Don’t skip O-lifting day!
As a runner, leg strength is something that many casual runners forget to address. When I first started running, I figured that the legs were always working when running so lifting sessions should be focused on various arm and core exercises. In reality, long distance running can actually cause muscle atrophy (loss) and I was making huge mistakes skipping the squats. Now I can laugh at my former self since life is all about learning from experiences.
While there is nothing wrong with the leg press, calf raise, hamstring curl, or quad extension, these isolated muscle group exercises can’t compare to the comprehensive movements of the clean or snatch. Of all the different ways to work your legs, I find O-lifting to be the most dynamic, challenging, and fun way to work your entire posterior chain. Benefits after the first month included more bounce in my stride, stronger knee drive, and most importantly, I was going injury free! My knees and lower back felt stronger than ever and the extra mileage actually felt good. Of course all these benefits didn’t come without a huge investment cost. The process of learning to O-lift does take consistency over a few months, but (IMO)provides the best bang for buck exercises for athletic performance while also teaching the body how to move with high efficiency.
As much as I loved the strength gains, I didn’t realize how wonderful the sport was for opening up range of motion through the entire body. Sadly, it took about 8 weeks of before I felt comfortable with all the variations of the squat in good form (and this was unweighted!!!). Then another 4 months of work to both strengthen and increase the mobility of the neck/upper back/shoulder region. After weeks of soreness and working on mobility, it all started coming together!
I have to thank my training partner, Coach Ben, for getting me into the sport. We spent plenty of time running and nerding out about professional running. I got my USAW certification shortly after the 2012 London Olympics. That summer the Kenyan’s were favored to sweep both the 5 and 10k, but Mo Farah(UK) ended up stealing gold in both the 5k and 10k and his training partner, Galen Rupp, taking silver in the 10k. These two runners were part of the Nike Oregon Project, lead by legendary running coach Alberto Salazar. We would follow their training programs and a large part of what made his athletes special was their ability to keep a sustained “kick” that no others could match. I’m sure you can guess what type of training was incorporated into these runner’s programs. The O-lifting with heavy weights and low reps helped condition various energy systems and trained runners to keep proper posture even though fatigue. Once I started incorporating the O-lifting into client programs, I started seeing the exact same results. Those who have fought past the bar choke, shoulder drills, ankle work and collar bone bruises will all attest to the strides they have made in their running, hockey, triathlons, and cycling. They can also tell you how I bumped up their workload without any set backs!
Finally, I definitely want to emphasize that O-lifting is NOT power lifting. Olympic style lifting consists of two particular movements, the clean & jerk and the snatch. These specific movements and their variations are often used by athletes to develop strength and explosiveness to improve sports performance. The best way to learn is to work with a qualified weightlifting coach at a weightlifting or barbell club. If you are a trainer or in the field of fitness, I highly recommend taking the USAW level 1 coaching certification as a great way to learn and get some CEC’s. Also, here’s a great place to get started for all your O-lifting resources!
*Good luck to all the athletes competing at National Youth Championships this week in Atlanta!*