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Thursday, September 6, 2018

The 2018 World Masters Championships just revolutionized the weightlifting meet

The 2018 World Masters Championships were held just across the city line of Barcelona, Spain in L'Hospitalet Llobergat.

The championships actually shutdown entries a few weeks early because the number of registrants was going to surpass 900 athletes.   At the end of the day, somewhere around 900 athletes competed , making it the biggest World's ever.

The competition organizers took a unique strategy to managing the huge number of lifters.    In some sessions, they used two alternating platforms for sequential attempts.   Yes, you are hearing it right, a lifter would almost never take two lifts in a row on the same competition platform.

Here is how it worked. There was a platform A and a platform B.  The first lift of the competition would start on platform A, the second lift on platform B, then the third lift on Platform A, then the fourth lift on Platform B...Lifts were done sequentially, not simultaneously.  Surprisingly, this significantly cut down the length of the session, especially, when you had multiple lifters with the same lifts.  Roughly, the attempts took half the time. This is even considering the fact that lifters did not lift at the same time.  All the time that is wasted between loading attempts, re-loading attempts, athletes changing weights  was saved with having the two sequential platforms.
2018 World Masters Championships Venue


I'm sure some athletes may not have liked lifting on different platforms and bars each attempt. However, there is a psychological advantage of lifting on different platform. For example, a lifter missed their first attempt, it may help them refocus by lifting on a different platform.

It also was an advantage for lifters who had very close starting attempts.   Instead of a lifter waiting minutes between their first and second attempt, due to other lifters attempting the same weight on their first attempt, the wait was about half the time.

For the audience, it made the competition more interesting to view.

This novel idea may just revolutionize the excitement of the weightlifting meet.  I encourage other major events to try it.

The only thing I would change is medals for snatch, clean and jerk, and total.  Medals were given only for total.  Look, there is only one world championship a year, and lifters have to train hard to compete for medals.  There are enough entries to support medals in each lift.

So, yeah,  I won the snatch, and I want a friggin' medal for it!  ;)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Leveraging your invisible load

The mind is a funny thing.  The way we remember, specifically.

I have done thousands of lifts over the course of my life. I don't exactly catalog every single training lift I've ever done in my mind.

However, I am finding just from simple mental cues like looking at an old video, I can remember the exact feel of a lift at that specific time range of training.  I can remember what my training sets felt like at that time - what I was power snatching for triples and how high I caught those snatches.

For Master's lifters or even lifters of any age who have suffered serious injury, you may find yourself in a sense starting over in lifting after a big hiatus.  And, all that work you have done over the years is an accumulation of loading; it is what we call the "invisible load".

What I can recommend to you is to try stepping into lifts- mentally- that you have done before. This is the biggest advantage that you have over your less experienced competitors- having actually done more repetitions and heavier weights in the past.

So, basic tips: think of some of your best lifts, and don't just see them or watch them, actually feel the lifts again.  Find yourself as the same person, that same moment in time doing that lift-- then apply it to the now.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Weightlifting shoe studies, and some physics

Suppversity just did a great article surveying various studies on weightlifting shoes and effectiveness.

What is most amazing about these studies, is that almost all of them measured output variables that no one cares about.

For example, one study measured affect on joint angles.  Joint Angles-- no, no, no!  People who buy and wear weightlifting shoes care about 2 things -  injury protection and LIFTING MORE.

How do we measure if a weightlifting shoe is going to help us lift more-- FORCE Output .

 AND,  how the shoe changes the distance of the bar from our center of gravity, such that we are able to lift more. This is sort of related to joint angles, but joint angles misses the mark-- I'll show you why, shortly.

So, if you're thinking of dropping money on a pair of weightlifting shoes, let's go over some basic physics:

1. Force = Mass x Acceleration
         To lift heavy stuff, you must generate a force by accelerating a mass
2. Energie or "work" = Force x Distance
         You create energy by acclerating the mass of the bar over a distance, such as when you pull, squat, or deadlift a bar
3.  Torque =  Force X lever arm distance x sine(of angle which force is applied, most cases its sine(90 degrees) which equals 1
     Torque is the expression of a force that causes rotation. The longer the lever arm distance the greater the torque. If the lever arm is equal to zero, then there is no torque or, rather, you can spin something freely about its center of mass.
     
Things that make you lift More  -- saving you from PR killers !

The oversimplified diagram in red shows a common technical mistake- keeping the bar far from the lifters center of gravity, increasing the amount of work the lifter needs to do to lift the weight.  The green figure shows that keeping the bar closer to the lifter makes the weight easier to lift!  Finally, the black diagram is a grossly oversimplified freebody diagram that, overall, shows that keeping the bar as close to the center of mass as possible will reduce unneeded torque on the bar, making it easier to lift.  *note, toque generated in the lifter's joints is a different subject.



As shown in the cartoon above, if the bar is unnecessarily far away from your body's center of gravity, there will be a greater torque on the bar that you will have to counteract by applying even more force.  This means , you can lift more if you reduce the torque because you will need to generate less force to lift the bar over head or to stand-up with it- as shown by the green figure.  This is true for both olympic lifts, the squat, and the deadlift. The further away the bar is from your body, the harder it will be to lift-- AND the more stress it will put on your spine!

Note --In both cases, the lifter generates force by pushing their feet into the ground.

So, how does this relate to weightlifting shoes, 3 things:

1. A solid heel that minimally compresses will increase force ouput to the ground.

2. A shoe with a stable outsole -- toebox and heel --will also reduce energy lost from poor lateral stability.
-- many weightlifting shoe brands have solid heels, few have a stable toebox. This makes the difference between lifters with feet that barely move (good) and feet that wobble (bad).

3. A shoe with the right heel height will enable the lifter to keep the bar even closer to their center of gravity.
--- This reduces the torque arm

Now, you can measure these cumulative effect of these 3 items by simply measuring force and distance of the bar from the lifters Center of gravity (CG).    As one example, Force can be measured by having a lifter lift on a force plate or load cell.   The distance of the bar from the CG can be measured with optics , also, as one example.

Just for fun, I did an anlysis on a lifter using optics.  $0 was spent on this 15minute study =0. The results, however, give you a good idea of  what actual scientific studies SHOULD HAVE DONE.

The subject lifter's anatomy is as such their torso, upper leg, and their lower leg are all about the same length. That means, their tibia/fibia is about as long as their femur,   and the length of their torso is about half the length of their entire leg (upper leg + lower leg).  There are many lifters with similar body types, whereas a torso that is shorter than the total length of the leg gives a stability advantage in the squat position of the snatch and the clean.

They were asked to do a squat with the same weight in 4 types of foot wear treatments - 1 ) in wood heel Risto weightlifting shoes, 2) in plastic heel nike romaleos 3, 3) in normal sneakers or tennis shoes with almost no heel rise, 4) barefoot.  Many on the internet would say that nike's are the best of the Plastic heel shoes and that the Risto's are the best of the wood heel shoes.

I did not take force measurements since the funding for this study was $0 and 15minutes ;) .

Optics were done with ImageJ software.

Note, the actual measurment lines in the software are not shown. Lines shown are for visual guidance.

The results were quite interesting. As expected, lifting barefoot kept the bar furthest from the center of gravity, which means lifting barefoot makes squatting heavy weights more difficult. It's also interesting to see the lifter's back is the most rounded when squatting barefoot.   The tennis shoes and nike's were almost equal.  The tennis shoes actually seemed to edge out the nike's with respect to distance from center of gravity, but the difference in camera angle may have contributed some error. The back angle looks better in the nike's than in the tennis shoes.  The Risto sports weightlifting shoes had the best bar spacing to center of gravity out of the 4.  The back position of the lifter looks best in the Risto's as well.

In terms of force output, this was not measured. The two weightlifting shoes would undoubtedly win out because of better lateral stability and less compressibility of the heel. The nike had a softer toebox than the risto, so it is possible that the softer toebox could equal bigger force losses.  This would be a good follow-up study to do.

Again, the $0 15min study does have error sources* in it.  What we can really get out of this experiment is that weightlifting shoes are far better than lifting barefoot and (the correct shoe) is better than lifting in tennis shoes.

UPDATE- one comment received is my oversimplification of the bar-lifter system.  As mentioned above , this is a very over-simplifed analysis.

 A more complete model would be seen by applying control theory and modeling the lifter in State Space.

This research paper does just that:  Optimization of Barbell Trajectory During The Snatch Lift Technique By Using Optimal Control Theory Shahram Lenjan Nejadian, Mostafa Rostami and Farzad Towhidkhah Biomedical Engineering Faculty, Amirkabir University of Technology (AUT), 424 Hafez Ave

Here is a more complete description of the lifter's angles:
Snip from: Optimization of Barbell Trajectory During The Snatch Lift Technique By Using Optimal Control Theory Shahram Lenjan Nejadian, Mostafa Rostami and Farzad Towhidkhah Biomedical Engineering Faculty, Amirkabir University of Technology (AUT)

Here is a  model in state space showing more appropriate non-linear equations to model the weightlifter during the snatch. A similar approach can be taken for the squat:
From: Optimization of Barbell Trajectory During The Snatch Lift Technique By Using Optimal Control Theory Shahram Lenjan Nejadian, Mostafa Rostami and Farzad Towhidkhah Biomedical Engineering Faculty, Amirkabir University of Technology (AUT), 424 Hafez Ave

The above isn't actually the full set of derivations. Basically, they do model the torque in the system looking at the Center of gravity of the bar and the lifter. They discuss optimization of torque generated by each of the joints. They discuss optimal bar paths, which --GUESS WHAT-- optimize the drift of the bar from the lifter's centerline (kind of like my crude little diagram above ;).

 Overall, if we did a more complex model we could model the drift in technique relative to the lifter using different shoes.   It's  all similar principles.

We can posit that the over-simplified  $0 15minutes study  does show a benefit of wearing weightlifting shoes.  Weightlifting shoes can help keep the bar closer to your center of gravity, hence , enabling you to lift more with less force - everyone's goal ! =)

The author has 0 ownership or affiliation with the 3 brands tested.

* error sources- variation in camera angle, repeatability of imagej software, order lifter lifted in each treatment. May want to consider doing additional bodytypes.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The science of Youthfulness: How to look like an ageless vampire

I remember reading a chapter in a Deepak Chopra book about how aging is something we are hypnotized to do.  As if , seeing the people before us age, we , ourselves, were convinced that this process was inevitable for us. It was as a pretty radical thought , that "what if I didn't have to age like other people? What if some of it was a choice?".

Well, that idea kind of stuck around in my head, something that I didn't revist much.  Low and behold, I am now eligible to lift as a Master, I broke a World Record, and I find myself getting confused for my daughter's sister.

I offer some objective evidence: me before the age of 30, and me post physical age of 30,  at about the same bodyweight doing even more weight for a double:





So, how did I get here? Why does my biological age seem to be quite disparate from how long I've been on this earth in my current form.  It's both science and mindset.

A couple of months ago, I appeared on the Thrivalist podcast where we discussed this very topic with medical experts Dr Geanopoulus and world renowned strength and conditioning coach Ben Velazquez.

There are 3 biological indications of aging:
  1. Nerve degeneration
  2. Sarcopenia
  3. Dynapenia 
In non-technical terms, they mean: loss of muscle, loss of muscle strength, and loss of brain fitness. 

Interestingly, through my weighlifting and engineering interests, I've unintentionally addressed all 3 criteria.  These were adressed through strenuous physical and mental training as well as medically based diet and supplementation.

Unintentional ingredient to youth #1:  Heavy mental and physical lifting
Olympic Weightlifting is the perfect sport to maintain muscle strength, muscle mass , and even nerve function.  When you train in a programmed rhythm (see Soviet System for Weightlifting), you will be able to train harder AND your Central Nervous System will be able to recover from the training. This results in maintaining or increasing muscle strength and mass. It's also addressing the needs of stimulating the nervous system to ward off aging.

A key caveat here is that you must train strenuously. You must put some load on your organism to get a result.   In other words, this is why the average person spending 15min on the eliptical machine is not going to get the same benefits as they are not stressing themselves enough.

Personal anectdote: I spent most of the summer in France doing engineering stuff. My training was incredibly erradic. But, you know what, I found away to drag myself into the gym, even if for only 20 minutes.  Here's why: after about 3 days of not training, I could already see the detriment. This is inspite of the fact that I probably walked about 5 miles per day just going places. In other words, a walk back and forth to the market or the parking deck wasn't going to be enough stimulation . A short, intense workout was better than just walking.

Going back to the nerve degeneration prevention, both my lifting and engineering endeavors force me to really apply my brain.  Believe it or not, studying for hours in my dorm room, built a capacity for me to get into the zone easily, and reach states of deep focus.  Then, I went ahead and applied this, unintentionally, to my lifting.   There  were times that I was better at attaining mental flow in my workouts, and ,other times, I was better at acheivning mental flow in engineering endeavors.   Now, I kind of feel like I can do both equally.  I would thinkthat this is similar to people who meditate often and, as research has shown, become good at controlling their mental states.

Unintentional ingredient to youth #2: Maintaining hormonal indicators

Having trained as a high performance athlete, my goal is to keep certain metabolic indicators in a specific range with rest, diet, and supplementation.   Optimal hormonal and metabolic levels improves training, and, apparently, this also has spillover affects of staying youthful. 

Now, all of my diet and supplementation based on going to a doctor that can actually read bloodwork. The diet and supplementation plan is designed around supporting hormone levels with in a healthy range.    Bloodwork is one of the most direct ways to see if you have made a measurable affect on yourself after diet and supplementation changes.  For example, your doctor might prescribe taking magnesium to affect  testosterone levels,  or amino acids to improve growth hormone.   Amino acids and magnesium are both naturally occuring and completely legal subtances to take.

Secondly, extensive allergy testing can help you focus your diet and also take unnecessary stress off your immune system.   You can get extensive allergy testing done to determine to which foods your body reacts better. In theory, if you avoid things that your body has allergic reactions to, then this should further assist your body in maintaining a good hormonal profile. 

Now, I know there are people who say "a calorie is a calorie" and to "eat what fulfills your macros". And, to that I say, it also depends on your genetics: my mustang can run on 87 octane, but, tell you what, I can get 35mpg if I fill it up with 93 octane.    Additionally, there are things like micronutrients, trace minerals that come into play-- the nutrient profile of 10g of carbohydrates of sweet potatoes and 10g of carbohydrates of white rice are going to look quite different. This can affect minerals which can affect hormones. 

How this all works together

It is much simpler than it sounds-- train hard a few times a week, use your brain often, and eat what your body responds well.  Many champions will tell you that their results went down once they stopped caring. So, you have to care about your training as well. View it as something as essential as drinking water in the morning.


https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/must-all-organisms-age-and-die/

Lifting in Kazakhstan, Temirtau, Ilyin's former gym

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Snatching 92kg at the Risto Olympia Cup

Snatching 92kg at the Risto Olympia Cup
This was the 2nd highest snatch in all of the USA for 2014 in official competition for women's 69kg weight class. The only athlete to snatch higher was Jenny Arthur with 98kg. At the time, she was lifting for USAW weightlifting club Risto Team.

Oscar Figueroa,Olympic Silver Medalist, World medalist 2009

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