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Westside Visit Part I
I want to start out by saying that this trip to Westside Barbell has exceeded the expectations of us all. I knew that it would be fun, and I knew that I would learn something. However, I had no idea that it would be so amazing. I brought my wife, Rebekah and Caleb Tilson, Frank Volrath, and Jacky Bigger. We have all worked out. We have all had fun. We have all learned an enormous amount.
I know that a lot of coaches out there don’t like what he has to say about Olympic weightlifting. I agree that he has never coached a weightlifter. Who cares? He has never coached a football player to play football, but yet several NFL Teams like the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys spend quality time with him learning how to make their athletes stronger, faster, and more explosive. He has never taught a track and field athlete how to run or jump. Yet there were two Ohio State Track athletes and their coach at Westside Barbell today. I saw them and talked to them.
I tell you all of that because I want to make the following point. He’s not telling us how to teach Olympic weightlifting. He’s simply offering some ideas about how to get stronger and more explosive. He’s also offering tips on mindset and culture. He gave me several great ideas about recruiting new and younger athletes.
Maybe you know everything there is to know about strength and conditioning, exercise science, physics, kinesiology, and Biomechanics, but I sure don’t. As a matter of fact I want stop learning until the day that I die. If I think that someone can teach me one little idea that might improve my lifters, then I am going to pay them a visit.
Here’s the thing. You don’t have to like him, but you really should respect him. There are a lot of very smart people in positions much higher than all of us that listen to him. Maybe just maybe we should put all of our pride aside and learn from him.
In my first two day, I have a notebook full of notes. It is going to take me months to ponder them and put all of my ideas together. However in the meantime I am going to give all of you some really cool highlights of the visit. I am so happy to share this with you guys because I want the sport of weightlifting to take that next step onto the podium. The only way to do that is to collaborate. I am not going to hide any of my ideas. I would hope that none of you would either.
1. Accessory movements will uncover weaknesses. The very first day, Louie had my athletes perform three different accessory movements. The first one was pulls on the belt squat machine with the neck harness attachment. The neck harness will activate muscles from the back of the head down to the lumber spine region. We definitely found that our athletes have weak neck muscles and mid traps. All of their necks and traps were extremely sore and beat up.
The second machine was the inverse leg curl. I loved that machine, and the way it allowed the athletes to strengthen their hamstrings as they cross the knee and hips. The basic Russian lean makes it incredibly hard to progress the athlete to the point of completing multiple repetitions. This machine allowed them to progress in one day. I was pleased to find that my athletes had optimal hamstring and glute strength to perform this movement.
The thing is that I would have my athletes perform this movement even if they were optimal in the movement. It’s important to maintain solid quad to ham balance. You will find that if you have chronic knee pain, a lot of times it is a quad to ham imbalance especially as the hamstring crosses the knee. This machine could help prevent or cure a big percentage of knee pain.
The reverse hyper revealed the biggest weakness in all of my athletes. Obviously their low backs are weak across the board. Is that a bad thing to find a weakness? Absolutely not! That means there is a lot of room for improvement. We performed high reps and then static holds. The best part of this exercise is the recovery benefit. All of the athletes woke up with recovered low backs, and ready to go for the next day of training.
Accessory movements should make up at least 50% of the workout. I witnesses athletes from several different sports spending the majority of the workout on the smaller accessory movements. If you have a weakness, you should spend quality time addressing the weakness. Addressing weakness will equate to overall strength and efficiency.
2. Perform movements in awkward positions- In weightlifting we pride ourselves in performing perfect movement, and that’s a great idea. The problem lies when we make mistakes, and eventually we will make a mistake. It’s important to be strong in all positions, so the body is capable of performing lifts when things for wrong. If it’s the Olympic Trials, I want my athlete capable of performing the lift no matter what happens. If nothing else, it strengthens the body to maintain positions.
We performed movements like snatch grip stiff legged deadlifts with heels together. This put an enormous amount of pressure on the back and the glutes at extension. I could definitely tell that I was weak at this movement. We also performed this movement against pins with static holds. This movement is great if you need to strengthen the body to stay over the bar longer. This is just one example of strengthening weaknesses.
3. Box Squats with bands- I am not sure how I will implement these, but I can promise that we will implement them. The wide stance is a weak position for my lifters, which means that they are weak in the hip region. The relaxing and contracting will help them fire hard during the initial pulls. The bands are a whole other source of magic. The overspeed eccentric is great for increasing eccentric strength and kinetic energy. The bands with the box combines is a great way to work the athletes at optimal loads while minimizing stress on the low back during vulnerable positions of the lift. Not to mention the post activation potentiation produced by training with bands, taking them off, and then working heavy is by itself a great reason to use bands.
This is just article number one. I took a notebook full of notes and Louie gave me two books to read. With all of this information I am sure that I have months of material to churn out awesome article for all of you during the next several months. Be on the outlook for these articles, some new videos, and the amazing podcast that we taped during the visit. All of us at Mash are excited for a long partnership with Westside, and I am personally excited for many more visits to the mecca of strength that is West Side Barbell.
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Remember on September 17th-18th we will be hosting the Mash Barbell Picnic” on the Farm. Weightlifting Day 1 and Powerlifting Day 2, but more importantly hanging out together the entire weekend. Check it out below: