Thursday, 23 February 2012

Power Clean tutorial - First Pull week


Following last week's post, we will have a closer look at power clean. Out of all oly lifts - power clean is probably the exercise I use most with my athletes. There are many ways to teach power clean. It happens that I have to change the approach and teach it differently to different people. Here - I will go over the phases that PC consists of and look at the mistakes and limitations that may show up during performing 1st pull or even getting your athlete into a correct starting position.

Starting position:

The correct starting position is crucial to completing a successful lift. Remember - the bar will be moving fast - there is no time for adjustments. The key points below (especially shoulder and hip alignment) allow the greatest mechanical advantage when pulling from the floor, thus translating into optimal triple extension and power clean performance.

Feet hip width apart (when you later perform a "jump" it is better when the feet are under the hips - as you are able to generate most force from this position - unlike when he feet are to near or outside the shoulers)

Bar is pulled close to your shins and held with a hook grip

Back is set in a flat position (lumbar curve maintained) with head and eyes looking straight ahead

Shoulders are positioned in front of the bar (this is very important as it helps to keep the barbell close to your body when pulling from the floor)

Hips are slightly higher than knees

One more teaching point is the elbow position - as you can notice in the picture elbows are rotated outward. It may seem that this position serves no advantage in the initial pull from the floor. However, as you will see in the upcoming posts (by the time we get to the high pull and catch) - this positioning allows the elbows to be pulled high and vertical as the athlete quickly drops under the bar to receive the weight (this happens at the top end of the triple extension). More about it later on...

Now that we’ve reviewed good starting position lets go over the “first pull" of the power clean. The initial pull from the floor is done controlled without jerking. Hips and shoulders rise together as the athlete pulls the weight from the floor.

The first pull is slower than the 2nd pull etc, however slower doesnt mean SLOW, it is CONTROLLED and SMOOTH done without JERKING the bar off the floor.

Bar is lifted to knee hight and travels UP and slightly BACKWARDS (see pic)

Push feet through the floor

Hips and Shoulders raise at the same time

Bar stays close to the shins (the closer the bar to the body the Easier the lift feels, think about you and the bar as one unit)

Feet remain flat, the balance is spread evenly shifting towards the heel

Torso is rigid and arched, chest "proud"

Shoulders remain slightly in front of the bar

Arms straight, elbows rotated outward

Head in a neutral position, eyes looking straight ahead

Mistakes & Correction:

I will only touch on the most common mistake and limitations here. We will cover them more indepth and go over different scenarios during the June seminar where me and CJ will be teaching alongside 2 great coaches - Mike Mahler and Brooks Kubik (for details look up:

One of the mistakes you will see most often is when an athlete leads with the hips. If that happens, the hips are taken completely out of the movement with nearly all the stress being placed on the lower back. If your aim is to develop power and explosion in the hips - the above is not a very good idea at all, it also may cause lower back injury. Remember -, push feet through the floor, hips and shoulders raise at the same time

Some (or most) of the mistakes may actually be a result of poor flexibility. Lets look at the flexibility requirements for the 1st pull.

Hamstrings - If tight can be improved by i.e stiff legged deadlifts, general hamstring stretches

Chest and shoulders flexibility (affecting the back position) - ways to improve - shoulder dislocates (like in the pic below), wall squats & sots, specific shoulder stretch (more covered in the Dinosaur Training and Beyond seminar manual)

Back (back mobility should increase with improvement if hamstrings, shoulders and chest flexibility improves, however there are some supporting exercises that can be used to better it) - i.e wall squats (squats performed facing a wall with toes touching the wall like in the pic below), SOTS, bridges (or modified bridges)

Learning olympic lifts is a complex process and flexibility is often an issue that tends to be overlooked. However, if you have time to perfect the techinique - practice, fix what is limiting you and be honest with yourself about it (if it is flexibility - spend more time improving it, if it is strenght - train to get stronger) and I can assure you - it will be a time well spent. Overlooking or ignoring limitations will sooner or later result in an injury. Only well executed lift will have a positive impact on improving your athletic performance.

Till next week.


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Its Not Unusual

By Coach Cj Swaby

Tom Jones is a welsh singer who has been belting out the tunes since the 1960's. To this day he is still considered by some a sex symbol, its common to see adoring female fans screaming at his concerts.

While Mr Jones obviously had his fair share of Testosterone circulating through his blood stream, I wonder what would have happened if you threw in a hormone optimisation protocol and some serious resistance training? Perhaps even the occasional Odd Lift?

Great increases in strength, reduced body fat, increased lean muscle mass, better moods greater health and vitality, a greater sex drive?! - are these all possible achievements? Well, its not unusual.

But What Are Odd Lifts?

Odd Lifts are basically uncoventional lifts you are unlikely to see at your local Fitness First, LA Fitness or Virgin Active or other such chain of commercial health club.

Because of the rich sensory control required to execute these lifts, and the weird and unusual joint angles your body can be taken through, Odd lifts are considered advanced level of training. Embedded in the notion of "advanced" training is the label of "dangerous" and by default "Really, its not for you" hence you will not see the exceptional menu of Odd Lifts that are available, practiced at your local gym.

The possibilities are vast,from Sott Press, to Two Hands Any How, to one arm snatches. Most were practised by strongmen and strongwomen of old, to the present day. There is even an Odd Lifts Strength Association with regular competitions (don't believe me? check it out. Then come right back)

Do you have to do Odd Lifts in your training? No you don't. Conventional Lifts work fine. What I would say is this, If you do what the average person does, you will get average results. That's fine, but I believe in the exceptional. Odd Lifts can develop freakish strength specific to the lift, plus when effectively integrated into your training, they can have great carry over to conventional lifts, or your chosen sport.

Executing The Sotts Press

In the coming weeks we will be covering some of the more popular, and lesser known Odd Lifts in detail (and a few legendary figures in the iron game). If you want to learn how to execute the Odd Lifts first hand, or want to learn how to become hormonally optimised with expert Mike Mahler, then you will definitely want to check out the Dinosaur Training and Beyond Workshop in June 2012 in London, UK.

In the meantime enjoy the two video clips below. One is an expert in their field, unique and a little bit unusual, the other one not so (I'll let you decide which one is which!)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Memories And Souvenirs

By Coach Cj Swaby

Valentines Day is a commercial day. Love is sold in a box of chocolates, accompanied by red roses and a candle lit dinner for two (or three if you are into that kind of thing). I might sound a bit cynical, however I agree with the principle that it is important to show your loved one that they are precious to you (but why not do that every day of the year).

For myself, valentines day holds a slightly different meaning. In the early hours of the morning in 2006, on Valentines Day my brother died. It is without a doubt one of the defining moments of my life. While this may have been a life changing event for me and my family, it meant little or nothing to the vast majority of people. Such is life.

This year I was fortunate enough to spend Valentines with my beautiful family and a very special lady. She doesn't quite get the full extent and the depth my brothers death altered my very being. At times I'm not the easiest person to understand and can be challenging. But I'm working on it.

What you hold dear, what you love, and what you cherish may hold little significance for others, but if they are important to you, and they hold a special place in your heart let them know.

Now I'm not talking just one day of the year like valentines day, I mean every opportunity that is available to you. Show them, make sure they feel it with every part of their being, so that they know it deep down inside, because one day (if you are lucky) all you will have is memories and souvenirs.

Happy Valentines Day Lynden David Hall. R.I.P

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Olympic Lifts - do they really improve athletic performance?

By Sabina Skala

First of all - HAPPY VALENTINES, hope all of you will have an amazing day and nigth!.

The topic of today's blog (and the next few coming...) is olympic lifting - hardly a Valentines day subject ;)

Olympic lifts have been quite a controversial topic. Some of the great s&c coaches use them very successfully with their athletes, some on the other hand consider olympic lifts to be overrated in the athletic development (i.e Joe De Franco - for me one of the top coaches out there) and still get excellent results using other tools I personally use oly lifts and their derivatives with my athletes and clients. However, I wouldnt even dream about teaching them oly lifts if they are not proficient in certain exercises already (deadlifts, overhead squats, front squats and push press).

Why would you include olympic lifts and/or derivatives in your program? They are an excellent tool to develop POWER - so essential in most of sports. They key here is the triple extension in the ankle, knee and hip joint - These co-ordinated actions have been empirically shown to produce similar ground reaction force profiles to vertical jumping (Burkhardt et al., 1990), 10 m
sprinting (Tricoli et al., 2005) or kicking. The clean and power clean have been long established as the gold standard exercises for developing great leg and hip power.

The question is - can you improve power of lower extremities without including oly lifts in your training - the answer is YES. Oly lifts are just another tool in trainers hands to use to better the performance. You dont need to use them, however consider this - the more tools you have - the better you can repair what is not working.

What are the olympic lifts:
The 2 competition lifts are:
Clean & Jerk (clean and jerk are classified as 1 lift during olympic weightlifting competitions)

Both lifts are ballistic and explosive in nature therfore we can say that they test explosive strength. Snatch, Clean & Jerk are executed fast - and require greater amounts of mobility and a greater range of motion during their execution - than other lifts. The Snatch and Clean and Jerk are both dynamic and explosive while (believe it or not) appearing quite graceful, especially when viewed from a recording at a slowed speed. If used correctly by a s&c coach they can prove to be a second to none tool in improving flexibility, coordination, explosive and functional strength. Olympic lifts are compound, multi joint exercises. As mentioned before, the muscle firing sequence whilst performing oly lifts highly resembles the the way the muscles fire when sprinting, jumping, kicking, punching, throwing, etc.

It may seem that they are the best tool to improve all those abilities... why is it then that some coaches are reluctant to use them.

Here are the main reasons:

Olympic lifts are complex and it takes time to teach athletes how to perform them correctly (time is what s&c coaches rarely have)

Oly lifts require great amount of flexibility in wrists, back, chest, shoulders, hip flexors, hamstrings, calves etc - lack of flexibility and /or strenght is usually the biggest issue when teaching oly lifts. Clean and Jerk and even more snatch are ruthless in exposing the lack of strength and mobility.

The safety factor is another one, as you cannot spot for oly lifts, they should be preformed in a gym where you can drop the bar if needed, bumper discs should be used. Unfortunately few commercial gyms have the facilities to do so.

I value olympic lifts and strongly believe that they can be very helpful in improving athletes power and coordination. Saying that I use them only with my advanced athletes, who I train reguraly throught the year. One of my favourite derivatives is a power clean. During the next few weeks we are going to look at Power Clean, split the movement into phases and analyze each phase separately.

Till next time



PS. If you want to learn more about olympic lifting, kettlebells, strong man training and hormonal optimisation - me and CJ will be teaching alongside two Legendary US based Coaches - Brooks Kubik and Mike Mahler. For details and registration go here:
Trust me - this event is not to be missed!

Friday, 10 February 2012

To ask or not to ask....

By Sabina Skala

I was walking past a dentist the other day, and I thought I actually hadn't visited a dentist for a while. I knew the dentist, he was a regular at the gym where I train, he was always nice and said hi.

I thought why not pop in and ask him to check my teeth, in the end I was around and I was sure he wouldn’t mind. As I went in asking for Dentist X the receptionist informed me that he couldn’t see me because at that moment he was performing a major dental surgery. She also said I would need to book an appointment to see the doctor and that the consultation costs £x. To be honest I decided to ignore her.

I am a busy person, don’t really have time to book appointments, as I cannot commit to any time or day. I was in the area, I knew the dentist, all I wanted is to take care about my health and hygiene, I couldn’t understand why I should have booked an appointment just to have a minor check done, or why on earth should I pay for it. It wasn’t like it was supposed to be a serious treatment, was it? Plus shouldn’t dentists be happy that I care for my dental health? In the end this is their job, right? I decided not to speak to that lady at reception, she obviously was not very helpful. I did what was best - went to ask the man himself, I could be a valued customer, he should have appreciated my enthusiasm. As I walked in, the dentist was just drilling in that poor mans teeth, I tapped his shoulder, put my best smile on and said - very politely "Excuse me, I see you are busy, but could you just spare a moment please, it wont take more than 5 mins of your time and I am sure your patient wont mind". Guess what happened next....

The above story of course isn’t true. But if it was, wouldn’t it be ridiculous? To most of you - I am sure - it does sound pretty crazy. What happens then if you replace the word dentist with - trainer, and the word surgery with training session. Can you see any difference? Not really, and yet, there is still plenty of people who would behave exactly as described above and expect to be attended to here and now.

I wonder if its just me or have other trainers noticed that recently nearly everyone seems to want to have a personal trainer, preferably – for free and at any time. It had happened in the past that I was asked to help an enthusiastic gym goer, whilst I was either doing my own training or training one of my clients. At that time (a good couple of years back) I would politely excuse and ask the person to wait until I finished with my client. If I was training myself I would drop everything and rush to help, thinking I was saving yet another soul from the evil of obesity and unhealthy life. Recently however it became epidemic (maybe due to the credit crunch). Not only I have been interrupted when I train my clients/athletes or doing my own session, people get really upset when I refuse to give them advice here and now. They get even more angry when I tell them to book a session and pay for my assistance.

Therefore to put the things straight – just a few thoughts to all keep fitters:

When you see a trainer training someone , please do not ask for advice or anything else. The clients pay a lot of money and that session is for them not for anyone else around. It is not cool to request assistance at that time.

When you see a trainer training him/herself please do not ask for advice or anything else (unless you want to use i.e a pull up bar in-between sets)

When you see a trainer eating lunch, please do not ask for advice or anything else, its their private time and …they sometimes get hungry.

And… please do not ask a trainer to stretch you after your workout, unless you are their client.

If you however would like to receive some help with your training etc, I advice to ask your chosen trainer for their rates and book a session. No one ever thinks about going to osteopath and asking for a free spinal adjustment, or going to a lawyer and asking for charge free advice. Trainers only do their job and very often have to pay a lot of money to the gyms they use for training their clients. It is not cool to require them to give you a training or diet plan , it is also not fair to their clients, as they pay big money for that exact advice and assistance. I believe that some people are not aware that they are taking an advantage on trainers, so hopefully this short post will build more awareness.

Keep your body and mind strong and ….respect the trainers ;-)


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

CJS Kettlebells Presents; Dinosaur Training & Beyond Workshop

By Coach Cj Swaby

CJS Kettlebells, the highly established British Kettlebell training provider, has teamed up with top U.S strength coaches, Brooks Kubik of Dinosaur Training, and Mike Mahler of Aggressive Strength, to deliver the two day ground breaking Dinosaur Training and Beyond workshop in London. This is the first time ever in the UK.

The fitness industry has recently seen a renaissance in strength training for men and women, breaking away from mainstream body building to embrace functional strength and athletic development. Discovering the benefits of hormone optimisation has been critical to this movement, with strength Coach Mike Mahler standing prominently at the head of the field in the U.S. Tom Wyskida who tackled hormone optimisation with Mike explains.

"When I started with six months ago, I could just barely squeak out 3 good pull ups. This morning I did 12. Six months ago, my waistline measured 37 inches. This morning it is 30 inches. I can no longer wear any of the clothes that I did six months ago. I am also able to deadlift 300lbs for 3 reps. When I started, my total Testosterone was 192 and free was 40.7. In July, total was 481 and free was 78.9."

—Tom Wyskida

Barbells, Dumbells and Kettlebells are the tools of choice for this emerging collective. Brook Kubiks definitive book, Dinosaur Training, radically shaped the future of strength training globally for close to a decade. Simplistic and effective, it served as a wake up call to many who had become disillusioned and had realised routines in fitness magazines didn't work, and their local gym was more interested in taking their money, rather than their success.

Performance Coach Cj Swaby, and Strength Coach Sabina Skala of CJS Kettlebells have been restlessly pushing the boundaries of Kettlebell strength training in the UK since 2003. Setting the standards for Kettlebell workshops and classes that show how to drastically improve strength fitness and alter body fat with guaranteed results. Now, in June 2012 they will show how the "Odd Lifts" of Strongmen and Strongwomen of a golden era can be effectively integrated alongside Olympic Weightlifting for phenomenal results in strength fitness.

The two day workshop will take place at the Optimal Life Fitness Centre in Hither Green, London, from June 9th - June 10th 2012. For additional information and to book a place on the workshop visit Dinosaur Training and Beyond Workshop. Alternatively contact CJS Kettlebells here.