Ask Greg: Issue 128
Greg Everett

CJ Asks: Good morning, first off let me say thank you to you for your commitment to the sport of weightlifting. Your efforts to spread knowledge and motivation are extraordinary and embody what I believe to be the most important lesson from the sport, which is to embrace the grind (also a great metaphorical lesson for life).

A little background on myself: I'm 37 years old and until a year ago, I'd never really endured any semblance of a serious strength program. I began using your 12-week traditional program and over time saw some decent gains that brought me to a max snatch of 76.6k and c&j of 90k at a body weight of 88k. The rigors of the 5 days a week training was pretty tough, so I switched over to Pendlay’s super total 4 days a week with a day of bench and squatting so my body would have a little more time to recover. I did do your beginners program to prepare myself for the 12 wk and for the most part, my body has adapted to the training with only minimal working soreness now... which I like if it doesn't feel degenerative.

My question is should I try and lock into a program and continue to pursue gains on my max or should I brace for the long haul and focus more on lighter weight and technical perfection while still doing enough reps to get a good workout? I love the sport and I want to continue as long as I can (and also teach my son), but the heavy weight is when I usually develop minor injuries/soreness and I want to make sure there's some legitimate logic in training heavy at my age, with such little experience. Also, I'm not coached, so there's probably some need for me to enroll in an on-line program just for the feedback. I train at a CF gym, so there's occasional coaching available, but certainly not any with your level of expertise.

Again, thanks for what you do, and for any feedback you can provide.

Greg Says: It’s definitely not surprising that the 12-week program, even having prepared with that beginners program, was a bit too much for you at that point. Developing work capacity is something that has to occur over time and it really can’t be rushed.

First, there is nothing inherently problematic with lifting heavy at the age of 37—the issue is how frequently you do it. Considering your relative lack of training experience, along with your age, right now that frequency will need to be low. You may be able to do a heavy single in each lift once weekly, but probably more like every 2 weeks right now.

So to answer your question more directly, neither of your listed options would be exactly what I suggest. It’s not really an issue of training light or heavy, exactly; it’s an issue of developing work capacity and accumulating training experience so you can gradually increase your ability to handle higher training volume, higher average intensity, and higher frequency of intensity.

With each program you do, figure out the total volume per day, week and month. Then with each new program you after it, try to increase that volume a bit toward what I would consider reasonable, which is one of my programs from the website that is described as moderate to moderate-high volume. This will give you a great deal more flexibility in your programming, and allow you to make more improvements ultimately. Basically, you’re incrementally increasing your work capacity. If you try to make a sudden, dramatic increase, it will turn out a lot like an airplane into the side of a mountain. With gradual increases, your body will be able to adapt better.

Likewise, try to gradually increase the frequency you take heavy snatch and clean & jerk attempts. You may never get more frequent than about every 2 weeks, and this is not necessarily a problem as long as you’re able to train petty regularly during the week between 80-90%.

Every lifter is different in terms of the volume, average intensity and frequency of high intensity they can handle for a multitude of reasons. You will need to experiment and use incremental changes to both get yourself to your ultimate capacity and find where the threshold is.

Steph Asks: I have a split jerk of 102.5kg at 64kg body weight and overhead strength has always been a strength, recently someone pointed out that I rush out the catch on my split jerk and suggested I stick the landing for 2-3 seconds. I gave it a go and regardless of how hard I try I can't seem to stick the landing I always seem to bounce straight out into the finish position. Is this a problem is it holding me back from getting heavier overhead?

Greg Says: In theory, there is nothing wrong with rebounding immediately from the split in a jerk, IF the jerk is successful. The problem is that when the jerk is unsuccessful, there’s a decent chance it could have been made with some more patience in the receiving position, or that the underlying problem is being masked by the rush out of the split.

As an example, it’s very common for lifters to be too heavy on the front foot in the split jerk due to issues like dipping or driving forward, pushing the bar forward with the arms, or over-reaching the back leg in the split. Up to a point, the lifter can save the lift despite this problem by quickly recovering from the split and adjusting the bar and body position to re-establish balance and stability. Eventually, though, the weight on the bar will be too great for this to work and you’ll begin seeing failed lifts.

If the underlying problem is neglected and allowed to become or remain a habit, this threshold of lift failure will become quite solid and act as a serious limiter to performance. It’s important, therefore, to diagnose and correct the problem as soon as possible to avoid this; the longer it goes unchecked, the more difficult it will be to correct.

The way you describe the issue, however, it’s hard to know if this is really an issue of an improper receiving position or a lack of balance; it may not be. You may be one of those very naturally springy athletes who has difficulty holding any position following an eccentric loading of the muscles. Or, of course, you could just have a habit that isn’t going to change easily or quickly.

I would suggest continuing to try to hold the split position for 2-3 seconds on all of your warm-up jerks, and when you reach a weight when it seems impossible, let yourself recover immediately as you seem to do naturally. This way you’re still getting some training to improve your stability and awareness in the split position, which should carry over to the heavier jerks in time, and will have the opportunity to recognize and diagnose any problems that do exist, but you also will not be unnecessarily limiting your top end by forcing something so unnatural on your heaviest jerks.

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