Focusing on Converting Strengths to Weaknesses - Jerks

I used to hardly ever miss jerks. If I could clean it, then by golly I could jerk it.

That was back a couple years ago when I focused a lot more on “crossfit.” Cleans used to be my limiting factor in the clean & jerk, but it was because I didn’t have a strong enough pull to get the bar on my shoulders, not necessarily because I couldn’t “squat” it.


 

To achieve higher levels of anything, you really can’t just focus on improving everything equally across the board. You have to be willing to pick your battles and spend less time working on your strengths and really hone in on your weaknesses.

First step is being aware of what your weak points actually are though.

Fast forward to this past year – I placed a lot more focus on developing my pulling strength while also improving my squat numbers so I could get under those cleans…because again, if I could clean it, then I would be 98% sure I could jerk it.

That is, until the ability of my cleans and pulls actually caught up to my jerk ability…and even surpassed it. I started missing jerks left and right or didn’t feel as stable as I normally did when jerking overhead. In the past, if I had a new clean PR, my mind would think “yes! I cleaned it and I’m totally nailing this jerk). But now, I started to actually fear I would miss the jerk after cleaning it – and that mentally probably caused me to also miss a lot of jerks as well.

Yes, it turns out I focused so much on developing my other weaknesses and left my “strength” aside that the thing that used to be my strength now turned into my limiting factor.

What a bunch of jerks.


 

Figuring out How to Tackle Weaknesses

How do you begin to assess what your weaknesses really are and why they are weaknesses? Well, you might start by asking yourself these questions (I certainly did):

 

1. Do you have a particular movement or moment where you often question your ability to actually make the lift (do you fear it more than others?)

Once I started fearing that I would miss the jerk once I cleaned it, I knew that it was an area I had been lacking focus in. It wasn’t that I was “avoiding” it, but simply I had chosen to place my focus on developing other things until they caught up to my jerking ability. To continue growing, I had to re-shift my focus back to other areas.

 

2. Is there an area of your training that you have been focusing less on because you think you’ve been stronger at it, or it doesn’t feel as “important” anymore…and perhaps that lack of focus is causing loss of strength in that area?

Perhaps my lack of jerk strength wasn’t actually due to the fact that I wasn’t “jerking” enough or doing enough jerk-related exercises.

I think a lot of it had to do with lack of gymnastic focus.

I noted that I hadn’t been doing as much gymnastic or upper body work since I focused more on weightlifting and less on crossfit stuff. I wasn’t doing nearly as many pullups, toes-to-bar, muscle ups, push-ups, ring dips, handstand walks, lots of reps of shoulder-to-overhead, or the like as I was in the past when I was doing crossfit workouts almost everyday…and when my jerks were much more confident. I’m pretty sure that because my training had been lacking in those areas within the past year (whereas before I incorporated them a lot more into my workouts), that there was some upper body structural strength that I had lost that wasn’t there to help stabilize heavy jerks anymore.

I started incorporating some more gymnastic work a couple times a week to get that back.

 

3. How do your stats look and how do YOU look compared to others of similar goals and ability?

I video myself A LOT (if you don’t know already) – and why? Because I am very visual when it comes to learning.

(also because I am self-coached most days of the week).

I can certainly try to “feel” something when a coach tells me, but I also like to see what I look like from an outside perspective…and I compare that to what other lifters of my weight-class and potential ability also look like when they lift to see what I need to work on. If you’ve been heavily reliant on taking cues from how everyone else sees you move but you haven’t actually seen yourself move, it might be an interesting idea just to grab a video every now and then because you will learn an incredible amount from yourself just by seeing how your body interacts with space as you’re lifting or doing a movement.

What you feel and what you see of yourself during that moment can be totally different sensations.
Just by seeing how I move, I realize “wow, my front leg doesn’t actually go out as far as it feels like I do in the jerk” or “I come forward a lot more than I thought I did on the dip”.

 

4. What’s your body type? Do you have longer or shorter limbs compared to others your height, and how does that affect your lifting mechanics?

Physics. If you haven’t thought of this already, you should probably consider that a movement might feel more difficult to you because of your body’s construction. If you have longer legs then pulling or even squatting can be tricky. If you have longer arms in comparison to your torso, then locking out lifts overhead will be more of a challenge because it’s a longer distance the bar needs to travel (or longer levers to get into place to lock out that jerk or snatch).

These areas of disadvantage should always be an area of focus for you because they will always be slight disadvantages in the eyes of physics. You can’t really make your arms or legs shorter but you can modify your stance, increase your mobility, increase your speed, coordination and strength.

 

5. What are you *reaaaally* good at? OK, time to set that aside for now.

If you have a pretty big weakness that you need to improve, you really need to put a lot more of your energy towards developing that. Any effort you put towards any of your other strengths or areas will always take away from what you can put towards your weakness.

If I wanted to place a lot of focus on my jerk, then I probably couldn’t do too many excessive heavy clean pulls or focus too much on squats since my muscles would be tired after doing those movements and couldn’t be used as effectively to really focus on developing jerks. I wanted to be primed and at my best for jerk and overhead sessions and switch everything else to “maintenance” mode if that wasn’t my focus for the cycle.

On a bigger picture note – when I decided to pursue weightlifting full time, I had to drop any “running” or crossfit because I needed to develop lifting strength – and the type of energy I would use and muscle fiber type I would develop through running and metabolic conditioning would actually be against what I was trying to develop.

Now, I looooove running and I also wish I could do some of those crossfit workouts during class that I coach to our members – but I have to tame myself. You’ve got to tame yourself and stay away from those things you love and are good at (for just a little bit of time) to become better at the things that are holding you back.


97kg Jerk - Weaknesses Article

Nailed that 97kg jerk the other day after finally taking a few weeks to get my jerk back up!

So  now after focusing on a mini-cycle of jerk, overhead strength and more gymnastic strength, I’m proud to say my jerk has caught up with my cleans now! I still want to get to the point where I’m 100% confident I’ll make the jerk – but perhaps a lot of that is mental limitation and not just physical limitation.

Crossfit Themed Christmas Cards - PowerSnowDesigns @powersofthesnow

 

As a way for fundraising to help offset some of the costs of flying out to Reno for the American Open this year, I decided to put some of my crafty design skills to good use…

Crossfit & Weightlifting Themed Holiday Cards for Sale!

I’ve opened up an Etsy Shop (under the alias PowerSnowDesigns) where I am currently selling both pre-printed packs of cards, as well as digital PDF “Print-Your-Own” cards incase you wanted to print many more on your own or mix-and-match.

Crossfit Holiday Christmas Cards Bundle by PowerSnowDesigns @powersofthesnow

Neatly bundled in packs of 10 with red A2 envelopes

 

 

 


 

Currently, packs of ten A2 sized cards (10 of a single type of card) are $25 pre-printed with matching envelopes (that’s $2.50/card). I am also selling a BUNDLE set of 15 cards that contain 3 of each design for $31 (that’s $2.13/card). Shipping is $3 (though if you can meet me in person you won’t have to worry about that!

I also have DIGITAL PDF versions of the cards for sale to so you can print them on your own! (but not sell…just print to hand out to friends & family). Those run for $6 per PDF design you purchase, or $20 for the entire bundle of 5 digital PDF designs

 

Think of an idea for a design you want me to try out? I’m still in the mood and mode to design more, so stay tuned! I’d totally appreciate your comments, thoughts, opinions and suggestions below, thanks!

Holiday Eating - Abstain or Moderate by Weightlifting Woman

“Everything in moderation.”

That seems to be the key to developing sustainable (yet good) nutritional habits for the long term, right?

Let me ask you this question: When you decide to have a little “cheat” and take a bite of a brownie, cookie, a sip of beer or have a pizza…do you:

  1. Find yourself to be pretty decent at saying “no, I’ve had plenty” after having that little nibble and are able to hold yourself back without much extra effort in having more than you should?
  2. Or, continue to crave more, and more, and more even if you told yourself, “nah, I’ll just have one” but continue to grab yet another cookie or have another beer or slice of pizza (or whatever)?

Be honest with me here.

(I fall into that second category.)

Imagine continuously feeling like you are depriving yourself of any treats or anything that feels good for several weeks on end…and then by the time you decide “ok, I’ll give in” and have that sip of beer, or slice of pizza, or brownie, or Hersheys kiss…you end up way over binging and eating everything in sight! Everything tastes sooooo good!!

As “disciplined” as I may seem with my diet (as most of you may think)…if I do end up deciding to eat something that’s a bit of a “cheat” (i.e. a piece of chocolate, a cookie at the faculty meeting, a sip of wine) I find it incredibly hard to resist having another – and in fact most of the time I invite myself to seconds because it just tastes so good to me, and the amount of satisfaction I get with each bite is as strong as the first.

In fact, just the other night at a halloween party someone brought out these GIANT no-bake peanut butter brownie squares. I had one…

…but throughout the evening I continued to help myself to a 2nd one, and then a 3rd, and I think even a 4th one. I was sneaking them around the corner so Nate wouldn’t see me eating them. They were SO good.

I’m absolutely HORRIBLE at moderation – because when I do decide to indulge, I tend to go all out.

However, there are some of you out there who find it easier than I to moderate. All you need is that first couple bites or nibbles, and then the satisfaction you get from any additional bites is no longer as strong or as satisfying as the first. One brownie for you is good…you’re done…and you move on.


 

Abstainers vs Moderators

I’ve been reading this book about habits: Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin (which is a great read about understanding yourself so you can understand how you deal with forming habits).

She mentions that when it comes to tendencies and self-monitoring, people can fall into two one of two categories: Abstainers and Moderators.

According to Rubin, an Abstainer is someone who is much better off completely staying away from indulging in anything – because once that person decides to indulge, it’s incredibly hard for that person to stop continuing to indulge or crave that thing. For example, once this person has just one square of a chocolate, then he/she can’t resist not having the rest of it and will want the entire bar of chocolate.

For Abstainers, it’s much easier to completely stay away and say NO rather than to take that first bite.

A Moderator, on the other hand, finds the most joy in that first one or two bites or indulgences, but is able to stop his/herself with more ease and say “no, I’ve definitely had enough” and move on. This type of person is able to repeat this type of moderation frequently each day without over binging or going crazy.

Moderators can choose to have one or two squares of chocolate, but will then be satisfied and will be able to move on without craving or needing to have the rest of the chocolate. They find it hard to say NO because they need to have that little indulgence here and there to feel like they are not depriving themselves of anything in the long term.

“Everything in moderation.” – says the Moderator.


 

So, getting back to how this relates to weightlifting and Holiday eating…

Well, they like to schedule the American Open the weekend AFTER Thanksgiving (great choice, USAW). Therefore, I really have to watch what I’m eating in order to make weight less than a week later. When it comes to all of these Halloween and Thanksgiving treats (and pumpkin beers and mashed potatoes), I find it much easier to completely stay away and abstain from anything rather than try to moderate myself, because I know if I have one, then I find it super hard to stop myself from having another.

Thus, my diet is incredibly “disciplined” and super strict in the eyes of most people, because I don’t allow any of it.

But HOW CAN YOU DO THAT?

Because it’s easier for me to say NO than to control myself when I’ve had some. It’s that simple.

Not all people are moderators, in the same way that not all people are abstainers. If you understand what type of tendency you lean towards when it comes to cheats and indulgences, you’ll gain a better grasp of how to control your eating habits and how to sustain *good* nutritional habits in the long run. I choose not to have any types of chips, snacks, chocolate, or goodies readily available in the house because I’ll grab it when I’m hungry. I just can’t stand having it readily there and available.

So yes, when I go all out, I go ALL OUT – but then it takes a week to get rid of that excess water weight from all the carbs. So therefore, I have my ONE DAY but I’m right back to being on the bandwagon and strict the next day.

Have I tried being a Moderator?

Yes, that was called “off-season” and I ended up putting on an extra 2-3 lbs above weight class. I had to revert to my “abstainer” ways in order to stay strict enough to lose that extra weight for the season. Because I know I work better as an Abstainer, I know what I need to do to make the weight class I need to make.

We’ll see how much I choose to indulge (or not) on Thanksgiving.

Happy Holidays!


 

For more information on these self-monitoring tendencies (as well as all sorts of cool quizzes and other information to learn more about how you deal with habits), check out Gretchen Rubin’s site.