Revisiting the Long Heavy Path, I am going to keep up with my training. The last 5 weeks have been accomplished with success in feeling great and strong again. Before that I had taken a month off after an acute hip flexor strain of some sort. I was following Starting Strength and felt a terrible pinch on my first set of 5 at 275# in the back squat. Walking hurt, twisting hurt, standing up hurt. After a month I was able to back squat 95# with some minor discomfort. I spent a week doing some Starting Strength type programming to get back at it. Then Travis Mash released his Squat Everyday Vol. 2 E-book and I jumped right into it. His templates contain in a healthy amount of accessories to address imbalances and me, having the time and resources to visit the gym everyday made this a good choice. Following the program I adhered to leaving a rep or two in the tank on the daily max in the squats and that has continued to leave me feel good each day. I have only had two misses in that time.
But why so much focus on the back squat? An efficient snatch is amazing but if I cannot squat more, how can I snatch more? Glenn Pendlay said it as well, “Squatting is usually programmed with one thing in mind, what is going to keep the squat moving upwards with the least interference with the rest of training as possible.” Daily maxes is achieving this with more ease to auto regulate. Get near your daily minimum and answer the question, “do you feel great or not?”
Brian, from Klokov’s Russian Weightlifting Camp last year, and I both live in Colorado. Actually we live very close together. During the 2015 World’s Weightlifting Championships in Houston, TX this year I saw that Dmitry Berestov has been doing seminars and workshops out of Iron Soul Barbell in Katy, TX and would still be U.S. scheduling more events. I spoke to Brian about collaborating together on hosting Dima at one of our gyms in Colorado. We all had a short window, but we made it happen with great success.
The seminar was one full day and ran 9AM – 6PM at Cutthroat CrossFit owned by Brian Bender (The Cutthroat catfish is the state fish of Colorado so no need to drag your finger across your neck). Dima worked with his good friend Suzanna Gardner from Soul Ruckus who has interpreted for him for the last three years since he started providing seminars. Suzanna herself is an accomplished strength and conditioning coach for wrestlers and teaches kettle bell courses.
The day started with Dima getting ready to demonstrate the snatch. He planned to do a no hook 160kg snatch and more based on how he felt. He told us how Dmitry Klokov did 170kg for this exercise and wanted to push himself to best Klokov soon. He said that he liked this exercise because he can feel the weight all the time. This exercise was not for beginner lifters and those that would use it should not use it too much. Training with hookgrip is much more important. Leading up to snatching, Dima walked us through how he warmed up and opened the floor to take any questions. I noticed that he spent extra attention on his knees, hamstrings, and ankles. I asked the question on how he mentally prepares and manages the anxiety of heavy weights in training. Dima explained that like all weightlifters, he experiences the anxiety of big weights but tries not to think about it. Before he grabs the bar to tells himself that he will lift this weight. Also that weight lifted in training builds confidence that it can be lifted in competition. After making 160kg with ease he made three attempts at 166kg for a 1kg personal record. Unfortunately he was not successful that day. Each time he shared with how he made a mistake. Pulling too fast, losing grip, and timing.
Next we went through the warmup together. Shoulders, wrists, hamstrings, ankles, hips. He taught two complexes that are meant as warmups as well. They warmed up the movement patterns and muscles of the snatch. First was muscle snatch from the bottom of the squat plus behind the neck press. The next warmup complex was a tall position snatch. While fully extended ankles, knees, hips and traps with the bar at the sternum, pause there then pull the body under in the strong catch position. Dima walked around helping people get in better bottom positions and standing more straight without leaning back. Dima explained his first coach valued that it is more important to extend vertically than to be explosive with hard contact. Many had habits of leaning back too much including myself.
For the snatch Dima started teaching the explosion or second pull (He used the words for third pull but many in the US know this part of the snatch as 2nd pull). He said this is the hardest of athletes to learn or teach, and I agree. His complex broke down this part of the snatch in the easiest way to consume that I have experienced. From a position with the bar two inches above the knee and shoulders covered over the bar we would just extend our knees. Then go back and extend the knees and the back to vertically straight and tall. First slow and then with a quicker more explosive repetition. Last, from the above the knee we would do a full snatch.
extend just legs (straighten knees) with back remaining static and over the bar
extend legs and back together to arrive vertically straight
same but quickly or explosive for a contact and bar float close to the body
Dima went around to each participant in the seminar three times and again one more time with everyone to stop and watch a single lifter perform then share what they saw. He would adjust positions. He would also address mistakes in coordination in the legs and back. This was the most common mistake from habits of pulling too early with the back before the legs. The other most common was extending the back too far and ending up behind the heels. Of course we see this type of extension in videos but that occurs at maximum weight and is not intentional. In training and practicing technique with <80% weights, technique is performed vertically straight. I had asked about when I try to explode vertically, I still have the bar out forward too much. He explained that this is most likely the hips hitting it forward and/or not keeping it close in guiding the bar with the arms. Getting feedback and learning this method of practicing the explosion was invaluable to me. In Russia we learned these positions, but it was very simple in the execution. In camp, it was from the knee position that you started to explode with hard contact. But this day, I learned more details of how to practice.
After this complex we learned the snatch deadlift or first pull using this complex
From the floor to below the knee with three second pause
floor to above the knee with three second pause
floor to full contact
I had become very comfortable with these positions from the Russia Camp. For me, I would rush off the floor instead of slowly off the floor then from there, pick up speed and explode. Another problem I was having was the transition from the full extension in explosion to pulling under. I have “a little pause in there,” as Dima would say. Again an old habit that I am working to break. A few also had these problems. Another popular mistake for us was the early arms pulling the weight before extension and back coordination. Again, he went around to everyone three times and again one more time with everyone looking to critique to train their coach’s eye. I believe we had trained the snatch for 2.5 hrs by now. It was common for people to take longer breaks between sets to watch Dima work with others. Like in Russia, I was taking non-stop notes trying to take as much with me.
After the snatch training we broke an hour for lunch and planned to go over the clean and jerk when we got back.
Now, a review on my experience with him back at camp:
I had the fortunate experience of learning from Dmitry Berestov while attending Klokov’s October 2015 Weightlifting Camp in Russia. I first met him when he picked up me and a couple other participants from the airport on the first day. He is just as big in person as he appears in videos and even more formidable when you see him making massive lifts right in front of you. Dmitry has an eye for detail in technique and helps you to expect more from yourself. His skill and knowledge of weightlifting is extensive and is fitting for someone who started the sport when he was 10 years old. He is descriptive with his explanations and critiques yet makes them simple to understand and apply.
We met at one of the buildings we stayed in at 0830 to walk over to the gym for our weigh-in. This was great and not normal for competitions. Normally you don’t get time for a full breakfast and three hours until start time. I weighed in at 78.5 kilograms. Most morning sessions I hovered around 79 kg, but that was having ate breakfast. I made absolutely not effort to lose any weight for this meet. I actually drank more water throughout the night to be better hydrated for the day. At the gym, we also declared our opening weights. I hadn’t given them much thought as I believe everyone forgot to think about it the night before and came up with something on the spot.
Got back to the gym after breakfast about 1100 to start warming up. D. Klokov walked around explaining they need to be fired up. They are in a competition, and it is war. To go along with this, I tell my buddy Rob best of luck. We both wanted to test the lesson of putting friends aside and all emotional energy focused on “war.” From there it went like a meet would go, except we had a single judge, Dmitry Lapikov. No complaints there! Every attempt Dmitry Klokov watched and gave some personal advisement to each of us. For me, it was being more explosive, “Mooore Explooosion Paul.”
I missed my first attempt forward. Probably bumped my hips forward instead of straight up. I went up to 80 kgs for my second attempt which felt nearly perfect. In the catch, it started to fall behind me, and I pushed away. This has never happened, because I’m so tight in the shoulders. Unfortunately, I heard and felt some terrible tearing sounds. I pray it was only scar tissue from my labrum repair in 2010. Now I was stuck with having to take another attempt at 80 kg feeling very unconfident if I could even hold anything overhead in that position. I went anyway and made good contact with the bar but my body wasn’t confident enough to keep close for a good catch.
Until the clean and jerks, I was trying to slowly assess what was going on with my shoulder. Ranges of motion were all there. I was sore in a couple areas, and sore all over as well. I managed through my warm up weights fine, but I was a little slow in catching cleans which was due to the lack of confidence due to the shoulder issue. No problem with a jerk, which was good. First attempt at 96 went well. Then took 100 which was a little slower to stand up. Walking back from that attempt, D. Klokov asked if I wanted 103. I declined and told him I wanted 106. His response was that was leaning on the “too much” end of the spectrum. For me 106 was a new 1 kg PR. Definitely ambitious to think I or anyone could set a new PR after so much hard work the last two weeks. I knew that I had learned enough in the positions to make a very strong attempt. My first pull was solid. I wasn’t jumping forward anymore. Receiving the bar was more solid as well. I had developed a stronger back from the GHDs and was also more confident with driving up where I always would get stuck for new weights in the clean and jerk.
Things worked out even more for my last attempt. There may have been four or five other attempts at 100 and 105 by the other guys, allowing a lot of time to recover before I went back out. This made me feel even more confident. Once 106 was loaded, I was called out and the last coaching I received from D. Klokov was, “Ok Paul, you asked for 106, go lift 106 man.” Challenge accepted. I give my last bow to D. Lapikov at the judges table and set up. Controlled and balanced off the floor, I feel the burden of the new weight. I give up grunt to work through the toughest part of the pull and boom. Caught the weight just right with no over pull. Hit the bounce and now the hardest part for me. Standing up, I yell through a slow grind. Usually a slow grind is tale-tell for spending too much energy to complete the jerk. Fortunately, too many push ups in the military built me so that I can jerk anything I stand up without fear of lack of strength. But I feel light headed for the grind and feel the urgency to finish this attempt. I take a breath and drop the butt back just enough the way we trained and jerk. I felt a stable catch with a little wobble to finishing standing up.
After watching the video back, I looked like a ’87 honda civic struggling uphill with uneven tire pressure. Fully excited and happy to make the attempt, I yell again in celebration and give the double Tiger Woods fist pump. Happy with the clean and jerk, I put a shirt on and grab a seat to watch the rest of the guys lift. Also since the lifts (the war!) for us was out of the way, Rob and I caught up with each other on how it went for each of us. We both had our struggles and achievements. Separating yourself in a competition though does help you focus your mind and energy. In the past, I have always been happy to be competing and speaking with friends.
After everyone finished, we came out for the rankings. We were also presented with our training certificates. The beginning of the camp D. Klokov told us he would give us these, which I thought was great. Turns out, he provided them in the form of beautiful plaques, signed and dated. With those, we all took a group picture together. I thought this was a fantastic way finish up the competition.
Later we had lunch, followed by our last Banya a couple hours later. D. Lapikov joined us for this last sauna session, which was great. (This part sounds silly as I type it, but you can handle it) I believed everyone got the branch beating from him that night which is a large task to do it that many times. Jason and I returned the favor to D. Lapikov by taking turns with the branches. Lapikov had to cool off twice before we finished.
That night we had lecture with D. Klokov. At the gym, he went through all the exercises one more time. Described the how and why for each of them. He also talked about programming for the nine training session week. Throughout the lecture, training philosophy was explained as well.
After about two hours, it became quiet. I looked up from writing in my notebook, and Dmitry had his head in his hands. Everyone could feel the weight in the air. He was trying to hold himself together. Long moments later, he described how he works 100% in every thing he does and tried to apologize for any of the times that didn’t go smoothly. Everyone spoke up about how unforgettable the experience was. Some described this as the best thing they have ever been a part of. We got up to bring it in, a “don’t feel bad, this was incredible” way. One by one we all gave him a man hand shake, a bro hug and some words of appreciation.
After the gym, we walked back together. A few of us wanted to have some beers together before leaving early the next day. We met in one of the pool rooms for drinks. D. Klokov broke out his laptop and pulled up the Youtube video he had been working on for us. Almost all the clips were in order with the music. With some beers we watched it and enjoyed looking back at our two weeks together.
Both sessions today were intended to use light weights to help recovery for the competition the following day. In the first session, we were paired up together and assessed on fixing the problems with each other. I was paired up with Rob from Ireland. This wasn’t new for us since we were both already helping each other along like this during the last two weeks lifting next to each other. There was a really funny moment when I was set up for my first snatch, and Rob was watching. Dmitry Klokov stands next to Rob. I make my snatch which felt pretty good. Right after Dmitry turns to look at Rob, waiting for a correction. Rob stands there scratching his head and had nothing. Dmitry laughs and slaps him on the back because he had no correction either. I laughed because I made the little 40 kilos look good. Just need to make big weights move like that.
That evening Dmitry Berestov talked with us for lecture. He shared his weightlifting journey and the road to his Olympic Gold Medal. One of the first things he said was sharing that story brings pleasure to remember it all, because he hasn’t talked about it for a long time. He started weightlifting at the age of 10. Before that, he was more interested in Karate and thought he was more athletic than is friends because he could punch and kick. Many times he thought weightlifting might not be for him but was convinced to stick with it by his coaches. Once he was lifting as a Senior (over the age of 22) he struggled to find a place on the national team. He was kilos shy of earning the title International Masters of Sport, and this motivated him to work just a little bit harder and longer in the sport. Long story short and a few big competitions later, he was selected for the Olympics. This was very inspiring for us and our competition the following day. He told us about how he was very prepared for the Olympics and would make whatever weight successfully no matter what he needed for the win. After the Olympics, he would still wake up in shock asking himself, “Is that for real?” and looking at his medal. An amazing story.
Took my time warming up extra long. We got into the deadlifts though, and being fully warmed up, I was feeling much better. Actually went on to do some solid dead lifts. Once we got into the front squat + jerk, Dmitry Klokov wanted me to use less weight. Actually he humbled everyone by walking behind each of us and making us pause deep in the jerk deep for five seconds. For some of us, he was requiring to do two jerks. The back squats were feeling better. The form he taught us really pushes the butt back and then has a little lean forward to keep the weight on the whole foot. The tough effort for me on all of his squats is not letting the knees travel too far forward. Knees forward squatting was exactly what I have been trying to do in training the last year. You can imagine how tough it is to work against your newly trained habits.
Dmitry Lapikov was training at the center with us since the day prior and put up some big lifts. He gave us the lecture that night on his weight lifting career, and it was so interesting and emotional. Spent an hour listening to Dmitry Lapikov speak about how he got into weightlifting and then went into some amazing and emotional stories about his relationships with Klokov, preparations, and competitions. One of the most interesting stories he told us about his time in the +105 category (he competed in -105 in a very competitive time as well) was showing up to training camp and qualifiers on his own dime during his suspension (His suspension was from a pre-workout that was legal, made illegal, and lastly made legal again. At first he was given two years, then a four suspension which is really high. Steroid suspensions are that long.) The World’s committee sat on their ruling and his appeal took forever (he wanted to appeal the four years and get it reduced so he could attend the Olympics). He continued to train on his own budget while suspended, to show the Russian Federation and everyone that he will be prepared for the Olympics and to send him. He showed up to a Russian qualifier very prepared to lift. He told us how everyone thought he was crazy walking into the warm up room with his bag and getting ready to compete. They wouldn’t let him onto the platform, so he competed anyway from the warm up room! He out snatched the guys on platform (opened 205kg, wouldn’t be surprised if the 215k snatch video is from this same event) and would have taken second due to suffering a quad strain during the C&J (he opened successfully 240kg). He mentioned this was very tough for him to clean big weights in the warm up area since there was no crowd that provides the added excitement. He sincerely wants to help the sport. He is the director of weightlifting in his region, a major on the police force, and regularly visits schools to mentor children on setting goals and meeting them. He brought his medal with him that night and let everyone hold it. Very cool!
Here in 2009 is where he first suffered his leg injury. You can see him during the CJ scream in the first attempt. He passes on his 2nd attempt trying to convince his coach to do something so he couldn’t feel the pain. The coach wouldn’t do that for him so he still went out for his third attempt. There you can see his leg buckle on the jerk.
Here, years later he still felt his injury. In 2011 you see him competing the in the video and out performing everyone, but his results were later removed because the suspension was still in effect.
I had improved over-night to my surprise. I took more motrin with my breakfast and got in a hot shower before the morning session. I did not use a weight for the GHDs versus doing GHDs with the barbell. Took my time warming up extra long. Now these power snatch ladders broke most of us. They were increasing height of plates lined up and we had to power snatch with just a bar or 40 kilos. Dmirtry Klokov watched everyone’s reps and everyone needed to hit the bar harder. He really wanted to get a strong contact at the pelvis. I don’t think any of my reps met his expectations, which was very frustrating. The few guys that were hitting hard enough were nearly folded over from the bruises. Later Klokov explained that this would become adjusted and not as painful. After these I was feeling much better in the back and felt like I was doing pretty good with the snatch from deficits.
In the afternoon, I was feeling good enough to actually use the barbell this time on the GHD which really helped my confidence. The following exercise with clean from the blocks felt really good, but those damn pauses deep in the jerk dip really suck.
Our lecture that evening was on female weight lifting. I don’t have the lecturer’s name with me currently, but I will update once I get a hold of it. A lot that was shared I have also learned from other sources such as that women can handle more work (more reps at higher intensities). We also learned that it is just as hard to find female athletes that will do weight lifting in Moscow as in the US.