“No person, no place, and no thing has any power over us, for ‘we’ are the only thinkers in our mind. When we create peace and harmony and balance in our minds, we will find it in our lives.” – Louise L. Hay
This blog post is dedicated to a very important person in my life… she knows who she is. May you find your balance.
I was having a conversation with whom this blog is dedicated about times we were very happy in our lives. I told her about when I first left the Marine Corps. I literally owned nothing. It was that classic scene of a tired vet grabbing his sea bag, jumping in his truck, and starting to drive. That’s all I had… some clothes, my pick-up truck, and a boat load of emotional issues. After initially getting set-up, eventually finding some furniture to sleep on, and getting my life back into some maintainable order that wasn’t complete transition… I settled in to my new surroundings. I was living in a beautiful town called Boone, nestled in the North Carolina Appalachian (Blue Ridge) Mountains. I had been accepted to Appalachian State University, but moved up a couple months early (May), in order to find my bearings, escape people, and do a lot of hiking.
I found a very happy stride for myself, even while dealing with some deep emotional strife. Every morning I would wake up, make myself some coffee, eat breakfast, enjoy the crisp 50 degree morning, sit down and read or play some video games. I had shit that needed to get done… but no real appointments. I’ll get to them when I need to. I had a lot of money saved up from 4 1/2 years of being deployed, not to mention I was drawing some from the government. I could focus entirely on school when it came around (also, at that point, the VA help would kick in). To top it off, I was alive! After 4 years of hardship I was alive, and had all of my appendages (mostly, my eyeball took a hit). It was a level of comfort I had never experienced.
After describing this to Emily, she asked a very simple question that had a very unsimple answer: Is that kind of happiness maintainable?
The Complex is an extremely valuable and effective training tool in Weightlifting. A Complex is basically a collection of movements and parts of lifts, put together in string, and typically performed without letting go of the barbell (unless instructed). They are extremely difficult to do well as your positions are constantly changing, testing your concentration, balance, strength, conditioning, technique… all in one fell swoop. All the while fatigue sets in… the longer you move the barbell, the more tired you become, and this taxes all of your abilities. In a sport or lift that is already debilitatingly technical… a complex is the most technical thing you can attempt.
The complex in this blog that is being presented via photo was: Power Clean > Hang Clean > Front Squat > Split Jerk.
The shifting of balance is one of the most difficult aspects of this complex, and any complex. A power clean up front is a basic movement. I think about the shift of balance in my feet and my three pulls. I start with my shoulders over the bar, the weight just nehind the balls of my feet, my back straight, my core tight, and a giant breadth. As I pull the bar up I bring my knees back (allows for a straight bar path while loading your hamstrings for the second pull). The shift of balance moves to my heels. I bring the bar above my knees, with my hips back, paying attention to keep my back angle the same as my starting position, let my weight shift in my feet back toward mid foot, pull up and bring my hips into the power position. At this point I want my shoulders to be over the bar, my feet flat, my weight at midfoot, the bar at just above mid thigh… and get prepared to drive all my strength through my feet and into the platform. This is what creates the triple extension, and then the third pull happens. The third pull is when you initiate the pull under the bar, this is when the shrug actually should happen. You’re not shrugging to get the bar higher, you’re shrugging because you’re pulling yourself under the bar. Then’s the rack. Don’t crash the bar, move yourself to the bar. Let it rest primarily on your deltoids, not your collar bone. Where are your elbows?
The Hang Clean is then initiated. Small nuances must be paid attention to, such as “dropping” and catching the bar with a hook grip in place. Missing this small point can upset your flow. Then, upon a successful catch, drop into your power position, and effectively rewind to the beginning of the second pull. Initiate the correct order of pulls, paying attention to balance, and make it identical, if not better than your first lift. However, now you’re dropping into a full front squat position for your catch. The shift of balance changes as your feet move out more widely, your hip mobility comes into play, you ankle, shoulders, and wrists all come into factor. Then you have to drive, bring your hips back under the bar and come to a stand. Rinse, and repeat for a front squat again.
Now the split jerk. One of the main nuances of this complex, which potentially can end your entire lift, is moving into a correct rack position, from the squat, that will set you up for good hand/elbow/arm placement in preparation of the split jerk. You have to use the momentum from your drive to oscillate the bar just a little… just enough to move your hands into a proper grip as well as proper placement on the bar. If you miss this, then your positioning is off for the hardest part of the entire complex, and you stand a large potential for failure at this point since you are getting close to exhaustion. Many will miss this point because so much is happening, and because they are so tired. Another intangible benefit of complexes: discipline under fire.
Now, find your balance, just in front of your heels, point your toes out. Dip, not too fast as to crash the bar, not too slow or you wont create an oscillation. Maintain a vertical back, drive, jump, and as soon as you hit your peak in the jump (a minute, split second of occurrence) push under the bar, and drive your legs out as fast as you possibly can. Bent back leg, foot canted in slightly, vertical straight shin on front leg, lock your shoulder out, hold your breath, maintain the balance, le the weight settle on your core. This is a dance with the barbell, your footwork has to be deliberate and aggressive. Now stand: Bring your front foot in first, then your back leg, maintain the hold… just one more second. Drop, let it fall and take your breadth as a reward.
One thing I fail to mention is how you have to pay attention to breathing this whole time. When and where to breath is of the utmost importance. I fail miserably here to bring to light just all that is happening… because it is damn near impossible to write it all. The mind and body mechanics working in unison here is absolutely amazing.
While that period was utter happiness for me, and I miss it a lot… it is not a maintainable form of happiness. Not at my age, anyway. Most of us will not be blessed with an opportunity to live like that forever. In reality, if I had been given that, I wouldn’t know what to truly do with it, because I wouldn’t realize how valuable that situation is in the first place. At the age of 32, I have not figured out everything, but I have figured out some things. It is good to maintain balance. Like in a complex. The barbell is constantly trying to fall to the ground, It is your job to move it where it needs to be, and do so properly without sending it too far in any one direction. The world has a way of wanting to fall to the ground around you… always trying to pull you in some way more than another. It is up to you how you choose to interpret these experiences and bring them to balance. Never fall so far in one direction that you fail the lift, remember what your ultimate objective is, where you want to place your weight, and what needs to happen to get it there. The more you try, the more you pay attention, the more successful you will be. Failure is inevitable, it is impossible to hit every complex, ever lift, every attempt at anything. If you can, you are not pushing hard enough, and thus not growing into form. Balance is the root to happiness… understanding what makes you balanced, understanding yourself, what drives you, what you value. That is happiness. Then, one day someone turns around and says, “Man, you move like water.” – Chris Randall, after watching my complex.
I am so proud of you Emily.