sabato 24 settembre 2011

Your Monthly Moment of Zen #19


“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” — Muhammad Ali

Nick Horton got married!  We said, “I do”, we roller skated, we drank a lot of vodka.  Good times.  Did I say we drank a lot of vodka?

Michael Hartman and his wife had a baby boy!  Perhaps not coincidentally, he wrote a post about how to get more sleep!

In my experience, optimal sleep really comes down to two main areas which need to be accounted for every night: Environment and Routine


Sarah Bertram, my friend, fellow Oregonian, who just won the national championships in the 69k class for the second time, is profiled in this article.  I’ve known Sarah for many years, watched her compete in upwards of 5 to 7 local contests per year as a way of practicing the art of staying poised and consistent when it comes time to hit the big stages like Nationals and Worlds … and she always is. 

Many many lifters can hit big numbers in training, but they let their nerves destroy them in a contest.  Sarah is a machine in a contest – her mind is always where it needs to be.  She is, hands-down, one of my favorite lifters ever, because she exemplifies so much of what I think is great about this sport, and what this sport can do for you. 

Sarah is the type of weightlifter you want representing your country. (Hint: Olympics 2012!!)

“The hardest part after you’ve been training like, eight, nine, 10 years, making progress is not as quick as it is the first five (years),” Bertram said. “Being able to mentally stay with it and not see progress for half a year. The longer you do it, the more it takes.

You get to a point where you have to overcome. I mean there has to be something about me that’s weird that I enjoy this odd thing that I come in day-in and day-out and don’t see reward right away.”

And here’s an article about her from January 2010 that I found (PDF).

Sarah’s belief in the benefits of weightlifting motivated her to join Coach Hirtz in his volunteer outreach to at-risk youths in the John Serbu detention center. Three days each week for the past six years, Sarah has volunteered her time and passed along her training to help troubled young people build confidence and self-discipline. “Sarah is such an inspiration to these kids,” Hirtz says.

PDX Weightlifting VS BlackBox FW.  In their first internet match-up, my club and Coach Dutch Lowy’s club (Black Box Fort Worth, where Michael Hartman now trains) had a hell of a fun time doing a Cleans competition.  We took vids (Theirs are here, my crews are here), and scored it on Sinclair.  Black Box lifters won first place for both men and women!  PDX won the team competition with a higher averaged Sinclair.  Next month, we’re competing on Front Squats.  And you KNOW that I love Front Squats!

Here’s my man Peter doing a one-handed Clean PR during our contest:

By the way, Coach Dutch is a hell of an athlete himself, with his best snatch of 112 at only 69k!  Woo doggie!! 

Dutch Lowy on Sprouting your Food.

Sprouting allows the seed (nut or grain, both are seeds) to germinate and come alive. Once this happens, the seed deactivates the anti nutrients which have been keeping it dormant and protecting it. The sprouting process allows the seed to begin its life cycle and therefore shed its need to protect the seed further.

Michael Hartman, Lon Kilgore, and Justin Lascek team up to get you FIT with their upcoming book … soon to be released.  You can keep up to date by following their facebook page.  And here’s their page on 70’s Big.

FIT provides the "why" and "how" of the purposeful integration of strength, endurance, and mobility training; address the misinformation associated with fitness; and gives the readers the knowledge to make decisions regarding fitness. While the applications and understanding of fitness (and the three components) have been well reported, there has been a void in a single source of information which provides a clear voice…and FIT fills that void.

Mike Robertson teaches you how to Deadlift.  This is a comprehensive article with lots of added video. 

Bret Contreras on How to Ease Into Daily Training.  Funny quote by his character, Johnny Meathead:

“This is exciting! I’m going to get freakishly strong and jacked!”

Bret also has a great post on T-Nation about the most important word in all of Strength Training:  Adaptation!!  It was a tongue-in-cheek article that makes good points via sarcasm (what’s not to love!).  Here are two particularly funny lines given who wrote it:

“Hip thrusts, barbell glute bridges, and single leg hip thrusts.
Whoever thought up these abominations is a serious douchebag.”

“Why not just foam roll on the freeway and get it over with?”


Coach Dos Remedios was part of a clinic being run at Elemental Fitness Labs here in Portland that Peter (one-handed clean guy above!) and I went to.  Dos got Peter and I to do cardio … rare for Peter, unheard of for me!! 

Dos did not disappoint. He took concepts from his Cardio Strength Training Book and moved from larger density circuits done for time and reps down to finishers including some especially brutal 15 second on 15 second off rounds of squat jumps and burpees. For those looking to improve work capacity and power endurance make sure you pick up Dos’s book or go see him present live. You and your clients will thank for the performance improvements.

All my CrossFit friends would have laughed at me!!

Barry Kinsella outdoes himself again with another great interview.  This time the Bulgarian Papa himself, Ivan Abadjiev:


Nia Shanks on why you should Lift Like a Girl:

After taking off my lifting belt and taking a sip from my water bottle, she finally came up to me.

“Um, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but why do you train like a man”?

After thinking, “you’re kind of stupid” for a brief moment, I offered a more appropriate response since she clearly never lifted anything that wasn’t coated in pretty pastel colors.

JC Deen has another great post for those women out there who still think that if they lift weights they might turn into a man!  I know that you, my female readers, don’t think this way.  But, you might have friends or family that do.  His post is full of examples of women in fitness who lift heavy, and don’t magically grow beards.

Quote from one of the women profiled in the piece:

Training heavy and seriously is what got me to the point where I actually like my body and feel comfortable in my skin.

The kind of lifting that we in the weightlifting and CrossFit communities do isn’t just about looks (though it tends to help there, too), it is about feeling like a strong and capable person inside and out.  Man or Woman, we call all use some of that!

Inspiring Creativity.  If you want your kid to grow up to be a writer, keep them bored:

First of all, let her be bored. Let her have long afternoons with absolutely nothing to do. Limit her TV-watching time and her internet-playing time and take away her cell phone. Give her a whole summer of lazy mornings and dreamy afternoons. Make sure she has a library card and a comfy corner where she can curl up with a book.

Honestly, this line rang the truest:

Let her be lonely. Let her believe that no one in the world truly understands her. Give her the freedom to fall in love with the wrong person, to lose her heart, to have it smashed and abused and broken.

It’s a rare artist who’s worth-a-damn that has ever lacked those experiences.


Nick Horton on Managing your Depression with Weightlifting.  The amount of very personal emails I got regarding this post was overwhelming, and moving.  I’ve been dealing with this my entire life.  And, it has taken me a decade to get to the point where I can honestly say that I DO manage it.  It turns out, I’m not alone.

I used to believe that if life had no inherent meaning, then there was no point to anything.  I now believe the opposite.  Life has no inherent meaning, so it is incumbent upon us to create that meaning.  We do this via loving each other, putting work into those things we are passionate about, and increasing the number of moments where we can feel some semblance of happiness and fulfillment.


Nick Horton has a controversial article on the Low Hip Start technique in Olympic Weightlifting over at Bret Contreras’s blog.   Here’s one of the more controversial bits:

You must be on your heels when the bar is at the hip position.  I cannot stress this enough.  When I’m in the gym I sound like a broken record.  “Heels, heels, stay on your heels!”  Of all of the things that come out of my mouth, that’s the one that I say the most often.  And with good reason.  It does you no good to get your hips through, finish your pull, and be moving fast if the bar ends up two feet in front of you.   Putting the bar in the right spot is priority number one.

Not everyone agrees with me on this, and I got a fairly large amount of responses (both pro and con) from different coaches and lifters from around the country.  I really appreciate getting honest constructive criticism.  It’s how we learn.  And, when you write stuff for public consumption, that is part of the game.

Here was my attempt at responding to these points of disagreement. 

Sean Waxman has a take on the difference between Technique vs Mechanics.  He’s drilled this point on many occasions and I stole it for my Low Hip Start article (though in a way he might disagree with!).  Here’s a point he makes that I am completely on board with:

"Until genetic engineering yields athletes with identical DNA, technique will continue to vary among lifters. And, until the laws of physics change, observable technique may be called “catapulting”, “Triple Extending”, or “Triple Lindy” – the fact remains, the forces involved in lifting a barbell and the causes behind them are the same now as they were 30 or more years ago."

Sometimes, things that sound like disagreements are really just semantic arguments that are not being taken as such.  The bar has to do certain things – that is a fact.  HOW a lifter gets the bar to do those things is what we call technique.  Different people will find different techniques work best for them – that is, they have to move their body differently than the next girl in order to get the bar to do the SAME thing. 

In the end, EVERY lifter has to find that technique that works best for THEM.  Weightlifting is a far more individual thing than most give it credit for … because we aren’t born with identical DNA.

By the way, I just want to say in public that I think Sean Waxman is a great guy

He made a wonderful gesture by immediately emailing me directly with his own disagreements with my aforementioned article.  As usual, he made great arguments, in a cordial way, that really made me think, and rethink some points (they’re still rattling around in my head, actually).  He’s far more experienced than I am and has been doing this longer, so the fact that he’s always been so encouraging of me, even when he disagrees with me is quite inspiring.

Sean is a thoughtful guy who takes the art and craft of coaching seriously, and it shows.  But he also recognizes that we’re all in this together. Just like in all of life, you can argue with someone about a point and still be their friend.  The world would be a far better place if we all took that fact to heart.  

If you haven’t done so already, make sure you go back through his articles, his drills on youtube, and anything else you can find.  He’ll make you a better lifter!!  (Better yet, if you are in the LA area, join his club, and become a champion!)

Here’s one of his teaching videos for example:


Glenn Pendlay on the insidiousness of Straw Man Arguments, and an example of one in weightlifting:  That American Olympic lifting coaches don’t care about strength. 

There is a notion that is gaining popularity among the general strength training crowd, the notion that Olympic lifters in the United States do not care about strength training. That we put a low priority on getting strong. Now, it is so patently ridiculous to think that those in a sport where success is based on how heavy a barbell you can pick up and put over your head don’t believe strength is important that I did not think the idea would ever gain all that much traction. In fact, it is so ridiculous that I thought it would probably come back and bite the folks saying it in the ass once people just thought about it a little.

I was wrong.

The very idea that we don’t care about strength is just crazy.  Ask my poor lifters how much I make them squat every week …

Donny Shankle and Jon North make the Pan Am teams with their lifts at Nationals, and Donny makes the World Team!!

Mighty Kat posts a poem by Goethe about Commitment.  Most people believe that they can commit to something only once they get past their hesitancy about it.  The reality is the opposite.  You commit first.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision
Raising in one’s favor all manner
Of unforeseen incidents and meetings
And material substance
Which no one could have dreamt
Would have come your way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Ben Claridad has a great collection of videos of high school and college athletes performing horrible but impressive power cleans.  He makes the following point:

The most entertaining lifting videos on youtube are power clean videos from high school or college athletes.  Hands down.  The techniques is always terrible.  The people are always excited.  And the weights are always surprisingly heavy.  To be honest, I’m only half kidding when I say that I wish people in the Olympic Weightlifting community acted in this manner.  And I also see these videos as “proof”; proof that America could be a dominant force in weightlifting if our genetic crop chose individual sports like weightlifting.  We need more athletes.  We need more meatheads.  Instead we have a bunch of guys like me running around who work hard, actually know how to lift weights, but simply lack the raw talent.

Lyle McDonald has posted 3 parts of what is going to be a multi-part article series concerning what it will take for the US to gain dominance in weightlifting:  Part I, Part II.  Part III.  So far, what I like is that he recognizes that there are many factors at play, and he is willing to explore them in a lot of depth. 

I particularly like the take on genetic variability, which is something that people often have a hard time understanding:

I mention this as research indicates that, among blacks, there tends to be more genetic variability than in other ethnicities (again I hesitate to use the word ‘race’).   Basically there is more spread around what might be some average in blacks compared to non-blacks.  You’ll see both more data points at the low end and at the high end for anything you look at.

And the practical implication of that is that you could expect both the best and worst runners to be represented by Kenyan runners.  It’s similar to the way that blacks of West African descent may be muscular, lean strength/power dominant types or suffer from terrible insulin resistance and obesity.  Quite in fact, as discussed in the paper Influence of Racial Origin and Skeletal Muscle Properties on Disease Prevalence and Physical Performance it’s probably the same factors causing both potentialities (i.e. high Type II fiber dominance) and other factors which interact to determine what is ultimately seen.

Basically we would expect there to be just as many Kenyan runners who are terrible as there are who are just incredible.   But it’s this variability that may give the potential for truly superior specimens to emerge.   And since sport only cares about the best athletes (the ones at the opposite extreme or in the middle aren’t relevant), it’s only relevant in that this variability gives that potential for both the worst AND the best.  And the best are all that matter here.

Given that the United States has a population with MASSIVE genetic variability (since our population literally comes from all over the world), the underlying facts apply directly to our potential to create selection pressures that “pick out” the best potential weightlifters. 

Adam Stoffa on approaching your problems by turning them upside down first:  Always Invert.  The fact that he quotes a mathematician makes me happy, of course!

Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi (December 10, 1804 – February 18, 1851), considered to be the most inspiring teacher of his time and one of the greatest mathematicians of his generation, said: Invert, always invert. Jacobi believed that the solution of many hard problems can be clarified by re-expressing them in inverse form.

(Jocobi is the guy responsible for those crazy-whack Jocobian matrices we were all so fond of in Linear Algebra and Diffy-Q!)  Here’s the key idea:

(1) Invert.  Take a particular goal that you hope to achieve – now invert it to find your non-goal.  To do this ask: What don’t I want to achieve? For example, if your goal is to lose weight, then your non-goal is to get fat.

We can make this weightlifter specific:

To make sure the bar is always too far forward I need to stay off my heels during the pull, keep my lats loose and floppy, keep the bar as far from my body (especially my hips) as humanly possible, etc. 

Bob Takano has 9 tips for beginning coaches on how to teach technique.


Average Broz Gym has moved!!  They are now combined with CrossFit Las Vegas with 5 platforms, 3 of which are double platforms, Jerk Boxes, and other goodies.  They also have an “Athletes Lounge” and “Recovery Center”.  We have one of those, too.  It’s the Hard Cider Bar that is next door to our club ;)

USA Weightlifting is getting the hang of the youtube, and has posted a number of videos from Nationals this year (No Sarah Bertram, unfortunately!).  Here’s the link to their Youtube page.  And here are a few fun ones from the mix:

Sarah Robles AKA Queen of the Platform!


Also … 

Amaechi goes wild on the Clean and Jerks:

Average Broz Gym Was well represented this year at Nationals, with Pat Mendez winning the 105+ class.  This is also just a really fun video …

Ben Claridad AKA Conan the BARbarian!


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