CrossFit West Santa Cruz trainer Jocelyn Forest recently had the opportunity to attend an Olympic lifting workshop hosted by Catalyst Athletics. Here is her take on the weekend.
In CrossFit we do not specialize. In fact, not specializing is our motto. We aim to be good at everything, but not the best at any one thing. Or as Coach Glassman puts it, “We do your stuff nearly as well as you do, you can’t do ours very well at all, and we do everything that we both don’t do much better than you can. Not very humble, I know, but true.”
As the 3rd and 9th line of World Class Fitness in 100 words reads, we should practice and train all major lifts as well as regularly learn and play new sports. So, again, although we aren’t mastering any one thing, we do want to be better at everything. Or, as I like to simply put it, just be better.
So, as was recently pointed out to me, if you were looking to be better at, say, shooting a gun, you’d probably benefit the most by going to the best marksman out there. And if you wanted to be a better swimmer, you’d sure as hell be stoked to learn from someone like Michael Phelps. Well, it just so happens that I to want to learn more about the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk and as fate would have it I had the privilege of attending an Olympic Lifting seminar this weekend put on by the infamous Aimee Anaya and Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics in Sunnyvale. Greg Everett is USA Weightlifting Club coach, and a Level III CrossFit Trainer, just to name a few accolades. He is also the co-founder of the athletic performance journal The Performance Menu and author of “the best book available on Olympic weightlifting” Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide Guide for Athletics & Coaches (definitely check this out if you get a chance- it’s a fantastic book). Aimee is a National Champion Olympic lifter, also a USA Weightlifting Club Coach, and Level I CrossFit trainer. This chick can snatch 200lbs and make it look like a weighted PVC pipe.
It was a large crowd, mostly CrossFitters, as usual dressed in affiliate T-shirts, greeting each other as if old friends; everyone eager to soak up the day’s knowledge delivered from the mighty O-lifting specialists from a distant land. It was fascinating to see the biomechanics of the lifts broken down into such small, specific parts. Learning everything from the physics of why the hook grip is stronger than a regular grip and the science on the importance of a more vertical torso on the 1st pull versus a deadlift with the hips elevated. We learned interesting stuff about manipulation of the shoulders in the front squat, the receiving position of the clean, the OH squat, and we learned about “the real squat.” What was most interesting to me was the culture–the language, the kinship among the O-lifters. It was just like visiting another country, where customs and rituals and language are different, but the morals and values of a society are understood and respected. And yet somehow it seemed a very familiar dynamic, just like what we have here at CrossFit.
As us CrossFitters gathered with our ¾” PVC pipes and began the progression, then moved onto the bars, one thing in this specialist’s world quickly became apparent: this stuff takes patience. And practice. And then even more patience. The Olympic lifts are beautiful dynamic movements and when you sit and watch the big dogs play it is truly amazing. It’s like watching them dance. It’s graceful yet powerful. It’s a movement that involves such precision, perfect timing, and a whole lot of strength.
Although the techniques immediately helped me PR on the Snatch for multiple reps without even realizing it, it occurred to me that one thing is very different in a specialist’s world compared to the CrossFit world of General Physical Preparedness. It was the first time in a very long time that simply trying harder or pushing harder didn’t instantly make me better. This stuff was all about precision, and patience, and practice.
In Helen, if I want to be better, all I have to do is dig deep and run a little faster. To get through Grace, all I have to do is mentally overcome the pain and push harder for 1 single minute. And many times, in a max effort on, say, the deadlift, all I have to do is muster up whatever animal instinct I can dig from within and drive the floor away harder.
But not in a specialist’s world. Nor if we are practicing and refining the important skills in our own. This was the best reminder I’ve had yet, in terms of getting better at just about anything; it takes a whole lot of discipline and drive. It takes commitment and the willingness to put in the time. It takes the ability to overcome failure, and frustration. And it takes the desire to be better, regardless of any set backs that may come your way.
It’s as the saying goes, Patience is Virtue.
Please post thoughts to Comments.
With a continuously running clock, do 1 thruster and a 40m sprint on the first minute, 1 pullup and a 40m sprint on the second minute, 2 thrusters and a 40m sprint on the third minute, 2 pullups and a 40m sprint on the fourth minute, and so on until 5 rounds have been completed. Then, starting at 5, go back down to 1 without any rest as fast as you can.
Weight on the thrusters is 135 for lads and 85 for lasses.
Post weight used and time on the 2nd part of the WOD to Comments.