A Tale of Two Techniques
In the not so distant past essential information about weightlifting training, technique, coaching expertise and so forth was limited to publications, word of mouth, training seminars and so forth. However, in recent years, with the appearance of internet sites such as YouTube it is possible to find all manner of information presented in video format with a click of a mouse. The ease of such access comes with a caveat; objective assessment of the intrinsic value of this explosion of easily accessible information is sorely lacking.
Consider two different athletes, one male one female, who competed in Ashgabat; who coincidentally, happen to have a number factors in common: KIM UN Ju (PRK) and Aramnau Andrei (BLR).
/ Both athletes were returning to the world stage after a rather long absence from big time competition Aramnau 2014 EWC; KIM 2014 WWC;
/ Both athletes are former world champions;
/ Both athletes are about the same age: Aramnau – 30; KIM 29;
/ Both athletes competed in lighter bodyweight classes: 105 kg and 75 kg respectively;
/ Both athletes were world record holders in the clean and jerk: Aramnau – 236 kg; KIM – 164 kg;
/ Both athletes jerked the barbell from the chest employing a relatively unique, very complex technique, when they set their respective world records.
In the period leading up to the championships one could follow Aramnau’s training, and, even his local competitions from a series of videos posted on YouTube. Videos taken of him training at the 2018 WWC followed: 1/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_o50dzhPv-s; 2/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkggbhXNcGg.
In one of the training videos leading up the championships Aramnau performed push presses in his workout up to 180 kg. In video 1 listed above he did a push press of 175 x 2 and 185 x 1 in the Ashgabat training hall at minutes 2:50 – 3:00. He can be seen doing pulls from the hang with 195 x 4 x 2; usually done by lifters who have back problems; and a drop snatch with 215.
Were this not enough a final video appeared: 3/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsHAYihgQU8. The title of this video is “The day before my competition in Ashgabat”.
The title should be “If god wanted athletes to train themselves, he wouldn’t have invented coaches”.
In the competition Aramnau made two snatches finishing with 182 after being turned down with 181 for press out. His best result was a world record 200 at a bodyweight of 105 kg, i.e., 18 kg more weight; with 4 kgs of less bodyweight. So, a drop snatch of 215 (33 kg more than he would snatch in Ashgabat) close to the competition was not only meaningless; most likely counterproductive. He was unable to even effectively lock out his 2nd snatch with 181; despite the overhead strength to drop snatch 215.
In the clean and jerk, he was barely able to jerk the barbell on his 1st attempt with 210; while the 2nd and 3rd jerks from the chest with 215 were not even remotely close. His previous best result was 236 at a bodyweight of 105. This is the same athlete who push pressed (not push jerked) 175 x 2 and 185 x 1 here in the training hall.
Heavy push presses in Ashgabat training hall.
There at are best a dearth of videos of PRK athletes training. The females will do some push presses; not with gut busting weights close to competitions.
Arguably, female athletes can peak athletically sooner than males. After all, girls mature sooner than boys. Furthermore, as the results of the 81 and 87 and +87 kg classes at this competition demonstrate; females tend to put on disproportionally more fat mass with the rise in bodyweight; and, with this weight gain, are forced to raise unproductive mass along with the barbell; losing mechanical efficiency.
In Ashgabat KIM UN Ju (PRK) made two snatches, three clean and jerks including a gold medal 152 on the critical 3rd attempt; in the 87 kg class.
Consequently, heavy push presses, or, simply an excessive volume of such, may not adversely affect the young athlete, in full bloom of the elastic potential of youth; but, exercises like this which are out of sync in time and space most certainly will adversely affect the older athlete; even someone ‘only’ 29 years of age.
KIM competing in Ashgabat @87 kg, missed her last snatch because of balance. However, she jerked here as she has done in the past. She shifts her feet close together in one fluid movement upon recovering from the clean; beginning the jerk proper immediately. She skillfully utilized the still moving body’s inertia; combined with a wonderful, rhythmic syncing of elastic energy stored in tendons, ligaments and the oscillating barbell.
KIM UN Ju (PRK) Jerking with the classic technique in Ashgabat. Charniga photo.
She made three good jerks with precisely the same inertia – elasto – energy technique she did to make her world record 164. And, she is 29 years old.
If one does not look closely, you can miss KIM’s original skill set is still in intact. There was no evidence some external interference of the original motor pattern, like excessive training on push press; even though other factors such as time away from big competition, age, bodyweight and so forth, all changed.
Aramnau’s jerk technique when he lifted 236 at the Beijing Olympics was precisely the same recovery from the clean, while still moving, jerk the barbell without a noticeable pause, i.e., identical to the jerk technique of KIM. The oscillation of the barbell, the elastic deformation his tendons, ligaments and the inertia of his body all in a rhythmic sync; significantly lessening the muscle contraction power needed to jerk the barbell from the chest.
In Ashgabat he endeavored to jerk with the technique of his youth. However, those skills, the rhythm, the timing to utilize what Nicolai Bernstein called the “free forces”: inertia of the body, elastic deformation of the barbell, release of strain energy in the tendons and ligaments, were long gone. The interference of the push pressing motor pattern with the dynamics of the correct execution of the classic jerk from the chest was very obvious.
For instance, the motor pattern of the push press involves bending/straightening the legs and pushing up with legs straight. Push pressing a heavy weight is especially slow; very much like powerlifting exercises. In the classic jerk the lifter must be switching from straightening the legs to bending and scissoring the feet the while the knees are still flexed. Whereas, the skill to jerk a heavy barbell involves pushing the body away from the barbell into the split position.
So, some weightlifting exercises can have the same adverse effect on a weightlifter’s coordination and skill as powerlifting exercises.