Saturday, June 27, 2009

A modest increase in slow strength .. a back squat PR

Saturday June 27, 2009

Before taking up Olympic lifting last October, I had never back squatted in my life. The only squatting I had ever done were the RKC Hardstyle kettlebell front squats and that was only since two winters ago (note the photo at the top right of me being evaluated on my technique for double 24kg repetition .. stance is a bit too wide; a problem I'm still working on correcting). Since the publication of Enter the Kettlebell, the defacto standard publication by Chief Instructor Pavel Tsatsouline for learning RKC Hardstyle kettlebell lifting technique, the kettlebell front squat, not discussed in the ETK, has since been elevated to one of the six fundamental lifts taught at the RKC instructor certification.

And thank goodness for that! This gave me a minimal base of leg strength that without with, would have made my Olympic lifting journey even more difficult if not impossible. Having said that, now eight months into training the Olympic lifts, my legs are a lot stronger than when I started. However, although this is a good start, I still have much ground to make up if I want to compete with elite master lifters in my weight class (85k) and age range (55-60).

As mentioned previously, Olympic lifters use three types of squats as assistance lifts to build strength for the snatch and clean and jerk:
  • Front Squat
  • Back Squat
  • Overhead Squat
The front squat has the biggest carry over to the recovery phase of the squat clean as the concentric part of the front squat is precisely a squat clean recover. The back squat has general carry over to both competition lift but primarily in the building strength for the effective first pull and second pulls. The Overhead squat is to the squat snatch as the front squat is to the clean, its concentric phase matches the recovery phase of the squat snatch .. I was making considerable progress with these and its sister assistance exercise the "snatch balance" before my injury.

With a probable anterior capsule injury to my right shoulder as suggested by Coach Carl Valle of Excel Sport and Fitness, track coach extraordinaire, the healing process take can take a significant time. Unlike other muscle injuries of the shoulder, this is injury to the anterior section of the thick tissue (ligament) the surrounds the humorous (see here). Very limited blood flows through this region .. there are not a lot ways to open it up to allow healing. With all OH work on hold for at least a few more weeks I have continued to focus on:
  • cleans (various hang positions, power, squat)
  • front and back squats
  • pulls
  • RDLs, lunges, pistols
For squats I had been focusing primarily more on front squats, training them two to three times more frequently than back squats. On Thursday I had a front squat volume PR with four doubles with 100kg. Today called for back squats, and I purposely left some reps in the tank to test on 1RM which I had last done back in January for two singles with 230 lbs (104 kg) recorded here. I remember these were very wide stance racked lower on the back than a high back stance used for training Olympic lifts. Today I added 32lbs for a new PR of 264 lbs (120 kg). I also came fairly close but missed with 275 lbs (125 kg). As stated earlier, to put things in perspective, Chris Dariotis , 85kg class, age 55-60, 2008 world champion , who recently set the US clean and jerk record of 131 kg, probably back squats over 180 kg (396 lbs) based on the squat numbers of comparable lifters. I am both humbled and inspired by these incredible feats of strength.

Afternoon Olympic weightlifting session at the club:

Z-Health Neural Warmup Level II Dynamic Joint Mobility

Snatch Pulls (kg):
40 x 2 x 4
50 x 1 x 6
60 x 2 x 4
65 x 2 x 3
70 x 1 x 3
75 x 1 x 3
75 x 1 x 2
80 x 1 x 1
85 x 2 x 1
70 x 2 x 2

Back Squats (kg):
70 x 1 x 4
90 x 1 x 3
100 x 2 x 3
105 x 1 x 3
110 x 1 x 1
115 x 1 x 1
120 x 1 x 1 (PR)
125 x 1 x 1 miss

A: BW x 1 x 20/20 Single leg hip dips
B: BW x 1 x 5/5 Milk crate height box pistols
Total: 3

My snatch pulls have improved over the last few weeks. This is due to two important factors:
  • "Loose arms". I now interpret this as almost letting the bar hang free fall. I use my legs entirely to get the bar to the 2nd pull position.
  • "Staying flat footed as long as possible". Easy to say but prematurely getting on my toes has been a problem as this is no power pushing from the there.
The 80kg pulls were to my sternum meaning that this is potentially snatch-able once I improve my 3rd pull and recovery phases.

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