Ask Greg: Issue 85
Greg Everett

Matt Asks: I bought the Olympic weightlifting book by Tommy Kono and watched a few of his videos. I noticed that he recommends to have your shoulders pushed forwards, lats spread when doing snatches and cleans. I trained that way for a while until my shoulder started to bother me. My chiropractor said that it was bad for my shoulders to lift that way and that they should be pulled back and down. I also noticed that some Olympic trainers recommend to have your shoulders pulled back to ensure a good arch. So I'm a bit confused as to what is the best way.

Greg Says: First of all, I have a huge amount of respect for Kono and in no way should anything I say be interpreted to suggest otherwise. In the start and pull of the snatch and clean, I teach lifters to keep the shoulders approximately neutral with regard to retraction/protraction. We definitely don’t want to try to retract, partly because it will typically be impossible to reach the bar with a good body position, but also because it’s unlikely the athlete would be able to maintain that scapular position under the load anyway. However, I don’t believe there is a need to actively or intentionally protract either. Depending on how a lifter is built, their flexibility, and the particulars of their starting position, some protraction may occur unavoidably, and this is fine.

The lifter needs to be concerned more with arching the back. Part of this effort should involve forcefully engaging the lats. This will not only help extend the upper back, but will also pull the bar inward toward the lifter so it can be controlled. This effort to engage the lats will depress the shoulder blades somewhat, and will retract them at least somewhat from the position they would be in without such lat activation. This is the position we want to achieve and maintain during the pull.

Ed Asks: I've been training Bulgarian style. I say style because I've only incorporated an aspect of their training methodology. The program is merely squatting. I've backed off of Oly Lifting since I feel I need to get some coaching before I continue. So I squat to max every single day, only once a day. After the initial 2 months where I say my daily maxes drop significantly, I am now in the 181+kilo club (of course high bar ATG style). My question is how do you supplement or should I? I have access to a GHD and a few rudimentary training tools. For now my goals are to get strong as F*@% with the caveat not to get fat as F*@%. I'm not shredding just don't want to flirt with metabolic derangement. Can I throw in some metcon style stuff in 5-10 min. windows? Do I need to balance stuff out with specific mobility drills? I fear that given the daily toll that squatting takes, especially on the soft tissue, that I may be primed for a tear if I dip into metcons? I don't know so I'm simply spit-balling.

Greg Says: I don’t think there’s any need to do metCons in order to not get fat; if you’re getting fat, your nutrition is out of order. Generally my standpoint is that you train for physical abilities; you eat for weight and body composition. Granted, there is some crossover, but if you have certain performance goals, keep your training oriented that way as much as possible.

If all you’re doing is squatting, then yes, do more. But it doesn’t have to be conditioning work. You can do basic bodybuilding and strength work that will help your goal of getting stronger rather than interfere with it. There is a large variety of upper body pushing and pulling exercises that can be done with a barbell. If you have limited time, you can superset exercises, and this will also give you a bit of a conditioning response—just don’t push it to CrossFit style efforts. I would especially avoid leg-centric conditioning work if your goal is squat strength and you’re already squatting heavy daily. Stick to upper body and ab/back exercises and if you do any additional leg work, make it relatively light unilateral exercises like lunge or split squat variations.

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