Thursday, June 30, 2011

Think about your hands

Before I get started, I have a few things I'd like to get off my chest:

#1- I have omitted bacon and heavy whipping cream from my diet for two weeks and I'm beginning to think I may actually die. If my blog suddenly shuts down, you know why.

#2- Starting next year, I am going to be offering seminars and certs in Europe. So if you're a European Crossfit gym owner that is Striving to be Fergilicious, I'm your girl.

#3- I got this super cool new purple water bottle that I love SO much that I'm actually drinking water throughout the day. I literally have to pee 18 times an hour, but my body feels amazing. If you don't drink enough water, buying a totally retro drinking device will solve most of your physical, and possibly mental, problems.

#4- I have a new cue that I learned that I would love to share with you all..


What the french toast does that mean?

Often times, when we are snatching and cleaning, we focus so much on two things: The jump and the turnover. But what about everything in between?

After we jump, we know that we're supposed to pull our bodies down and around the barbell all while getting our elbows high and outside to keep it close (seriously, read that sentence about 5 times). AND we know that we are supposed to turn the bar over with an attitude that says "I ain't no little sissy girl". But, sometimes we're so focused on this position:

and this position:

that we forget what the bar is supposed to do as it passes by our face.

Now, if you're anything like me... your face is your money maker (TOTALLY KIDDING... my face is NOT my money maker... it's my intelligence and charm that bring home the bacon...that I can't eat right now...;( ) and you do NOT want a barbell smashing into and ruining the one thing that helps you make a living. SOOOO.. what we tend to do is swing our arms around our face and lock them out overhead. Don't do that.

If we swing the bar around our face? Where is the momentum going at the end of the lift? BACK! and that is only if we turn the bar over aggressively. If we swing the bar around our face and DONT have an aggressive turnover, then we lose the bar FORWARD. We want the momentum to be going STRAIGHT UP as it passes our face and on the turn it over so that the bar lands perfectly in our strong overhead position. So, if you are missing the bar in front of you or behind you, listen up!

Here is how we fix the problem:
Think about your hands!
As your sitting here reading this blog post, here is what I want you to do...
1.Put your arms in a scarecrow position so that your elbows are high and outside and your arms are at a 90 degree angle.

2.From there, pull your hands up higher until they reach your armpits, and allow your wrist to flex (fingers pointing down) so that your elbows are still higher than your wrist.

3.Now, keeping your wrist flexed, pull your hands higher and higher and higher (right along side your face and over your head) until your arms are locked out (fingers still facing down)

4.Last, flip your hands over fast and tight as if you were turning a heavy weight over.

(No, that exercise was not a joke to get you to do something extremely weird whilst sitting alone in front of a computer while I'm secretly recording you and updating the video on youtube.)

That is what I want you to do with a barbell!! Did you feel how you had to really activate all those muscles to get your hands to stay in close to your body and pulled all the way over your head? That extreme activation is why we forget to keep the bar close to our face when we are moving FAST with WEIGHT.

So, next time you are snatching, think about what your hands are doing:
They are pulling back off the ground, they are moving straight up the side of your body (all the way to your armpits) when you jump and pull yourself down, they are continuing straight up the sides of our face (as we continue to pull ourselves down) until we are JUST about locked out, and then they punch to the ceiling for an aggressive turnover!


Thank you for your time and patience and I look forward to writing again if this heavy whipping cream and bacon hiatus doesn't crush my soul.

Ps... The same exercise can be done with the clean. Pull the hands up your sides, to your armpits, to your shoulders and then pull your elbows around.. landing in a front squat rack position. Be careful not to turn the hands over too slow on the clean when you are getting your hands up and elbows around. I tend to see people pause with their hands at their shoulders AND THEN get the elbows around. DONt DO THAT. Make it one fluid motion.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I think I have a history of writing blabbery blog posts that leave people frantically clicking the exit button out of fear of becoming more and more confused about Olympic lifting. For this post, I pinky promise to make it short and sweet.

Lets talk footwork.

Everyone knows that getting under a barbell is scary stuff. We don’t trust our overhead squat and we don’t trust our front squat, so, we shy away from receiving heavy weight in those two positions…aka receiving a snatch or clean. That hesitation causes one of the MOST common technical mistakes I see in the Olympic lifts: people throwing their feet out wide.

No one ever said that the fastest way to a pretty snatch or clean was through a wide stance. So, why do we do it?? We try to get depth by jumping our feet out into a quarter split position instead of landing in our squat stance. And why do we do that?!!? Because we all have commitment issues.

Now, I’m not going to get into the many ways Olympic weightlifting can reveal things about you and your relationships in life because that would take away from me psychoanalyzing athletes through their technique. However, I am going to tell you how to fix your footwork problems.

If you are one of the many lifters who land wider in the snatch and clean (by wider I mean wider than your back squat/front squat stance) you need learn to NOT shy away from commitment AND you need to use cones when practicing the Olympic lifts. In most gyms, one can find some pretty orange cones. USE THEM! Take two orange cones, line your feet up in your squat stance, and place the cones outside your feet. Now that the cones are set, reset your stance with your feet right under your hips in preparation to snatch or clean. Now.. snatch or clean. When you have completed the movement, look down and see where your feet are in relation to the cones. Having the visual can do wonders for a lifter, and will most likely solve your problem if you practice enough.

If the cones don’t solve the problem, using small children and kittens have proven to be even more effective.

Footwork is key, people. If our feet cannot be consistent, how can the rest of our lifts be consistent?

An amazing coach, Steve Gough, always says that “99% of missed lifts can be attributed to the feet”. Don’t let your lift be a statistic... fix your feet.. (HOW’S THAT FOR DEEP?!)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bar Speed

Before we get started here, I had a ghettofabulous question about my previous blog post that I would like to address to everyone:

"Why wouldn't a straight bar path be good? Isn't that the most efficient? Takes a lot of energy to cover horizontal space with a heavy object, right?”


If we were to pull the bar straight off the ground and continue to pull it straight through the whole entire lift, the bar would be about 6 inches away from our body. The bar would then end up out in front of us on the turnover, aka, the receiving position. The goal is to keep the bar as close to us as possible RIGHT off the ground, so that when we turn our hands over at the top, it winds up back behind our ears in our strongest overhead position.

Let's break it down: The bar sweeps back in the beginning of the lift, goes straight up in the middle of the lift, and SLIGHTLY goes back at the end of the lift (just enough to get back behind the ears). I have found this to be the MOST efficient path for the snatch, AND the clean. I Pinky promise...

(If your bar path is different and you're lifting as much weight as the guy below, then you can literally do whatever the eff you want in life. I won't even yell at you a little bit.. and I ALWAYS yell. )

Moving on:
It's so funny the things we learn from the most unassuming people (no, I did not just call someone stupid) ...

Just the other day, I learned something from one of my clients who is fairly new to the olympic lifts. She was asking about the speed of the bar throughout the entire lift. Is it the same through the whole lift? Does it change? Does it get faster? Slower?

So, as I was getting into this whole detailed explanation, with obnoxiously dramatic hand gestures, about how the bar moves from slow to medium to bionic speed fast as you change from position to position , she says (in an EXTREMELY nonchalant-like manner): "Oh, so, like Ready, Set, Go"?

I wanted to punch her and hug her all at the same time. It was PERFECT!

When you're pulling off the ground, you want to think about the different positions:
  • Floor: Starting position (read last post)
  • Mid-thigh (read last post)
  • Pockets (don't worry about it, it comes naturally)
But you also want to think about the speed of the bar. I see so many different kinds of speeds with so many different kinds of lifters, so let me break it down:

Lifters who live in the fast lane: If you move super fast off the ground, you're going to miss all of the positions and the bar can not stay the same speed from the ground to overhead..unless its .5 kgs. No grip and rip (I'm talking to you, Crossfitters. Ya'll like to get after those weights like a bunch of "junk-yard dogs"! I love you for it, I really do, but it just doesn't work with the lifts).

Lifters who like to play it safe: If you move so slow off the ground that I could literally walk away, go to the bathroom, french braid my hair, and come back and you haven't even hit mid-thigh, you're moving too slow. That slowness really starts to become detrimental with heavy weights. You HAVE to get some momentum behind the bar if you want 200kg to feel a little less like you have 7 Toyota Camrys in your hands. When you're practicing technique, GO SLOW! It's a perfect way to force your body into the right positions, just don't continue to go so slow when you increase the weight.

Lifters who get gold stars: Ready, Set, Go. This is PERFECT for us crossfitters because the word "go" turns us into crazy people.
  • 'Ready' means that off the ground, you have control of the weight.
  • As your passing your knees, you're getting 'Set'. (moving a tiny bit faster)
  • When you get to mid-thigh, you are letting go of everything you've been holding onto in your life (except the barbell) and you are 'GO'ing!

Now, when I'm talking about "speed when you get to mid-thigh", I don't just mean speed when you jump and until you're fully extended... I mean speed through the extension, speed through the pull under the bar, and speed through the turn over. The speed does not stop until the bar has stopped moving at the turnover. You can't just think "SPEED, UP!!!!", you have to think "SPEED, UP DOWN!" when you get to that beautiful position we call Mid-thigh. Does that make sense? Here are all of the positions in which you should be moving bionically fast through:

Sage, out.