2/17/10, Strength-Speed Work with Dumbbell Snatches (aka The Cred)

The Cred and only The Cred today; approximately 45 minutes worth.  Unfamiliar with the exercise?  Check out this post.  Also, the athlete below (a Mike Boyle disciple) pulls-off a pretty sweet (and technically flawless) version.

Here’s how my rounds with the exercise looked today (all noted reps are per each arm):

60 x 5; 80 x 3; 90 x 3; 95 x 2; 100 x 1; 105 x 7 singles*

*Right arm rep, immediately followed by the left arm rep, with approximately 3-minutes rest between right arm/left arm “sets”.

Multi-rep sets were done all with one arm, then all with left, i.e., with 60 lb set, I did 5 right arm reps immediately followed by 5 left arm reps.

Why the dumbbell version?  Why not man-up and hit it with a barbell?
Couple of reasons for this. First off, I love the barbell power snatch — however, that love is unrequetted, at least when it comes to my shoulders.  I think this has more to do with the lingering effects of life spent trading licks the grid-iron (American football) than anything else.  But whatever the reason, the db version allows for a catch that is in more of a neutral, shoulder-and-hand/wrist-friendly position, therefore eliminating any resultant shoulder pain.  I also like the unbalanced loading the db version offers.  Is it more “real world”?  Meh, maybe so – though I still prefer the barbell version if I’m concentrating solely on the pull (either high or low), simply because I can load-up the bar with more weight.  Every now and again, though, I’ll do a single-arm high pull with a heavy db, just to change things up a bit.  Mostly, though, I pull (heavy) with the barbell version, but I rely on The Cred when I’m looking to do the full version of the movement.

Of Note:
Anyone catch Rob Orlando on the CrossFit Journal, speaking about his Hybrid Winter Challenge creation?  Good stuff, for sure.  And hey, I can count the number of times on one hand that I’ve actually performed a CrossFit WOD as Rx’d, but I still believe that this is the best 25 bucks per year you can drop.  And yeah, they totally f’d-up in what ultimately resulted as the whole Robb Wolf debacle, but that act of lunacy doesn’t negate the fantastic work they do with the Journal.  As with all sources of information (this joint included) take what is useful to you and disregard the rest.   Anyway, I’ve got my own ideas on what I’d like to see comprise a sprinter/power athlete’s decathlon.  Maybe I’ll post it up over the weekend and we can dissect it.

And another note…
I seem to be detecting a bit of strength imbalance/instability, especially in my lower body.  This may be as a result of not being able to sprint as much as I’d like over the last month or so.  In any event, you’ll see me start to work-in some more single-limb exercises over the next few weeks to clear that stuff up.  This is the nature of keen vigilance and constant reassessment.   

A Better Exercise Than the Squat? Well, It Depends!

“Do not attach yourself to any particular creed exclusively, so that you may disbelieve all the rest; otherwise you will lose much good, nay, you will fail to recognize the truth of the matter.”

Ibn al-Arabi

It’s not often that I fully agree with strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle (here’s one example) — but then again, I don’t fully follow any single coach’s path, preferring, instead, to blaze my own n=1 trail.  On the subject of the back squat, however, I have to give the man his due; I believe he is spot on in his critique of the exercise and with his assertion that most trainees would be better off (subsequent to building a solid, base level of squatting strength)  migrating from the back squat to the various forms of split squats, especially the rear foot elevated split squat.  And I would add to this, variations of the high-box step-up.

A Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS)…Huh?

Just so we’re all on the same page, here an example of the RFESS:

…and the step-up:

Why would I champion the idea of most trainees phasing out the back squat in preference to split squat variations and step-ups?  Well, a couple of reasons.  To begin with, most all athletic endeavors, as well as life itself, requires lower-body strength in a unilateral environment.  A second reason is that most trainees will fail in the squat, not due to leg failure, but due to lower back failure; quite simply, the lower back cannot support the load required to push the legs, in a bilateral environment, to failure.  Ah, you say — so would the leg press be a better option?  Well, in some trainees it might be, but for the most part I’d rather work in the real-world of an unstable environment.

Built for Traditional Squats?

Check out my little whiteboard sketch below.  Really, this is no more than a statement of the obvious — if a load is teetering on a narrow base, and if that load must be pushed a greater distance and if the load/lever combination is at a mechanical disadvantage with respect to gravity — well, you get the picture…What all this boils down to, in my experience and my empirical evidence, is a simple waist/inseam ratio.  The lesser the ratio, the lesser the benefit a trainee will realize from conventional back squatting, and the sooner in his lifting career he probably ought to transition to a unilateral environment.

whiteboard "wisdom"
whiteboard “wisdom”

Personally, I have a hell of a time trying to fully tax my legs in a full back squat with a 33-inch waist sitting high atop a 35-inch inseam.  But here are a couple of other interesting pieces of the puzzle that I’ve yet to get a handle on: (1) power generation out of the jump squat, and (2) glute/hamstring contribution, and how that figures into the mix.  Notice that at a 33-inch waist and 40-inches around the  hips, I do carry quite a bit of junk in the trunk.  Now follow me here just for a moment, while I “think” aloud: (1) When I fail in the squat, it’s never “in the hole”, where the glutes are fully engaged — it’s about midway up, where that lower back lever is at its worst mechanical advantage, and where glute activation has been (relatively) removed from the picture, (2) I can wreck my Dachshund-built, squatting-machine brethren in the high step up, which is mostly a glute-driven exercise (see this TMuscle article), and (3) I can’t prove this, but I would be willing to bet that I can also generate more power from (and posses a greater power/bw ratio) in the jump squat than my Dachshund-built, squatting-machine brethren.   My point with all of this?  The notion of  “training what you suck at” — which I agree with, to a point — must not be followed blindly, but must be leveraged against what stands to make the athlete a better athlete, or the mere mortal, better at life.

So that’s my take on the matter.  For what it’s worth, the vast majority of my bilateral squatting (which is pretty infrequent, when compared to my unilateral work) is done as a front squat — I’ve just always felt like I reaped more benefit out of this movement as compared to the back squat.   You can check out coach Boyle’s reasoning for moving away from the bilateral squat, in a pair of  TMuscle articles, this one from 2007, and most recently, here.  And you can see a clip of coach Boyle discussing the matter here, as a plug for his Functional Strength Coach 3.0 video series, and you can check out his blog posts on the subject, here.

And there’s plenty of ongoing discussion on the subject at this string, at the JP Fitness Forums site.

Remember, as always, the real answer to this question can only be answered by an objective survey of your own n=1 results as they relate to your goals.  Don’t be afraid, though, to test, tinker and adjust.  Remember, to, that there are no failures, only feedback.

In health,

Keith