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