venerdì 25 novembre 2011

Squats, Technique, and Ladders

I received a good training question over the weekend from UK-based strength coach Cedric Unholz related to the recent Squat Ladder post and the training of a beginner weightlifter. 
“If you had a beginner weightlifter that is looking to bring the technical lifts up to match their strength levels, would you still tend to squat every workout?
Also, in the same scenario, do you think the ladders would be appropriate or would you stick to a more Texas style programming?”
In my experience, most new lifters with good strength levels and raw technique in the competition lifts have strength in the wrong places. For example, a lifter with a 160kg back squat and a sub-100kg clean…they are strong enough to clean more, but lack the technique to do so.  Obviously, this lifter would need to spend more time performing the clean, but it would be a disservice to their long term development to altogether stop performing the squat.  Rather than eliminate the squat, I would change the way they perform the squat to make it more conducive to learning the Olympic lifts.  First, all squatting would take place after the competition lifts so the most attention can be placed on performing those lifts.  Front squats would take precedence and the back squat would only be used sparingly, maybe a 3:1 ratio of front to back.  Front squats force you to maintain a solid upright posture, and put you in a better position to receive the clean and then stand-up with it.  It can be a humbling experience lowering the weight to perform the front squat effectively, but it is only an accessory lift, and the end result, a bigger clean, will be worth it.  I would stick with the “Texas” style of programming the vast majority of the time, but a new lifter will benefit from the Ladder style of programming.  The ladder forces you to perform multiple sets (sometimes twice as many than in the traditional Texas format) in a given workout.  That means the lifter has more opportunities to squat using correct form and good technique; walking out the weight, setting up, and then performing the lift.  It also gives you as a coach more chances to reinforce good technique. The lower number of reps per set eliminates the drop off in technique that occurs later in the set when they are just trying to finish that 5th rep.  I have not tried it yet, but I presume the ladder will work great with the front squat where I typically keep sets in the 2-3 rep range.  

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