Ask Greg: Issue 93
Greg Everett

Tom Asks: How would you program training sessions for someone O-lifting twice per week? I'm not a weightlifter, but I train the lifts twice a week as part of a general 'athletic performance' orientated program (the rest is 5/3/1 strength stuff and combat for met con).

After reading some of John Broz stuff I just work up to a max on both lifts for the day but I feel like I could be programming my sessions better for making improvements?

Any thoughts greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Greg Says: The basic approach I like is to have a snatch day and a clean & jerk day. Obviously on each day, you would focus on that lift, but also on related lifts for technique and lift-specific strength. This would be things like pull and deadlift variations, hang/block snatch or clean variations, jerk variations, etc. Each day select an element of the lift you need to work on and start with what I call a technique primer. This is a fairly light exercise performed before the main classic lift intended to improve your technique on that classic lift. An example would be doing a few doubles or triples of snatch balances before your snatches if you have trouble punching up under the bar aggressively in the turnover. Another example would be a few sets of muscle cleans before your cleans if you have trouble turning the bar over accurately and meeting it smoothly. Keep these things light to prevent wearing yourself out for the following lift(s)—you should be focused on accuracy, speed and consistency rather than weight.

Next do your primary lift: snatch or clean & jerk. If you’re running a 5/3/1 type program around this, run the lifts in parallel. That is, start on week one with more reps and lighter weights and move to fewer reps and heavier weights. The overall volume, including any additional lift-related exercises should also decrease during that 3-week period. As a very simple example, you might start week 1 with triples, go to doubles in week 2, and finish week 3 with singles, possible to max. You can do a similar gradient by using complexes like clean + front squat + jerk to build up the volume in the start and then pare it down to classic lift singles by week 3.

Finally, do 1-2 lift-related exercises to wrap it up. Again, these should be chosen based on an assessment of your needs. This might be snatch or clean pulls (probably a good one to have in regularly if not always), snatch push press and overhead squat, power jerks or jerks behind the neck, halting deadlifts, and the like.

Morgan Asks: My name is Morgan and I train at CrossFit Soul Rebel in Victoria, Australia. For the past 17 months I have struggled with a lot of knees issues and have only just been diagnosed with patellar tendonitis this year. I still have another 3 months of resting and then slowly getting back into it after that 3 months.

However I am desperate not to lose any strength with my Olympic lifting. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for what I could continue to do or train even without the use of my knees.

My coach has been extremely helpful throughout all of this I just thought it might be worth a try asking you guys as you are gurus! :)

Thanks for you time, I understand you must get a lot of questions so mine might not be answered but thought I would give it a shot.

Greg Says: If you don’t have use of your knee, there’s not a lot to be done about strengthening it. My two basic suggestions would be to take this time to focus on the things you really can work on, e.g. upper body and core strength, and lower body mobility and balance. There’s a reason you developed patellar tendonitis so badly that you’ve been told to take 3 months off—you need to figure out what that reason was and correct the problem. It may be severe quad and hip flexor tightness, or it may be poor lifting mechanics, or it may be volume and frequency of training that you weren’t adequately prepared for. Figure this all out now so you can come back without having to stop again.

Additionally, you can probably do some more posterior-chain oriented lower body strength training during this time off. Exercises like stiff-legged deadlifts and good mornings shouldn’t cause a problem. You may also find you can do deadlifts and pulls, at least from blocks to start the knee at a more extended angle.

Luke Asks: I’m a very active Crossfitter and I just had surgery to repair my torn Achilles tendon last week. I tore it during a sprint warmup at a cf gym. I will obviously follow my Doctors protocol for recovery but was wondering what advice you could pass on? I'm specifically looking for a program design working around my bad right leg. I'm still in the non weight bearing phase so haven't done much as its painful. Once I start working out again I want to work on my weaknesses (hspu, muscle ups, general shoulder press strength, core work...). Any advice would be appreciated as I'm pretty bummed out about the sudden stoppage in my training.

Greg Says: First of all, go to the gym and explain to your trainers that sprinting is not a warm-up. This to me is a big red flag, so proceed with caution and be smart about your training under their direction.

Your plan to focus on training your weaknesses during this period is a good one. There are a huge number of exercises you can do on one leg or with no leg involvement at all. Even prior to being able to bear weight on the leg, you can do normally standing exercises seated, such as pressing. You can even do seated good mornings. There is always a creative way to work around a problem, and you might as well take advantage of this time to excel in some area in which you’ve been struggling. This is also a good time to work on mobility and healing up other nagging pains and problems before they turn into injuries (I suspect your Achilles didn’t just suddenly go because of that single incident—it was probably ready to go because of accumulated stress).

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