Ask Greg: Issue 115
Greg Everett

Tony Asks: I'm one of the coaches for and a competitive member of the Leadville Lifters weightlifting team in Leadville, CO. Over the past few months I've had the privilege several times of watching our National Olympic team train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and I was able to train with them once, which was a great experience. It seems that our National Team coach, the great Zygmunt Smalcerz of Poland, is teaching the "foot stomp" when transitioning from the pulling position to the receiving position because all the athletes at the OTC stomp with extreme force and noise on every lift. Though I have never gotten the chance to ask Zygmunt specifically if he teaches this. In your book Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches, you state that the foot stomp is an error and a technique that should not be taught. So, my question is: if the foot stomp is being taught and used by our US National team, is it really such a glaring error that should be corrected? And if so, why do you think that such an error is being promulgated at the highest level?

Greg Says: I think I can clear this up for you. First, what the lifters at the OTC do is not always the result of what Smalcerz teaches or believes to be correct. Remember that this group is comprised of athletes who were all started by other coaches and bring with them to the training center practices and habits that may not align with Smalcerz’s philosophies. So even if you see the lifters there doing something, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was taught to them or encouraged by Smalcerz.

Next, let me clarify my thoughts on the stomp because it sounds like what I wrote in my book wasn’t as clear as I thought. Here are two excerpts from the book:

“…the athlete will transition the feet to the receiving position as rapidly as possible with as little elevation of the feet as necessary, landing with flat feet at quarter squat depth. This transition must be aggressive and the reconnection of the feet with the platform may produce an audible clap. Note that this clap should be a product of speed and viciousness, not of elevation.”

“…elevation of the feet from the platform should not exceed what is necessary to allow unobstructed lateral movement, but must also remove pressure against the floor to provide opportunity for maximal acceleration of the athlete under the bar.”

Ideally, the lifter does in fact make a stomping sound because he or she has lifted and repositioned the feet aggressively and reconnected them flat against the floor—however, this ideal movement doesn’t include excessive elevation. In other words, I want zero pressure against the floor as the lifter begins moving under the bar to allow maximal speed of that movement; I want the feet totally disconnected to allow proper repositioning in the receiving position; and I want that all done without lifting the feet higher than necessary, simply because the longer the feet are in the air, the more chance there is of improper positioning, and if there’s a delay in reconnection with the ground, there is more chance of the bar crashing down onto the lifter rather than being absorbed with more control.

In short, I do believe it’s “correct” to lift and replace the feet during the pull under; it just needs to be done well, like every other part of the lift. Lifters can be very effective with what appears to be excessive elevation of the feet, and they can also be effective with the feet never leaving the floor. Much of this is the product of individual peculiarities, but I will always teach a lifter to lift and move the feet in the pull under and only change that if that lifter proves to be one for whom this isn’t ideal.

You can see more about this in a previous Ask Greg here

James Asks: Myself and a few other weightlifters train out of a CrossFit gym. It used to be that we had an actual weightlifting coach and were left alone by the CrossFit side of the house in regards to our training. However now that a few of us have done well locally the owner of this gym has decided to get involved in our training. It's ranged from telling us to stop following Catalyst programming and follow the gyms weightlifting programming (that appeared out of nowhere) to appointing a new coach who has never been a weightlifter when the old one had to step down. We've pretty much ignored most of this and still follow your cycles, however there is increasing interference from the CrossFit side of the house. Do we attempt to tough it out and establish ourselves as our own separate entity or do we pick up and find a new location all together?

Greg Says: This is a tricky situation because on one hand, you need a gym to train in, so you can’t go pissing off the proprietor. On the other hand, it sounds like said proprietor has no business telling you how to train. Maybe you can reason with him. For example, if you’ve been doing Catalyst programming and have done well enough that he’s now taken notice and wants to be a part of it, wouldn’t it make sense to continue what has been successful to that point? I suppose I would have a talk with him and find out what exactly he wants—for example, does he actually want to be involved, does he just want credit for your success, does he have some kind of weird personal issue with me and therefore not want you using my programming? You do have to take care of your interests. If he’s replaced a legitimate coach with one who has no experience and still expects you to do what that coach says, it sounds questionable at best and you’re probably better off going elsewhere. If he’s that interested in being involved with some good lifters, he should be able to understand that it’s also in his best interest to work with you and help you rather than interfere and create problems.

Oscar Asks: Hi, I am 16 years old and have been following your programming for about 2 months at our gym. I‘ve found that some of the percentages in the cycles feel very light to me (for example squats, snatches and cleans) while others make it hard for me to keep proper form and technique (jerks, deadlift, pulls). Maybe this is because I am not as efficient in these movements. Should I increase the weight if it feels light or maybe increase the reps? Or should I stick the prescribed percentages even though they feel light? Thank you

Greg Says: The problem inherent with providing programming for people I don’t know is that I have to make assumptions about their abilities, and essentially program for the “normal” lifter. Of course, few lifters will be normal in the sense that their abilities across all lifts will be equivalent.

What you’ll need to do is adjust the weights while maintaining the spirit of the prescription. In other words, if weights on a certain exercise feel excessively light, work your way up to weights that feel more appropriate and use that as a reference—in the following weeks, adjust the prescribed percentages according to that number (for example, if you increased 5%, add 5% to the prescriptions in the following days/weeks for that exercise).

That said, be careful not to overestimate your weights. Not every training day should feel like maximal effort. Make sure you understand the goal of each exercise on a given day and stick with weights appropriate for it. If you’re not sure how to do this, post questions in the comments section of that day’s workout so we can help you out.

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