Weightlifting has been a staple of the BLACK SHEEP program for a long time. FYI, when I say weightlifting I am talking about snatch and clean and jerk - for all the noobs out there. Not only is weightlifting a timeless sport, showcasing ones athletic prowess, it demands extremely high attention to detail in a super small period of time unlike almost any other sport I can think of.
When I was in college I dabbled in track and field, and picked up the javelin !!! [Note: super awesome picture of... not me to the right] When throwing, you have a very narrow window between start and finish of the movement to execute it well. You can probably sense the similarities even if you haven't thrown before.
So here are three reason why weightlifting should be an essential part of any fitness program!
FIRST - Scalability: Weightlifting is scalable for all people. If you are an olympian, national competitor or soccer mom trying to get more fit, weightlifting is scalable both in weight and movement (<-that's super important to note). Because of its adaptability and scalability it makes for a very accessible tool for people to add to their program.
"Wait though Dean... the movements are super complex and really hard to learn."
While this is true, they are also really accessible if the right kind of equipment and coaching is available.
At the end of the day, always break it down to its most basic part. For some athletes this may be as basic as a dead lift. Once some level of competency is proven then we must not settle and keep pushing the athlete to learn new movements.
My best advice for scaling and progressing the "fast lifts" is the following: Learn the dead lift well first. Then, follow that up with front squat and overhead squat. Finally, hang out with the hang power movements for like a month or so (<- this is a conservative estimate), then progress to squat versions and finally finishing with full lifts from the floor.
SECOND - Power output: Umm yeah... so power is the result of doing more work (Work = Force x Distance) faster (over time). Sound familiar to all the CrossFitters out there. Both movements (snatch and Clean & Jerk) require humans being able to apply ridiculous amounts of force, quickly, and through a complex and dynamic coordinated effort of high muscular contractions (<- say that 10x fast). Speed and force are essential to even execute the lifts, so inevitably even moderate levels of proficiency will yield dramatic results in strength speed and power.
So increased work over time is power and power is intensity and we know that intensity is the variable the maximizes favorable adaptations. So weight lift your way to more and better fitness!!
Lastly, Neurological development: This one is sooo good, the holy grail if you will of reasons you should absolutely have the snatch and clean and jerk in any fitness program!! Here is the whole premise, ready ?? If you can learn to snatch and clean and jerk well, then you can probably learn just about any physical task.
If you learn these movements well it will take you down a crazy path of physics, biomechanics, and attention to detail and technique unlike anything you have ever done. One half an inch too soon or too late on your pull and the lift is missed. Hips too high, weight too far back (yes there is such a thing), elbows too slow, shoulders not active enough. The demand for virtuosity in mechanics first for even novice athletes is very high.
"What about handstand walks and muscle ups, I can't do those yet?" Dude here's the deal, those two things you listed your just moving your body through space, that's it. In weightlifting you are moving your body through space and moving an object though space at the same time, that's some sort of dang super power!!
Seriously showing proficiency in weightlifting will make you a better athlete and the study of weightlifting will make you a better coach.
ENDING: The snatch and clean and jerk are a main stay at BLACK SHEEP, and aren't going anywhere anytime soon. I would argue that fitness programs and coaches that cut snatch and clean and jerk out completely, are insufficient and naive at best. Fun Fact CJ Martin (CrossFit Invictus) has claimed to build his entire competitive CrossFit program around their weightlifting cycles. Ben Bergeron (CrossFit New England) agreeing with the importance of weightlifting started emphasizing it in competitors wod (Current Day Comp Train) about 2 years ago and now has Beantown Barbell do their weightlifting programming.
I believe it is safe to say a large amount of our success at BLACK SHEEP is based on our willingness to wrestle with the exceedingly complex and our commitment to continued learning of these movements. The result... a dedication to excellence in movement and body awareness that better prepares anyone for anything.
At BLACK SHEEP we like to say if there is a better way to get fit, then using CrossFit, tell us we will do that instead. Same with developing speed strength and power... if there is a better way to enhance an athletes ability to produce power, we will certainly do that in place. In the meantime, we will snatch and clean and jerk heavy, often, and get really freaking fit doing it!