Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Kettlebell Workout

Over the last few days I had gotten an itch for some kettlebell lifting. The weekend is usually my time off from Olympic weightlifting these days. So I decided to hti the garage and move the bells around a bit.

There was no rhyme or reason to the progression. I just went with the flow and what I felt like playing with. Here is the video of the workout, rest breaks removed.

Let me know if you have any questions on what I did.

Legend: Yellow = 16kg, Purple = 20kg, Green = 24kg, Orange = 28kg, Red = 32kg

Friday, July 22, 2011

Beginning Female Weightlifter - Part 2

By Marc Chasnov

The first installment of this series discussed the anatomical position and planes. The focus was on the midsagittal plane, which is a theoretical construct dividing the body into symmetrical right and left halves. The right and left sides of the body are supposed to be mirror images of each other in length, girth, and muscle power.

It is important to establish baseline measurements of each respective side of the body. This will assist the coach in determining the individual's current physical status. If the athlete has equal strength in all muscle tests on each side of the body, the coach can then direct the athlete to a progressive training program. If the athlete exhibits inequalities between the two sides, then she must be directed to a corrective exercise program. Many athletes will have ipsilateral (same side) upper and lower extremity dominance. Some will have contralateral (opposite side) upper and lower extremity dominance. Some will be ambidextrous.

Regardless of one's respective upper and lower body dominance, it is important in weightlifting to have both sides of the upper extremities, lower extremities, and torso equal in strength and alignment. The first part of this series made reference to establishing a baseline of strength in the beginning female weightlifter. In this installment, the following measurements and functional testing procedures will be discussed:
1.) Circumferential Measurements
2.) Leg Length & Asymmetry
3.) Spinal Alignment
4.) Muscle Testing

More often than not the athlete's dominant side is larger in girth and stronger than the non-dominant side. Muscle size does not necessarily represent the muscle's force output, but it is always important to develop parity in size between the right and left sides of the body.

For the upper body circumferential measurements should be taken on both sides of the body for the following parts:
-Upper arm

For the lower body, circumferential measurements should be taken on both sides for the following parts:
-Lower leg

It is important to have equal leg length. Unequal leg length or leg length discrepancy can affect the rest of the body; it can disturb position of the foot stance, squatting position, pelvic stability, and the entire spinal alignment.

When considering leg length, one must measure from the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) of the pelvis to the inside bone of the ankle, the medial malleolus (Fig. 1).


Figure 1: Leg Measurement Points

If there is a question of leg length discrepancy, then the athlete should be referred to an appropriate healthcare professional who can evaluate it further.

As part of the evaluative process, the beginning lifter should be tested for scoliosis. The word scoliosis comes from the Greek skoliosis meaning "crooked." It is not uncommon for females between the age of 10-16 to have idiopathic "unknown origin" scoliosis.

A basic test to detect spinal alignment issues is the Adam's Test (Fig.2). In this test, the lifter is required to wear the appropriate clothing to allow proper observation. The athletes will be requested to bend forward and allow their upper spine to round with their arms dangling. The legs are kept straight and the feet are equal in their stance.


Figure 2: Adam's Test

The examiner should observe from both the front and back of the bent-over athlete. If the examiner observes a deviation from a straight spinal alignment or some form of rotation ("increased height") on one side of the spine, then the individual should be recommended to the appropriate health practitioner.

Shoulder Abduction. The motion of shoulder abduction is controlled by the deltoid muscle. The deltoid muscle is in turn neurologically controlled by the C5 nerve root. The deltoid muscle (as seen in Fig. 3) controls lifting the arm out to the side of the body. It is also very valuable in contributing to overhead movement. The athlete is tested by holding their arm out to the side (abducting) with their thumb pointing down against resistance in the downward motion. lf the athlete cannot tolerate minimal resistance, the downward direction then specific exercises should be prescribed to strengthen the deltoid muscle.


Figure 3: Shoulder Abduction

Shoulder internal rotation/external rotation (Fig. 4, Fig. 5) are tested for the main reason that in the female weightlifter, the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder are important stabilizers of the shoulder joint. Stabilizing the shoulder joint is important to diminish the chances of shoulder dislocations in the beginning female weightlifter.


Figure 4: Internal Rotation of the Shoulder


Figure 5: External Rotation of the Shoulder

Elbow Flexion. The motion of elbow flexion is controlled by the biceps muscle. The biceps muscle is neurologically controlled by the C6 nerve root. When testing the power of the biceps muscle the examiner will place resistance on the inside of the hand or wrist of the athlete while the athlete prevents the examiner from straightening the elbow (Fig. 6).


Figure 6: Elbow Flexion

Elbow Extension. The motion of elbow extension is controlled by the triceps muscle. The triceps muscle is neurologically controlled by the C7 nerve root. When testing the power of the triceps muscle the examiner will place resistance on the outside of the hand or wrist of the athlete while the athlete prevents the examiner from bending the elbow (Fig. 7).


Figure 7: Elbow Extension

Elbow flexion and elbow extension are important to maintain the integrity of the elbow joint. There is always the concern of elbow dislocations in beginning female weightliiters, so corrective exercises should be prescribed at the beginning of a female weightlifter's career.

Finger Abduction. The motion of finger abduction is controlled by the finger abductors. The finger abductors on neurologically controlled by the C8 nerve root. When testing the power of the finger abductors, the athlete will try to hold the fingers apart while the examiner tries to close them (Fig. 8).


Figure 8: Finger Abduction

Finger Opposition. The motion of finger opposition occurs when the thumb and pinky are held together (Fig. 9). The examiner tries to pull the thumb and pinky apart. Finger opposition is neurologically controlled by the T-1 nerve root.


Figure 9: Finger Opposition

Finger motions are important in the beginning female weightlifter to maintain a secure grip on the bar.

Hip Abduction. Abduction of the hip occurs when the leg is moved away from the midline of the body. Abduction is neurologically controlled by the L3 L4 and L5 nerve roots. If the athlete is asked to abduct the leg whether in a supine or sideline and cannot maintain a nominal resistance against the examiner then corrective exercises should be initiated (Fig. 10). Weakness in the hip abductor muscles will cause beginning, intermediate, and advanced female athletes to have "kissing knee syndrome." Kissing knee syndrome is a very common problem in female weightlifters. When females squat or recover from the squat clean, the knees may come together. This knee-together pattern will cause excessive stress on the medial (middle) tissues of the knee. The motion is also biomechanically less effective than maintaining hip abduction and keeping the knees apart.


Figure 10: Hip Abduction

Hip Extension. Extension of the hip is tested when the athlete is laying prone on a surface and lists their leg toward the ceiling (Fig. 11). The examiner attempts to resist the upward motion of the lower extremity. Weakness in hip extension represents problems with the gluteal and hamstring musculature. This musculature will strengthen as the beginning female weightlifter matures, but corrective exercises can be prescribed to strengthen the muscles faster.


Figure 11: Hip Extension

Knee Extension. Extension of the knee is tested with the athlete sitting upright on a stable surface with the knee at the edge of the surface, so that the lower leg is hanging freely. The examiner requests the athlete to extend the lower leg and provides resistance to the front of the lower shin (Fig. 12). Knee extension is controlled by the quadriceps muscles and is neurologically mediated through the L2-L3-L4 nerve roots.


Figure 12: Knee Extension

In the next installment of this series, we will discuss and demonstrate various exercises you can use to test the strength and balance of the upper body, lower body, and trunk.

Copyright © 2010 Marc Chasnov

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Beginning Female Weightliftter, Part 1

By Marc Chasnov

As a result of attending the USAW Level 1 coaching course I instructed in August 2010, Paul Steinman (of the burgeoning South Brooklyn Weightlifting Club) developed a renewed interest in Olympic weightlifting. Part of that interest was contacting me to write an article for his blog. I asked him to determine the title and subject matter to be discussed. Paul suggested “The Beginning Female Weightlifter.” Thus this multi-part series was created. These articles will be written predominately for the beginning female weightlifter but can be used for any level of weightlifter, female or male.

There are many methods used to instruct a beginning female weightlifter. One of the best methods is to make sure that the beginning female performers have developed the necessary physical attributes for participation. Possessing these basics will allow them to maximize their potential and make their greatest improvement in the shortest time period. It will also minimize injuries and provide the basis for consistent gains and progress.

Although it is over, the memory of the 2010 Weightlifting World Championships remains fresh in our minds. Impressive as all the female world champions were, two particular winners stood out: Nurcan Taylan at 48 kg and Svetlana Podobedova at 75 kg (Fig. 1). They both won their respective weight categories by lifting record weights. Their technique was impeccable. Overall the most impressive factor to me was their body structure. Podobedova exudes power! If you want to exude power like the World Champions you have to start early in your career and focus on your structure by performing the correct exercises (to be covered and described in a future article).

Figure 1: Svetlana Podobedova

If one analyzes their body structure from all perspectives one will see a functionally harmonious physique. Their bodies appear to be balanced from
-right to left
-top to bottom
-front to back

Of course structural harmony is not the only parameter used to evaluate the beginning female weightlifter but it is significant. One must remember that in any discussion of athletic performance every physical and mental advantage counts. In my opinion, structural harmony offers an important edge.

Many coaches have a causality dilemma of structure versus function. Some coaches believe that female weightlifter should focus on either technique or function first. Other coaches think that structure and function can develop concomitantly. For beginning female weightlifters I am a proponent of structure before function. One caveat is the beginning female weightlifter who has previously developed structural harmony from training for another sport.

In order to understand structural harmony one must understand the fundamentals of structure and its respective nomenclature.

The anatomical position is a universally accepted reference posture used to describe the relationship of body parts to one another and to itself in space (Fig. 2). The position is standing erect, face forward, arms slightly away at the sides, palms forward, with the thumbs facing outward. The anatomical position is used as a model to discuss the basis of the anatomical planes of the body.

Figure 2: Woman in the Anatomical Position

The anatomical planes of motion are a theoretical construct where planes (imaginary lines) course through the body.
The anatomical position figure is theoretically divided into three distinct planes:
1.) The frontal or coronal plane which separates the body into the front and back; anterior to posterior; dorsal to ventral.
2.) The transverse plane which separates the body into top and bottom; upper and lower; superior and inferior.
3.) The midsagittal plane, also known as the median plane, which separates the body into right and left halves.

In this first installment of the series, we will be discussing the midsagittal plane which divides the body into right and left sides.

One of the features of the human body is that the body itself is bilaterally symmetrical. The midsagittal plane divides the body into symmetrical right and left sides (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: The Midsagittal Plane

If the bilateral symmetry construct is applied to the athletic performer, then the right and left halves of the body should be mirror images of each other. Therefore the right and left sides of the body should be equal in every subjective and objective measurement. The two sides should be equal proximally in the torso and distally in
-length of the limbs
-girth of the limbs
-range of motion of the limbs
-coordination of the limbs
-strength/power of the limbs

At the moment a beginning female weightlifter initiates training she should have already been evaluated and provided a treatment plan to develop the prerequisites for performance muscular symmetry. Performance muscular symmetry can be tested subjectively and objectively. These tests will be the subject of the next installment in this series…

Copyright © 2010 Marc Chasnov

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Olympic Weightlifting & Kettlebell Lifting

So you are wondering how to train both Olympic weightlifting as well as kettlebell lifting. Is there a balance that can be met? Well, if you are trying to seriously train for either sport, then in my opinion, no. One has to give. Sure you can use the other as a compliment to your training, but it has to take a back seat and it has to be of relatively low intensity.
Each of these sports hits the central nervous system in different manners. And when training at high intensity, one needs to give their body a chance to adequately recover. Simultaneously training for each of these sports won't allow that recovery to happen.
At the moment, I can focused on Olympic weightlifting. Personally, after a training session with heavy barbells I have no desire to start lifting a kettlebell, or two, for long sets. First, my body is already fatigued. Second, my hands are usually already feeling like raw meat. Neither of these bodes well for kettlebell training. So what do I do?
I now use kettlebells as a means for conditioning. I typically pick up the bells on the days I am not training the Olympic lifts. I will train for long sets but with lighter bells. I may also include this bell work in conjunction with some other conditioning work.
Extended set of kettlebell swings: Swings are relatively easy on the hands. Depending on the weight used, I may alternate hands every minute and swing for a long set. For example, I've performed a 10 minute swing set with a 16kg bell, switching hands every minute.
Circuit of kettlebell swing and jumping rope: Perform a 2-minute set of kettlebell swings (1 minute per hand) with a heavier kettlebell, then move right into a 2 minute set of jump rope. Then rest for a minute or two and repeat. A few circuits of this works one pretty well.
Half Turkish Getups: For some core work, I have started introducing these into the mix. They are easy on the hands and work one's core pretty well. If you want to superset with ab wheel rollouts, go for it.
Extended set of kettlebell snatches: For days when my hands are feeling good, I'll perform an extended set of snatches with a lighter bell similar to the extended swing set. Focus is on breathing and technique. The last thing you want to do is tear your hands up. Especially if you are scheduled to pick up a barbell the following day. If you perform you snatches with proper technique, you will not damage your hands. This should be avoided particularly when training.
Personally, I am still experimenting with what works best for me. I try to be flexible in my exercise selection. I may also play around with light clubbells, medicine balls, "battling" ropes and box jumps. Whatever you choose to play with, just make sure you have fun with it!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

IHT - The Start Position

The following article was written by my Olympic Weightlifting Coach, Marc Chasnov. It and more of his articles can be found on the new Institute of Heavy Training website (IHT),

The Start Position

There are certain sports where the duration of the event itself is shorter than its set up time. Inclusive in these short duration sports is Olympic Weighlifting. This article will cover the start position as it applies to the weightlifting biathalon: the snatch and the clean motions taken from the floor.

Before we cover in greater detail the process of establishing a proper start, we will first cover some basic terms as they pertain to weightlifting positions.

Foundation. Much like the starting blocks are to a sprinter’s start , the starting position is the foundation of weightlifting. In engineering terms, foundation is defined as the lowest load-bearing part of the structure, usually below the ground. In weightlifting, the lowest load-bearing position is the starting position where the feet make contact with the competition platform. As the foundation of the lift, the start position has to be extremely supportive, but consistent and controlled. This is the position where the performer will harness (summate) all their positional, mechanical, and muscular forces, to separate the apparatus from the supporting surface.

Center of Gravity (COG). The point at which the body is perfectly balanced. ls usually situated 2-3 inches below the navel. Interesting is the fact that the width of the female pelvis contributes to the lower center of gravity of the female lifter as compared to males.

Line of Gravity (LOG). The vertical projection upwards and downwards from the center of gravity. Both the apparatus and the performer have a center of gravity and a line of gravity projecting for our purposes downward.

Figure 1: Diagram of COG/LOG in a standing position and start position (click to enlarge)

A stationary bar lies before you. As a lifter, in order to maximize your ability to lift the weight, a relationship has to be developed between you and the bar. Since the bar is stationary, addressing the bar means the performer needs to approach it and position him or herself to it as close as possible. The start position in weightlifting involves the following preparatory phases:
1. Approaching the stationary bar and placing the the feet under the bar and attaching the hands/upper extremities to the bar.
2. Setting the positions of the body segments relative to one another to optimize body mechanics.
3. Setting the muscles most involved to produce the potential energy prior to lifting the bar from the ground.
4. The summation of all the above to break the inertia of the stationary bar and separate the apparatus from the ground.

Therefore, our working definition of the start position is as follows:
The summation of addressing the bar, positioning body segments, and presetting the muscles most involved to break the inertia of the stationary bar to separate the apparatus from the ground.

In mechanical terms the anterior-posterior length of the performer’s lifting shoes and the width of the performers foot placement represents the area of the base of the lifter. This is referred to in biomechanics as the base of support (BOS).

Most instructional courses in weightlifting encourage the placement of the bar over the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joints in the starting position. lt is important to remember that the placement of the bar over the MTP joints is not set in stone and can be adjusted at any time.

Figure 2: Top view of the base support (click to enlarge)

To establish a biomechanically efficient starting position not only should the apparatus be located within the base of support of the performer but the line of gravity of the apparatus needs to approximate the line of gravity of the performer.

Figure 3: Top view of the base support showing the performer/apparatus (click to enlarge)

Due to the leverage of the human condition there will always be a distance between the line of gravity of the apparatus and the line of gravity of the lifter.

Toeing the feet outward accomplishes a few things:
1. lt allows the line of gravity of the bar to more closely approximate the line of gravity of lifter.
2. The toeing-out position anatomically engages the gluteal muscles more effectively.
3. The toeing-out position through force plate studies in the 1960's has shown a greater ground force production.

In the 1960's the Japanese lifters experimented with an extreme toed-out position that was anatomically favorable for them. This was called the Japanese frog leg style of lifting. The Japanese weightlifters were able to accomplish this more favorably due to the mechanics of their leverage system.

The relationship of the angles of the body to the bar placement over the MTP joints has to be optimized. I have found that one of the best teaching methods to do this is as follows:

1. Place your feet under the bar so that the width of the feet approximates the width of the pelvis. The feet can be straight or slightly toed-out, depending on your comfort level. The feet should be spaced accordingly so that they are equidistant from the center of the bar.
2. Situate the feet so that the bar is approximately over the MTP joints.
3. Bend forward from the trunk and grip the bar with equidistant hand spacing from the center the bar.
4. While maintaining this forward position of the trunk, move the shins forward to touch the bar.
5. Lift up head and chest so that the back is straight or slightly arched in the lumbar spine.

It is very important in the start position to make sure that forces generated from the body will be maximized. The spacing of the feet and hands will contribute to maximizing these forces. lf one studies pictures of advanced lifters from head-on, one can see that the lifters place their feet under the bar with their foot placement equidistant from a mid-sagittal plane coursing through the body and center of the bar. The lifter also places their hands on the bar equidistant from a mid-sagittal plane coursing through the body in the center the bar.

Figure 4: Nadezhda Yevstyukhina at the 2011 European Championships (click to enlarge).
Note symmetry of position and the approximation of force vectors.


Figure 5: David Rigert Breaking the Bar from the Floor © Bruce Klemens

If one observes the start position from a side view one will be able to observe the muscles most involved in the start position. A picture of the great lifter David Rigert will provide the best reference for the muscles.

One will notice from this photo exertion of the muscles of the thighs, pelvis, low back, and especially the upper back in the trapezius area along to the upper extremities that will attach the apparatus to the lifter. As stated before, the greatest stress on the body in the starting position is where the bar/apparatus is connected to the lifter's body at the posterior thoracic spine/interscapular muscle area. In order to be successful as a lifter one has to develop this muscle group as much as or more than any other area of the body. Without it, one cannot maintain proper head and spinal alignment and transfer the force of the apparatus to the lower spine, pelvis, and lower extremities.

Thus a combination of of addressing the bar properly, optimizing the body segment angles, and utilizing the muscles most involved will provide the lifter with the best chance of separating the bar from the platform in the starting position.

The start position is such an important aspect of the lift, we incorporate it into our training as its own separate exercise.

Copyright © 2011 Marc Chasnov

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Injury Recovery

I've gotten really bad at blogging. I apologize. These days there just doesn't seem to be enough time to get on here and share all the thoughts that typically go through my head. But I do have a few minutes available today, so here's an update.

Almost two weeks ago, during a lifting session my right quad cramped up on me during one of my squat sets. This had never happened to me before. The pain was so bad that I was forced to drop the weight. Lucky for me my OL coach is also a physical therapist, so when I saw him the following day he confirmed that it was an IT band injury. He instructed me to stay off the leg for two weeks.

So what have I been doing for the last two weeks? Umm, just about nothing. Well actually, I have been having deep tissue work done on the leg, some very light mobility work and as of this weekend I have now started to put weight back on the leg via (high) single legged squats.

The leg is feeling much better, but I fear it will still be a bit before I can jump back into my routine. And not being able to train is a killer for me.

Those of us that love our training, usually have a hard time holding back. We become impatient, jump headlong back into training before we are ready and many times end up aggravating the injury again or worse re-injuring one's self. So what is my current solution? I decided to start playing around with the parallette bars that I build last year. I figure parallette work is upper body and core based. It should give me something to focus on while giving my leg the time it needs. And it's a new skill I can develop. And it looks like fun.

This afternoon I'll be having my leg worked on. If all continues to go well, I should be able to start to increase the intensity on the leg a bit more. We'll see in about four hours.

So the moral of the story is, we all get injured no matter how hard we try not to and when it occurs we should find other, creative avenues to pursue that will continue to let us grow and develop without jeopardizing our recovery. Train hard and train safe!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Some Quick OL Training Vids

Today was an active recovery day. That means I spent about 20 minutes on a treadmill, performed a few ab wheel roll outs and stretched. Now I rest until tomorrow evening when I'm scheduled for my next OL session.

In the meantime, here are three very short vids of what some of my OL training looks like in the depths of my space-limited garage at night. These were all taken within the last month.

Remember, do what you can with what you got!



Snatch Pull

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Back to Blog

I've taken a short hiatus from blogging, about three months worth. During this time I have been diligently working on my Olympic lifting. I've also been dealing with some nasty tendinitis in my right forearm. Kettlebells have taken a bit of a back seat, as I'm learning that you can't train for two sports at the same time. I've also started playing around more with clubbells as part of my active recovery.

I think I am going to shift the focus of this journal to be less about my numbers and more about the weird stuff that goes through my head about training. I can only hope that it will be something interesting, but there's no guarantee of that.

Anyway, tonight's training consisted of:

Barbell Clean
Barbell Snatch
Back Squat
Kettlebell Push Press

During my training, I occasionally glance at my iPhone in between sets. I'll check out the latest Facebook posts, check my email, maybe play a one minute game of Bejeweled. It struck me this evening how many Facebook posts I see each day with people talking about food and diet and losing weight. I have been guilty of that a bit, but to be honest I'm really getting tired of seeing it all the time. I've read a lot about the subject in the past few months. And this is what I've come to accept: (1) If you want to get lean, cut out the processed carbs - the breads, pastas, cereals, etc. Make your carbs consist of fruits and vegetables. (2) If you want to be healthy, cut out the crap. (3) Don't be afraid of fat. That includes saturated fats. They are not bad for you. It's the trans fats that are bad for you. (4) If milk doesn't agree with you, or if glutens (typically wheat products) don't agree with you, stop eating them. Or anything that doesn't seem to agree with you for that matter. If you're ok with it, enjoy it. (5) Reduce your caffeine intake toward the evening. Ummm... that's probably about it. Not too complicated.

Now plan your training for tomorrow and get a good night's sleep!