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Learnings and Reflections from 2017, Part I

DSC_6825I had an athlete ask me today about what I’ve learned as a coach and about my experiences this past year running TSS Barbell. The question was from an athlete who started with us not long after we formed the club and who trained with us throughout the summer until family and school were more of a priority. It is an interesting question, one that could be answered from many different angles (athlete, coach, business owner). I started thinking about the last year as a whole and how much growth and change we have experienced as a team since October 2016. Our business model looks nothing like it did when it started, nor do we have many of the initial members who joined our team (more on this later).

 

We are currently a solid team of sixty to sixty-five members, forty-something of which are registered, competing USAW members. We see some fluctuation because we always have at least three to five people on “Weightcation” in order to focus on other parts of life that are more of a priority than weightlifting. I, Jilly, am still the head coach; Brittany Rucker and Fernie Martinez are our two assistant weightlifting coaches. Richard Pena and Dakota Young, both powerlifters, are still involved with our club and help immensely with running our events, handling, programming and occasionally picking up some personal training hours for Brittany and myself.

 

Today, our members range from stay-at-home mom to world-level college-age athlete and we have everything in between. When Brittany and I started TSS Barbell, she and two other people were members; we had also two consistent personal training/programming clients. All of members were our friends before they were our clients. It was a very close-knit group of five-ish people who saw each other consistently four to five days a week.

 

A long time ago, I had a teacher who said “We are a team, not a family, because every family has a degree of dysfunctionality. Families are dysfunctional because you can’t choose your blood.” This has stuck with me for a long time. What I discovered in the first few months of forming the club was how dysfunctional not only small training groups were, but how quickly it can spread to personal relationships as well. Working out with the same five, then seven, then eleven, and then fifteen members resulted in the formation of cliques with friendships that well extended past “training partners.” Having so few athletes, I became heavily invested in some of their lives, not only in the gym, but also outside of the gym, as they did in mine. While this may work for some club owners, what I found was that when we grew to twenty members, thirty members, and then forty and fifty members that the original ten felt they were not receiving enough of my attention, or that I didn’t care about them as people.

 

Experiencing such rapid growth in a year, we expected some members to leave. What I did not expect was almost all of them to leave: It turned out to be the best thing that could have ever happened to our team. So, to keep from rambling I have come up with some major points of reflection:

 

Start where you are, work with what you have and do not grow complacent.

When we first moved into Texas Strength Systems, there was very little organization, hardly any rules, no schedule, no systems, no cleaning services; frankly, it was a mess. We formed our “club” within a dysfunctional environment out of a dysfunctional situation. Brittany and I didn’t realize we ourselves as people would have to grow and change dramatically in order to become coaches to lead a “team.” Our club was born out of necessity because I made a living coaching and could no longer coach at the facility I was previously working in. Brittany and I moved into a facility with a TON of potential, but no direction.

 

When you have to create something out of nothing for the first time, you go through a lot of trial and error. Originally, our members would just show up and train together randomly and I would coach here and there and charge $50 for monthly programming. Our schedule was wide open, we had very few clients and it often felt like a hangout session. Some people came to our facility and liked its “grunge” factor. Others stayed away and wanted something with more training options, set “class” times, and flexibility and we would scoff at them.

 

We did not try to do everything all at once: We started with five members and we accommodated them excellently, like any coach can with that few of members. Then we had ten members, so we expanded the platforms as well as our coaching services (one-on-one sessions, $70 for one to two hours). When we reached twenty members, we created a team training schedule and implemented our first set of “Team Standards.” I remember the second time we brought up Team Standards, three people quit the team. It’s hard to watch money walking out the door, but it’s important to realize that was really all it was: Those “team members” were not there for the team at all, they were there for themselves and felt entitled to acting or behaving a certain that Brittany and I no believed met our “Team Standards.” Standards became necessary to facilitate the growth of the team and keep it moving forward in a direction we were proud of.

 

When we hit thirty members, we expanded the platforms again and increased the length of practice time from an hour and a half to two hours. When we hit forty members, we put out a new set of “Team Standards” and moved to a bigger section of the gym. There were many, many emotional days, long nights, arguments, meetings and when it was all said and done, there was growth. Change. Losses. Major wins. When I look at my club today, I see a well-oiled machine: It is large enough where there are only pockets of  friends or people who joined together, new faces are always welcome, and everyone, quite literally everyone, gets along or I just ask them to leave: “Firing” clients was something I was afraid to do when we started: I have learned that some people are so dysfunctional that it’s totally necessary.

 

There is no such thing as too much growth. There is only supply, demand and adaptation.

 

The majority of the original ten members, who enjoyed constant one-on-one attention, and accessibility to “free” coaching we very displeased with the growth of the club. We received questions like, “How big is too big? When will you cap the club?” I had always envisioned a “team” not a club, and growing to a “team” status meant we would have to leave the “club” behavior and attitudes behind and welcome new members with open arms. It was necessary to adapt to the large number of our athletes who wanted to train with us.

 

I have a background in Exercise Physiology and Economics (University of Miami, B.S. 2014): I am very familiar with the concept of supply and demand. Our demand for coaching and programming services increased exponentially since October 2016, so we brought on additional coaches to meet our demand and increased the size of our training area. Our demand kept increasing, so we increased our prices, which didn’t slow growth significantly. I loved the growth and I loved the changes I was seeing in our membership: We saw an increase in educated adults and college kids, small business owners and most interestingly, other coaches who were looking to be coached.

 

Unfortunately, not everyone loved the changes our business experienced. Some felt that their $50 for programming should include the same coaching experience they had when the club first started. Some members did not want to compete locally twice a year (a requirement they felt we should have “disclosed” when they joined before we had Standards). The truth of the matter is that we knew how inexperienced we were as far as running a business and so our $50 a month pricing reflected our inexperience and the little demand we had for our services.

 

The more experienced me became, the more some elements of the team improved dramatically (like our training area). Accessibility to free one-on-one coaching became nonexistent. Thus, members who felt like it “wasn’t what they signed up for” or were looking for special treatment left. Our members who loved the new gym additions, who grew with us (we never increased our OG member pricing), stayed.

 

Our prices today are very fair, and some could say that they are even a little too low (surprise, they will be increasing for new members in 2018). In 2018, we will offer additional ala carte services as well as what our existing members can expect for the prices they currently pay so there is very little confusion going forward. Anyone who feels entitled for a service they are not currently paying for is welcome to go somewhere else: Every other weightlifting team in the San Antonio area is more expensive than we are, though I can not speak to the quality elsewhere.

 

It’s required to give back. It’s required to be a part of the weightlifting community.

 

As we began to grown, I understood that we needed to create more opportunities within the weightlifting community. TSS began hosting local USA Weightlifting meets and eventually, our first USAW Level 1 Course. Our meets were maybe my proudest achievements as a business owner this year. Not only did hosting meets demonstrate to our newer members how much support our team had from the Texas weightlifting community, but it required all of our team members to volunteer, pull together and learn new skills in order to host quality events for an affordable price.

 

Our meets truly show how much our team supports one another when we compete and when we hustle. Truly, no one hustles harder than our athletes and their families. I am the only local club director I know who pays ALL of their volunteers in apparel, services, or cold hard cash. I feel that effort should be rewarded since they are working for myself and their teammates, not themselves. This will not change in 2018. I work tirelessly to make sure our meet winners are awarded prizes and medals for their efforts as well.

 

There are some weightlifters who do not feel it is important to give back: They do not assistant coach, they do not volunteer for meets, they do not stay after they are done competing to support their teammates or to clean up. These examples are not isolated incidents, they are the same people who happen to be unavailable each and every time I ask for volunteers or put up the meet schedule.

 

Going forward in 2018, volunteering will be called “voluntolding:” If a member is unable to volunteer for even half a day for a meet they are competing in, (we host four to five meets a year), they will be required to pay for coaching services at that meets ($35 per local meet, $100 for away meets). I know some members will be upset. I also don’t care. Here is why:

 

You decided not to volunteer after you were done competing. Automatically I, your coach, have not-so-secretly decided that you think today is all about you (unless you have a damn good reason not to volunteer that you discussed with me prior. That is different). You show up, your coach writes your warm-ups (for free). Someone, one of your teammates or their family members, loads your warm up bar (no cost to you). You go out on that platform, you hit massive PR’s, and the announcer says that you qualified for your first national meet. That experience would not have happened for you without those volunteers or coaches helping you: If you disagree with me, you’re delusional.

 

But what about the forty or fifty dollars you paid to compete? Ten percent of that money went into an account for taxes. Another five percent went to the company we use to sell tickets. Sixty percent of that money went to medals and prizes. The remaining twenty to twenty five percent goes towards microphone rentals, the platform, the food for volunteers and all of the apparel we buy for our volunteers. We have LOST money on every single meet we held last year. Volunteering, giving back to your team and your community, will be a requirement to be a part of TSS Barbell in 2018.

 

Part II coming in January 2018

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Video Analysis

Hey guys! I wanted to make a quick post about video analysis for all TSS athletes:

1. Please do not text or email training videos. Please send training videos directly to your coach on Facebook messenger.

2. We will take between 24 and 48 hours to analyze your videos. On a typical day, I spend approximately two hours analyzing training videos before I go to bed (hence all of the 2:00 AM messages). I start back at the oldest videos and work my way forwards for two hours. If I do not respond right away, it’s because I accidentally opened your videos and I need more time to write a thoughtful critique back to you.

3. IN HOUSE ATHLETES ($65 for programming per month) are limited to 10 videos per week. REMOTE ATHLETES ($100 per month) are limited to 20 videos per week.

4. Please send two to three videos at a time so we can get you feedback sooner. If you send all 10, you will be likely be the only person who receives video coaching that day.

5. I often give a TON of feedback per video. If you are feeling overwhelmed, sending one to two videos at a time may be better than sending me eight videos of six different exercises.

6. Please film all exercises at a 45 degree angle unless otherwise noted in your programming.

7. If you have questions about which movements to film, please Facebook message your coach directly or send us an email at tssbarbell@gmail.com.

Thanks guys!

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TSS Heartbreaker Qualifier

TSS Barbell presents our second annual Heartbreaker Qualifier on January 27th, 2018:

This is a last chance qualifier for American Open Series I (The Arnold). Youth, Junior, and Open divisions offered! Medals will be awarded to the winners of each weight class (first through third place) for each division. Sinclair winners for the Open Women division and Open Men division will be awarded prizes from our title sponsors: Our past sponsors include United Lifters, Snortlife Singlets, Lifting Genie, Healthy Changes, and Gym Gypsy. Registration closes on January 21st! This is a USAW sanctioned meet: USAW MEMBERSHIP IS REQUIRED prior to entering and SINGLETS ARE REQUIRED to be worn during the competition.

Early Registration ONLY (through January 2nd (12:00 AM): $50

Late Registration ONLY (through January 22nd, 12:00 AM): $60
Pre-Order Event Shirt (Pick Up ONLY): $25 (available in crop top, t-shirt, or women’s muscle tank styles)

For Registration Go To:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tss-heartbreaker-qualifier-tickets-39734806877

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Culture by John Broz

ATTENTION: This article is taken from Average Broz’s Gymnasiums website. It is written by John Broz himself. The link to the entire article is: http://averagebroz.com/culture/

 

 

So what is Culture?

Culture is the soul of a Gym, Business, Club or Team.  It’s what defines it.  It’s the reason why people associate with or be become part of it.

OHC 4Here at ABG, it all began with my experiences.  I grew up in a very old-school gym.  Hand made equipment, vinyl half-moon gym bags, headbands, polyester bell bottom sweat pants, sweatshirts with the sleeves cut off, the smell of liniment and sweat.  Pull chain ceiling lights, two tiny obstructed windows that didn’t open, and one small one in the back that opened as far as its old, warped wood frame would allow– which wasn’t much.  The door was your only glimpse of the outside world.  The view was of inner city ghetto that you really didn’t want to see anyway.  When the door opened, everyone would stop training to look as if opening the refrigerator door at night.  It was a dark, dingy, old, and stinky place, but there was nowhere else in the world I’d rater be!  I miss that place.

What made this place so special?  The people and their attitudes.  It began with the head coach / owner.  He was a great man, an empathic man.  A man’s man.  Marine, Golden gloves boxer, Bodybuilder, and Weightlifter. His thundering laughs and never-ending stories kept you laughing and thinking.  The lifters were committed individuals–people who really wanted to be there.  Not people that were in and out, fly by night folks, but people who truly loved working out.  Driving from two hours away on weekends to come there was common place.  The kind of people who drop postcards to the gym on vacation to say hi, the kind where on their family holiday cards was a picture of young brothers doing a group deadlift.  Everyone’s expectations were high.  These people always expected more, the best from themselves.  Always aspiring to be better than the day before, in the gym and in life.  Good days or bad, they would always show up and put in work.  When someone hit a big lift, whether it was a PR or not, everyone would say nice job and really mean it.  People were truly happy for one another, and everyone fed off that positive energy.  It was contagious like laughter.  Great energy, big lifts, and laughs were the norm.  No matter how bad your day was, just being there made everything ok.  These were the happiest days of my childhood.  The mentorship that was provided by the elders to the younger lifters transcended lifting into life lessons.  The collective experience, history, and wisdom was just another reason to want to be a part of that gym.

We never listened to music.  Radios were not allowed.  Earphones?  Never.  The silence of the gym was broken by the clanging of iron, the banging of dropping heavy cleans, or just a simple question or story that someone would tell.  The stories became epic, and the group laughs loud.  The camaraderie that was developed lasted a lifetime for most of us.  Most of my friends I have today were met in gyms over the years.  Regardless if my friends still compete or even lift at all, we still remain friends.  It’s the bond  you make when you train hard, share pain, excitement, frustration and joy with other warriors of the iron game, regardless of sport.  Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, or Weightlifting.  It didn’t matter.We always showed respect to each other.  OHC 3Respect by paying attention and not walking in front of someone when he were lifting.  To be attentive of how much others were lifting and to help watch their form.  To help out as you would want to be helped.  To be quiet and stop — regardless of what you were doing, even mid-set when someone was attempting a PR or huge lift.  To not walk over a loaded barbell.  By not putting your feet on the plates or stepping on plates lying on the floor.  To put your stuff away and go the extra mile to help keep the place tidy.  By not showboating, screaming or slamming equipment.  To be humble, modest, and grateful.  By being a true sportsman and to genuinely care for your other lifters, like brothers.

There were times when someone didn’t fit the mold.  Could be they were obnoxious, disrespectful, loud, or rude. It didn’t matter.  The owner simply told them to leave and never return.  When I was younger I clearly understood.  They didn’t fit in.  They weren’t one of US.  As I got older, I realized that he was actually throwing money out the door.  He was firing customers.  It was then I knew why.  Like a father to us all, he was protecting the integrity of the gym — its culture.  It must be preserved and cherished at any cost, even if he lost income.  He clearly knew culture is what makes a house a home, and what makes an old building in the ghetto the coolest place in the world.

 

My goal at ABG is to duplicate that environment the best I can.  We have ejected people who didn’t fit our culture.  Not because of how much they lift, but because of their attitude and the negative effect it has on everyone.  We have also embraced homeless kids, total strangers, and visitors with open arms.  It’s all about attitude.

 

ABG 1When I first started ABG, it had no name.  No ideas of becoming a gym or even a club.  At the time I owned a granite countertop business, along with a mortgage company.  I was so busy with both that it became difficult to make it across town to train, so I took a small room in one of my offices that was supposed to be a showroom for the granite, and moved some of my weights in.  I began to train daily, but it was not as fun or as effective as it used to be.  Even at the now-closed Golds Gym on Flamingo, where I lifted for over ten years, there were other bodies around.  They were not Weightlifters, but it didn’t matter to me.  That place had culture.  It was THE gym in Vegas.  All the “hard core” people would flock from all directions to train there.  It was the dumpiest location of all the Golds’, but for serious people, the only one.  Because there were like-minded people there, regardless of sport I was able to train effectively.  After I moved my things out of there and into my makeshift gym / showroom, I needed to create an atmosphere.  I went to the National High School Power Clean Championships here in town and asked some of the class winners who were seniors if they wanted to continue to do the lifts after they graduated.  A small group took me up on my offer.  My motive was simple: Get like-minded training partners to build an atmosphere that I could make gains in, as could they.
It was not because I wanted to coach them, and I didn’t recruit them with lofty goals of world domination and Olympic glory.  My sole motivation was to benefit myself as much as them by providing an awesome place to train for guys who live to lift.  I chose class winners because I wanted their mentality around me.  To be the best, you must so desire.  Winning does not happen by accident.  It happens by design.  These kids had the same mentality I had developed, but they simply weren’t aware of it.  As time went on, I noticed they didn’t know fundamentals, gym etiquette or how to lift properly and I fell into the coaching role.  It was not my initial desire, but because I invited them it became my responsibility.  I’m grateful that it did.OHCAs others came by, they either fit in or didn’t.  People came, people went.  The like minded always stayed.  As time progressed, the word spread.  When like-minded people find each other the energy multiplies.  It attracted more like minded lifters.  As we grew, granite equipment slowly moved out, and more weights moved in.  Ultimately we out grew that space, so I sold those businesses, and we moved and and opened a real gym.  One of the lifters came up with ABG when we needed a name before our first team meet in Utah, which we won.  Average Broz’s Gymnasium was born.  I was an average lifter, so it all made sense.

 

Evolving from lifter to coach, I find myself telling stories about lifting and life just like John, my first coach used to do.   When John passed away a few years ago, I was the one blessed with the job of closing down that historic place, just as we were moving into the new gym.  It was as if the torch was passed from OHC to ABG, from one John to another.  I have the original outside gym sign hanging up inside at ABG as a daily reminder of where I came from and where we must go.  I hope I do him proud and keep that culture alive for generations to come.

Today we all try to do our best, regardless of what is going on in our lives, how much is on the bar, and whatever our age may be. This is what we are all about. Helping and encouraging one another, staying positive, and most of all telling epic stories and building life-long friendships.

If you find yourself in town and want to swing by, we love meeting and training with others like us.  It’s not how much you lift, but how you try that matters.

John Broz

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Standards

DSC_6904

 

We get a lot of questions about what it takes to be a weightlifter on TSS Barbell: We have athletes varying from college students to military officers to stay-at-home moms and even a nurse practitioner. We don’t require that our athletes compete on a national level; Bringing us home medals isn’t a requirement either. We don’t offer discounted programming because you’re a more talented weightlifter than the guy or girl on the platform lifting next to you. We do ask that every member gives us 100% of their effort the moment they walk in the door to warm up and that weightlifting is a priority.  We require that members are uplifting and supportive of their teammates. Most of all, we require that our athletes have goals and they stay in communication with their coaches to achieve them. Below is what we consider our “Team Standards:” We have created these standards to facilitate an environment that we feel best represents our culture and what we believe in.

TSS BARBELL STANDARDS 10/2017

 

  1. Register and compete in at least two meets on the team schedule per calendar year.

 

2. Pay for programming and coaching on time via Square or cash. Keep card information up to date on Square.

 

  1. Complete all programming as written unless discussed with Brittany, Fernie or Jilly BEFORE or during training sessions (not after the fact) on the days of the week we have written in the program. Not completing programming as written is a three strike policy: We will sit down and discuss why you decided to work off programming after the first incident: Examples of “working off the programming” include engaging in strenuous training that has not been previously discussed with us, such as intense conditioning workouts or maxing out above the prescribed work. If it is discovered you have worked off the programming a second time after our discussion, your membership will be suspended. We will resume writing programming when you agree that you can and will to the best of your ability follow your program and sign a written commitment agreeing to following our training protocol moving forward. If the commitment is found to be broken a third time, the member will be asked to leave the team without refund.      **We have included more information below about what it means to “work off programming.”

 

  1. Record results and important information regarding training in Google Drive each week before 10:00 PM on Sunday.

 

  1. Attend Practice (on time) at least once a week. This rule only applies to our in-house lifters, not our semi-remote or remote athletes, although attending is highly encouraged.

 

  1. Clean up after Practice (wipe plates, wipe bars, sweep platform).

 

  1. Come to coaches with questions via email or during Practice when the coach is not directly coaching. If you have many questions, attend Weightlifting Therapy on Thursdays at 6:30 PM: You have an hour window to ask our coaches questions regarding weightlifting or competing.

 

  1. Be respectful of all teammates and coaches. Be encouraging, supportive, and positive. If your attitude is more negative than positive, you are not upholding the standard.

 

  1. Act appropriately during training and competition. An example of acting inappropriately would be bar slamming 75% of your max and/or flicking off the bar.

 

  1. Respond to all questions pertaining to your name on the team whiteboard or in the WHITEBOARD Google Doc if you are remote. The WHITEBOARD Google Doc is located in the same Doc as our team Meet Schedule.

 

  1. Keep personal issues personal and outside of the gym: There are exceptions to this standard, like after Practice if you need to talk to one of our coaches one-on-one or you’re just having a really bad day and you don’t realize it until you pick up a barbell. However, we have a zero tolerance policy for members who knowingly come into the gym and bring personal matters from outside the gym onto the platform. If you find yourself in a rough spot and you need to talk to one of us, call us so we can help you get back to a more positive mindset to train or so that we can refer you to our team therapist.

 

Meeting the standards above are the bare requirement to remain a member of TSS Barbell. For some individuals looking to join the team, those standards may be daunting and it will deter those individuals from joining. Here is what our “best” athletes do to separate themselves from the rest:

 

  1. Participate in most or every event (home meets, away meets, team dinners, etc.) and encourage their teammates to do the same.

 

  1. Volunteer for all team-related activities (Weightlifting For Free Day, home meets, etc.)

 

  1. Show up early to Practice to be ready to train when Practice starts.

 

  1. ALWAYS elevate the mood of teammates who may be having a bad day with encouragement or support.

 

  1. Clean up or assist teammates in cleaning up their platforms above and beyond the basic requirements.

 

  1. Email Jilly, Fernie or Brittany questions or issues that need resolved if they are questions/issues that require us to stop coaching during Practice and conduct research to answer them.

 

  1. Ask Jilly, Brittany or Fernie for private coaching outside of Practice to reach your goals.

 

  1. Create goals that are challenging, but achievable. The athlete continually shares these goals with their coach so that we can help in any way we know how to reach them and write effective programming for each athlete.

 

  1. Demonstrate personal growth as a result of participating in TSS Barbell. A good example of this is wanting to learn more about the coaching process and enlisting Brittany or Jilly to assist with the process. Another example would be a new member with a negative attitude who transitions into an experienced member who is positive and eventually elevates the moods of other members.

 

Working Off Programming

Working off the program is blatantly disregarding the program and choosing to 1) Engage in other strenuous weightlifting work in place of what is written, 2) Engaging in excessive conditioning (Hero-Type CrossFit workouts, CrossFit competitions, Spartan Races) in place of what is programmed or 3) Not completing the workouts at all without discussing reasoning with your coach, or 4) Maxing out movements that have not been programmed as maxes without your coach’s consent.

Requirements for the military branches, attending GPP class even though it was not programmed, occasionally pushing training back a day (but completing the days in order as written as discussed with your coach), adding in more body building or accessory work, dropping into the occasional fitness class with a friend are ALL acceptable and are NOT examples of working off the programming.

Most members of the team are learning to be weightlifters. Experienced weightlifters have more say in adjustments to their programs. Every member of our team has hired TSS Training, LLC to achieve a specific weightlifting goal. This rule is for individuals who are not used to being held to a standard and prefer more choice in their workout activities and use programming as a guideline. These individuals may prefer to make their own programming choices instead of leaving them up to the coaches they hired for this very purpose and thus do not require our coaching services, nor do they necessarily need to be a member of our team.

For those athletes mentioned above and those athletes alone, we have the strictest rules around programming. Our standards are in place to keep you healthy, to monitor your progress and to ensure that you reach your goals. If you have a concern regarding your programming, we are always available to talk so we can modify programming to better fit your schedule and your needs. What is not allowed is significant modification to the program without coach’s consent.

Weightlifting is not an inherently dangerous sport, but engaging in any form of strenuous strength training needs to be monitored and programmed safely (we carry insurance for this very purpose). If any athlete puts themselves and thus our business at risk, it is our responsibility as coaches to have a discussion with the athlete and outline the reasons as to why following their program is so important.

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Overhead Stability: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

If you have been in strength sports long enough, you probably have had some interaction or experience like this in regards to overhead lifting:

“I don’t have enough shoulder mobility.”

“I can’t get locked out.”

“I lose the bar (insert direction here)”

Moreover for some, if you were to seek medical advice about it the general response would be not to lift overhead at all. Fortunately, that perspective is relatively misinformed and doesn’t hold much clout, especially if you were to reference any national or world record attempt in weightlifting or strongman.

 

The reality is your shoulders were meant to do many things, including putting stuff over your head, and they can be very effective at accepting weight (see above) when assessed and trained properly. To do so, there needs to be an understanding of how the shoulder works and how to make the most of it during training.

Shoulder Anatomy and Biomechanics

Let’s step back into the science classroom for a moment and talk anatomy. The shoulder complex has multiple joints with different mechanisms that all work together to raise and lower the arm. This includes the glenohumeral joint (GHJ), acromioclavicular joint (ACJ), the sternoclavicular joint (SCJ),  and the scapulothoracic junction (which is a combination of the upper thoracic spine and corresponding joints as well as the scapula and its attachments to the rest of the complex).

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 9.33.43 AM

(Source: Shoulderdoc.co.uk)

In context with the muscles and ligaments, arm elevation looks like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDW5eO593Nw (embed)

As the video illustrates, there are many moving pieces to the puzzle, but when broken down the components can help guide a more comprehensive training.

All of the joints involved in the shoulder complex have their own movements (arthrokinematics). To begin, the GHJ is a ball (humerus) and socket (glenoid cavity) joint which means many degrees of freedom for movement at the price of a lack of stability. Most of the supportive structures around that joint are ligaments, and the muscles have the double duty of providing extra support as well as generate movement. The muscles work in force couples that allow for the humerus to roll/glide in the glenoid cavity(deltoid primarily) while also stay seated in the joint properly for maximum range and stability (rotator cuff group, serratus anterior). The next piece to the shoulder puzzle is the scapulothoracic junction. This is part of the reason why it is common to hear about shoulder injuries in strength sports and the fitness world as well as in the general population. Conversely, the SCJ is a saddle joint which means it has limited degrees of movement and is more stable.  For the arm to raise, the distal end of the clavicle raises and tilts back while the proximal end moves downward. It is not as common to have many injuries in this area, but it does happen. Since the scapula doesn’t attach like a traditional joint, its movement is dependent on the surrounding musculature. The spine of the scapula has ligamentous attachments to the clavicle which is another component of the shoulder complex. The scapula has to slide out and upwardly rotate in rhythm for the arm to raise.

(Scapula movement video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VygGuBObVc

This movement is caused by the force couple of the middle and lower traps (abduction) and serratus anterior with teres minor (upward rotation). The scapula is seated above the posterior thorax cavity and held in place by the rhomboid group, trapezius, and upper border of the latissimus dorsi. Scapular movement has to occur at a specific point in the shoulder range, and the muscles surrounding the scapula play a part in stabilizing the shoulder as well. Commonly, strength and coordination deficiencies are seen surrounding the scapula which leads to range of motion restrictions and subsequent compensations in other movement patterns.

Flexion vs. Scaption: Moving in Different Planes

As you’re reading this article, raise your arm up overhead (if people look at you funny, tell them the article told you to do it). If you raised your arm right in front and overhead, that is considered forward flexion. Lifting wise, this correlates to presses and jerks. If you were to raise your arm out to the side and then overhead, this is considered abduction (think lateral shoulder raises). If you move in a plane right in between forward flexion and abduction, this is considered scaption or the scapular plane. This is roughly where the snatch receiving position is for most people. All of the mechanics discussed above occur in both movements, however, result in different arm positioning. In forward flexion, the line of force (or direction where load/weight is transferred) is straight down the arm and has slightly higher flexibility demands to reach completely overhead. Conversely, with scaption, the line of force is more at an angle. This is more advantageous when the angle is in line with the scapula, especially when it comes to accepting load overhead. In the snatch or its pressing variations, in most cases, it is the most secure position to press from at that angle. However, more weight is typically lifted in jerk or push press because the trunk support is better suited for pressing. As discussed above there are many factors that go into both movements and any overhead reaching/lifting, but there are nuances that make them different. And they should be trained differently as well. In the next installment, we’ll take a look at how to take care of our shoulders, train them more effectively, and take your lifting to the next level.

Stay strong and move well friends!

Josh

About Me Blurb:

Josh Walters is a physical therapist, barbell junkie, music enthusiast, and part time foodie from Albany, Oregon. His sports and training background spans 10+ years including high school football and track, powerlifting, bodybuilding, CrossFit, and Olympic weightlifting. He trains out of Crossfit Train in Corvallis, Oregon as a 105+ kg weightlifter when he is not working with patients at Samaritan Community Hospital. Most of his philosophy in training and treatment is evidence informed, but effectively practical. Currently, he is working on finishing his sports medicine certifications, coaching credentials, and partnering with local community projects. Find him on social media here:

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Training Log

The Training Log is designed to be filled out every day while you are training or immediately after training. I have noticed that many of you are still struggling to write goals on the goal board each week. This document, in conjunction with your program, is designed to develop your mental preparation skills as a weightlifter and to give you a space to reflect on why you are pursuing weightlifting each and every day. Answering these questions each and every training session provides the qualitative data that is often lacking in your Google Docs. This document also gives you a space to record your top “priorities” for each week and each session. Having priorities at the top of mind is of the utmost importance to keep each of us in a positive mindset during Practice. Actively writing down our priorities will help you to create a weekly goal to share with the team each week on our goal board.
This Training Log will be required to be filled out by our lifters who are on our National Team. The National Team requirement is simple: You compete in, not just qualify for, at least one National level meet per year with TSS Barbell. National level include those competing in the AO Series or higher level competitions. Beginning next week, I will be providing a space in your Google Doc to log this information.
At the start of every new cycle, the National team members will receive a complimentary two hour planning session with myself or Brittany to discuss the upcoming qualitative and quantitative goals we have for each cycle. These sessions will be treated as planning sessions and the goals that are discussed in these sessions will be logged in a separate Google Doc for each athlete. These sessions may be completed at the gym, remotely via Skype or phone, or off-site at a coffee shop or similar space. If the Training Log is not filled out by the lifter for each session in their Google Doc leading up to the Planning Session, the Planning Session will be billed and is still required. So, National Level Lifters, beginning next week, PLEASE pay attention to your new Training Log requirements.
Many of you in this group can still benefit from completing the Training Log for each of your training sessions. If you are NOT on the National Team, but would like to have this document added in to your programming, please comment below. If you are completing the Training Log and would like to also schedule a two hour Planning Session each cycle to sit down and discuss your goals with your coach, this option is open to anyone. The cost per planning session will be $50 and will be billed via Square and scheduled like a private.