Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My thoughts on the TSC....

I recently had the opportunity to be a "guest judge" at the Tactical Strength Challenge in Palm City, FL. My duties as a judge was to:
* Conduct the weigh in
* Make sure that all three events (deadlifts, pullups, snatches) were performed and counted to standards. Included in this was a pre-event meeting to clarify the written rules and provide an opportunity to answer questions.
* Record and report the results
* For the deadlift, put the weights on the bar and indicate "lift" or "no lift"
* Count pullups and snatches

I was directing the training for one of my clients and he had someone else following the program. I am proud to say that they set 5 PRs between them.

Some insights:
* Jamie Munson set a PR in the snatch with 134 24kg snatches in 5:00. That is exceptional. Jamie was already a great snatcher (previous PR was 128). The training plan of "snatching alot" was not going to increase his numbers. I design his snatch training with the following goals:
- Make sure that he can go the entire five minutes (he did)
- Eliminate hand switches (had him start 25L/25R). If you waste time up front, you don't have time to get it back.
- Use dead and hang snatches to improve snatch efficiency.

* Jamie also set a new PR in the pullups. The important thing there was doing different types of pullups. Heavy weighted ones for low reps and body weight ones for higher reps. Also, you need to include non-pullup exercise for higher rep ranges to train the lats.

* Dan got made the magic number of 100 snatches with the 24kg (actually he got 110). He really just blasted through it and gave it all he had for 5 minutes. He got a good number of reps early, and took breaks only long enough so that he could keep snatching fast. Impressive effort.

I could not help thinking about the RKC snatch test, and for bigger, stronger guys (he pulled 460 with ease), the new test (100 reps in 5 minutes) is much much easier than the old test (74 snatches with one hand switch). Since there are no weight classes, for bigger guys this becomes a much easier test. I always thought that this made the test real easy for anyone in the 190lb+ rep range, now I am convinced of it. With Dan, to increase his snatch number - I would focus on about 3 technique things and he would hit 125 snatches with ease.

* Dan was worried that he never maxed out his deadlift prior to the competition. I said that was a good thing. You only get one good DL max every 3 months, don't waste it outside of competition. Dan easily DLed 460 even though the higher he ever DLed was 425. The DL is very hard on the CNS, and if you are doing a lot of other stuff, you will get overtrained. We worked the DL with Good Mornings (hips/glutes), Speed Box Squats (glutes, quads), Rack Pulls (to feel "heavy" weight), and Speed DLs. It works as long as you don't mess with the system.

* There were a number of spectators (7 friends and family, plus onlookers at the gym). Definitely brought out the best. Also, I think having an impartial judge made the event seem more like a sport and brought out the best in the participants.

* For anyone hosting a competition:
- Get a location with a lot of space
- For the DL, tell the competitors how you are going to indicate a good lift. What I told the competitors is that: 1) I soon as I got to my position, they could lift whenever they wanted. 2) My signal for a good lift was to say "DOWN" and wave my hand in a downward motion.
- Have a separate person counting snatches and keeping time. Very hard to do both.
- If you are taping, think of where you are going to have the camera, the judge and the athlete.
- If you are at a public space, clear it with the gym owner.

* Thoughts for the next TSC. Sometimes you have to take a step backward and to go forward. For the deadlift, we are going to take some time to experiment with different foot and hand placements. Jamie did not look comfortable/confident in deadlift stance. Stance is an individual issue, and not enough time was devoted to building the foundation. I am going to do some work where I have him set up fast, and see what he does naturally.

* This brings me to another point. If you get a "system" for training, don't mess with it or try to optimize it. I see this all the time on the Dragon Door forum and it drives me nuts. Sample posts are:
- "Can I substitute high pulls for snatches in ETK?" (you can if you want torqued up elbows).
- "Can I do TGUs for 10 minutes prior to presses?" (you can, if you want to practice weaker presses)
==> The programs are tested, do them. If you are not stronger than the person who designed the program, you have no business changing it. Also, this are typically the same people who switch programs every two weeks.

* If all goes well, I am going to be competing in Elite next year. Jamie asked why I don't compete in the open. My reasoning was this:
- The DLs are the same
- The pullups are functionally the same, only the loading is different (BW vs. BW + 25lb)
- The snatch test is a real kicker. The 24kg snatch test is about eliminating all wasted time through improved technique. The 32kg snatch test is about getting stronger, increasing work capacity, and improving technique. Remember, we don't get any money for this contests. It is not about placing, it is about setting targets that will make you a better athlete. For me, the 32kg snatch will make me a better athlete.

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