Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Olympic lifts and their power versions

This last Sunday, in my Intensity day I got a new full snatch PR lifting 60 kg. Still less than my power snatch PR, where a couple months ago I made 70 kg (equalling my all time best). Similarly, I got a new all time full C&J of 90 kg, which again compares unfavourably with my all time best power clean (and ultra shitty jerk that defies any labeling) of 100 kg.

That got me thinking to what extent was it wise to devote my energy to improve on the full lifts, when I probably could get more benefits from using the heavier (for me) power versions, with the added advantage of not abusing my troubled knees so much. Actually, you search the interwebz and for each article extolling the virtues of the Olympic lifts you can find a hundred saying how the power versions are just as good for most purposes (including even the improvement of the competition version of the lifts).

However, being the rationalist asshole I am, I wanted to find some reason (that could be successfully defended in front of my fellow humans, as a reason is only such to the extent that it can be shared, discussed and accepted by someone in similar circumstances to ours) for keeping on performing the lifts, apart from their overall awesomeness and badassery, and this article from Joel Smith on Juggernaut gave me jsut what I needed: Joel Smith on his assitance to Become Unstoppable 3

Essentially, what he harps about, what resonated most with him of the seminary he attended, was how to be fast you need to learn to relax very quickly some muscles, so you can contract others. That's exactly what the full lift gives you that the power version does not: in order to catch the bar low you have to accelerate it through a much shorter range of motion and then completely relax the muscles you have just contracted hard so you become flexible enough to adopt a very flexibility-demanding position.

Taking the snatch as an example, in the full snatch as soon as I feel the bar passing the navel I have to stop pulling to change direction and start going down in order to arrive there before it reaches its zenith, when I have to be already much lower than the bar so I can straighten my arms and start stabilizing it while I finish riding it down. In the power snatch, on the other hand, it is just pull, pull, pull, then pull some more, and finally try to straighten the arms when the bar is already overhead (something similar applies to the clean).

Now, it could be argued that this "pull faster 'cuz you have less time and less range to do it, then relax completely the muscles you were pulling with to be able to stretch them insanely" has very little transference to anything outside the ultra-limited realm of Olympic weightlifting (the actual sport, not the recreational application of it), and that developing the ability to just pull fast w more weight, damn the torpedoes about relaxing anything during the movement, has a more direct application to most sports... maybe, maybe not. I'm guessing that for the particular endeavor I'm currently involved with (throwing a 16 pounds iron ball as far as possible) it may come in handy, as I have to accelerate the implement in a relatively short time and space, and have to go through a number of positions that also require some stretching in order to better impart speed to it before I let it go.

I could be more scientific and run a couple of training cycles, the first one performing the full version of the lifts, the second one focusing on the power version w more weight, and seeing which ones correlates with longer throws, but for now on I'll just go with my gut and keep receiving as low as I can in the gym (which is not that low, given the limited flexibility of one of my knees, but as for now I'll just run with it)

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