting: or, the Opposite of Burpees

In Training on April 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I may have mentioned that I love burpees. I really love burpees. Burpee smashballs, burpees over bar, burpee pull-ups, they’re all good too me. The reason, however, that I’m so fond of burpees is that they play to my strengths. I’m 5’3″ and easily the lightest athlete at my box. I’m not particularly coordinated, not agile, and not strong in comparison to anyone (aka everyone) who has more than 10 lbs on me. Thus: Burpees. Burpees require virtually no physical grace, and only the strength to move your body from floor to vertical. I can look like an idiot all I want as long as I get my chest and hips to ground and back up, fully extended.

If I had no goals, I would do most of my workouts with burpees. Death by burpees. EMOM burpees. I did 12.1 twice and would happily do weekly burpee amraps if it didn’t get in the way of actually improving at other CrossFit movements. Now… the other CrossFit movements. I struggle with a lot of them. Again, predictably, I’m fond of the bodyweight stuff. Handstand push ups? Star jumps? Dips, sit-to-stands, etc, I’ll do them all day. Weightlifting, however, I’ve struggled with. The first time I did Nancy, I stuck with a 30lb bar. It took me my first five months of CrossFit to clean over 50lbs.

I see Olympic weightlifting as… well, the opposite of burpees. They require strength, agility, precision. They require the athlete to be much more in tune every joint, every muscle, every movement than I am. Right now, I’m working on improving my O-lift technique, hoping that the way it forces me to think about coordination, and on hip drive will transfer to other aspects of CrossFit as well.

Open gym days used to baffle me. I never really knew how to use the time. I would go in and conduct a metcon that I’d cobbled together myself or adapted from another box’s website. But, ever since I decided to concentrate on my olympic lifting, that decision has given my open gym days more focus. Mostly, assuming I’m not too worn out from the week, I take Thursdays and Sundays to work on O-lifts. I intend to have one heavier day (Thursday, probably because it’s right after my rest day) and one lighter day (Sunday). Before this week, I’d just snatched 3×5 and then cleaned 3×5, gradually increasing weight. But it didn’t seem “constantly varied” enough to be entirely beneficial.

Thanks to the MM (see previous post: the Mean Machine)’s recommendation, I looked at and found some of his basic programming. I’m obviously skipping all of the supplementary work, but I like the basic design of his original program. It incorporates a variety of cleans and snatches at different heights, power and squats, and–my favorite part– it prescribes a few exercises with just a portion of the lift. So today, for example, after snatches and a combination of power-clean, hang-squat-clean, and clean, I did snatch pulls. For someone as uncoordinated as I am, it’s useful to experience the moves divided into their basic components. That’s also something I’ve enjoyed about the box’s programming this week. We’ve spent a week focusing on the Burgener Snatch progression, as well as the transfer skills, with just a pvc. Doing these, with light/no weight, allows us to just concentrate on the minutiae– on the already demanding intricacies of each small step.

Sometimes, mastering a CrossFit movement feels a little bit like problem-solving. You have to attack the movement indirectly, from different angles, try new approaches. Break it into parts or try something else that trains the same muscles. When I started learning kipping pull ups, the coaches first taught me the hip drive from the ground, then we tried a band-harness thing, we tried ring-ups, but the movement didn’t make sense to me until I tried it with my foot through a band and allowed it to carry me over the bar. From there, I shed the bands within two weeks. I know other people for whom the band entirely throws off their kip and makes the movement impossible. We all learn differently; what works for me won’t necessarily work for the next athlete. Finding these solutions– experimenting and venturing into unknown territory not only pushes us closer to our goals, but better acquaints us with our own learning mechanisms, our physical quirks and mental blocks, and we learn to adapt and work around them.

— at least, I think that’s how it works.

Happy Sunday, all.

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