Crunched For Time?: What Advanced Athletes Should Do.

    As an advanced athlete, you dedicate a large portion of your life to your sport. You set your sights on making a world team, winning a national championship, or just qualifying for nationals. However, life doesn't care about your goals, and sometimes you’re left with little time to lift.  What you do with your limited time is crucial to your success and development as an athlete. An understanding of how your body works, as well as what to focus on in your training, will go a long way towards helping you decide how your time is best spent.

    Using your time wisely as an advanced athlete involves answering some of the same questions a beginner must ask. First and foremost, what is the purpose of your training? As a weightlifter, no matter what stage of training, it should be to ultimately improve your numbers in the snatch and clean & jerk. Everything you do should be with that in mind.  As stated in the same article for beginners, there are various ways you can go about doing this.  

  • Increase your efficiency and movement patterns by practicing the lifts

  • Improve neurological pathways for the movement, and improve coordination in competitive movements.

  • Improve your overall strength, i.e., the ability to push, pull, and squat

  • Improve GPP through conditioning and changes in body composition

  • Build peak power though high intensity, low volume rep work with various exercises

  • Improve your ability to handle and consolidate stressors in your life

  • Improve your recovery techniques including nutrition, myofascial release, and sleep

For advanced athletes who have already mastered the movements (a requirement to even consider yourself an advanced athlete) the first two have already taken you so far. Yes, on occasion a change in technique may result in some PRs, but you should have already honed in on your style by now.  So if the first two bullets no longer hold the greatest bang for your buck, what does? This is where we start to see improvements in competition numbers through the implementation of the following factors.  

    I will start with GPP. As weightlifters, we move in only one plane for 95+% of our training. As a result, we can often develop overuse injuries because we are lacking the strength, or base of strength, in all of the bodily planes to sustain the abuse training puts on the body. GPP includes midline, transverse, and sagittal domain training, along with effective but minimal levels of conditioning. Things like rotational abdominal work, single arm or leg work via presses and pulls, and the development of trunk stability in any and all planes of motion are all beneficial forms of GPP. It may be indirect in the sense that you are not training your competitive movements, but a body that has fewer imbalances with a greater base of strength will perform more optimally more often. Increased GPP will lead to greater force production and eventually result in PRs.

    Once you eliminate imbalances and other overall weaknesses, improving your strength in the squat, deadlift, or press will also help you become a better weightlifter.  This approach is a little more direct, because you implement accessory movements which more closely mimic the competitive movements.  An athlete who increases their front squat by 20kg can bet that standing up with even a poorly racked clean will be easier than it was before. However, the true benefit of improving your overall strength is the ability to produce greater force in less time.  If you train properly, increases in strength will also come with increases in your rate of force production.  This would mean that your ability to lift a bar with 100kg improves because the bar speed improves, allowing you to pull the bar higher and catch it easier. Rate of force production is often overlooked by many athletes and coaches alike, but a slow moving bar is a weight you’re probably not going to make.  

    Eliminating your imbalances keeps your joints healthier and your movements more efficient. By balancing out opposing muscles, your body is put in a more anatomically correct position. This improved positioning benefits you not only in the gym, but in many other activities as well. After you eliminate the imbalances, you need to focus on increasing your strength and rate of force production to allow you to become a more successful lifter.  However, make sure to focus on fixing the imbalances first. Adding strength and speed to an imbalanced body will typically result in disaster.

    Next time you have 30 minutes to lift, don’t waste it doing max effort snatches. Put the time in on strengthening your weaknesses and developing the big strength movements. As an advanced athlete, this may be the secret to how you start to pass the rest of the lifters around you. They might be too short sighted to see what is holding them back or how to push ahead, but you aren’t.