Happy Monday everyone. We’re continuing our series on Dan John’s Ten Commandments of Lifting. The 5th Commandment is, “If you smoke or don’t wear your seatbelt, please don’t tell me the quick lifts are dangerous.”
The quick lifts are the Olympic lifts, the snatch, the clean and jerk and their supporting exercises. They involve moving weight explosively and demand strength, flexibility and mobility.
Olympic lifters on average score higher on athletic tests than any other class of athlete. Their cardiovascular endurance rivals runnners, their explosiveness sprinters, their vertical jump basketball players. This is why most high school and college athletic programs encourage their athletes to train some form of these lifts.
Because of their explosive nature they also have a bad reputation. Improperly done these lifts can hurt you, even with relatively light weight.
My grandfather lives on a farm in rural Tennessee. There is no trash pick up where he lives and for as long as I can remember he has burned his trash. In fact to this day their still stands and old, rusty 55 gallon drum that he burned his household waste in.
It now sits, cold and empty, because Grandpa doesn’t burn his trash anymore. He stopped two or three years ago. Now he hauls it to a low place on his property, his own personal municpal dump. Why? Because two or three years ago a neighbor, negligent of his own burning trash, set a field on fire.
Nevermind, that in over sixty years of burning trash my grandfather has never let his fire get out of control, the thought that it could happen was enough to make him stop.
I love my grandfather, but to me, this is foolishness. Sure, a neighbor’s negligence should be a warning, a reminder to the risk and a call to greater vigilence, but to stop entirely?
Grandpa’s response, though, is actually quite common. Rather than educate ourselves to the risks of an endeavor, or take steps to minimize that risk, many of us just avoid it entirely, all the while blinding ourselves to the other risks we take everyday.
Over the years the incidence of injury associated with the Olympic lifts became statistically noticeable. Rather than looking into how and why these injuries occur, it is simpler just to write them off as dangerous.
Further inquiry and a little effort would have revealed that properly taught, with an understanding of both body mechanics and proper progression, these exercises pose no more risk than any other tolerable exercise and that over time, these risks actually become less, as skill and understanding increase.
At present I don’t teach the Olympic lifts. I have only just begun training them myself and I won’t begin training clients with them until I’ve found my own sense of mastery. Once I have, they will become part of AFS programming and offered to my clients. The good to be had here far outweighs the risk. And what’s life without a little risk?