Monday, January 10, 2011

A Trip for Improved Motor Patterns

It's January 8th and I'm driving down I-75, on my way to Columbus. Disturbed's new CD, Asylum, is blasting and the only thing on my mind if lifting. Got the picture? Are you following me? Excellent! Why, you ask, am I on my way to Columbus? I am headed down to train with Ohio's great weightlifting coach, Mark Cannella. He invited me down to train with him, so I took him up on the offer. After all, I'm at the point in my lifting "career" when I need to improve on all the little things to keep my weights going in the right direction. I'm not too proud to admit when I need to change some things and I'm glad that I made the trip because there's a lot to change!

As soon as we started I could tell that I was in for a marathon session of technique work, which was fine by me. It wasn't long before I had already snatched 50kg for five triples. This day just happened to be the last day of my Pendragon 5-week cycle. I was supposed to go heavy, but wasn't feeling the zing a day like that calls for. Especially after doing many sets of triples and technique work with the bar or just my body. Mark had me performing a slap and drop type technique to work on my timing. I'm not sure what it's actually called, but I like to call it the "pop-pop" technique. This refers to the sound of the bar brushing, followed by the feet landing. I worked this many times throughout the session.

The main thing I needed fixing was my timing (The bar crashes on me too hard) and my leg drive (I don't drive through the floor with my legs long or hard enough). We used the pop-pop technique to help with my timing. Another thing that helped me was visualizing catching the bar and riding it into the hole. I had always thought that you were supposed to catch it in the bottom for each lift (for cleans, I thought you just time it to use the stretch-reflex of the quads to bounce out of the hole). Chalk this thinking up to years of misinformation. This is surprising considering the fact that I breathe weightlifting every day and didn't learn this earlier. Of course, this is one of the reasons I love this sport so learn new things all the time!

                  Timing is Everything

As for the need to fix my leg drive, I had been (and probably will continue until I re-groove my motor patterns) using my hips too much. According to Mark, there is a point where the hips have to stop coming forward and the legs continue the drive vertically. If you can visualize this, it makes a great deal of sense. If the hips come forward too much, the bar path becomes obstructed and a loop is created. As we all know, this is NOT a good thing. This can cause many lifts missed behind the lifter (exactly what I always used to do). While in the power position, I have learned that I need to drive through the floor with my feet as long as possible, keeping contact with the floor as long as possible.

 Think Fred had decent leg drive?

Mark also told me that there is a point in which the bar is traveling upward, while the lifter is going downward. He calls this "unweighting" of the bar, which I was NOT doing. As the session went on, I was starting to get the feel for this. This is a part of the timing issue I've had. Motor patterns are hard to change once they have been continually grooved into someone's movement. This is one of the reasons it is better to start learning sport skills at a young age, when the motor patterns are more able to be molded. Trying to change motor patterns after repeating the same movements year after year at an older age, not so easy. And, unfortunately in real life, there is no easy button (Thanks for nothing, Staples!).

I will continue to work on fixing these flaws to improve in the lifts. If you, or anyone you know, is having issues with their technique, I recommend having Mark evaluate you. He is a genius in the lifts! As frustrating as the session was (I've been training for 3.5 years and I felt like it was my first day), I was glad I made the trip down. Many thanks go to Mark for his help and patience with my faulty motor patterns!

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