Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I think I fixed my snatch today

... and applied things people have taught me to correct a dysfunction.

It's been a never-ending story of me straining my wrist and making my fingers go numb, clearly neural in nature.  I snatched hundreds of reps in the Spring, dozens of reps in the Summer, then almost none at all through the Autumn because I was pinching nerves in my wrist and could not fix it.  I tried catching with an "OK" grip and a flat-fingered grip, only marginally better with the latter.  Heavier swings, shorter snatch sets, snatching once a week, kinesio tape, all sorts of things.  It was after my last post on Thanksgiving Day that I noticed something in my video.  In tipping the bell over the top, I was flexing my wrist. It's right there, plain as day in even a motion-blurred frame.  If anything, this may be one of the lesser examples I could have chosen.

Also, I recently read a "trouble with my snatch" thread on the forum at Dragondoor.com.  The advice was that the poster was not breaking the elbow first.  Clearly my elbow is bent in this frame, but I haven't been "doing it".  I started high-volume snatches in the Spring with a light bell, and I was probably flicking it over the top by default because the light weight didn't force me to do it right.  That practice became a pattern, and the heavier bell was no longer within my physical tolerances.  So here's what I've done in the last few days.

1-handed swings with a heavier bell, completely releasing the bell at the top and grabbing it out of the air on the way down.  I cleared the bell by a good couple inches.  I adapted two new things.  I learned to release and grab, even imperfectly, a heavier bell and not drop it.  Not a textbook hook grip, but no sliding friction on my palms at all.  Also, I learned to capture an uneven, wobbly descent.  That required some adaptation in my back and shoulders, like the difference between identical GS reps and KB juggling.

I also consciously broke at the elbow first, turning it in ever so slightly, like I was elbowing a wrestler's head at the corner of my rib cage.  This new visualization of aiming the elbow at my ribs, however slight, did the trick.  My elbow only really moved medially an inch or two, but the motion externally rotated the heel of my pinky finger into the curve of the handle.  My wrist was straight, my fingers hooked, before the bell was shoulder-high.  Out of 5 sets of 5 on each hand, I only pinched my palm a couple times and never felt numbness.

This is esoteric work for a lot of people, but it's applied knowledge for me.  Today I snatched my heavy-press bell for the first time ever, 4 reps each hand.  That was at the end of an hour of heavy presses, cleans, suspended rows, and 5 min of 1-handed swings.  I still had the grip for 9 reps with a bell I'd never snatched before, and I never went numb.  Doing that FRESH would have been remarkable.  Doing it tired was an act of discovery.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010! What'd you lift today?

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!  Welcome to the 2nd annual Thanksgiving Day Kettlepalooza.

I.  It's a wonderful time of the year.  The air is crisp and clear.  There's pie on the counter, bird in the oven, and Saints on TV at 4:30.  You should all be done reading me by then.  I am a blessed man, grateful in my heart for my God who watches over me and the place I've been so fortunate to live, excepting maybe the TSA.

II.  A bunch of my friends have posted pre-Thanksgiving Kettlebell fat burn workouts and sweet potato pie workouts.  I don't pretend to have their expertise or creativity, but I posted a clip last year and do so again this year.  My current Thursday lineup is get-ups and snatches; this is the last get-up and the first set of snatches from an hour of activity.

III. It's been a while since I've put myself on video.  These were pretty good reps, but I saw a couple things as soon as I started editing.  I'd love to see what you caught!  I did 5 warmup reps, then one snatch + one breath in the lockout for a minute with each hand.  I haven't done many snatches this Fall season, and I'm training longer sets between hand switches.

IV.  I have done short sessions of hard muscle activity 4 times this week.  My appetite's ferocious, my weight's stable, and the missus says I look huge.  ("Huge" is a literary term; just go with it.)  That means my metabolism is high.  There will be a lot of people hitting treadmills and to burn off holiday meals.  Research clearly shows they would be better off lifting something heavy for about 15min, but that's not "cardio" and it's not popular.  I was the only person in my gym this morning.  No treadmills, no machines, nobody warming up the engine.  Gonna be a fat weekend around the apartment complex.

P.S. Below is a little snip of the Thanksgiving 2009 workout, when I was a wee kettle newbie.  I do believe there's improvement.  The weight's bigger, at least, and I'm not coming apart at the shoulder anymore.  There is just SO much to learn from watching your own video!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hardstyle Ventura 2010 (My Little Pony)

I'll occasionally go to some master-level workshop to beef up my skills and have my technique evaluated. This weekend was Hardstyle Ventura 2010 (www.hardstyleventura.com), a workshop devoted to bodyweight exercise and kettlebell training. The list of topics is outlined at the site, and I won't belabor the table of contents here. It was outstanding. It was overcast and windy and chilly, but it was outstanding.  There was far too much to cover here, but I took home a handful of very personal observations.

When an experience brings you back to step #1, you find yourself reconsidering what you've called "progress". My HKC workshop in January, a bad nerve pinch in June, now HSV 2010. While Dr. Mark Cheng led us through a Horse Stance drill, I struggled just to stand up straight. Cheng writes here on how this ancient Chinese martial arts drill has improved hip mobility and relieved back pain in his students. There are some challenging statements in the article, challenging even for the very athletic. I found them reflected in a few quotes from the workshop, some paraphrased from Gray Cook and others with our gratitude.

"The greatest athletes are not those with the best movement patterns.  They are the ones with the strongest compensations."

"If you argue on behalf of your weaknesses, you will own them."

"Adding weight to a movement reinforces that movement pattern."

(from another trainer in the crowd, to our impatient clientele) "You move like ####. You shouldn't even be lifting weights. If you're not willing to put in the work, you're just wasting my Chi."
(My personal favorite. You sort of had to be there.)

So why was this event such a game changer? That Horse Stance indicated not only the last remaining weakness in my injured knee, but a stiff, clunky ankle that I sprained in high school. That sprain was 25 years ago, but it affects my arch and my gait to this day. Now I have drills to treat these two deficiencies and a screen to evaluate their progress. The progress will be obvious as it happens.

I've been proud of my squat for three months now, but I was splaying my feet unnecessarily. I've been proud of my new overhead shoulder range, but I was arching my back. I have been compensating because of injuries that won't get better and adding more weight and work every week, everything "wrong" from this workshop.  My injuries have not healed. Research shows that while learning a new activity, one really bad repetition may require as many as 10 good repetitions to re-pattern the behavior in memory. I hope I can integrate my corrections instead of starting over from scratch.