WORK YOUR WEAK AREAS
Leo Totten, M.S., USAW 5
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. I use that term in almost every seminar or clinic that I do. It is human nature to avoid working on their weak areas, instead overworking their strong suits. They continue to make progress that way, but as long as they ignore their weak areas, they will always be holding themselves back from reaching their full potential.
I’m not saying to go the opposite way and only work on what you aren’t good at. If that was the case, it would be difficult to be motivated to even come into the gym. But instead, continue to refine your strong areas, but make sure that a significant amount of work on the weak areas are included to try to work that balance and to make sure that the weak area isn’t what is holding you back.
Take an honest look at your current status of your weightlifting strengths and weaknesses. From a lifting standpoint is it a Technique, Strength or Flexibility issue that is your weak spot?
Technique – Is the bar path or bar trajectory the most efficient? Is your start position or setup as it should be? Do you have the issue of early arm bend? Does your technique break down only in certain positions during the lift?
Strength – You may have really good technique with lighter weights, but as the weight gets heavier, do you have the strength to hold the correct positions? Are you not able to keep the back and shoulders in the correct position when the bar is at the knees due to poor posterior chain strength? Do you lack the overall leg strength for proper pulling power or to recover from those heavy cleans? Do you have the technique to get under those snatches in a quick, efficient manner but lack the overhead strength to support the weight?
Flexibility – You may be strong as a bull, but do you have the flexibility or mobility to get the body in the correct positions? When the bar is overhead in the snatch or jerk, do you have the requisite shoulder flexibility to keep the bar behind the ears so the center of gravity of the bar is where it belongs? When you “rack” the bar on the shoulders in the clean, is the bar on the clavicles and shoulders where it belongs or does the bar slide down the chest due to lack of flexibility?
Another thing to consider is the balance between the competition lifts, training lifts and assistance exercises. When I do my clinics and seminars, I often have the lifters fill out my Strengths and Weaknesses chart. With all the numbers in front of them, they can see what they need to work on. For instance, we typically look for the snatch to be about 80% of what they clean & jerk. When they calculate it, if the snatch is below that 80%, then they need more focus on the snatch in their training. If that is the case, then we determine what part of the snatch is holding them back. Is it something with the strength of the pull, is the speed of the movement, is it the bar path, is it the overhead supporting strength or is it the speed of getting into the receiving position? Once we determine that, we can arrange the programming to deal with that issue head on.
Obviously, if the snatch is higher than that 80% mark, then some part of the clean or jerk needs more focus. We use the same principle to decide what part of the c&j needs work and that gives us a better idea of how to set up programming.
From the “non-lifting” side of things, there are many other factors that can negatively influence progress. Away from the platform, are there stresses in your life that are taking away from your recovery time? Too many hours at work, stressful work, family issues, boss issues, etc. I always say that the one hour you spend on the platform isn’t nearly as important as the 23 hours off the platform. If the “non-lifting” issues are something you need to work on, then it is important that you recognize that and make it a strength, not a weakness.
If any of these issues are determined to be the culprit, then take the time and have the self-discipline to work on what is holding you back. Its not easy, but, hey, if lifting was easy, everyone would be good at it!
Up Next: In future articles, I will hone in on specifics to make each of these weak areas better for you – practical, down to earth methods for setting up your training to attack your weak areas while still maintaining your strengths. A strong, overall program that hits your strengths as well as your weaknesses is the key to ultimate success.