It’s been a chaotic past few days thanks to a bunch of sick cats. They seemed to have picked up some sort of stomach bug — I’m guessing from bad food — that left me sitting in an animal hospital for a few hours and scrambling to clean up after them, disinfect various things, buy new supplies, etc.. They seem to be getting over it and recovering well but I wasn’t left with much time for fitness related activities other than getting in my Wendler 5/3/1 work.
I was also laying off from anything that might leave me less than 100% for Jon North’s Attitude Nation seminar at CrossFit Mercer. The seminar began at 9am on April 27 (I’m writing this a day later). We started out listening to Jon explain his underlying philosophies on weightlifting. This was followed by hours of snatching. The first time I looked at the clock with the bar in my hands was 10am and we broke for lunch at 1pm. For much of the time in between, we had the bar in our hands running drills.
There are two major schools of thought on proper weightlifting technique. One school is the “triple extension” that is taught using cues such as the “scarecrow” position and the “jump and shrug”. I am certainly no expert on the history of weightlifting but my impression is that triple extension is old school still pushed by some traditionalists like USAW. Jon explained that years ago it was against the rules for the bar to contact the body and that traditional weightlifting technique like the triple extension are a remnant of that rule. Once body contact was allowed, a new school of thought came along that is now referred to as the “catapult” that involves physically contacting the bar with the hips to propel it upwards. Some of America’s top weightlifters such as Jon and Donny Shankle have used this method for great success.
Jon takes the catapult method and applies unique concepts such as the superman pull, the hit and catch, and the arched angel to teach this method. These concepts immediately resonated with me as he explained them. I initially learned weightlifting at a CrossFit gym and CrossFit typically follows the triple extension method. From the beginning, something didn’t seem right to me with how the method was being taught. If all of your effort is focused jumping and shrugging to maximize upward force and coming to full extension, how are you going to suddenly change direction and force yourself under the bar fast enough to catch it? My confusion was compounded by watching videos of top weightlifters and noting that the bar never came much higher than the belly button before they dropped under it. I began to intentionally cut the extension short on cleans and suddenly started to see my numbers creep up after stagnating for a long time (while getting cued “you’re not coming to full extension!” by a CrossFit coach). I stagnated for a little while until I eventually stumbled upon Glenn Pendlay’s How To series (featuring none other than Jon North) on California Strength’s YouTube channel and it was clear to me that this technique made so much more sense to me. I PR’d literally the next day after watching these videos. Stop reading this and go watch these now! In any case, Jon’s method builds off Glenn’s method and is a perfect match for what works for me.
After breaking for lunch, the seminar commenced with a much shorter session on the clean given that the clean builds off the same technical basis as the snatch. One great point to take away from the clean session is Jon’s “Hotel California” warning. After catching the bar with the clean, don’t check into Hotel California i.e. don’t hang out at the bottom (from the song: “You can check-out any time you like but you can never leave!”). Immediately bounce out of the hole and stand up. This was followed up with a session on the jerk. I’ve long neglected the jerk, focusing much more on the clean given that I have to actually clean the weight before I need to worry about jerking it. This session showed that I have plenty of room for improvement with the jerk.
Both the snatch and the clean & jerk segments ended with about 20 minutes for a max out session. I didn’t PR on either. My max snatch for the day was 115 and max clean & jerk was a very ugly 185. I blame this on being wiped out from the long hours of drills with the bar and from trying to actively apply all the new things I learned. No biggie. I expect lots of PRs to come soon.
If you get the chance to attend a Jon North seminar, do not hesitate! It was an awesome experience and I am looking forward to applying what I learned to take things to the next level.