Olympic Lifting and Adaptive Bodywork

Evgueni Levanov - Personal Trainer and Strength Coach

Having been training and coaching in Olympic weightlifting as my main expertise for many years, I have seen many types of athletes, as well as different types of coaches. It is no secret that weightlifters with experience are well versed in strength, power, speed and coordination, among many other things. They know how to move a lot of weight quickly and most are very graceful while performing these amazing feats of strength. Most coaches have a good idea of a proper starting, front rack and overhead position and can help you achieve a nice bar path. However, there is one facet of human performance critical to Olympic weightlifting that a lot of lifting coaches cannot teach to the newcomers. Just think of those whom are interested in getting started with this sport even though they do not have the proper mobility for its highly athletic demands.

Before stumbling upon the practice of Adaptive Bodywork, mobility issues have been arguably the biggest challenges for me, and others, as a trainer when teaching the classic snatch and clean & jerk lifts. I often had people that eagerly came to see me for guidance in these movements, but could barely perform a proper bodyweight squat, could not rest the bar on the shoulders in the front rack position, lock the bar overhead to complete a jerk or simply bend down to start with the bar on the ground for the snatch with a proper lumbar position. The general approach in the domain is to nonetheless push these people through the repetitions to try to achieve the proper positions with light weights. This was done using certain compensation tricks to get them to positions similar to those that were desired, while inching closer to proper alignment with very session. This option, which is the main tool, was somewhat useful, but not without aches, pains and awkward lifting at a sluggish pace towards the main goal.

By practicing this way, I had inadvertently become the king of compensations. I could get you to squat with zero hip or ankle mobility as well as get weights overhead without any shoulder mobility. These compensated movements weren’t very efficient, but they got the job done (see Olympic Lifting compensations part 1). People wanted to learn the lifts and this was the simplest way to get them to start lifting in just a few sessions without having them do extra unwanted things like yoga, daily stretching or weekly manual therapeutic work on their soft tissue. After all, they wanted to learn to lift to get more powerful and not do these other time-consuming things. Even though my athletes were satisfied with my approach, deep down I knew that this path wasn’t the best one available for them and I felt guilty, not knowing how to overcome this challenge.

Then came the discovery of Adaptive Bodywork. With just a few applications, I could almost magically get someone into a full deep squat. Plus, I had the same possibility with the front rack, overhead and starting position. Not only could I get people to start lifting much sooner, but this was done without sloppy time consuming repetitions that were reinforcing improper movement patterns. Plus, the compensations needed to complete the classical lifts became minimal and in some cases nonexistent. This practice has proven time and time again to be greatly efficient, getting clients noticeable differences in only one session.

Adaptive Bodywork Unit I Certification - CrossFit Montreal - Oct 18-19, 2014

Using Adaptive Bodywork techniques, I am now able to get people practicing their desired movements more quickly, and with reduced risk of injury. Adaptive Bodywork allows me to create length, differentiation and balance in the athlete's connective tissue to enable the completion of their lifts with less tension and resistance in their support system. Range of motion and movement competency are essential elements for proper lifting, yet frequently side-stepped or overlooked.  I still see many lifting coaches pushing their clients through a cycle of repetitive, grinding lifts with flawed form and poor alignment in the hopes of one day achieving a beautiful snatch or clean & jerk. This goal remains frustratingly out of reach for the trainers and athletes that never address mobility, beyond a few simple stretches.  For them, this modality would effectively be a holy grail of mobility that would unlock a new level of movement and lifting potential.  I've seen in my own clients the extent to which Adaptive Bodywork is a game changer for Olympic Weightlifting.  I look forward to seeing other trainers and athletes in the community discover and adopt this powerful modality, and all that it can do.