WEIGHTLIFTING. PAST AND PRESENT
THE ORIGINS OF WEIGHTLIFTING The historical origins of weightlifting have been lost in the mists of time but can be traced back to man’s eternal desire to challenge the forces of nature, with gravity being the greatest contender. In this ancestral defiance, man has adopted three techniques: the first, to reduce the effect of gravity on his body by attempting to propel himself into the air using his own strength (this gave rise to the various sports involving jumping); the second, to use his strength to give an object of any weight enough speed to temporarily defy the forces of gravity (giving rise to throwing sports): the third technique was based on the fact that man could not as yet assess the effects that the forces of gravity posed, but he could measure the number of kilos that he was capable of lifting. And this marked the dawn of weightlifting. If a philosophical interpretation were plausible, one might venture to say that the actual conquest of space, a symbol of modern civilization, represents none other than the most
blatant and obvious acclamation, from a technological viewpoint, of man’s innate struggle with the force of gravity. However, it is no wonder that the advent and the success of Homo Tecnologicus have not detracted from his timeless fascination with strength. On the contrary, it would appear that modern man’s ever-growing thirst for knowledge is a driving force to test his limits, continuously questioning his capabilities and possibilities even on a physical level. It may also be said that at present, it seems that such limits in the field of strength are far from being reached. Lifting weights has been indicated as a healthy complementary activity for physical improvement. The father of scientific medicine, Hippocrates of Cos (5th-6th century BC), listed a series of exercises, including wrestling and anakinemata (weightlifting), to keep the body healthy. Training with halteres recommended also by Antillus (2nd century AC) and Oribasius (4th century AC), gave rise to alterobolia and was practiced under the
QUALITATIVE BIOMECHANICAL ANALYSIS OF OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING
MEANS AND LIMITS What is the purpose of qualitative biomechanical analysis? With the correct interpretation of available data, the basic aim is to improve personal technique and its evolution by upgrading the quality of coaching techniques. There are two types of analyses: Basic: by simply observing the phenomenon without the use of equipment (video recorders, cameras or monitoring devices). In-depth: total or partial movements are monitored or reconstructed by systems providing sets of data, which can be used in cross assessments. This type can be subdivided into six important areas of assessment:
• optimum use of athletes’s motor skills within the limits set by the actual sport and its rules; • reassessment of exercise methods in order to improve efficiency; • awareness, determining and explaining motor errors; • research into solutions to avoid, prevent and compensate motor errors;
and development of effective exercises for physical preparation and conditioning; • objective acquisition of information regarding techniques or actions to implement in competitions. Biomechanical analysis can also be quantitative when based on the evaluation of factors that either produce or prevent the movement and the relative assigning of numeric values compared to their variation over time. Quantitative analysis still holds its importance in acyclic sports such as weightlifting. The advantages and limits of biomechanics are illustrated below, analysing some Olympic weightlifting exercises, developing technical aspects from a mechanical point of view. The biomechanical process has generally two phases:
• studying the phenomenon; • comparison with an ideal pre-exisiting
model; or the formulation of a new model which best responds to the phenomenon in question.
It is evident that this type of analysis can be carried out with various levels of precision and reliability. They depend, above all, on the margin of error of the observation devices, secondly, on the knowledge of the theoretical models (or sporting techniques) referred to, and thirdly on human error. The most common means of qualitative observation are generally the coachobserver’s naked eye. The coach carefully observes the athlete’s movements and then mentally compares them to what he considers the movement’s ideal theoretical model. Only after this mental overlap can the coach assess the movement and suggest improvements. This method of analysis is known as subjective, as the result does not depend solely on the physical-biomechanical characteristics of the observed movement, but also on the condition of the observer. The monitoring of the relative parameters of the same movement, as well as the mental elaboration, can be different. These differences, which make the monitoring and
GENERAL REMARKS One of the fundamental elements in weightlifting training is technique. Only a good technical input can produce the best physical output. For this reason it is essential to pay close attention to technique in the initial stages of sports preparation. A technique is an ideal system of movements, of varying complexity, that while respecting the laws of economy and rationality, result in the athlete channelling all his physical qualities onto a piece of equipment, as in the case of weightlifting, to create a personal model that at the same time respects the general guidelines of the theoretical model. It is a considerably difficult and complex task to develop a high level technique as it depends to a great extent on numerous factors such as:
• coordination; • sensory skills; • joint mobility and flexibility; • proportion of bone levers; • development of force and speed. By way of summary, it is possible to develop a rational technique, proportional to our ability to apply greater force and speed when performing the movement.
When analysing and understanding a technique we must take into consideration kinematic components such as speed, time, acceleration and joint angles and on the other, dynamic components such as force and barbell flexibility. We can therefore conclude that a sports technique can only be defined as such, if all the above physical qualities are developed in a harmonious and subjective manner, especially if this technique is associated with lifting heavy loads. The basic requirements that characterise the effectiveness of a technique can be summed up as follows:
• balance skills: static and dynamic; • differentiation skills: the differentia-
tion of force impulses of suitable intensity developed over time. This determines the structure of the athletic movement, conferring a sequence of effective and economic move; • fluidity of movement: the perfect coordination of the distinct phases the move incorporates, optimising the mechanics of the development. This is what is commonly defined as movement coordination, or rather, a logical distribution of internal and external forces. Correct trajectory: performance of the move in the most rational form possible. The barbell must not deviate considerably from the values regarded as excellent in the theoretical model. The ideal technique is not subject to the evolution of a sport, although it remains dependant on applications combined with the subjective characteristics dictated by the varying characteristics of the individual athletes, not least, gender. In weightlifting, the performance technique is apparently quite consolidated and does not seem to have undergone substantial changes in recent years. An individual technique, which is generally limited for a series of anatomical reasons, requires the combination of as many possible elements from the theoretical model so as to create the most rational move possible for the characteristics of the subject in question.
USING THE BARBELL
THE GRIP The term “grip” refers to the way in which the hands grasp and hold the barbell.
There are three grip variants in weightlifting: Hook grip: also called the “crochetage”, in which the barbell is first gripped with the thumb and then the remaining fingers. The index and middle fingers close over the thumb. This ensures a secure grip on the barbell guaranteeing better performance in the first pull – loading – second pull.
Palm grip: the barbell is gripped in succession by the index, middle, ring and small fingers and then the thumb closes down over the index and middle finger. This type of grip is only used in the jerk phase of the clean & jerk.
Strap grip: a strap is looped around the wrist and then around the bar where it is blocked with a hook grip or a normal grip. This type of grip is used in training, above all in exercises that require repeated very heavy lifts.
TYPES OF EXERCISES
As in other sports, we can classify weightlifting exercises into four types: 1. Competition exercises The snatch and clean & jerk performer correctly avoiding the errors laid out in the Technical Rules. 2. Auxiliary exercises these contain one or more typical main elements of the competition exercises respecting the parameters of space and time.
they are not characteristics of weightlifting, we have not listed them here. Though limiting our attention to the exercises that use barbells, we cannot however neglect the importance of “natural load” exercises, in other words, without the use of external loads. 4. Specific strength training exercises Confined to one or more muscle groups used in the competition exercise in question. They can be divided into:
3. General strength training exercises These may have no connection to the specific muscle activity of the competition exercises and are designed to improve strength in all the muscles of the body. As
• exercises for general athletic preparation; • exercises for specific athletic preparation.
MAIN TECHNICAL FAULTS AND HOW TO CORRECT THEM
CONDITIONS THAT FAVOUR FAULTS The technique of the Olympic exercises snatch and clean & jerk is very complex and therefore quite difficult to learn, nor is it an easy task to correct faults in the performance. This difficulty arises from various sources:
• the speed of movement; • the necessity to carry out great effort in a determined moment; • precision; • the participation of a high number of muscle groups in a coordinated sequence; • interaction between the athlete-equipment; • maintaining static-dynamic balance.
When a fault occurs in a certain exercise, the coach should not limit himself to pointing it out if he is unsure of the origin of the mistake and of the strategy to adopt in correcting it. There are various usual causes that favour faults and/or difficulty in learning the right techniques:
• a bad interpretation of the information
that an athlete receives both from external and internal sources (kinethesis). This condition can give rise to incorrect movements which lead to a poor performance. The athlete does not have the correct and sufficient knowledge to elaborate the idea of an
exact move. The coach must have this knowledge and transmit it to the athlete thus reducing the discrepancy between the perception of the move and the actual performance of the ideal model; insufficient physical conditions. As a • compensatory action during the technical move, different muscle groups are used contrary to those required by the kinetics chain for that specific movement. In this way there is an irrational action and the entire effort process will compromise the end result. This deficiency is often due to the use of unsuitable loads (excessive or faulty) in the physical-technical development of the athlete; • information is provided only on the result and not on the cause of the problem; • unsuitable use of exercise and/or loads that invalidate the technique of the Olympic movements. When we have an athlete with technical problems, we must always bear in mind that any action intended to solve the problem must take into account the athlete’s ability and necessity, as well as the circumstances of the learning situation. The coach-athlete interaction must focus on the following points:
of ability and capabilities of the athlete; • motivation; • performance fatigue; • expectations; • ability to take in and process the information; • self confidence and self esteem. The coach must focus on verbal, visual and tactile information. Generally the observations must be made immediately after the exercise has been performed, pointing out both the mistake and the corrective action: the aspects of the same action. Before giving specific indications, it is vital to be sure of the cause of the fault and to know the right information and explanations to give. To prevent mistakes from becoming commonplace, it is necessary that the correction is made in context and never in a preventative manner.
TRAINING THE TECHNIQUE. LEARNING THE TECHNIQUE
TRAINING THE TECHNIQUE Given the characteristics of this sport, technique and physical preparation go hand in hand, and this is reflected in the majority of exercises carried out in a training session. Physical preparation is basically reached by means of technical exercises. Only very few exercises for the development of strength are not directly linked to technique. Technique training plays a determining role in the training programme throughout the entire season, alternating periods of greater or lesser attention. In the first stages (2-4 weeks) of a 10-15 week training programme, it is possible to plan, with less frequency, the classic exercises (snatch and clean & jerk), substituting them with exercises that address technique in an analytical manner. As the training progresses, the traditional exercises will take over. The training volume (the number of series per kg) corresponding to the technical exercises, within a cycle, is between 50-60% of the total series of the entire period.
A considerable reduction in the number of technical exercises will result in less specific training, with a very high average intensity due to the fact that the auxiliary exercises are carried out with heavy weights (pulls and squat). Therefore it will be difficult to produce the hypothetical transfer of explosive strength because biomechanically, the auxiliary exercises are very different from the traditional ones. If, on the other hand, the training volume is greatly increased, solely in favour of the technical exercises, then there is a greater possibility to hyperstimulate the neuromuscular system, leading to a deterioration in the technique and hence in the results. Training can be intensified by progressively increasing the weights used in all the exercises, especially in traditional ones. This increase in intensity is necessary as much from a physical standpoint as a technical one. Training with sub maximal percentages (85-100%), when the technique is sufficiently stable, allows it to be perfected. This is due to the fact that the structure of the move, at such intensity, is very similar to that necessary in competitions. Each sports technique is in relation to the physical conditions of the athlete. In weightlifting there must be a balanced development between the quality of strength, velocity and rapidity. If strength training is carried out with low intensity, it will be very difficult to perfect the technical model. Having intense strength may be negative if it is not channelled into the dynamic action of the Olympic exercises. In these cases, when strength does not correspond to a good technical result, it is necessary to modify the distribution of the training weights (volume), including a greater percentage of technical exercises and reducing those for general strength. Bearing in mind however the subjective characteristics or differences, it is always necessary to start with the technical development as opposed to strength development, especially in the initial stages of training. To obtain strength through technical exercises (the only form to achieve specific strength), it is necessary to have sufficient technical stability. The ideal method to develop technique, is to practice only the snatch and clean & jerk, in this way avoiding any negative interference from other exercises. If on
GENERAL PROGRAMMING ELEMENTS OF MODERN WEIGHTLIFTING
PROGRAMMING Training is a complex task that does not obey any theory without respecting the fundamental principles that regulate it. A training process must take into account the basics that permit the programming process and how to reach the prestablished goal. A schedule is therefore conceived as a combined system of elements that produces a balanced fusion. It is an organised structured designed to reach certain goals which takes into account a plan that justifies and defines the margins of variation where it is possible to put into action the training stimuli. In fact, a schedule does not only consist in treating some training factors (volume, intensity, exercises, frequency, etc.) but rather the coordination of an entire system which takes into account the interaction of all its components. We can define the schedule as a process, that on one hand ensures unity of the parts and on the other hand, guarantees flexibility, giving rise to a process of adaptation without losing sight of the merging of the single factors. From this definition we can draw two more basic considerations that characterize the whole aspect of programming. The first characteristic, unity, that presupposes continuity and coherence, considers programming as a single unit which must be performed without substantial modifications, maintaining coherency within the intended training project, which may only be modified through a careful reading of the following parameters that can justify the present or future review of a training programme:
• realisation of the practical aspect; • general evolution of the form; • analysis of the training parameters; • results. Respect for the parameters can prevent the “athletic form” from being considerably brought forward or delayed in relation to a competition, highlighting falling performance trends when compared to what would be expected from the actual competition. The second point is characterised by flexibility or reversibility. All scheduled activities are susceptible to change when put into practice. It is wise to be alert to these changes and if necessary modify aspects of the training session based on the physical and psychical con-
dition of the athlete and his evolution of the form. Any change in programme always presupposes a slight modelling of the pre-intended schedule. This however does not mean a loss of direction and goal. Each physical activity should be tailor made to the adaptation skills of each athlete. This topic is as important as it is difficult because in sport it is rarely possible to make a precise diagnosis of an athlete’s characteristics or to know what is the most suitable training programme for the said characteristics. Therefore continuous close examination is vital, nourished with the knowledge and experience of a good coach, who can bring about the appropriate changes to the general work load and to the type of general and specific exercises of each lifter. Simultaneously there should be suitable pacing of the work phase that recovers and balances out the technical deficiencies. In other terms, the program must try to harmonise and blend the above know-how in a training process without ever neglecting the psychological and technical aspects of an athlete. A coach-programmer, in addition to establishing a detailed series of activities to be carried out in a session, must have an excellent ability to analyse and constantly review what is intended as a training process. This concept requires fostering a sports technology, in other words, a programming procedure in which a training system is developed, taking into consideration the following aspects and bearing in mind the characteristics of the athlete or work group it is being applied to:
• putting into practice; • managing the system; • control; • assessment. Putting into action a plan that includes the above aspects requires a priori the use of means that are not always available to all coaches. Very often the first difficulty encountered by coaches-programmers is identifying each athlete’s characteristics and producing the best results in a certain timeframe. Producing a result also means applying the fundamental knowledge of medicine, psychology and physics so as to balance the work load.
TEACHING OLYMPIC EXERCISES
As already mentioned, the exercises are to be learnt in phases or element by element. We will now take a look at a teaching process from an experimental study by U.A. Druzhimin (1980), which is still extremely valid. This form of teaching presents some advantages and apparently no drawbacks; according to statistics from studies carried out on a considerable amount of beginners, there is a significant increase (in terms of learning time and
quality) compared to other methods. The result is that the lifters assimilate a rational technique better and faster and produce less mistakes than with the traditional method (learning through the same order of the exercise phases). Bearing this study in mind and considering the experience of the Italian School of Weightlifting, the below system has been devised, which gives rational order to the learning of each exercise.
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN WEIGHTLIFTING EXERCISES & SPORTS MOVEMENTS
THE CONCEPT OF BIOMECHANICAL SIMILARITIES BETWEEN EXERCISES AND VARIOUS SPORTS MOVEMENTS
FIGURE 11.1 Variations of posture while lifting a 50 kg bar unto the shoulders. The external force is represented by the weight of the bar, which remains constant, whereas the strain on the joints varies according to posture. This is expressed while solving the moments of the ground-projected force resultant for the joint rotation axes (see following table)
To illustrate the concept of similarities, the following is a description of a classic exercise – squat with the barbell positioned across the shoulders – carried out with different kinematic body methods (figure 11.1). It can be easily noted that although the load of the barbell remains constant, it exerts an equal external force. With regard to joints however, the load varies depending on the lever arm in relation to the joints (not indicated in the figure, but mainly depending on the horizontal distance from the bar to the axis of the joints). This is all expressed in the calculation of the rotary moments of the ground reaction force in relation to the rotation axis of the joints. Another example of the variability of the dynamic structure according to the anatomical-functional modalities of motor execution of lifting can be observed in the previous figure.
In this case, the pull exercise is carried out using a special dynamometer. In the figure there are four types of typical executions (A-B-C-D) and the respective graphs of the time trends of force, velocity and power expressed during the movement. It is interesting to note how, for example, the peak values for power, force and velocity are not so dissimilar neither in variants A and B, nor in respectively C and D. In trying to explain the meaning of the interrelations between the internal kinematic structure and the external dynamic (or kinematic) response, we have provided an example relative to the function which connects the maximum force applied to the barbell, its height from the ground and the different position of the joints in relation to the load (figure 11.3).
110° 145° 130°
TABLE 11.1 Intensity of torque (Newton metre) in joints based on posture in squat
WEIGHTLIFTING FOR OTHER SPORTS
INTRODUCTION Weights are universally recognised as an essential support both for correct development and for specialisation in other sports. It is therefore appropriate to provide general instructions for use in the form of easy to read charts for the specific needs of the user.
Although this method is undoubtedly useful on a teaching level, it may pose some restrictions when it comes to application. In these cases, the various sports must be combined using parameters which are unbiased to assessment, that allow a classification designed for operative use or a more in-depth correlation, based on the aspect to be highlighted or emphasised. There may be various criteria or parameters used, for example, energy, limb kinetics or barycentre motion. As we will deal with the use of weights in all sports, it is appropriate to focus on the dynamic-coordinative characteristics of the sports in order to have all the information necessary on the exercises to use, by means of their similarities with competition movements. The energetic mechanisms, on the other hand, give us details of the most suitable applicative methodology for the various needs. The appropriate use of weights will be worthwhile and necessary only on the determining, but essentially restrictive conditions that the trained kinetic chain works with angles that are as similar to the performance conditions and therefore are functional. The possibility to train the motor specificity of the exercise is the only way of making valid use of weights in the specialisation phase of any sport. If these conditions are not respected, the massive use of weights, with diverse angles, trajectories and torques, as well as weights that employ different contraction or energetic mechanisms, can result unnecessary or even harmful. If there is no opportunity to train the necessary motor specificity of the technical movement, the weights can be used to an advantage regardless, focussing on general weightlifting and not on specialised improvement. In fact, if it is not possible to reproduce the kinetics of the performance for specific training, it is more useful to train more general qualities such as, the energetic substrates that come into action in performance, increasing the ability to develop a higher level of performance. However, an athlete is not a machine, he is a living being that develops ontogenetically, with his own daily intrinsic variability (circadian rhythms) and a personal psycho-emotional structure in evolution.
BODY COMPOSITION IN WEIGHTLIFTING
STUDYING BODY COMPOSITION The evaluation of body composition represents an important area in research, fruit of estimating the energy requirement and the nutritional state of the patient, and for the subsequent applications in the medical-health field. In fact, biological and medical sciences have long been advocating the knowledge of the dimensional and morphological characteristics of the human body and of its interindividual differences. The study of body composition is of extreme importance for both non-athletes, given the direct correlation to health conditions, and for athletes as it defines their functional characteristics and abilities. Body composition is significantly different for both sexes, it is also modified by factors such as age, genome and pathological state and is substantially influenced by diet and physical exercise. When practising sport, with reference to intense periods of training or following a competitive event, the body is faced with various degrees of change in relation to its state of hydration, the distribution of body fluids (intra and extracellular), electrolyte balance and muscle, fat and bone mass. Such variations can seriously damage physical integrity and can lead to a decline in performance. As previously mentioned, diet has important repercussions on body composition, and the need to lose weight, in order to “fit” into the desired category, results in many athletes resorting to “extreme” methods of weight loss (sauna, fasting, use of laxatives, etc.) that can negatively alter performance and compromise the athlete’s health. It is therefore vital to evaluate the body composition of the athlete so as to monitor growth, training results and diet, and to investigate changes that come about with physical development in order to prepare suitable athletic training sessions; this provides a predictive value for the aptitude selection in many sporting activities and performance optimisation, which can be reached by nutritional homeostasis, obtained when the body weight is in perfect relation to the fat mass (FM) and the fat free mass (FFM). This relation depends on age, gender, genetics and the characteristics of the sport in question.
The two-compartment model is based on the model in which the Body Weight (BW) is subdivided into two distinct chemical components, Fat Mass (FM) and Fat Free Mass (FFM). FM
The term Fat Mass or Total Lipid Mass indicates the total body fat tissue which is always measured in kg, has a density of circa 0.9 g/ml, and is an anhydrous tissue which does not contain potassium. According to the Behnke model, the fat mass has two specific storage areas:
fat which is the fat mass that the body requires, present in the lipid-rich cellular membrane of the CNS and the PNS, between muscle fibres, in the (yellow) bone marrow, in the long bones of the CNS and PNS, in the liver, the spleen, the lungs and the heart; it amounts to 3-5% of the total body mass in men and 10-12% in women as it forms the tissue connected to secondary gender characteristics.
fat, is an accumulation of fat in the adipose tissue, made up of circa: 83% lipids, 2% protein and 15 % water. The storage fat is divided into visceral fat and sub-skin fat; the former protects the internal organs within the thoracic and abdominal cavities from trauma and the latter is deposited beneath the skin’s surface.
The Fat Free Mass includes the rest of the body with an almost constant density 1.099-1100 g/ml; it contains water in constant quantities (70-73%) with a density of 0.993 g/ml; the rest is made up of protein, with a density of 1.34 g/ml; mineral salts (in particular those relative to the skeletal apparatus with a density of 3 g/ml) and glycogen. The Fat Free Mass content in men is 69 mEq, with 10% less in women. The LBM (Lean Body Mass) is made up all the tissues in the FFM with the addition of the “essential fat”.
INJURIES IN WEIGHTLIFTING
INTRODUCTION The injuries that occur during competitive weightlifting are similar to the cases and types of injuries sustained in other sports. The specific analysis of the movement in the snatch and clean & jerk, the continuous repetition of the movement at high speed and with the use of maximum loads, show how the anatomical structure is subject to continuous stress, which in the long term can result in injury if suitable therapies and prevention exercises are not implemented. An analysis of the injury mechanism, the most common, and the level of frequency,
provide the coach, athlete and physiotherapist with sufficient information to prepare a safe and optimal training schedule which may be integrated, if the need arises, with an injury prevention programme (2, 7, 8). There are three main anatomic areas that are prone to injury: the knee, the lower back and the shoulder. Scientific documentation indicates that most injuries are sustained by the knee, followed by the shoulder and then the lower back (2, 3, 7, 11, 14).