Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is "follow-through" the term we're looking for?

There have been 4 or 5 threads on Dragondoor lately on the Hardstyle Lock, bearing phrases like "focus on my lats" and "cramp my glutes as hard as I can" in each thread. It concerns me a little that there's so much cognitive focus on what I really believe are figurative terms and corrective drills. I may risk my hardstyle card, but I believe there's a point to be made. The point isn't consciously flexing some muscle, and I don't believe that's presented as "the point" in the literature. The point is moving well bearing load.

There's a phase in the learning process when you consciously focus on cramping or packing until it becomes part of your movement. You become aware of it, then you move on. You do that again the next session, then you no longer focus on it consciously. There's the pre-flight checklist and the in-flight checklist. Most of my checklist these days is pre-flight. Crease the hips and tuck the pants legs up in one motion, hook the handle, shoulders back 'til the arms are taut, eyes up. Once that posture is set in motion, I do not consciously cycle through checklists while I'm doing swings.

I believe most of the Hardstyle Lock, as applied to swings, is simply good follow-through. If I drive the bell forward, my hips fully extend as part of the follow-through. If they don't, then I lifted the bell instead of driving it forward. The limiting factors are tight hips and poor follow-through, and I did drills to correct those, but I don't think about the drills every rep. I drive the bell forward.

The bell comes up "high enough", and I press down to stop its ascent, like holding a giant helium balloon at arm's length. That stiffens my grip and torso and leverages my arms downward. Restraining the bell's rise flows naturally into pushing the bell down and back. It's never been about engaging my lats, per se, though tensing the armpits is a conscious drill to learn this motion. It's been about controlling the bell.

What's neat about this is that once I could lift and hike and drive, the bell went "high enough". The first time I double-swung a pair of the heaviest bells I owned, both bells went chest-high on the second rep. I did NOT want two bells rising overhead and free-falling at the end of my arms, so I restrained them down and back. I loaded, drove, and actively hiked every rep. One led to the next naturally.

I can exhaust myself doing "naked" swings without a bell, cramping and sweating and hissing like we do. If you're exhausted and cramped and confused at 5 swings -- I read that in an actual thread -- you may be forcibly waving the bell instead of swinging it. It's not a butter churn; it's a pendulum. There's a drill to stabilize the back during swings, the shoulder during presses, the hips during get-ups, then there's the actual exercise. It's important to keep the point the point.

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