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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Statistics- How good are the US Women versus the World?

Weightlifting is full of data.  We can do many statistical analyses to interpret who our best lifters are and how they stack up versus the rest of the world with readily available continuous data.

In celebration of the Olympic year, this article examines the distribution of female weightlifter totals by weight class, and the percentile which the current top US woman in each weight class would score.  Using descriptive statistics, we can understand the level of competitiveness the US women and have insight on which females are best positioned to medal at the Olympics.

Method:
The dataset for each weight class was obtained from the IWF Olympic individual qualification rankings.  Specifically, the IWF dataset for individual qualification includes only the highest total registered for an athlete from every Olympic qualification event since 2014 through the present.  Further, there is one athlete total per weight class per country-- it is not the complete ranking list with every single athlete from every country that has competed internationally.   So, for example, Jenny Arthur is the highest totaling US 75kg in the last 2 years, so only her total out of all US 75's that competed internationally, is shown.  This is actually a better way to do the rankings since a country can only enter a maximum of two athletes per weight category, and, at the Olympics, no country can send a full team.  In effect, it is highly unlikely that a country with prospects of medaling in multiple classes will send 2 athletes in the same weight class. Outliers were not cleaned form the data as these stats are from actual people who lifted at actual weightlifting championships.  Plus, it would not be rational to remove the top lifter or even the worst lifter from the data; it makes physical sense that they should be outliers in many cases.

For comparison, the current USAW Olympic ranking list was used to compare US totals to the World ranking list.  To be consistent with the IWF ranking list, the top US total from each woman's weight class was compared to the IWF list, and the percentile rank was calculated. 

Results and Analysis

What the world looks like on the whole by weight class:

First, let us take a look at the distribution of totals by weight class across the world.

Here is a dotplot of each total in each weight class. The dotplots show the frequency at which each total occurs.  So a really high stack of dots means that multiple lifters hit a certain total; itt is the same idea as a histogram.  The dotplot is a little bit better visual to see frequencies, hence it is utilized.
 
The data tells us which weight classes have very large variation and hint at whether the data is normal (normality test must be done to confirm).

For example, the 48kg weight class seems to have the tightest distribution of the classes. This may be the effect of bodyweight --that there is no class lower than 48kgs for which to compete in, hence athletes can only move up and not down from this weight class.  Interstingly, the data is marginally normal; an Anderson-Darling normality test yields a .06 p-value.

In terms of medals, the data shows a clear favorite for the gold medal evidenced by the top total being in an echelon of its own.  Silver and bronze, however, are anybody's game as the athletes are so tightly clustered between 2nd through 8th place.

On the other hand, the 75+kg weight class has the most variability. Although at a first glance, the data looks non-normal, an Anderson-Darling normality test shows it is a normal dataset with a p-value of .307. 

More interesting are the top 2 totals in the 75+kg class- Tatiana Kashirina's 348kg total and Lulu Zhao's 334kg.  Kashirina's total is almost a full standard deviation from 3rd rank (Graboetskaya of Kazakhstan).  It can be implied that there are two lifters truly vying for Gold and silver at the Olympics, assuming both lifters are healthy, compete, and total at the Olympics.  Such can be said for the bronze medal between the 3rd, 4th, and 5th ranked athletes who are grouped around a 300kg total.  The remaining athletes are around 280kg or less. 

Here is where 75+kg, gets really interesting-- again, countries can only send a max of 4 female athletes to the Olympics. Its highly possible that not all the athletes in the 300kg total grouping will even show-up at the Olympics. It then makes the bronze medal anybody's game around the 280kg total mark.

The 75kg class is another fascinating weight class because it just doesn't have the same depth as the other middle weight classes (53,58, 63, 69,75) . Like 75+s, it has clusters of high totals, then a whole chunk of athletes over  a standard deviation away from the top. It is one of the easier weight classes.

69 women's appears to be the most competitive class for winning an Olympic Gold medal as there are 6 athlete totals in proximity to the first place total.

How the US women rank

This May, US women will be competing at the Olympic Trials in Salt Lake City, Utah for Olympic slots. The USA currently has 3 Olympic slots for women. 1 slot has already been designated to our top 75kg lifter, Jenny Arthur.  Mattie Rogers and Sarah Robles are ranked in the remaining 2 slots, per USAW's site.

The data can be examined rather easily for: (1)our best lifters in each weight class score versus the rest of the world, and (2) which athletes would be the top 3 in the USA based on their percentile rank in their weight class.

1. How US Female lifters score in their weight class on the IWF rankings

Per the below table, Mattie Rogers scores the highest across all weight classes with an 86th percentile rank.  Sarah Robles is in the 84th percentile, and Jenny Arthur is in the 82nd percentile.

The next closest lifter, Lucero, is in the 65th percentile. Interestingly, Morghan King scores equally well as a 53kg or a 48kg with  58th and 56th percentiles respectively.

2. Athletes best positioned to medal, or place the highest
The data shows us that Rogers, Robles, and Arthur are really in a grouping of their own at this point. The data supports the US ranking system which has all 3 currently projected to make the 2016 Olympic Team.

That being said-- this can all change should any of the other lifters on this list, or even any lifter competing at Nationals for that matter, have a huge Personal Record. The lower weight classes are more sensitive to change as, well, the totals are smaller. So, Morghan King might have the best chance of upsetting the 3rd ranked Olympic team spot should she have a big PR. For example, a 188kg total as a 48kg would put her in the 84th percentile.  However, by the USAW Olympic Games qualifying totals, King only needs 174kg to bump Rogers.

In this case, one could argue that the USAW ranking system has some deficiencies, which will always happen when rankings are based solely on percent of an average qualifying total. As mentioned in previous articles on this site, the population cannot be described by an average alone.


Weight Class N Maximum Mean StDev Minimum Q1 Median Q3 Top US female Percentile
48 52 205 164.13 23.07 91 153.5 163.5 180.75 170 KING 56th
53 58 233 178.43 25 104 157.75 181.5 194 184 KING* 58th
58 62 252 183.35 36.09 75 165 190.5 205 199 LUCERO 65th
63 61 261 195.66 35.95 75 180 197 214 206 MYERS 63rd
69 57 268 208.02 33.5 115 190.5 209 230 238 ROGERS 86th
75 53 292 215 35.93 120 193.5 217 238.5 244 ARTHUR 82nd
75+ 46 348 228.85 54.37 126 189.25 232 264.5 279 Robles 84th



The last table is the USAW current Olympic Ranking for female's. The USAW ranking method based on averages has the following athletes in spots 1 through 3:  Robles, Rogers, King.  Note Arthur is not even in the Top 3 per this method.    This differs from the percentile method where, again, the ranking would be Rogers, Robles, and Arthur per the same data.

PATH 1 PATH 2
 
RANK RANK NAME CREDITS <=2000 CAT BWT COMP TOTAL OG/100% %
1 1 Robles 2 1988 75+ 148.01 15WWC 279 290 96.21%
2 2 Rogers 2 1995 69 67.74 16NJCOQ 238 256.4 92.82%
3 3 King 4 1985 48 47.73 15WWC 170 186.6 91.10%
4 * ARTHUR 3 1993 75 74.65 15WWC 244 269.2 90.64%
5 4 Winters 1 1993 48 47.97 15WWC 165 186.6 88.42%
6 5 Chan 0 1987 53 52.84 15AO 187 212 88.21%
7
King 4 1985 53 50.44 16NJCOQ 184 212 86.79%

Conclusions

Based on the current US female totals, the data clearly shows that the US female athletes with the highest percentile score are Mattie Rogers, Sarah Robles, and Jenny Arthur in that order.  This implies that these would also be the USA's best chances of medaling, although a more complex model can be created to forecast medal potential.  Just going by raw ranking, all three lifter would place about 8th or 9th on the IWF ranking list. And, considering that countries cannot send full teams to the Olympics, these 3 women would be likely to score even higher at the Olympics assuming they do the same or greater total.
 
Secondly, the data supports the USAW decision to give Jenny Arthur an early qualification to the US Olympic Team.
 
Thirdly, the data tells us that the USAW may have a more accurate and fair model of ranking their athletes should they use percentiles of the IWF ranking list and not percent of an average.  The current ranking system gives a positive bias to the 48kg weight class and gives an negative bias to the 69kg weight class among others.  
 
Sarah Robles at the 2012 Olympics,
singlet by Risto Sports, official 2012 sponsor of podium attire
 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Top 7 signs your weightlifting coach is full of Sh*t

Weightlifting has gone main stream. People are now looking to cash-in and make as much money as possible off of unsuspecting new clients.  So, buyer beware.  The below list gives you some guidelines on how to know if your coach is legit. 


1. Your coach can only name weightlifters from the last 5 years

If your coach has only heard of Ilya Ilyin and Dmitry Klokov, then they probably have not been around long, nor have a basic understanding of weightlifting history.  An extra minus 5 points if they cannot name a single female weightlifter outside of Lydia Valentin.   Minus 20 points if they can't name the last American to medal at the Olympics in weightlifting.

I understand that not every coach is going to have geek-like encyclopedic knowledge of weightlifting stats like I do. And its ok. They just need a general understanding of what some of the biggest lifts have been done pound for pound as a measure of goodness.  One must know where the sport has gone before trying to move the sport forward.

2. They use terms like first pull, second pull, pockets, and triple extension

These terms do not exist in the scientific communities of weightlifting.  These are simply pop culture terms of people trying to dumb down weightlifting to the masses; unfortunately, this winds-up bastardizing technique at the same time.

Weightlifting is talked about in actions, periods, and phases. Think about it- there is no pause in the pull; it is one continuous motion.  That is why we cannot segment the pull. We can , on the other hand, discuss phases of the pull. You can read more on www.ristosports.com/blog

Here's a short educational video I made just for you:



3. You can hear them yelling, "squeeze" at every competition
This is a personal favorite of mine.  A lifter has a lift overhead and the coach is yelling, "Squeeeezzzzze". 

Squeeze?  Really? Really? Squeeze what? What is the lifter squeezing.  The lifter is keeping their muscles tight while they wait for the down signal -- so , maybe, yell "tight".  But "squeeze"-- that implies that the lifter has a walnut between their butt cheeks and is trying to crack it by squeezing their glutes (not advisable to ever do whilst lifting).

Bad cues make bad lifters.

4.  They brag about being "USAW level 1" certified or their level as a USAW coach
Look, USAW level 1 is a nice course.  It is definitely not designed to teach you everything you'll ever need to know about coaching. 

I mean Ivan Rojas is the Olympic Coach of Panama and has coached 2 international teams for the USA, and in the USAW system his official level is a "Club coach". 

It is far from a comprehensive system. Additionally, the science of weightlifting programming is not taught at universities in the USA , so there is about 0 formal academic training available in the USA on weightlifting.

When evaluating a potential coach, ask for how they were trained in coaching-- did they take actual coursework? Bonus points if they studied weightlifting coaching in a country where it is a profession like Colombia or Germany.  Did they at least apprentice under someone who was able to take courses in a formal weightlifting educational system?

5. Every problem is due to Mobility
Mobility, mobility, mobility.  It's like the biggest buzz word in crossfit and weightlifting. All they talk about is mobility, and everytime a lifter has a little problem with their technique, coach tells them to do more mobility exercises.

Guess what-- you know why a lot of new lifters have bad overhead squats - because their abs are too weak and they are squatting in sneakers.  Shit, if I had abs as about as supportive as a string bean and was squatted in shoes as squishy as a marshmallow, I probably would have a crappy position too.

Most people have weak abs; you can have a six pack and have weak abs relative to your leg strength.

The formation of people's bones and bodytype will also dictate what their bottom position looks like.

And, too much mobility might destabilize you in some positions.  Your coach should be able to tell you how much mobility is good.

Your coach should do a full diagnosis of your technique, strengths and weaknesses before jumping on the mobility band wagon.


6. They have a max-out day once a week and allow you to PR at anytime
Guess what if you want to get anywhere in the sport maxing out once per week does not work.  All modern weightlifting systems used by people who have produced Olympic medalists have planned max out points. 

Yes, when you are a beginner  maxing out is easy!  Sure, when you just start and you are lifting so far below your potential, you will PR frequently. This early period of improvement is temporary.  When you start lifting closer to your actual potential, maxing out whenever can lead to undue injuries and stagnant improvement.

7. They think you can be elite at crossfit and weightlifting at the same time
These three questions have the same answer:
How many Olympic medalists do you know compete at the Crossfit Games?
How many crossfitters who medaled at the crossfit games are competing at the Olympics?
How many Crossfit Games medalists also medaled at the last weightlifting World Championships? (guess what Thorisdottir, Davidsdottir, and Sigmundsdottir all lifted at the 2015 worlds)
Answer: 0 .

Weightlifting is all parasympathetic nervous system and fast twitch fibers.  Crossfit is a mixture of both nervous systems and uses type 1 and type 2 fibers, because it has those events with running and swimming and burpees ....etc...

Russian Olympic Silver medalist Oxana Slivenko almost qualified for the Crossfit Games in 2014, and she was not weightlifting at the level she lifted at the Olympics at the same time.
 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Basic safety - weightlifting competitions

It seems as our sport of weightlifting grows, the need to ensure a basic safe physical environment for lifters has waned as a priority.

This is reminiscent of the culture exhibited at the 2015 Crossfit Games, where the rigs got so hot from being in the sun all day, that athletes' skin was peeling-off during pull-ups ( see reference at end of article).

Exihibit A:

This past weekend, I was at a 2 day competition in Massachusetts. The weather was unseasonably cold;still, not anything that New Englanders haven't seen before. It was widley publicized on social media and the news that the weekend would be very cold-- ie your heat would need to be on.

Day 1:
The first day, our lighter lifters competed. There was an obvious issue with the building HVAC- the warm-up room seemed to never get above 60degrees. The crossfit owner was notified, and attempted to turn up the heat. 

To my surprise, many of the lifters were missing lifts. Athletes who normally would go 5 or 6 for 6 were going 2 for 6. I would even say I saw more missed than usual at the competition as a whole. 

Day 2:
When we arrived at the competition, the building was even Colder than the day before. The warm-up area was in the 40's.  I went as far as to talk to the meet diector and call the building owner as lifitng in sub 50 degree in a proper lifting uniform is recipe for pulling a muscle.  The crossfit owner seemed completely ambivalent about the situation.

Certainly, having known the heat was not working the day before-- he could have taken simple preventative measures such as: setting-up 2 or 3 space heaters in the warm-up room,  and calling his landlord until the HVAC was adjusted( trust me the state of massachusetts takes landlords freezing their tennants seriously).

For the record, the warm-up room never warmed to above 51 degrees even with over 30 competitors. 

Below is a photo of the audience wearing winter jackets and hats to brave the ridiculous conditions:



Why you should care and how it affects you:

When you compete in a sport, you are accepting risk. And, the amount of risk you accept is limited.  We go into competitions with basic assumptions that  the environment will be safe. 

Permitting lifters to compete in conditions where they can get hypothermia or tear a muscle - ie competing in a tiny spandex singlet for a 2+ hour session in sub-50 degree - is at best insensitive at worst negligent. 

Especially as weightlifting is a summer in door sport, and uniforms are designed for "room temperature" conditions.



Having been in the sport for over 20 years, I have the blessing and curse of knowing what can happen. Maybe if I was a newer lifter, I would have toughed out the fact that I couldnt feel my legs, that my toes were frost bitten,and rolled the dice with injury. 

But, I know better. When I paid $100 to compete at this competition, I didnt sign-up to risk injury. I didn't sign-up to throw away months of training for a chance at a shiny trophy.

 Im ending my post here as -Adding insult to injury- I need to drive an hour home, then turn the heat in my gym and do a workout, because the competition environment deprived me of one.



References:

https://www.t-nation.com/powerful-words/open-letter-to-crossfit-hq

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Elbow UCL Rehab for weightlifters-what you need to know

It all comes down to the triceps and wrist wraps---  Below is information that has really helped me with my UCL recovery.  You can use the information in the article to have an informed conversation with your doctor before starting a rehab program for an injured UCL.  Afterall, I'm not a Doctor- I'm just a rocket scientist.
 
It is common for weightlifters to injure their Ulnar Collateral Ligament in competition, due to hyperextension. This usually happens when attempting to save a lift backward. 

Many of the doctors who work on UCLs come from a baseball paradigm and associate it with “Tommy John”, the famous baseball pitcher who had the first ever surgery for a UCL injury in 1974.  In other words, for the average orthopedist, most of the UCL tears they will see are from baseball pitchers and will not have a lot of experience tailoring their treatments to weightlifters.
 
 Although it is the same ligament that weightlifters injure, weightlifters are using this ligament in a different manner. In baseball, a pitcher uses the UCL almost like a rubber-band in a slingshot. They load it up with tension, then release it.  In weightlifting, lifters utilize the UCL for stability in the backwards and forwards direction (in front of and behind the head).  In effect, the treatments for UCL tears need to be more sport specific especially as you enter the phase of the athlete returning to competition.

From personal experience,  I have found that the average American physical therapist focuses entirely too much on the biceps and the extensors of the forearm when rehabbing a UCL injury. When really, triceps and the flexors, I found, are at least as important, if not more, for weightlifter stability (they are antagonistic muscles afterall!).  Many therapists even prioritize shoulder and scapular strengthening over the triceps as this relates to throwing mechanisms due to their baseball centric world view.

Think about it- what happens when you are supporting a bar overhead?  Your arms are fully extended with your forearm rotated such that the thumb is in line with your ear and your wrists are fully bent backwards.  Right? So, what are your muscles doing:  the triceps and extensors are in extension, and there is a lot of load on the flexors as your wrist is bent fully backward.

Perhaps, developed triceps, flexors, and extensors will help relieve loading from the UCL. Developing these muscles, according to my French doctor as well as any bodybuilding expert, lots of repetitions with not to heavy a weight is key.  Exercises like tricep pull downs are great. The goal is bulk, here (I know contrary to much of what we do in weightlifting).


Something else that can help --->Stabilization during lifting:
This is a pre-injury photo of me with 110kg. You can see me with obly ine of my leather wrist wraps on; the wrist without the wrist wrap is bent back much further.

In weightlifting, we are not permitted to wear elbow wraps. However, the muscles of the forearm have two attachment points- one by the elbow and one by the wrist.  An orthopedist in France (the same guy that told me to work more triceps ) pointed out to me that wearing wrist wraps will stabilize one of the attachment points of these muscle groups, and may be more effective than stabilizing at the elbow. 

Physically, this makes sense as when I wear my Risto leather wrist wraps, the amount my wrist can bend backward is restricted.  This does two things: (1) it reduces loading on the flexor tendons, which will change loading on the UCL, (2) the wrist wrap is actually absorbing some of the load being transmitted from the extensors.  It's got to relieve some of the hoop stresses in the forearm.

Overall, I feel more stable with leather wrist wraps and was able to do overhead work sooner with them.
Here's a post recovery photo of me demo-ing the wrist wraps, note the better wrist angles, and you can even see my flexors bulging, illustrating how they play in securing the bar overhead.

If you get anything out of this article -- the message is work your triceps , forearm,and wear leather wrist wraps to aide your elbow.
 

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Ivan with Coach Ediberto Barbosa, fmr  Col natl team

Mock Competition in Bogota

Mock Competition in Bogota
Gwen out snatches the challenger

Rick Bucinell, breaking master world record in Risto's!

Rick Bucinell, breaking master world record in Risto's!

Ivan arm wrestling Peschalov

Ivan arm wrestling Peschalov
My husband "attempting" to arm wrestle Peschalov with his good arm. Ivan remarked "Wow, he's strong..he was really trying to arm wrestle me" ..no kidding ....ha ha ha

Belts, singlets, knee and wrist wraps. Custom styles available

Little Gwen doing workout with new lifters

Little Gwen doing workout with new lifters

Team USA with Risto donated gear at 2010 University World Championships

Team USA with Risto donated gear at 2010 University World Championships
Me lifting for Team USA. We won 15 medals, Ivan was Assistant Coach to Team USA. Risto Sports donated gear such as USA polos and t-shirts. Got to represent our country well!

Risto Sports,Order at:

http://www.ristosports.com/
info@ristosports.com

(207) 319-7607

Training, shoes, singlets, knee wraps, belts, straps
Eliot, ME

Tanya Morillas - 2004 in Spain

Tanya Morillas - 2004 in Spain
Training session at Almerimar. Subsequently, Tanya has been on Spanish national teams.

Dare Alabi , 77kg lifter (Nigeria)

Dare Alabi , 77kg lifter (Nigeria)
Nigerian lifter, Dare, lifting in Spain

warming up power cleans

warming up power cleans