Author Archives: Sarven

Olympic Weightlifting benefits

The sport of Olympic style weightlifting (which I will refer to as weightlifting) is often thought to be dangerous. Think about it, you are essentially trying to lift as much weight as possible above your head. Surely this must be an accident waiting to happen right? WRONG. Don’t get me wrong, injuries definitely do occur but weightlifting as a sport actually has among the lowest rate of injury. Although strength is an extremely important part of the sport, speed, power, agility and flexibility are equally important. The sport itself is essentially built around 2 main lifts that are performed in competition: the snatch and the clean & jerk.

The goal of the snatch is essentially to lift a barbell from the floor to the overhead finishing position in one fluid motion, therefore the snatch is considered a test of speed as it takes tremendous quickness to be able to catch the bar in the overhead position. The snatch also requires excellent flexibility and strength.

On the other hand, the clean & jerk (as the name indicates) is really a two part lift where the lifter pulls the bar off the floor and catches it on the shoulders and then proceeds to “jerk” the bar overhead. The clean and jerk also requires tremendous speed and power but is generally considered a test of strength as it is possible to lift more weight in this exercise versus the snatch.

A weightlifter’s training is built around the two lifts themselves. However, there are many assistance exercises that are utilized to increase performance such as variations of squats, deadlifts, pulls, plyometrics, presses, grip work and countless others.

Before we go any further, let me mention that technique is extremely important in both lifts. There are varying schools of thought on which techniques are more efficient (a debate I will not get into here) but it is undeniable that to be successful at either, you must focus as much energy on becoming technically efficient as you are strong.

So what is the point of all of this? Well, contrary to what many people believe, Olympic weightlifting is not only safe but extremely beneficial for almost everyone. Here are just a few of the benefits of weightlifting:

1)      Increased athletic ability: the nature of the sport is often referred to as essentially jumping but with a bar. Consequently, weightlifting will help improve your vertical jump tremendously as well as your sprinting ability as both these movements require high levels of explosive force. This is why many athletes utilize the Olympic lifts. Olympic weightlifting (as well as assistance lifts such as power variations of the lifts, pulls, squats, deadlifts and other assistance exercises) has a high carryover into other sports that require you to generate a great amount of force into a small period of time.

2)      Better body composition: Performing the Olympic lifts requires you to utilize every single muscle in the human body. Weightlifters tend to have incredible back, leg and core development

. Studies have also shown that weightlifting can help lower body fat, blood pressure and increase cardiovascular health as it is a form of anaerobic activity.

3)      Decreased occurrence of injury: Olympic weightlifting has the ability to develop strong and healthy bones as the overload of stress has a significant impact on bone mineral density. In other words, weightlifting strengthens the bones and even greatly reduces the chances of developing osteoporosis.

So, does all this mean that you NEED to be performing the Olympic lifts to be strong, fast, flexible and fit? NO. Many people (athletes and non- athletes alike) will get along just fine by sticking to other forms of exercise such as calisthenics and other forms of resistance training but it is an undeniable FACT that Olympic weightlifting is an amazing tool that, if utilized correctly can bring tremendous increases in performance, body composition and general health. Plus there’s nothing quite like throwing huge weights above your head!


Tricoli, V, L Lamas, R Carnevale, and C Ugrinowitsch. “Short-Term Effects on Lower-Body Functional Power Development: Weightlifting Vs. Vertical Jump Training Programs.” 19 (2005): 433-437. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 19 (2005).

Stone, M. H., A. C. Fry, M. Ritchie, L. Stoessel-Ross, and J. L. Marsit. Injury potential and safety aspects of weightlifting movements. Strength and Conditioning. June: 15-21. 1994.

Stone, M.H., et al. Cardiovascular Responses to Short-Term Olympic Style Weight-Training in Young Men. Can. J. Appl. Sport Sci. 8(3): 134-9.

Conroy, Bp, Wj Kraemer, Cm Maresh, Sj Fleck, Mh Stone, Ac Fry, Pd Miller, and Gp Dalsky. “Bone Mineral Density in Elite Junior Olympic Weightlifters.” (1993): 1103-1109. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 25 (1993).


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Stretching 101

One of the most common areas of weakness in trainees is flexibility. People tend to be injury prone when their mobility is poor. In my opinion, there is a high correlation between overall strength and flexibility. For example, if you are attempting to perform a full squat and A) your heels come up or B) you lean forward excessively, your lack of mobility is interfering with your ability to execute the movement through a full range of motion, consequently increasing the risk of injury and reducing the potential for muscle hypertrophy and strength gains. The good news is, anyone can improve their flexibility by utilizing some form of mobility work.

Dynamic stretching is a form of mobility work that should be done before a workout as it does not significantly affect the muscle’s ability to produce power. Dynamic stretching consists of fast movements that put the muscle(s) under tension at the maximum point of the range of motion for a very short period of time. Some examples of dynamic stretches are: forward/side lunges, high knees, straight leg kicks, arm circles, arm swings, jump squats, forward/leg swings, forward/side bends.

Static stretching is a form of mobility work that should be performed after a workout or at least 4 hours before. Your body temperature should be elevated before you begin your stretching routine. Many studies have proven that static stretching before a workout significantly decreases the muscle’s ability to produce power, especially during exercises that demand high levels of explosive strength such as sprinting and Olympic weightlifting.  Despite this, it is an effective way to increase flexibility as long as it is performed at the right time. In this form of stretching, the goal is to lengthen the muscle, once again reaching the maximum point of the range of motion and holding the position for 15-30 seconds. By lengthening the muscle, you are increasing its range of motion but are decreasing the speed at which the muscle is able to contract. Most yoga poses are essentially static stretches. Some other common stretches include the sit and reach, standing hamstring stretch, standing quad stretch, butterfly, etc.

There are many other ways to break up adhesions and increase mobility (foam rolling, PNF stretching, soft tissue treatment). Whether you trying to improve strength and performance or you are just looking for a way to minimize pain and reduce the occurrence of injuries and relax, utilizing dynamic and static stretching is a very effective way of improving your overall flexibility levels and thus increasing your overall fitness levels.



The effect of static stretching on phases of sprint performance in elite soccer players. Sayers, A.L., Farley, R.S., Fuller, D.K., et al. Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2008 Sep;22(5):1416-21.

Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review. Simic, L., Sarabon, N., Markovic, G. Motor Control and Human Performance Laboratory, University of Zagreb. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2013 Mar;23(2):  131-48.

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Why women shouldn’t be afraid of lifting (heavy) weights

We’ve all heard it: “Lift weights? I don’t want to get bulky! I just want to get toned”. If you still think that the only way to achieve an optimal body composition is by spending hours a week jogging on the treadmill, you have been misled. Firstly, if you’re barely eating any protein, are avoiding all healthy fats and most of your diet consists of dairy and carbohydrates such as wheat, grains and sugar, that is probably the reason why you’re unable to get toned – address this issue first!

One of the most effective ways of becoming physically healthy and strong is through weight training. Everyone (especially women) needs to acknowledge this. However, women should not be afraid of performing less reps with heavier weights. Once a basic level of technique has been established, many women tend to continue performing long sets with low weights and plenty of repetitions [15 reps and more]). The problem with this method is that the training becomes an aerobic workout. (Click here to read the article “Training for fat loss: the anaerobic vs aerobic debate). One of the most common reasons why women will not see significant change from weight training is simply due to the fact that the weights they use are too light.

To address the “bulky” issue, the hormonal response women will have to weight training is different than that of men. Men demonstrate significant increases in testosterone but both men and women demonstrate substantial increases in growth hormone. What this means is that the average woman is physically limited in terms of gaining muscle compared to the average man. However, due to the increase in growth hormone (a hormone that burns fat in the body), strength training using functional, multi-joint movements (ig squats, lunges, deadlifts, overhead presses, pullups, rows, dips, etc) is an extremely efficient tool that both men and women can utilize to achieve optimal body composition and high levels of strength.

Of course it is inevitable for women to gain some muscular mass from weight training. This is a good thing! Here are some of the many benefits linked to well-developed muscles:

Muscle mass helps you keep fat off: studies have shown that women who lift weights using loads ranging from 60 to 80% of their max can expect to see significant increases in strength, slight increases in muscular mass and a substantial drop in body fat.
Improved posture: by strengthening and hypertrophying common areas of deficiency such as the lower and upper back as well as the shoulders and rotator cuff, one can correct postural problems and reduce the risk of injury.
Longer and healthier life: Lifting weights has been linked to stronger bones, better mobility and greater muscular strength in older women. Furthermore, many studies have proven that women with higher levels of muscular development tend to enjoy longer and healthier lives.

More women need to incorporate weight training into their daily lives. Combined with a healthy diet and effective stretching regimen, both men and women can dramatically improve their lives. Let’s help crush the myth that weight training makes you bulky. Eating crappy foods, looking for shortcuts, being lazy and being inconsistent on the other hand, that’s another story.



Andreoli, A., Celi, M., et al. Lon-Term Effect of Exercise on Bone Mineral Density and body Composition in Post-Menopausal Ex-Elite Athletes. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012. 66(1), 69-74

Consitt, L., Copeland, J., et al. Endogenous Anabolic Hormone Responses to Endurance Versus Resistance Exercise and training in Women. Sports Medicine. 2002. 32(1), 1-22

Cheung, C., Nguyen, U., et al. Association of Handgrip Strength with Chronic Diseases and Multimorbidity. Age. 2012. Published ahead of Print.


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5 reasons why you should be squatting

We’ve all heard about the importance of doing squats and yet so many people neglect this crucial aspect of training so let’s get straight to the point: here are 5 reasons why you should include the king of lower body exercises into your workouts.

  • Full squats will strengthen your knees and back: Contrary to what you may have heard, squats, when performed correctly, will improve knee stability, strengthen bones, ligaments and tendons and reduce the risk of injury to the lower back. Of course there are many different ways to squat (based on morphology) and there are many variations of squats (front squat, back squat, split squat, pistol squats, etc). Each variation offers benefits and drawbacks as there are no absolutes in training. That being said, regardless of your training approach, everyone should be able to go into a full deep squat.
  • Squats can improve body composition: Since the squat works so many major muscle groups with such immense intensity (quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, abdominals and erector spinae), it is one of, if not THE best exercise for burning fat. In addition to this, squats help increase overall testosterone levels as well as overall GH production, making it an effective mass building exercise.
  • Squats will allow you to run faster: running speed is correlated with ability to apply force into the ground. The whole premise of the squat is that you are essentially applying force into the ground, (likely with added resistance) making it one of the most important exercises for anyone who wants to increase their running speed.
  • Squats will make you jump higher: a recent study performed on recreational athletes for 10 weeks indicated that full squats (hamstrings covering the calves) increased the vertical jump by an average of 8%.
  •  Squat for better flexibility: Studies have shown that performing deep squats can increase functional mobility, thereby decreasing the chance of injury. The human body is meant to go through the entire range of motion of the squat. TIP: If this is difficult for you, address the problem by stretching often and starting off with unilateral squat variations such as the split squat, gradually increasing the ROM.

While this list is not complete by any means, it gives you an idea of the importance of the squat. Learning how to perform squats correctly will create a solid foundation and help you to attain an overall stronger and healthier physique. Keep an eye out as we will be posting a video demonstrating proper squatting form as well as different squat variations.



Hartmann, Hagen, Klaus Wirth, Markus Klusemann, Josip Dalic, Claus Matuschek, and Dietmar Schmidtbleicher. “Influence of Squatting Depth on Jumping Performance.”Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2012): 1. Print.

Hartmann, H., et al. Analysis of the Load on the Knee Joint and Vertebral Column with Changes in Squatting Depth and weight Load. Sports Medicine. 2013. Published Ahead of Print.

Matuschek, C., Schmidtbleicher, D. Influence of Squatting Depth on Jumping Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Okada, T., Huxel. K., Nesser, T. Relationship Between Core Stability, Functional Movement, and Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. January 2011. 25(1), 252-261.

Jones, M., Ambegoankar, J., et al. Effects of Unilateral and Bilateral Lower-Body Heavy ResistanceExercise on Muscle Activity and Testosterone Response. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

McCaulley, G., McBride, J., Cormie, P., Hudson, M., Nuzzo, J., Quidry, J., Triplett, N. Acute Hormonal and Neuromuscular Responses to Hypertrophy, Strength and Power Type Resistance Exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2009. 105(5), 695-704.


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The psychology of success

Regardless of your goals, the activity you are partaking in is primarily undertaken with the express purpose of causing your body to physically adapt to that stimulus. However, a more subtle transformation is actually taking place; one that is, in my opinion, the most overlooked aspect of training: your mental state. Once you accept that your mental state is completely under your control, you have laid the foundation for all forms of success. No one is in a better position to decide how far you are willing to go to achieve what you put your mind to.

That being said, the first stage of goal attainment is finding a goal that will evoke passion. In other words, the desire to accomplish. Of course, simply “wanting” something is not enough. Once a fundamental need is created, one can break that need into smaller, more manageable steps. A good way to do this is to set macro and micro goals.

When you are defining a macro goal, it is important to ask yourself this: “What kind of person do I want to be?” More simply put, what exactly are you trying to accomplish in the long term? (e.g. reduce body fat to x %, run the 100m in x seconds and so forth). Conversely, when you are trying to set micro goals, you would ask yourself “What are some immediate steps I can take to achieve my macro goal?” (e.g. lift the knees higher when sprinting, pull higher during a power clean, etc.).Generally, micro goals are adjusted on a day to day basis.

Once you have set your goals, there is no time to waste in applying the measures that are needed to become successful. Ask yourself “what can I do right now to accomplish my objectives?” Prioritizing is not easy but it is essential for long term attainment of goals. By constantly seeking sources of inspiration, one can maintain focus and commitment. It is equally important to maintain a positive but rational attitude. Realize that success is embedded in failure. You are going to fail many times before you succeed: accept this but understand that each failure is simply a challenge. Failures are not an outcome of inadequate effort. They are a process by which you achieve success as long as you accept the challenge to try again. Act in the face of fear. Embrace the fear of failure and use it to fuel desire, to reinforce commitment and see yourself as who you want to be rather than who you have been.

Although training is a very physical process, it is also an opportunity to build both character and self-esteem. Every battle is won and lost before it is fought. Understand that reality is subjective. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. If you are able to approach your training with certainty, clarity and conviction, you can achieve great things. Be patient and control your emotions. Unwavering ambition and confidence are the trademark of a true champion.



Arthur. The Encyclopedia of Weightlifting: A Guide to World Class Performance. Whitestone, NY/USA: A is A Communications, n.d. Print.

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