the spaz of fitness has arrived

Trust Me

In General, Training on May 4, 2012 at 10:40 am

I realized only a few hours after last post that revising my schedule would be stupid. I put the two heavy lift days on open gym days intentionally so I could find a spotter if/when I needed one. I should be back to this schedule:

Thursday: Squat 5×3, Press 5×3, Pullups 3 sets to failure

Friday: Power Cleans 3×5, Dips 3 sets to failure, Conditioning

Saturday: Conditioning

Sunday: Squat 3×5, Bench 3×5, Dips 3 sets to failure

Monday: Deadlift 1×5, 3 sets of Pullups to failure, Conditioning

Tuesday: Conditioning or Skill Work (on weeks when I feel strong, I use this day to practice lighter snatches)

Wednesday: Off

To get myself back on schedule, I didn’t do any lifting yesterday. Instead, I made up that partner WOD with Scotchy. It was a fun time, and not too exhausting. I’m a horrible shot with a medball to begin with, though, so the part about throwing it over the rig took some practice. Luckily, I had a patient partner who laughed at my frequent occasional misfires and steadily returned it back to me each time.

Since I started the morning with cleans, I thought I’d post some O-lift related advice. As my cleans have gotten heavier, I’ve noticed that lowering the bar becomes increasingly difficult. While I just drop it between power cleans, sometimes I’ve tried different series of hang cleans or snatches that require strategic lowering of up to 75% of my bodyweight from overhead to thigh, oftentimes wrenching my shoulder in the process. This article offers some helpful advice. I suppose it should be intuitive, but… like most things with fitness, I need the obvious stated outright:

When lowering the bar from overhead after a snatch, the athlete will begin by slowly bending the arms under control to bring the bar down as low as can be managed in this position. At this point, he or she will quickly flip the elbows from under to over the bar, keeping it as close to the body as possible. The clean will begin with this flipping of the elbows from under to over the bar. As the elbows flip over, he or she will pop up onto the toes or jump slightly to meet the bar with the thighs, absorbing the force by dropping back to the heels and bending the knees. The thighs will also create somewhat of a shelf to catch the weight and reduce the strain on the grip. From here, the weight can be lowered in the same manner as a deadlift. To further reduce the height from which the bar must drop, the athlete may choose to dip slightly at the knees while bending the elbows prior to jumping up to meet the bar.

The movement of the elbows makes me think of a reverse clean or a reverse snatch– as opposed to a vertical drop– and I never thought to catch the bars with my thighs.

The cleans felt light this morning, which is remarkable to me because they’re now 5×3 at 20lbs heavier than my old 1rm. I’d attribute that all to strength gains, but it’s not. My cleans should have always been stronger, they’ve also just historically sucked. I was thinking a lot today about how much– at least for me– CrossFit has been about learning to trust your own body. Perhaps because of my athletic inexperience, perhaps just as a product of my own personality, I’ve often been limited by confidence issues. I mean, yes, I wiped out on my first box jump– but for the next month, every hesitation occurred before my feet even left the ground. It wasn’t that Icouldn’t land on the box, it was that I didn’t believe I could. Similarly, I didn’t attempt a rope climb for the first month after we strung up the ropes just because I assumed they were beyond my capabilities. But the first time I actually approached the rope and gave it an honest effort, I discovered I could. I think, for those first awful months of failed cleans, I’d failed the lift before I even touched the bar. To be fair, my form was hideous and probably not suitable for hoisting anything off the ground, but still… after a few crappy tries, I convinced myself that the weight was too heavy and that I’d never get it back up. I plateaued at that one rep max for an absurdly long time. But ever since I broke the plateau, I’ve been able to steadily increase the weight every week… and rather than the weight feeling heavy, it feels like my body playing catch-up, like this is what I should have been able to do all along.

But a lot of movements in CrossFit are an act of faith in your own capabilities. After  the second pull of the snatch, you have to drop with full confidence that you can catch however tens or hundreds of pounds you’ve launched into the air. If you watch an athlete, you can see it– the slightest hesitation and he’ll sink too late or not enough. The weight will fall before he does, levering his arms askew, crashing to the rubber mats. Even smaller movements. You bend your elbows in the push-up or the dip with the prayer that you can push yourself back up.

I’m discovering how much CrossFit– or perhaps any form of athletic practice– teaches us to read our bodies… to know when that ache means you’re working and when it means you’ve reached your limit. You learn how loudly your body can scream before it chokes. You learn to find that apex– that peak where everything’s on fire, where your body burns and your lungs wail, and the adrenaline pumps so fast through your body that the world moves in slow motion. And hopefully you learn to stop before you fly over the edge.

Because I’m doing a strength program that doesn’t recommend lifting until failure, I’ve been doing some reading about different philosophies and why certain trainers advocate training to failure and others don’t. It seems like the methodology suits certain individuals better than others. Some bodies respond well to failure– others tear to the point that they inhibit recovery. Personally I like the avoidance because, though my strength keeps increasing, I don’t reach a soreness that impedes my performance the next day. But I’m also glad I had those few months when I did lift until failure each time (with good spotters, of course). I think athletes could benefit from knowing that feeling– from learning where your breaking point is so you have the confidence to push until you can’t… to understand your body and its signals enough that you can tell it to shut the hell up when it’s just being whiny, and can attend to its needs when it’s genuinely suffering.

… well that’s enough Jo philosophizing for today. Happy AVENGERS movie release day!

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