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Notes on Olympic Lifting at PDX Weightlifting

This past week, my beloved and I were given the opportunity to train with Nick Horton and the folks at PDX Weightlifting. Nick was gracious enough to let us lift with them while we were in town, and even spent quite a bit of teaching us the lifts, and coaching us as we progressed.

He began with the snatch, and on the first day, we did nothing but the snatch for the majority of the time. Once our form started degrading from fatigue, we switched over to working up to a heavy single front squat, and then called it a day.

We started with PVC pipes, doing hang power snatches from the hip. Once we had worked on the hip explosion for a little while, we moved down to the knee, and practiced going back and forth from the hip (first position) to the knee (second position), and back up. Between the two positions, we were told to keep the knee angle the same, and just push our hips back, and our ankles to the point where our shins were vertical. This actually created quite a bit of stretch in my hamstrings. I've known that my hamstrings tend to be tight, but I may need to do some mobility work there. Or maybe I just need to keep doing snatches with this technique.

For third position, Nick wanted us to keep our butts down, unlike with deadlifts. As I understood it, the reason was that starting with the butt up (and back closer to flat) made it more likely that the hip explosion would pop the bar forward instead of up, swinging it over a lifter's head and behind. Edit: Nick tells me that the main reason for this starting position is to make it easier to stay back on the heels throughout the pull.

Once we were lifting from the ground, we moved on to the bar, starting with an empty bar. We moved up in weight slowly, doing several sets of triples at each weight, until Nick "graduated" us to the next weight. If the weight got too heavy, we would back the weight down again, and start working back up at the same methodical pace. I worked up to 50 kg at this weight (110 lbs, which is 10 lbs less than my max), and did several singles at this weight.

I didn't actually back off the weight at any point, but Jayme did. I don't remember how high she got, but she started psyching herself out, when she realized she was lifting her PR, so Nick told her to take ten pounds off, get her confidence back, and then work back up. After she did that, she was able to lift pretty comfortably at her previous max.

At one point, Jayme asked why Nick never talked about what we're supposed to be doing with our arms. He said it was a pedagogical strategy. Since you're supposed to keep your arms relaxed, telling people how to use their arms was often counter productive, as it just got people focused on their arms, which made them tense them up.

In contrast to the way we do strength training at CFD, it felt very relaxed, and reactive to our performance. Rather than hitting a certain number of reps with rising weight, you just spend some time with each weight until you're ready to move on. It feels less like you're trying to get somewhere particular, and more like you're just spending time with the weights.

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