TAKE CARE OF YOUR HANDS

By JIM SCHMITZ,

US OLYMPIC TEAM WEIGHTLIFTING COACH – 1980, 88, & 92

An often over looked area of the body by weightlifters is their hands.  Now Milo readers know how important the grip and the hands are, but many weightlifters take their grip and hands for granted.  I guess this is due to using the hook grip (wrapping the thumb around the bar, then grabbing the thumb with the fingers), using straps, or just not lifting enough weight where grip is an issue, thinking the grip will just get stronger as the lifter gets stronger.  To some extent this is true.   I’ve seen many lifts missed due to hand problems, from losing the grip to tearing a callus.  Two situations I think can be avoided.

I will deal with the care of the hands first.  The first thing beginners and those coming back from a long layoff notice is how tender and soft their hands have become.  So, just as the body has to get back in shape, so do the hands.  So, the light weights your using will toughen up the hands as your body gets stronger, but your hands will hurt some and be a little sore just as your body will be.  The first thing you’ll notice is the build up of the calluses on your hands and this is good, but you have to take care of them so they don’t get too big because then they will tear and that’s painful, bloody, and a big distraction to your training.  After you’ve torn a callus you have to tape the hand in order to continue lifting and most people don’t know how to best tape an injured hand or have a trainer around to do it for them.  After you’ve taped the hand the bar just doesn’t feel right for the next few lifts.  So, we want to prevent callus tears.  First, have some nail clippers in your training bag and a file or emery board.  You want to file your calluses down before they get too big.  However, if you do tear, then you need the clippers to trim away the torn skin.  Another thing that contributes to tears is chalk (magnesium carbonate), it dries out the hands too much for some people.  So, I recommend not using chalk for your light weights and when you do use it use it sparingly, just enough to get the job done.  And after each workout use a medicated hand lotion and rub it into your hands thoroughly.

The next part of hand care is strengthening them.  Yes, they will get stronger from just lifting the weights.  A gym owner once told me you don’t need to work your forearms because every time you grab a weight you are working your grip and forearms.   Well, I don’t think that is enough for anyone who wants to be real strong and lift real big weights.  Now you Milo crushers have super grips because you work at it, so weightlifters must do the same.  I recommend wrist curls, pinch gripping plates for time, hanging from a thick bar for time, and working out on grippers, ones that you can only do 5 reps initially and building up to sets of 10 reps.

Two great demonstrations of grip strength that I witnessed were, 77 year old Karl Norberg pinch gripping a York 45 pound (20.5 k) plate by the hub with three 10 pound (4.5 k) plates placed between the rim and hub and lifting the 75 pounds (34 k) from the floor and placing it on a bench press bench.  The other was Bruce Wilhelm pinch gripping a pair of Eleiko 25 kilo plates by the rim and curling and pressing them overhead.

So, take care of and strengthen your hands, don’t neglect them.

TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks to my good friend Jim Schmitz for his excllent areticle this week.

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O.S.W. vs H.I.T.

It is not unusual to find the strength training community divided when it comes to what style of training is best or how and when to employ the many training techniques and variables that are available. One of the most classic battles one finds is the one between the proponents of High Intensity Training or H.I.T. and those coaches and athletes who seem to prefer Olympic Style Weight Lifting or O.S.W. I personally have never really understood the almost religious fanaticism with which some may argue for or against their preferred approach to getting stronger.

For years I have been a fan of brief, intense and infrequent training. Having tried just about every one of the recognized (as well as the obscure) training programs that have come along in the last twenty years, I can honestly say that this is still true today. My goal has always been to find the precise amount of volume, frequency and intensity that will allow me to reach my goals with maximum efficiency and minimum down time. With years of trial and error, creative experimentation and hard work under my belt I have discovered a few combinations that seem to produce consistent results.

Now counter to the notion of this brief, intense, infrequent style of training, often referred to as H.I.T., I am also a fan of Olympic style weightlifting. For many this might seem odd. For some it may seem that the two styles are not compatible with one another. I assure you it is not odd, and they are very compatible. Olympic style weightlifting is very technical. The movements are often difficult to master and some of the positions may cause a great deal of discomfort in the early stages of learning. I guess that is one of the reasons I enjoy Olympic style weightlifting, the focus and attention to detail that is required to attain a sense of mastery is a lifetime journey. Almost anyone can learn to work hard on a basic movement such as a Lat Pull-down or a seated Row but to truly master the Snatch or Clean and Jerk requires far more patience and dedication. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all about hard work on the basics when it comes to efficient strength training. I am not one of those coaches who feels that Olympic style weightlifting is required for athletic success (unless of course you are an Olympic Weightlifter). But I do enjoy it and that is why I often include some Olympic style weightlifting movements in my personal training plan.

One way to combine the more classic H.I.T. style of training with Olympic style weightlifting is as follows. Start with a basic O-lifting routine*. Practice this routine in a strict order of exercises as well as sets, reps and rest periods. For your H.I.T. training days create short routines which are made up of basic pushing, pulling and squatting movements along with some assistance exercises. Perform these in a classic High tension Low force manner with an emphasis on slow, controlled movement. Workout roughly every other day alternating one of these basic H.I.T. routines with the O-lifting routine. In this way you will perform both the O-lifting and H.I.T. routines three times every two weeks. Use the O-lifting days as more technique polishing and active recovery days. Still train hard and heavy however do not train to failure and strive to always leave a few reps in the tank. On the H.I.T. days perform single sets to failure of a handful of movements and strive to take each set to the limit. This can be an excellent way to combine these two styles of lifting, reaping the maximum benefit that each has to offer while maintaining a balance between stimulus and recovery.

If you have always been a practitioner of either one or the other of these two styles of lifting perhaps now is the time to try something new. If you have never tried O.S.W. then I recommend that you find a qualified coach for your initial instruction as this style of lifting is quite technical. If you have rarely if ever trained to momentary muscular failure then ease into it as the muscular soreness that is sometimes associated with this style of training can be quite intense. What ever style of lifting you use, be sure to have a spotter where applicable. Get strong in the gym, never get injured.

Give this H.I.T. / O.S.W. combination a try and I think you may find it to be a fun and effective way to reap the rewards that each of these styles of training has to offer.

PAU for NOW

TAKU

Example O.S.W. / H.I.T. Hybrid:

For the O-lifts I tend to stick with each routine for 12 workouts which following the above described pattern sees me changing things up about every eight weeks or so. On the H.I.T. days I get a little more creative varying the order of the exercises, reps, and rest intervals as well as employing advanced overload techniques when my energy and recovery allow. Keep in mind that these routines are just a few examples of thousands that you could employ.

O.S.W. Workout 1: (*Courtesy of Jim Schmitz)

1. Hang Power Snatch 5 x 5
2. Hang Power Clean 5 x 5
3. Clean Deadlift & Shrug 5 x 5
4. Push Press 5 x 5
5. Front Squat 5 x 5
6. Over Head Squat 3 x 5
7. Bench Press 3 x 10-8-6

H.I.T. Workouts

Workout 1. (A.J. Classic)

1. Squat 1 x 20
2. Single Leg Calf Raise 1 x 20 (each leg)
3. Standing Shoulder Press 1 x 10
4. Chin-up (weighted) 1 x 10
5. Dip (weighted) 1 x 10
6. Barbell Curl 1 x 10
7. Straight-legged Deadlift 1 x 15

Workout 2.

1. Dumbbell Squat 1 x 8-12
2. Dumbbell Fly 1 x 8-12
3. Dumbbell Lunge (stepping back) 1 x 8-12
4. Seated Cable row 1 x 8-12
5. Dumbbell Alternating Upright row 1 x 8-12
6. Triceps Over head extension 1 x 8-12
7. Dumbbell Incline curl 1 x 8-12

Workout 3.

1. Back Squat 1 x 8-12
2. Barbell Bench Press 1 x 8-12
3. Barbell Lunge (stepping forward) 1 x 8-12
4. Wide Lat Pull-down (in front) 1 x 8-12
5. Dumbbell Seated Press 1 x 8-12
6. Cable Curl 1 x 8-12
7. Cable Triceps Push-down 1 x 8-12