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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Five Powerlifting Pieces to the Power Clean Puzzle

The NIFS Barbell Club is slated to start in the coming week. This will be a chance for members to learn about individual Olympic and powerlifting movements that they have experience with or may be trying for the first time. Olympic (Oly, ah-LEE) and powerlifting have become increasingly popular over recent years and will continue to grow, considering their application to functional training and athletic movement.

deadlift-2new.jpgYou may already be preparing to attend barbell club or could already be an active participant in LIFT, our small group training setting for Olympic and powerlifting. But if the group setting is not for you, I’m going to give you a solid progression that will allow you to develop a strong power clean with proper technique. The following movements can be a starting point for beginners or experienced lifters looking to get a fresh perspective on their current programs.

When I venture into any Olympic or powerlifting movements with a client or athlete, the most important factor is that their body be able to perform the movement that I am asking them to do. I get a good idea of this by using the Functional Movement Screening (FMS) and a few lower-intensity exercises (kettlebell swing, goblet squat, ground-based plyometrics, etc.) that utilize similar movement patterns to those that the Oly or powerlifts entail. If an individual is not able to perform these movements correctly or their FMS score contraindicates their participation in them, I would focus on other areas in order to better prepare that individual for these lifts. Once I believe someone is fully capable of performing the lifts (in this case with regard to the power clean progression), I could start them on the progression.

1. The Deadlift 

The first (and arguably most important, in my opinion) step in this progression would be to teach proper hip-hinge technique for a deadlift. This is the foundation of the majority of the Oly movements and needs to be perfected in order to reach the fullest potential in subsequent lifts. Learning this movement could take as little as a couple weeks, but will likely take more like 4 to 6 weeks depending on your current abilities. Take your time; it will be worth it!

Points of Emphasis:

  1. Keep your back flat.
  2. Keep the bar close to your body.
  3. Use a Hook or Pronated grip (which has a better translation to Olympic movements).
  4. Start by pulling slowly from the ground; velocity will be added later.
Recommended training time frame: 4 to 6 weeks (depending on ability level)

2. The Power Shrug

Once you have perfected the deadlift, you can implement the next movement. From the deadlift position, I usually transition to a power shrug. The power shrug is just what it sounds like, a shrug with more speed than normal. The power shrug allows for the client or athlete to feel what it is like to achieve triple extension after the deadlift. It begins with a deadlift to an RDL position (with the bar at or just below the knees). Once the RDL position is achieved, the hips are driven through to generate the upward momentum to the bar. The client simultaneously shrugs his or her shoulders toward their ears to finish the movement.

Steps to Achieve:

  1. Start with a deadlift to the RDL position.
  2. Once the RDL position is met, drive the hips through.
  3. Finish with shoulders shrugged toward the ears and on the tiptoes.
Recommended training time frame: 3 to 4 weeks

3.The Hang Pull

The next step in my progression would be to go into a hang pull. This movement is more of a “top-down” movement versus a “bottoms-up” movement when compared to the deadlift and the power shrug. The deadlift and power shrug start from the ground and move upward from there. In contrast, the hang pull starts from a standing straight up position. The ultimate goal for all of the movements will be to get to the powerful RDL position. The hang pull involves lowering the bar to the knees and then driving the hips through to generate an explosive upright rowing motion. You may integrate the shrug that you have learned in progression #2 in order to produce more of that upward drive. The movement finishes with the client coming down from their toes after the pulling motion.

Steps to Achieve:

  1. Stand up straight.
  2. Lower the bar down the legs in a hip-hinge motion.
  3. Once RDL is achieved, drive the hips through, shrug, and row.
  4. Finish on tiptoes.
Recommended training time frame: 2 to 3 weeks

4. The Hang Clean

Now the fun begins. Through the first three steps you’ve learned to properly hip hinge and how to achieve triple extension through the hips, knees, and ankles. You’ve learned to shrug and pull from steps 2 and 3. If done properly, step 4 (the Hang Clean) should be a piece of cake. The hang clean builds off of the hang pull by adding the firing of the elbows under and through the bar to achieve a front rack position with the barbell positioned across the shoulders. If you have been diligent through steps 1 to 3, this should not be an issue. The biggest problem I see with individuals in this stage would be a lack of mobility through the wrists, triceps, and shoulders. Timing is everything with these lifts, so once you know you are doing them correctly, practice, practice, practice. The less your mind has to think about any part of this movement, the more success you will see.

Steps to Achieve:

  1. Perform steps 1 to 4 for the Hang Pull.
  2. Slightly sink the hips.
  3. Pull and fire the elbows under the bar.
  4. Finish with the bar racked across the shoulders.
Recommended training time frame: 4 to 6 weeks

5. The Power Clean

You have made it this far; it’s time to seal the deal! The final progression for the power clean would be, well, the power clean. During this progression, your job will be to assemble all of the pieces of the power clean puzzle from steps 1 to 5. This movement will start with the deadlift to the RDL position, continue with a big shrug and pull, fire the elbows, and sink beneath the bar. It is essentially step #4, but we are pulling from the floor.

Sounds simple, right? Not exactly. This will introduce a whole separate challenge with regard to timing, but as always, your timing will get better with practice. Once you feel comfortable pulling from the ground and catching the bar in the upright/hips loaded position, catching into a front squat will be next (but you should perfect this first).

Steps to Achieve:

  1. Deadlift to RDL position.
  2. Drive hips through.
  3. Shrug shoulders and pull upward: get triple extension!
  4. Sink and fire elbows beneath the bar.
  5. Catch and rack the bar across the shoulders.
Recommended training time frame: 4 to 6 weeks

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Olympic and powerlifting movements are definitely the king of the fitness world jungle. They should be done with extreme attention to detail due to the high velocities of the bars (Oly lifting) and extreme weights being used (powerlifting). That doesn’t mean you need to be a fitness expert to perform them; just learn how to do them correctly. Although these pieces to the power clean puzzle lead you in the right direction, it is always beneficial to have another set of eyes on you to make sure that everything is in working order. Realize that it takes a while for your body to adapt and grasp these movement concepts, especially if you are new to this type of lifting. Remember, be patient and a stickler on details; it will pay off in the long run!

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NIFS New Barbell Club is a FREE lifting club open to all members! Learn safe and effective weightlifting techniques and have fun lifting in a club atmosphere! For times and dates click here.

This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

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Topics: NIFS group training weight lifting powerlifting functional movement

Five Life Lessons from the NIFS Powerlifting Competition

NIFS 2nd Annual Powerlifting Competition happened November 14 in front of a packed house filled with excited onlookers, friends and family of the athletes, and “heavy metal” enthusiasts. The event doubled in size in one year’s time, with competitors from all over the state as well as some of our strongest NIFS members!

power-1.jpgThe fitness center floor was transformed into a makeshift coliseum so all could witness the battles that took place on those power racks and platforms. One could easily learn a great deal about the art of powerlifting, but I witnessed some rather big life lessons on display that were just as powerful as our two champions!

1. Success Favors the Prepared

From the athletes to the support team, success in this event was determined by the level of preparedness and not leaving anything to chance. Preparing for that day resulted in personal records and championships for the athletes and a smooth order of events for the support team. And although the training was difficult and time consuming, putting everything you have into the preparation for anything that you want to achieve is a surefire way to accomplish what you seek.

2. Dynamite Comes in Small Packages

The 2015 Female overall champion weighed in at 124 pounds and pulled 300 pounds off the floor! Now that’s a small package with a HUGE detonation! Although many challenges in your life will be bigger than you, it is possible to overcome them no matter the size of your resources; just keep pulling.

3. Sportsmanship Is ALIVE

Unfortunately, hardly a week goes by that we do not witness an act of disrespect and lack of sportsmanship in some arena of sport in the media. Some are worse than others, of course, but it sometimes can be hard to believe that athletes are competing solely for the thrill and reward of the competition itself. I was reminded at this event that sportsmanship does live on, and it was so inspiring to see athletes support and motivate their fellow competitors. Being more excited about someone’s accomplishments than your own is contagious, and it’s an overall victory for those involved.

4. Failure Breeds Success deadlift.jpg

I have always been a strong believer that failure does breed success, and that sometimes you win and other times you learn. Seeing an athlete fail to complete a lift, almost immediately learn from any mistake that occurred in the preceding lift, and step up and knock out the next one is the truest example of this philosophy. Learning from a mistake, correcting what needs to be corrected, and having the heart to try again is true success.

5. The Bigger the Dream, the Better the Team

NIFS’s first attempt at hosting a powerlifting event was a modest, yet very successful venture that set the tone for future competitions. Due to its success, the event doubled in size and challenges in providing a quality event. Having likeminded and supportive people involved in planning, staging, and putting on an event like this makes those challenges shrink. The staff and volunteers who showed up that Saturday and worked tirelessly is what has allowed the success of this event. And I can’t help but realize that everyday, our lives, is an event; and it takes a strong support team to be successful. We can’t do it on our own! Be sure to thank those that make your everyday events a success!

I know I speak for the rest of the team, NIFS, and the community when I say we are already counting down the days to next year’s big event! Keep your eyes and ears open for the details!

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LIFT_logo_white.jpgNIFS introduces a new Lifting program in 2016! LIFT is for all levels wanting to learn proper Powerlifting and Olympic lifting techniques. Our expert trainer will teach fundamentals, evaluate movements and help build a customized training program around your lifting goals. If you would like more information contact Aaron at acombs@nifs.org

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

  

Topics: NIFS fitness center NIFS programs weightlifting powerlifting competition

Five Reasons Weightlifting and Weight Training Are Good for You

At times you may hear somebody at the gym or fitness center saying, “I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder,” or “I don’t want to be a powerlifter.” That’s great! That person knows their goals and also what they want to avoid. However, don’t let your specific goals cause you to have myth-generated fears of certain exercises.

Extreme Lifting Programs

Just take a second to think about what exactly a bodybuilder or a powerlifter has to do in order to earn his or her title. A bodybuilder must train with heavy weights, high intensity, and a whole lot of volume (reps and sets). Not only is the training extremely specific to what they do, but they have to do it for years to even be considered an amateur! I haven’t even mentioned a bodybuilder’s diet. Bodybuilders can consume 8,000 to 9,000 calories per day to gain muscle the way that they do!

A powerlifter’s training is just as specific to their sport. They train with very heavy weights and high intensity, but lower volume. A powerlifter pushes his or her body to an extreme level by slowly loading more and more weight into the program over time. A powerlifter can also consume upwards of 7,000 to 8,000 calories per day in order to fuel his or her body to perform at such a high, strenuous level.

All in all, extreme athletes such as professional bodybuilders and powerlifters follow very intense and specific programs that have gotten them to the level they are at today. What does that mean for the normal gym-goer? It means that there should be no fear of looking like a bodybuilder or a powerlifter unless you are following that specific style of program or eating that amount of food.

The Benefits of Lifting Weights

So far, I have given you reasons why you shouldn’t avoid weightlifting, but now I will give you specific reasons why you should be lifting weights.

  • Strengthening bone: Lifting weights can add bone density, which will really pay off in later years, possibly saving you from injuries and expensive surgeries.
  • Adding stability: When weight training, you are forced to recruit stabilizing muscles. These will become stronger and allow you to perform physical functions more efficiently.
  • Boosting your metabolism: That’s right; lifting weights burns calories! You will be burning calories during a weightlifting session, but also afterwards. Your metabolism can get a positive effect from weight training, causing you to burn more calories throughout your day*.
  • Increasing Fat Free Mass (FFM): Weight training will help to build muscle, which is included in FFM. So, if you do it correctly, you can effectively burn fat and gain muscle through weight training*. Sounds like a win-win to me!
  • Increasing functionality: So when your friend says “Hey, can you help me move into my new house this weekend?” you don’t have to dread saying yes! If you have grown accustomed to lifting weights, you will be well prepared for events like moving furniture, yard work, and rearranging all your stuff in the attic* (just like you’ve been meaning to do for the past five years).

So, if weightlifting isn’t for you, I want to encourage you to go into the gym and try a session of weight training. If you’re brand new to weightlifting and need some help, a Health Fitness Specialist like me is always waiting here at NIFS to help you get started.

*Individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

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LIFT_logo_white.jpgNIFS introduces a new Lifting program in 2016! LIFT is for all levels wanting to learn proper Powerlifting and Olympic lifting techniques. Our expert trainer will teach fundamentals, evaluate movements and help build a customized training program around your lifting goals. If you would like more information contact Aaron at acombs@nifs.org

This blog was written by Aaron Combs, NSCA CSCS and Health/Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness center functional training weightlifting powerlifting bone density weight training

Top Ten Reasons to Compete in NIFS’ 2015 Powerlifting Competition

We are less than a month away from the Second NIFS Annual Powerlifting Competition, to be held here at NIFS on November 14. We have already exceeded last year’s registration, so the competition will be stout and the energy in this building will be palpable.

There’s nothing quite like the rush of competition, and I would argue that it is even greater in a sport like powerlifting. You against the weight is what it boils down to, and the accumulation of months of training and preparation come to the forefront for seconds to grasp victory. It’s almost poetic. 

If you’re not the Hamlet type, here are 10 more reasons to compete in the NIFS 2015 Powerlifting Competition, coming at you David Letterman style!

10. To answer the age-old question: “Do you even lift, bro?”

9. A whole bunch of free snacks and coffee!
8. Show off your new weight belt and shoes!
7. Be an ATHLETE again, or for the first time!
6. Have someone load and re-rack your bar for you!
5. Test your physical and mental toughness, something you can’t do playing Halo.
4. Collect a tremendous amount of high-5s!
3. Visit three bars (squat, bench, dead lift) without paying a cover charge!
2. The SWEET FREE T-SHIRT!
1. Finally take that leap and DARE to be GREAT!

So do it for the poetry or do it for the T-shirt, but just do it! Dare to be great and demonstrate to your fitness community (and more importantly, yourself) that you are strong, you are prepared, and you are an ATHLETE! 

This year’s competition is shaping up to be epic, and the 70 available slots are going quickly, so do not wait! Grab your slot today!

get registered for Powerlifting

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS NIFS programs challenge weightlifting powerlifting competition

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone: NIFS 2015 Powerlifting Competition

Oh, the comfort zone. They call it that for a reason, obviously. It’s cozy in that self-imposed zone; it’s safe and reliable. If most things were defined as such, we would consider them good things, right? I will weigh in here and say yes, but this imaginary comfort zone could be one of the most dangerous places in your life.

Janet Fitch said, “The phoenix must burn to emerge,” meaning that you must fail before you can achieve. But you must try before you can fail, and chilling out in your comfort zone time and time again for fear of failure will keep you strapped down, not able to emerge as the true you. I know that stepping out of that comfy, feel-good zone can be pretty scary, so you’re not alone. In a previous blog I discussed ways to be comfortable being uncomfortable, so what happens when real people reach their heights?

powerThe Powerlifting Challenge

Last year NIFS launched its first-ever Powerlifting Competition, where individuals from all walks of life and all fitness levels came to see what they are truly capable of in relation to absolute strength. It was an event that we just had to do again, with so many victories and so many lives changed in one single day. Individuals took that leap out of their comfort zones and put it on the line to test themselves—not against the competition, but against themselves. 

What the Competitors Had to Say

This event served as a first for so many competitors who wanted to test their courage and to fulfill a dream and a goal of being the best. They stepped out of their comfort zone, and this is what they discovered:

"Fitness, for me, has been a journey. I have ups and downs. But on that day, it was me and the weight. It was myself versus myself. I only cared about lifting however much my body could. It wasn't about 'beating' the other competitors; it was about making sure I walked away knowing I did the best I could."      —Megan Gantner

"I loved how encouraging everyone was. Even though it was a competition, people were constantly saying 'you can do it' or 'great job.' High-fives were everywhere, and it was awesome."       —Madison Stewart

"Some of the highlights were being around a lot of like-minded people, getting to test my strength, and pushing past my normal comfort zone. It really meant a lot to me to compete. I have been lifting weights for a very long time, but I had never actually competed any kind of weightlifting comp. Actually putting myself out there really paid off a lot for me."      —Cody Martin

If you have been thinking about taking the leap and competing in this kind of a contest, this event is a perfect one to get your feet wet and see whether competing at this level is what you have been looking for. There will be a wide range of ability levels all trying to simply do their best and have some competitive fun at the same time.

NIFS 2nd Annual Powerlifting Competition will be held on November 14th. Take advantage of the early bird rate until October 17, and register today!

get registered for Powerlifting

 

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS challenge weightlifting powerlifting

Powerlifting or Lifting for Power?

pull3-1Last November, NIFS held its first annual powerlifting meet, which put some of the strongest individuals in the building on display. NIFS members and nonmembers came together to celebrate strength and fitness by performing three lifts with the hopes of reaching the highest total weight possible. The three lifts performed were the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Each competitor performed very well and the hard work each of them put in was evident.

But what is powerlifting? Sure, the deadlift, bench press, and squat give you an idea of what you do, but what is the true makeup? With all of the different varieties of resistance training and weightlifting around, powerlifting is sometimes a term that leaves people confused. Are you powerlifting or are you training for power?

If you are training for power, more than likely you are using explosive exercises that require a high degree of speed to complete. In a physics sense, power equals work divided by time. This means that a speed element is vital in the production of power. Olympic lifting utilizes this notion. The hang clean, power clean, snatch, and others require a high bar speed in order to develop the maximum amount of “power” possible. Without speed, the chances of success during these lifts are not as high.

If you compare the lifts that were performed during our powerlifting meet to the aforementioned Olympic lifts, the difference is obvious. The deadlifts, squats, and bench presses that were performed during our meet were not fast. In fact, the majority of them were slow. As long as the lift was completed with the proper form, it was a success. Speed did not play a role in the success or failure of each of those three lifts.

Although powerlifting does leave some a little confused about its definition, there is no doubt that the individuals who participate in them do possess the ability to generate a high amount of power. For these specific events, though, speed does not matter.

So the next time you set up your squat rack or load your bar for the deadlift, think: are you powerlifting, or are you training for power?

For more about the benefits of powerlifting, see this blog.

This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.


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Topics: NIFS weightlifting strength powerlifting