The benefits of Olympic weightlifting and the popularity of the sport have grown tremendously since I started learning the snatch and clean & jerk back in 1994.
I remember how painstakingly challenging this was as a rookie. It was by far the most frustrating skill to learn, since it required strength, power, precision, timing, and motor control (all at the same time). It was also a bit nerve-racking as it meant that, as soon as I got more proficient with the lifts, I had to add more weight! Yikes.
I have been coaching, programming and participating in weightlifting now for almost 20 years. In that time I have learned a ton from lifting tonnes. I have tried different methods, found what works for me, and even been able to enhance some competitive lifters. The most astonishing revelation I came up with happened just last year. It was during my stint as the fitness director at Midtown Athletic Club in Weston Florida.
I was tasked with the design and implementation of a whole-body, multi-directional, multi-dimensional group exercise class I called 3D Challenge. I designed it to be a very dynamic cross-training-style class that included all different movements you would see with ViPR and Olympic weightlifting assistance exercises. It involved only dumbbells and a small barbell.
For over a year in this class, we challenged the participants’ ability to move more efficiently in three dimensions. Using very sub-maximal weights at high VO2max and high anaerobic threshold drills, I found myself in the best physical condition of my life. I was teaching this class and participating, as I taught the class for over a year. My VO2max went through the roof and my anaerobic threshold definitely shifted as I had a tough time being able to reach my max heart rate any more.
I was scared that I was becoming more aerobically fit and I would have lost strength and power. I decided to retest my Olympic weightlifting. After gradually increasing my loads, I tested my calculated 3RM. I was able to reach 90% of my maximal snatch and 95% of my clean and jerk. How was this possible? I trained with 15lb dumbbells, and a 17lb barbell? I didn’t do any other weightlifting other than replicating Olympic weightlifting with a competition bar to coach with and used ViPR once per week doing what I called 3D weightlifting.
In the class we did lots of shifting patterns (moving load through the field of gravity) and when I trained with ViPR I used the variability in the tool to vary my hold, handprint and footprint, and applied that same movement sequencing to weightlifting. I would perform the snatch and clean & jerk with movements largely in the rotational plane.
It was a revelation. I could maintain linear strength by training with Loaded Movement using extremely sub-maximal loads. And the best part was I didn’t have the same compression injuries and discomforts associated with lifting tons of weight in the same direction all of the time.
Of course this is anecdotal, but here are some of my thoughts on how this happened. I also added a video of some of those movements using not only ViPR but other tools as well. I am currently working with CrossFit competitors and enthusiasts to show them how to vary their weightlifting to cross train for their CrossFit weightlifting.
1. Variability: If you have been following ViPR and the work of Michol Dalcourt and the team at the Institute of Motion, you have heard us speak about how important the role of variability is for tissue health, brain health, and heart health. I speak about vector variability as one of the most important strength and conditioning advances in the last 10 years. It is crucial to implement into your training programs. The entire body requires variable information for the health, strength, and resiliency of it. We need to apply variable loads, speeds, and directions of load and speed to create optimal functioning of the body’s systems.
2. Novelty: It is very hard to not coach weightlifting to weightlifters. That’s like telling a professional tennis player to play golf instead as a training methodology. It won’t work. But, if I can deliver a unique novel program that can incorporate the skill of the athlete while fortifying their connective tissue system through variability, everyone wins and most importantly there is congruence and acceptance by the athlete or participant to their love of movement and competition.
3. Sub-maximal loading: The body breaks down over time. Weightlifting is primarily performed in one direction with maximal or near-maximal load. If I can load the body sub-maximally in multiple directions, then we can counter-strain some of the tissues, send more information to the nervous system and provide novel information through the mechanotransmitters and proprioceptors. I assume that can only enhance the motor pattern of the traditional lifts.
4. Elasticity: The nature of ViPR is to create more elasticity, since it is made of rubber. Its dynamic, rubber make-up and shorter lever allow me to have the benefit of more snap through a safe rotational direction. I would argue that requires a greater challenge of better rhythm and timing for the tissues to have to stiffen at the end of the movement (length through body-wide tension).
5. Enhancement of the nervous system: I can argue that by providing novel information into the body at different speeds, loads and directions, the neuro-osteo-myo-fascial network becomes more enhanced and proprioceptively enriched. It will not only enhance those more complex movement patterns but enhance the linear movement pattern in the traditional lifts.
Movement Masterminds – Education Faculty
Institute of Motion – Programming Officer
ViPR Global Eductor