Moving heavy weights and fatiguing our muscles causes our bodies to adapt and get stronger. Dr. Greg Haff presented his results at the 5th Annual Coaches College last December, how direct improvements in strength positively affect speed.
Still, why do we want to continue working on our strength and speed? I like being as strong as possible…and quick! But that’s me. For most of us, High School Athletics were a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away! Our goals after high school tend to shift to a better quality of life and to add more years to our life.
As we age the first skill we lose is speed, the second is flexibility and third strength. I don’t even want to go thru the rest of the aging list! We can retard this process however by using these magical organic machines – our bodies.
If we were to describe ourselves as athletes, athletes in the “game” of life, how might we train our bodies to most effectively compete in the game? Physically, we should train our bodies the same as that High School, Collegiate or Pro Athletes! Maybe not the same intensity, but the components of building strength, cardio‐vascular capacity, agility, speed, balance, coordination and flexibility are all necessary in every thorough training plan.
Collegiate Athletics and the CrossFit community are currently our biggest advocates of the Olympic lifts. The Olympic Weightlifting exercises, the Snatch and Clean & Jerk, do not utilize a machine, lever, pulley or bench. You Simply pick up the bar, put the bar down, and repleat. The lifts are “whole‐body” orientated, requiring strength from the inside out , so you are demonstrating strength from the core. The lifts are performed by maintaining strong posture throughout the core while pushing with the legs to jump the barbell into the air and support it overhead. The difference between humans and other animals is that we walk upright. Everything we do: playing sports, choirs around the house to wrestling with our siblings, working our jobs, requires resisting the forces of gravity and moving things around. The postures our bodies learn practicing the Olympic Lifts carry over to everything we do in our regular, daily living.
Since the force we use to elevate the barbell is resisted by gravity, we must drive down with what?? – OUR FEET!
Our hands are the connection to the barbell ‐ Our feet drive down thru the floor, against gravity. That large section of our bodies between hands and feet – our “CORE” is the link between the barbell remaining on the platform or being successfully hoisted overhead. Lifters maintain a ridged, neutral spine (torso) – drive the feet through the earth and jump the weight into the air. This jump is the most powerfully explosive movement our bodies can produce. It’s all about coordination of leg and hip extension. Day in, day out, we use our bodies, to pick things up, walk, climb, run, sit, get up ‐ all mostly accomplished with our core and legs. Being stronger will not only help us when we’re older with regular daily living activities (RDLAs), but also make RDLAs easier today, too!
The Clean & Jerk is considered the “KING” of all weight related exercises. The strength, power, coordination, balance and flexibility to pull a heavy barbell off the floor only to receive it on your throat supported by your shoulders at the bottom of a deep front squat and then stand, take a breath and jerk
this weight over your head is incredible. This one exercise, more so than any other, requires the cooperation of every muscle in the entire body, not to mention a little mental focus.
Practicing the Clean & Jerk with use of proper technique, will in time improve posture & core
strength. A little extra practice with the ol’Mind‐Body connection is a nice bonus.
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