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Beyond the Light: Uncovering What Stops You From Breaking Through Training Plateaus

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Articles/Body Alignment/Beyond the Light: Uncovering What Stops You From Breaking Through Training Plateaus

A Story Of The Search For A Key

In the quiet of an evening, a man was meticulously searching under the glow of a bright streetlight. Upon inquiring about his actions, he shared that he was looking for his keys.

Despite a thorough search together, the keys remained elusive. When asked if he was certain he dropped them there, his response was intriguing.

”No, but this is where the light is."

This anecdote serves as a powerful metaphor for a common pitfall in athletic training, where individuals focus solely on what is immediately visible or known, often overlooking the underlying issues or root causes that truly matter.

Beyond the Illuminated Path: The Holistic Approach to Athletic Training

As a weightlifting coach, I've observed this scenario unfold time and time again in the realm of Olympic weightlifting.

Athletes, driven by a desire to excel, sometimes narrow their focus to the illuminated paths of their training routines, neglecting the less obvious but crucial elements that could significantly enhance their performance. Often referred to as treating the symptoms but not the root cause, this approach mirrors the story of the man under the streetlight, searching only in the light but not necessarily where the solution lies.

The Foundations of Athletic Progress May Lie Elsewhere

First, let's talk about progressing in training itself and put the techniques aside. Actually, training is the least important thing; there are more important factors like your recovery, e.g., the quality of your sleep, the fuel you burn, e.g., the food you intake, and the power transfer efficiency you have, i.e., the level of alignment you maintain.

Training is actually the time where you perform. If you don't rest well, your brain will not be able to control your nervous system effectively, and you'll probably find yourself lacking energy or easily sustain injuries. If you don't eat clean or well, there will be no quality resources for you to build muscles, and the effect of training will be greatly diminished.

If your body is significantly misaligned, then you will not be moving efficiently and will be wasting your own strength. For example, if you don't have your chest stacked properly upon your pelvis, you may significantly lower the power transmission efficiency from the lower body to the upper body.

In another example, if you have misaligned femurs with your shin bones, you may likely suffer from severe lower back pain or knee pain.

Case Study: Uncovering the Root Cause of Performance Plateaus

Let's take a recent example from my athlete, Ayun. He had a habit of dropping the bar in front of him during the jerk phase and couldn’t achieve a personal record for, in his own words, “half a year”. He tried many ways to bring up his jerk numbers, like training more pull-ups, doing more shoulder presses, coming in early to the gym for his shoulder mobility routine, and adding extra sessions to practice his jerks. He even attempted changing his jerk style from push jerk to split jerk (apparently, he is not a split jerker, but this is a story for another time).

However, in one group session, I found out the root cause lay elsewhere– it was in his posture. Like many weightlifters, Ayun would tilt his ribcage forward in the front rack position, inhibiting the engagement of the back muscles during the dip-drive phase.

This misalignment results in the chest being in front of the pelvis, leading his core tunnel to become a zigzag pathway, so the weight actually sits ahead of the legs, causing the bar to be propelled forward rather than upward, making a successful catch with heavy weight highly unlikely.

Persisting with training focused solely on shoulder strength or mobility, or even on the jerk itself, is akin to searching for keys under the streetlight—it's guided by where the light is, not by where the solution actually resides.

A Simple Adjustment, A Significant Breakthrough

Instead of encouraging him to drive harder or be more aggressive, I used the simple adjustment of lowering his ribcage and focusing on inhaling both to his upper chest and upper back. This prevented a forward-tilting ribcage and inhibited back muscles, as if you are already squeezing your back, you cannot simply contract them anymore. This small adjustment dramatically shifted the dynamics of his lift. Ayun broke through his half-a-year plateau by simply adjusting his posture, elevating his jerk from 108 to 120 kg in just one group session.

This breakthrough was not just a testament to his hard work but also to the effectiveness of addressing underlying issues rather than symptoms.​

Expanding the Knowledge Spectrum: The Key to Unveiling Solutions

The journey to improvement is not always illuminated by the bright lights of conventional wisdom. It requires a coach’s or an athlete's spectrum of knowledge to extend to areas like anatomy, biomechanics, nutrition, etc. The more comprehensive your knowledge, the less likely you will focus solely on the illuminated area.

The story underscores a critical message for athletes and coaches alike: search for the causal relationships of training, not just the apparent correlations. Don't only look for solutions in areas you are familiar with. Deduce the real root cause.

It challenges us to broaden our search beyond the familiar territories illuminated by our current understanding and beliefs. In doing so, we open ourselves to the possibility of discovering solutions that were always there, just waiting for the right moment to be revealed.

Embracing a Holistic Approach: Training as Humans First

In the world of weightlifting and beyond, our journey towards improvement and mastery is a testament to the human spirit's resilience and ingenuity.

It's a journey that requires us to train like humans first, embracing the full spectrum of our capabilities and limitations, before we can truly train like athletes. This holistic approach, embodied in the principles of Body Alignment Training, offers a roadmap to achieving not just athletic excellence but a balanced and injury-free life dedicated to the pursuit of our highest potential.

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Hi, I Am Gaby

Head Coach of Venus Weightlifting

Greetings! I'm Gaby, Head Coach of Venus Weightlifting club, the first of its kind in China. Curious how weightlifting can advance without exhaustive efforts and stiff bodies? I've unraveled this secret by integrating Chinese medical training and my innovative BAT (Body Alignment Training), catapulting thousands to their personal bests.
Ready to get your new PRs without pain? Let's embark on this journey of transformation together!

Train Like A Human Before You Train Like An Athlete!