Ask Greg: Issue 78
Greg Everett

Anonymous Asks: I know you probably have a lot to do so I'll make this quick. I'm new to Olympic lifting. I'm 26 yrs old 6' 205lbs, powerlifting background (best raw lifts BP-455 DL-585 BS-605 at a bodyweight of 265). I just recently got into CrossFit and lost 55 lbs using paleo + CrossFit two times a week. I fell in love with the Olympic lifts. So far I can Power Clean and Power Snatch more than I can regular clean and snatch. Flexibility issues are getting better but mechanics are taking some time. Currently I have power snatched 225 lbs and power clean and jerked 315 lbs. I want to compete!!! However I have very little coaching or access to equipment.

Question—or questions—I used a lot speed training in the past for powerlifting and it worked really well for me. So I was wondering if throwing in some 50-60% doubles or triples (focused on bar speed) for maybe 5 to 8 sets would help the same way in Olympic lifts as well as powerlifting? Also, I'm using all the resources I have (mostly your site, Mike Burgener, and youtube) to find training info with what little time and money I have to improve my knowledge and ability in Olympic lifting. I just have zero access to anyone (coaches or athletes) of elite or even competitive status. I really feel as though I can be competitive at 94 kg in this sport. I guess your could say I'm throwing a penny in the email wishing well. What can I do?

P.S. I live in the north Georgia mountains (very isolated). Just so you know the closest Olympic lifting team I can find is in savannah GA more 8 hours away.

Greg Says:
First, decide how important lifting is to you, and if it’s really important, move to a place with a team you want to train with. At 26, you might not have too many obligations or ties yet and this may still be possible. Do it while you can if that’s what you want. Nothing will help you improve more or at a faster rate than working with a good coach and training with a team of dedicated lifters.

Regarding lifts at 50-60% with a speed focus, yes, I like this a lot. Generally I wouldn’t go as light as 50% with the actual competition lifts—60% would be a bottom end—but I might on things like high or mid-hang, high block work, or combinations of power and squat lifts (50-60% would be of the squat variation). This is a really good way of getting a large volume of mechanically sound and quick lifts in, and it can be done without being very taxing, so you’re still able to do the heavy work you need.

For someone with a good strength base like you have, but at the moment limited flexibility and technique, this should be very helpful. Being strong, it can be easy to work with weights heavier than you should be and constantly be stuck lifting in a technically unsound manner, which just reinforces the problems you’re trying to correct. Build your lift-specific strength with pulling variations, squats and pressing variations while you develop your technical ability and speed, and as the latter elements improve, you’ll be able to move into training the classic lifts heavier more regularly.

Carl Asks
: I really appreciate the Ask Greg & Aimee section of the magazine, as it seems every question you've answered is one I wanted to ask. Greg, thanks for the straightforward strength approach for CrossFitters that you outlined in the March issue. I have researched some of the canned programs and they all recommend doing supplemental exercises (dips, wtd pullups, etc) regularly, as well. Do you have a strong opinion about their value?

I really benefited by Scotty's article on higher carb paleo, especially the simple but effective ways of checking your body's reaction to the paleo diet. I immediately went out to get a thermometer to test my thyroid function!

Can you tell me if he has covered dietary supplements and their timing? I take fish oil and D3 in the morning and the evening (mainly because it is easy to remember to take them with breakfast and dinner), but a friend has suggested that spreading out the doses during the day is better.

Thanks again for your excellent advice. Keep up the great work.

Greg Says
: I like supplemental exercises, but you have to be careful about getting carried away with them. Many people try to do everything all the time and suddenly end up with 4-hour training sessions because of all the accessory work they cobble onto the skeleton of their program, or worse, they end up cutting down on the volume of the exercises they should be prioritizing to accommodate the accessory work. There are certain things that need to be included based on what the program consists of and the athlete’s needs. For example, I like to almost always include some kind of upper body pulling work for lifters to build and maintain scapular stability and balance out all the pressing and overhead work they do. Pull-ups and rowing variations are the staples. So the value of accessory work will vary quite a bit depending on the athlete, the time, and the rest of the program.

Regarding the fish oil and vitamin D, if you’re not taking a huge amount (which you shouldn’t be with those two things), breakfast and dinner is fine. Fish oil is best taken with food for better absorption. Vitamin D can also be taken in the evening before bed to help with sleep, although I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of this. I would say that dividing the doses between the first and last meals of the day is spreading it out adequately.

Sam Asks:
A couple of questions I struggle with regularly. I know for both of these it depends on the day, how you are feeling, etc. but looking for general guidance.

1) How many lifts do you usually take to work up to a "heavy single" Sn or CJ? This would be excluding light warm-ups at say 50% or less. As an example, my current max is 78 and my last heavy single workout looked like this: 40x2, 50x2, 55, 60, 63, 66, 69, 71, 73(f), 73, 75(f), 75, 77, 78. This was a total of 16 lifts including the 2 missed lifts. This feels like it might be too much but I am not sure.

2) Related to above, what sort of jumps (%) do you take in getting to a heavy single, 3-5% is my guess.

Greg Says
: How you approach this depends on your goal for the workout, the lift, and what you’re conditioned for. If the primary goal is to simply hit the heaviest weight possible, you’re technically consistent, and you’re used to taking big jumps, then usually we want to move up to the heavy single with as few lifts as possible. However, if you’re not technically consistent, this can be a terrible idea. In this case, usually taking smaller jumps as you near your top weight will keep you more consistent and technically sound, which will allow you to finish at a higher weight. If you instead try to make bigger jumps and the lift falls apart, you’re expending a lot of energy to miss lifts; even if you try to come back down, you may be mentally defeated at that point and not be able to work back up. 3-5% is a good starting point as you get above 80% or so. Often athletes get concerned about wasting energy taking so many lifts, but if you’re not technically developed enough to take big jumps, your lifts won’t be that physically taxing anyway, and you’ll end up lifting more if you can maintain confidence and technical consistency longer.

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