Rock City Weightlifting, A Family Affair
I consider myself a morning person but 4:00 am is stretching it. It’s cold and dark and my internal clock is way off but I need to get my shit together and be out the door in an hour. I am heading to beautiful Detroit in the middle of winter, and that sweet weather lady is calling for a pleasant wintry mix throughout the whole morning.
My brother is 6 years older than I am. Growing up, each of us had a different set of friends and we didn't spend much time hanging out. As we got older and more mature (especially me, ha!) our interests began to converge, but the times we did hang out and talked were still few and far between. He was getting into Olympic Weightlifting and I had a growing interest but never really gave it a serious try.
I've heard of Diane Fu through CrossFit and started following her on Social Media. She had a unique approach to Olympic Weightlifting and offered information in her social media posts that caught both my brother’s and my attention. She was doing seminars so we both signed up for the one coming up in the Motor City. Beyond learning and performing the Olympic movements for the first time, it would also be the perfect opportunity for me to spend some time with my brother.
The drive sucked. The weather was shitty. The roads were awful. Fortunately my big bro offered to drive, so I didn’t have to deal with the stress of being behind the wheel. It took us 45 minutes longer than expected but we walked through the doors of CrossFit 734 just in time. The temperature in the “box” was chilly, but the owner and coaches were warm and welcoming. After a rough start to the day, I was stoked and looking forward to a day of learning and lifting with Diane, and more importantly, my brother.
Diane got the seminar started with some light-hearted introductions. She was grounded and knowledgeable. As a student, I found her approach to the sport of weightlifting very refreshing. The beauty of her coaching style is in its simplicity. I would call it a unique approach with few key cues and concepts to guide you on your journey. Below is a depiction of her pyramid approach to Olympic Weightlifting.
First and foremost is position. There are several key positions throughout both the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk in Olympic Weightlifting. Appropriate range of motion (ROM) is required to allow you to get into the most efficient shape to start the movement and throughout the remaining portions of the lifts. With the correct setup, movement is then controlled and the lift performed in a flow-like state. Speed and load should be removed in the beginning, with focus dedicated to developing strength in the positions as well as technique (i.e. movement).
Next is efficient movement and efficient bar path; keep it close and keep your center of balance over the mid foot throughout the movement. If you like to bang, brush, or even sweep the bar during hip extension, the goal is to reduce the amplitude of the S curve (bar path); the S curve is a description of how the bar travels from set up and start of the movement, through the pulls associated with Olympic Weightlifting movements, to the catch and recovery.
How does one achieve adequate range of motion to allow for efficient movement? Mobility, baby! Shoulders, hips, ankles, and wrists are all critical to the Olympic lifts. There is a plethora of information on the internet and YouTube videos that can help. Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett, Dr. Quinn Henoch from Clinical Athlete, and GMB are all great resources.
Back to the seminar…How does one remember the right position to begin the lift? Glad you asked. Diane presented a simple acronym to help us in the set up, SHOES:
S – Shoe lace; bar position over the shoe laces to start
H – Hook grip; method of holding a barbell by gripping the thumb between the barbell and the remaining fingers
O – Over the bar; shoulders/sternum over the bar
E – Elbows out; good posture with internal rotation of the elbows
S – Sit; relax in the set up with just enough tension
Besides not forgetting your “SHOES”, your line of sight should be horizontal and knuckles should be pointed down towards the floor. This simple cue made a lot of difference in keeping the bar close to the body during the lift and allowing for quicker turnover in the catch. Engaging the lats, essentially not having a loose back, is also key to keeping the bar close throughout the move. There are different cues on how to achieve this; one is to set the shoulder blades back and down.
Different positions and variations of the snatch and clean and jerk were also discussed and performed during the seminar:
– 1 inch; delightfully brutal – you are essentially pulling the bar just an inch off the ground & holding
– 1st pull; pull the bar to just below the knees
– Pull to power (2nd pull); end of first pull to hip crease
– High pull; end of 2nd pull through extension; for snatch around nipple height, for clean about mid abdomen – variations exist aplenty depending on mechanics and body type
If you are a beginner, like I was and continue to learn everyday, some of the terminology might sound confusing. I also did not describe in too much detail all the different positions within each lift (1st pull, 2nd pull, etc.). Definitely check out Catalyst Athletics for great info. As such, nothing replaces the live, in-depth interaction with a great coach and other attendees at a seminar. You can learn the methods, ask questions, and perform the movements with real time feedback. Much of the info above is universal, such as efficient bar path and hip extension, but the manner in which it is presented continues to evolve. Diane herself would attest that this is just one approach of many to coaching Olympic Weightlifting. You need to experiment and discover for yourself what works.
My brother and I began the trip back to Cleveland around 5. I had only ever performed Olympic lifts using a PVC pipe, so after this ‘weighty’ day, I was pretty tired. Again, and thankfully, my brother drove. We didn’t talk as much on the way back, but we recapped the seminar and shared a few more laughs. I was grateful that the weather lady had taken pity on us, and the ride home was much clearer.
Fitness and business continue to be our common interests and my brother continues to teach me a lot, taking time to provide me with as much valuable and actionable info as I can digest. I don’t take it for granted and I hope that one day I can return his generosity. Thank you, bro!
1.) Do you have any family members nearby? Do you see each other often? If not, plan on an activity you all will enjoy. Trust me, talking about it doesn’t do much. Set the date, pay or book it, etc. If these details are taken care of, the likelihood of the event/trip is much more likely.
2.) Is there a coach, business person, speaker that you look up to? Check out their seminar and/or speaking schedule and sign up. Don’t have the cash? Start putting away and save up. Trust me, it’s worth it. Something will have to get reprioritized.
3.) Pay it forward. As my brother has educated me, help someone who's starting out or struggling. The possibilities are endless and no matter how small they are; those efforts can have a lasting impact.