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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Do weightlifters need bodybuilding and isometric exercises?

A common debate in the weightlifting and CrossFit world is: should you even do traditional bodybuilding exercises, most of which are isometric exercises.

Particularly, people will argue that these exercises, like curls and leg extensions, are not functional. Because, when are you ever going to just contract your bicep or just contract part of your quads when doing a WOD or a snatch.  And, yes, this is true: all the exercises we do as Olympic lifters are complex multi-muscle-coordinated dynamic movements. Additionally, bodybuilding exercises use the sympathetic nervous system and not the parasympathetic nervous system - ie you're not working the fast, dynamic, reflex like movements of a clean and jerk or snatch.

Based on my experience at Risto Sports and training with some of the best athletes and coaches in th world , I am going to say - Yes, absolutely.  Below, I'll go over why these exercises should be done, what types athletes do, and when.

Why do the best weightlifters in the world do bodybuilding exercises?
The primary reason some of the best lifters in the world do bodybuilding exercises is to prevent injury.  IT is very important to develop the muscles around the joints of the elbows and knees.  Large muscles will help prevent injury by protecting your joints.

Here is an example:  at the 2013 American Open, Elio Guerra of Risto Sports, saves this 155kg snatch. Look at the gymnastics his right elbow goes through to save the easy lift.

You would think, after that lift his right elbow would hurt? Nope, he was fine. As he explained to me, his well developed muscles surrounding his elbows and shoulders protected him from injury.  As you can see from the photo below, Elio pretty jacked in the upper body by Olympic lifter standards .
Elio Guerra of Risto Sports, at a recent training session in his white Risto Olimpicos. NorthEastern University hosted Team Risto Sports for this session.
What are some types of bodybuilding (what Olympic lifters call bodybuilding) exercises you can do? And how much weight, reps, when?
Basically, start with anything that is going to protect your knees, elbows, and shoulders. Some lifters like to work mostly with plates, and light weight. For example, I've seen Diego Salazar (62kg Olympic Silver medalist) doing simple tricep work with 5kg plates! On the other hand, I've seen Luz Mercedes Acosta (top 5 63kg woman in 2008) toy with 25kg plates to do shoulder/trap exercises).  At Risto Sports, we do 4 sets of 10 with lighter weight, 3-5 exercises after training, several times per week.

Here's a video coach Ivan took in China- he is the only American coach to ever be invited to the National Team training hall- showing what type of bodybuilding exercises these fine athletes do.  This video was taken at one of the Collegiate team training halls:


 If you look at the comments on this video, you can see "bodybuilding" exercises and lifting is , indeed , a hot topic.

Gwen's personal anecdote:

I, personally, started upping my bodybuilding exercises this past year.  Especially, seeing my bro Elio get super jacked in a matter of weeks (he arrived mid- SEPT and put on 20lbs of muscle in 2 months, and that is another post), having the honor of hanging out with the likes of Mike O'Hearn, George Farah, and Kai Greene at the AFX -- I've decided I want larger and more defined muscles- just because I can.  And, if you read my post on the AFX , I really do need bigger shoulders/biceps/triceps/quads for the larger and larger weights I'm lifting.  And, if you stalk me on instagram, you can see my gradual transformation to jacked nirvana. 


27 comments:

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Garage Gyms said...

20 pounds in two months? let's hear about that!

Gwen Sisto said...

The 20lbs Elio gained is intense training after 2 years off and nutrition.
Apparently, in Cuba, many times he went to bed hungry-- never even ate steak (in Cuba, it was not legal to eat steak ).

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