It has been a while since my last entry that didn’t have something to do with the 10,000 KBS program. Not only did that program consume the majority of my energy and thoughts, I was also building The Foundry and getting ready for WOD WAR III. The Foundry has long since opened, the WAR was a resounding success (because of you), and the 10,000 KBS are a distant, though fond, memory. Lets talk training!
Lifting heavy weight is awesome. There are so many good things about picking heavy objects off the ground and setting them back down it is hard to figure out where to start. Is it the visions of God that flash before your eyes as you fight through the netherworld that lies somewhere between blacking out and consciousness while you’re driving up your new BS 1RM? Is it that bullet proof feeling you get when you lock your shoulders down, arch your back deeply, and drive your heels straight down into the depths of hell while you pull more weight off the ground than you ever thought possible? Or is it the moment you realize that you indeed caught that barbell overhead and the weight, despite your perceived certainty of imminent death, didn’t come crashing down upon you dashing your head apart like a watermelon against a concrete floor.
As great as those reasons are, the physical benefits from lifting insanely heavy weights are even better. I’ve covered in past posts the reason for lifting heavy – the benefits to our CNS, the strength gains, the compounding effects it has on power development. The list goes on and on.
Now, that being said, all is not flowers, puppies, and baby kisses. There is a dark side to lifting heavy weights. They will have a devastating effect on those that are not ready to lift them. Have a squishy core, poor wrist flexibility, and limited ROM in your shoulders. Great! Collapse into some heavy front squats to put your entire spine at risk while simultaneously developing some lasting wrist pain. Do you have severely limited ankle flexibility that causes your knees to cave in and your hips to rise early? Fantastic! Just add some super heavy back squats in order to ensure you tear your MCL. If your knees aren’t touchin’ you ain’t tryin’ right? Haven’t yet developed the ability to maintain the necessary arch in your lumbar spine when picking weight up off the ground? No problem! Just hit up some really heavy dead lifts in order to ensure your lumbar vertebrae move in the exact opposite direction they are supposed to so that your can squeeze the discs right out from in between them. Hell, you wont be able to lift again for 2-6 months, but that OK, right? I mean, shoot, you were chasing a PR! Lets not stop there. We can do so much more damage with dynamic movements. Never mind the fact you’re not ready to clean 165#. Screw it, attempt some kind of bastardized continental clean in order to get it up somewhere close enough to your nipples to where you might convince yourself, if not anyone else, that it’s in your rack position so that you can attempt a thruster that looks like you are endeavoring to do the worlds most grotesque back bend while tenuously holding a barbell in your hand. What could possibly go wrong? And if it did, what does it really matter. After all – you went heavy god damn it!
I love lifting heavy. I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it like I love my kids. I mean, if I cant challenge myself with a barbell loaded with enough weight, that completing each rep makes me rediscover my faith, the world may as well end. Let me preface the rest of this by reminding you that when I talk about heavy weight, I am speaking of weight that is heavy for me. I make no claim to being exceptionally strong. However, I have spent years upon years lifting. I know my limits. My connective tissue is used to the strain and stress placed upon them. I have the correct ROM and mechanics to support the positions needed to move heavy weights, safely and effectively. My wrists are limber, my back is strong, my hips are loose, my ankles articulate well, and my lumbar spine and yoke are freaking bullet proof. Because of that I can BS and FS heavy, I can DL heavy, I can clean heavy, I can swing heavy bells all day long. I can walk with a yoke laden with more than 3x my body weight. I can throw Atlas Stones around pretty darn easily.
Do you know what I can’t do? I can’t lift a damn thing, heavy, over my head with a barbell. Right now I simply can’t snatch or jerk heavy weight over head. Why, you may be asking? My shoulder ROM doesn’t support it. That, and the fact that there are a few tears in there. Sure, I can put up a few pounds overhead. However, when the weight starts adding up, it is not going to go anywhere without a stupid amount of physical theatrics and gesticulations, none of which are good for the rest of my body. I’m not ready to lift heavy weight over my head despite the fact my ego tries like hell to convince me otherwise.
And this is where the twigs and berries come in…
Namaste’ – Yoga baby! As sure as I am going to eat a 16oz chocolate bar tonight – did I just type that out loud??? – I’m going to fix my shoulders. I’m so determined to fix my shoulders I brought in a Yoga instructor to Athletes Unleashed, Inc. (Kahley is an amazing yoga instructor – but this blog post isn’t a plug for our yoga class, which is open to anyone and only $60 per month for non-members and $40 per month for the UNLEASHED, or $15 for drop in’s, and is offered every Wed, Thurs, and Sun at 0930). The point of this blog post is I have my priorities in place. 1) Improve my overall shoulder health, flexibility, and mobility with yoga (and a surgery or 3). 2) Use my ever-increasing flexibility and mobility and light weight to improve my overhead technique. 3) Perfect my lifting technique once my shoulder is reattached to my body with something other than just my skin.
“Now hold on”, you may by thinking, I never mentioned anything about lifting heavy weights overhead. What gives? You are correct. I’m not going to try to put heavy weight overhead for a long, long time. And I’m sure as hell not going to chase a PR overhead. Rather, I’m going to chase the holy grail of lifting weights – perfect technique (PT). While I’m waiting for my shoulder to get fixed I will continue to hone my movement patterns. Once I have a shoulder that can support something overhead I will add weight only as my technique allows. Before I know it, I’m going to be crushing PRs without even trying and its’ going to be because I’m focused on improving my skill. Heavy weights follow naturally as one’s skill progresses. For those of you with challenges in ROM, or with cranky wrists, or have shoulders that are tight, one or both ankles that don’t flex, or knees that come in, a back that isn’t yet extending, don’t go after heavy weight. Rather, give yourself a more difficult challenge. Kick your own ego’s ass and fully renew your dedication to perfecting your movement patterns. Commit to doing what ever it takes. Be it twigs and berries, or just giving yourself time with light weight. Chase perfect technique rather than a personal record and the big weight will follow. And you won’t look like the unholy union of a backbend and thruster.
LIVE – GET STRONG – WIN