Commodification of information:
Weightlifting Certification Courses
Andrew Charniga, Jr.
At the present time, the scope, the shear number of weightlifting organizations (such as the USAW), professional organizations (the National Strength and Conditioning Association), exercise clubs, private businesses, globe hopping Russian weightlifters, purporting to possess knowledge of weightlifting sport science are so numerous to even attempt a listing would be a waste of time. Since these organizations and assortment of business are selling courses for coaches; which award the individuals who pay and complete the course, certifications of weightlifting expertise, they are in fact, knowledge for sale businesses.
As with any commodity, weightlifting knowledge for sale should be subjected to scrutiny, accorded any commodity in the market place; more to the point, the inevitable rank ordering which necessarily follows competition for the available customer.
One of the basic aims of Misinformation Engineering is to expose flaws, or otherwise out and out lies for sale in the weightlifting knowledge marketplace; not to rank order weightlifting products for sale like some sort of consumer reports. In some cases, there are instances of brazen hucksters. The reader is referred to articles in the Misinformation Engineering section, such as “Ten Sets of What”. However, our purpose in this context is to objectify some of the content for sale in the marketplace for sake of the athletes, coaches and other consumers of such knowledge.
The two most important concerns (or they should be) for the consumer of weightlifting certification knowledge for sale, should be safety and efficacy. It is one thing to believe some aspect of training or exercise technique to be true and quite another to know by means of experience and backed by credible sources, that the knowledge conveyed is indeed factual.
For example, it is irresponsible to promote or otherwise sell some seminars presented by traveling Russian weightlifters without attempt to convey to the unsuspecting customer: these people they are paying to see, to learn from; whom are offering advice about training exercises and exercise techniques; are barking and showboating about under the influence of illegal in sport, performance enhancing drugs (PED).
The focus of this and following articles in this series will be to point out inconsistencies, misinformation, or simply old ideas for sale and presented as new in:
/ courses and texts from organizations prepared by PhDs with little or no actual exercise or training experience and/or quasi – military fitness clubs;
/ courses and texts from weightlifting organizations prepared by individuals with questionable credentials and from whom the performance of their athletes are significantly below international standards;
/ courses and/or content from lectures and seminars from “online” gurus with little or no actual experience in weightlifting sport.
One thing is for certain, with so many people, so many organizations certifying coaches, instructing athletes on the same subject, most everyone involved are teaching the same thing, in one form or another.
This particular segment will deal with some myths and/or misconceptions surrounding the snatch pull exercise. Snatch pulls of one type or another are a part of virtually all of these certification courses and of course are part of the weightlifting training methodology for sale by the USAW (US weightlifting governing body).
The snatch pull exercise
The Chinese lifter pictured is performing the snatch pull illustrates the basic technique aims, with trunk and lower extremities fully straightened. Charniga photo
The purpose of the snatch pull exercise is connected with what is perceived to be the proper technique as it relates to the correct performance of the competition exercise.
The protocol for the snatch pull is as follows:
/ the lifter assumes the starting position for the snatch with the same hand spacing and placement of the feet as the snatch; then raises the barbell first by straightening the lower extremities; followed by a simultaneous straightening of trunk and lower extremities, then a rise onto the toes and elevation of the shoulder girdle such that the shoulder joints, hip, knee and ankle joints lie approximately in the same vertical plane.
This protocol to raise the barbell in the snatch pull is designed to contribute to the technique and to develop power for the snatch because the technique of pulling is supposed to be the same.
The protocol for the snatch pull is perceived to be essentially the same procedure for pull in the snatch. Consequently, the perceived aim of the pull phase of the snatch is to raise barbell center of mass, as well as body center of mass, and, common center of mass of body and barbell as a unit as high as possible with fully extended lower extremities, inclusive of rise onto the toes and shoulder raise (shrugging).
Unfortunately, in this instance the outcome of work against gravity and the protocol to overcome it are thought to be one and the same thing. The success or failure of the outcome is not whether the barbell was raised high enough to fix it overhead; it is determined by whether the athlete did indeed lift it successfully.
The outcome of the work against gravity in weightlifting sport does not depend on the barbell trajectory, whether the lifter shrugged the shoulders, fully extended the legs and trunk and so forth; it is determined by a successful lift. If for instance, a lifter misses a lift, coaches often assume the athlete did not follow the protocol described correctly, consequently the outcome (a successful lift) was not achieved.
A prime example of confusing the outcome with the protocol of lifting is the snatch pull to a stick or other support, fixed to a specific height.
The basic aim behind the snatch – high – pull – to – a – stick, (fixed between two supports) is based on a false assumption. The aim of this exercise is for the athlete to “learn” to lift the barbell to the height necessary to fix it in the low squat position, while at the same time performing the movement with the correct form., i.e., to finish lifting with the lower extremities and trunk fully extended heels and shoulders raised.
For instance, assume the height to which the barbell is to be raised is approximately the height of the sternum in the full stretched position of the pull where the lifter is standing on the toes with legs and trunk in a vertical disposition. The act of stretching onto the toes with the legs and trunk vertical raises the body center of mass and along with it the barbell. Subsequently, using the muscles of the arms and shoulders the barbell is to be raised further until it touches or displaces the horizontally placed stick. (see illustration below from weightlifting text published in the GDR in 1976).
So, in this manner the lifter practices raising the barbell to the height necessary and presumably is ready to snatch the aforesaid weight by first raising it to the sternum height before descending into the squat. It sounds good on paper but that is not what happens when a weightlifter executes a snatch in the real world.
Depiction of snatch pull to a fixed support according to Gerhard Carl GDR, Gewictheben Berlin 1976.
A similar in logic concept to this idea for the pull to a stick to practice lifting the barbell to the correct height for a successful snatch was put forth by R.A. Roman (1968). He suggested performing a snatch pull just before entering the competition platform as the last warm up lift. The idea was based on his research that:
“It is impossible to achieve the maximum height of lifting right off. The height of lifting gradually rises in the first three lifts, and, only with the fourth lift does the sportsman achieve the maximum height of lifting which he is capable of during the given workout. The athlete is able to raise the barbell to the maximum height from the fourth to the seventh and some athletes up to the eighth lift. …
So, the precision of lifting a limit weight and the height of lifting depend on the number preliminary lifts with a limit or near limit weight.” R.A. Roman, 1968
On the basis of his data, Roman devised a warm up protocol where the lifter would work up to one lift in the ≥80 – 90% range to be followed by two snatch pulls with ≥90%, before taking the first lift on the platform ( see Charniga, “Comparison of warmup protocols of high class male and female weightlifters”, Sportivnypress.com).
Although very rare to see anyone at the international level perform a snatch pull with a heavy weight before going to the platform; or, perform a heavy pull in the warm up room while waiting for a competition attempt , you can still see this practiced in the USA; where the mindset is in the wrong decade, wrong century, even the wrong millennium.
Well then, in essence, the the East German and Russian ideas to follow a protocol to perform half a lift (the pull portion of the snatch) would permit the weightlifter to achieve the desired outcome: a successful snatch with a maximum weight. However, there seems to be something missing here. How is one to prepared for a full lift by practicing half lifts?
When Roman published the revised version of his 1968 book in 1974, The training of the weightlifter in the biathlon, this idea of heavy warm up snatch pulls was left out. By this time the press was gone; subsequently, years of research of weightlifting biomechanics gave rise to more sophisticated concepts of weightlifting technique.
By 1974 Russian sport scientists such as Roman and A.V. Chernyak (1971) had made extensive measurements of bar trajectory, speed, height of lifting an so forth of the entire Soviet weightlifting spectrum. A number, as the communists say, regularities were established.
The most important regularity was that a weightlifter should strive to learn to find the lowest height of lifting as possible for a successful snatch, as quickly as possible.
Hundreds of measurements of weightlifters from class III to international masters of sport showed that bar trajectory of a snatch pull with 100% of the maximum snatch is different than that of a maximum snatch. However, even more significant was the fact that the maximum height of lifting for a maximum snatch is greater than is possible to achieve in the snatch pull with the same 100% weight. That is to say, no matter how well a lifter performs the snatch pull, finishing with straight legs, trunk vertical, shoulders and heels raised to maximum, i.e., the perfect technique protocol; the barbell cannot be raised as high as a maximum squat snatch.
“If we compare the height of the lift with a limit weight in the snatch with the same weight in a snatch pull we will find that the height of the snatch pull is an average of 9 cm (4 – 14 cm) lower, than in the snatch.” R.A. Roman, 1974
The diagram presented below from Roman’s 1974 text, aptly illustrates the reason the heavy snatch pull idea was discarded. To practice the correct height of lifting, the appropriate bar trajectory, the inter – muscular coordination and so forth, half lifts just won’t get the job done. And, without question, these exercises have no place in a competition warmup room.
“The difference in the barbell’s trajectory during the second phase of the pull is due to the fact that the athlete does not squat under the barbell when executing a snatch pull. Consequently, his center of gravity does not shift under the barbell; as a result of which the trajectory takes the form of a “hook” in the snatch and the clean. Furthermore, lacking this additional “influence” on the barbell, it is not raised as high.” R.A. Roman, 1974
The barbell trajectory of a high pull produces a height of lifting not only lower than an actual snatch, but the rearward “hook” is all but absent. The lifter almost certainly has to hop forward to fix the weight with any hope of balance if the pull is performed in this manner; because the barbell has shifted forward from its initial position at the start of the lift.
The force arm of gravity increases relative to the lifter’s back as the barbell shifts forward; unavoidably placing more stress on the lumbar spine, the weak link in weightlifting sport. This circumstance is true for the pull itself as well as for the descent when the lifter hops forward, typically with the trunk tilted forward.
Chernyak’s (1971) data produced the following regularity: the fundamental difference between world record holders in the snatch and the rest of the elite weightlifting community was that the record setters lifted the 100% snatch weight to a lower height; and, these merited masters of sport “found” their lowest height of lifting sooner in their weightlifting careers.
ZHOU Jun (CHN) snatching 103 kg at the 2013 Chinese National Games. Charniga photo.
The record holders learned not how to raise the barbell to a set height according to a set protocol, but to “find” a method whereby the barbell can be raised with least power. The lowest maximum height of lifting equates to the least work performed against gravity. This group of elites “found” their biomechanical efficiency early enough in their careers in order maximize the advantage of speed of movement, coordination, and especially the elasticity of youth.
1. Roman, R.A., The training of the weightlifter, Moscow, FIS, 1968. Translation by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
2. Roman, R.A., The training of the weightlifter in the biathlon, Moscow, FIS, 1974. Translation by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
3. Roman, R.A., The training of the weightlifter, Moscow, FIS, 1986. Translation by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
4. Chernyak, A.V. “The Dependence of the Snatch and the Clean with the Athlete’s General and Special Physical Preparedness”, Tyazhelaya Atletika. Sbornik Statei. Fizkultura i Sport, Moscow, Publishers, 1971:99 – 109, Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr. Sportivny Press©
5. Charniga, A., “Comparison of Warm up Protocols of High Class male and Female Weightlifters”, www.sportinypress.com