November 27, 2017
Three, Two, One—Liftoff!
By Brittney Saline
"Clench that butt."
"Clench that butt."

“Clench that butt.”

It’s one of many cues Ford Davidson has given the athletes of Bedrock CrossFit as they prepare for the third annual CrossFit Liftoff, powered by Rogue.

Davidson, an NCCP weightlifting coach out of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, says inexperienced lifters tend to cut short the second pull of the clean and snatch, failing to reach full hip extension before they drop under the bar.

“That last bit of glute extension is what gets the lifter to a vertical position,” Davidson explained. “It sounds hilarious, but that little bit of a clench really gives you something to kind of focus on … because you can’t clench and be under-extended.”

Athletes competing in the Liftoff will have five days, beginning Nov. 30, to establish a max snatch and clean and jerk, and complete a test of general physical preparedness (GPP). Some compete for the prize purse—more than US$56,000 distributed across multiple divisions—while others just hope for a new PR.

Bedrock CrossFit athlete
Bedrock CrossFit athlete. (Janette Juan)

“It's an opportunity to challenge myself; to push and grow mentally and physically,” Anthony Chan, one of about 15 Bedrock CrossFit athletes participating in the Liftoff, said by email. The 37-year-old has been doing CrossFit for less than a year, and this will be his first weightlifting competition.

To prepare, he’s spent the last two months honing his technique in a special weightlifting clinic led by Davidson. The clinic culminates with the CrossFit Liftoff, which Bedrock CrossFit is hosting in the form of a mock Olympic weightlifting meet. It will be the first weightlifting competition experience for most of the athletes participating, and affiliate owner Dawn Krpan said athletes need not be seasoned competitors to benefit from the experience.

“It’s just a way of showing the world and being proud of your accomplishments,” she said.

For nine weeks, clinic participants met every Thursday and Sunday to work the two Olympic lifts. Davidson divided the clinic into two halves: In weeks 1 through 4, athletes drilled individual components of the lifts, such as the first, second and third pulls, and the dip and drive of the jerk.

Coach and athlete at Bedrock CrossFit
Coach and athlete at Bedrock CrossFit. 

At the clinic’s halfway point, athletes established max lifts, which will serve as guidelines for the numbers they hope to hit in the Liftoff. They will spend the remaining weeks working to smooth flaws in technique with lots of work from the hang.

Davidson, who is not a CrossFit athlete himself, shared some of the most common faults he’s seen among the lifters. In addition to shorting the second pull and failing to reach full hip extension, many athletes bend their arms too early, he said.

“A lot of the CrossFit (athletes) are really strong and used to using their biceps for different motions like pull-ups,” he said. “So as soon as they start to pull, you can see their elbows start to bend. The problem is, once you start to bend your elbows, your traps don’t get as much extension as they can.”

To correct this flaw, he cues athletes to relax their arms. While it’s true that certain muscles need to be loaded before lifting, tensing the whole body is counterproductive, Davidson said.

“It’s gotta be an explosive movement, and it’s really hard to do a fast movement when you’re fully tense,” he said.

Speed, however, can sometimes be just as much enemy as friend, especially in the jerk. Eager to be fast and explosive, Davidson said many lifters end up front-loading their dip, pushing onto their toes too soon and thrusting the bar out in front instead of straight overhead.

“The way that I had some of the lifters in my group correct that is just to slow the dip down a bit to make a more controlled dip,” Davidson said, describing the dip as a mere change in direction to load the legs. “You should be able to basically wiggle your toes when you're loaded because you’re so much on your heels for that dip and drive. The last thing that happens is you shift up and point your toes on the jerk.”

To help athletes stay upright in the dip, he shared an exercise he learned from Krpan. Sans barbell, athletes stand with their heels an inch or two from a wall, touching the wall with their butt and shoulders. Then athletes dip, “making sure they don’t come off that wall,” Davidson said.

This weekend, athletes will put their training to the test. Bedrock CrossFit Liftoff participants will complete the test of GPP as their normal workout of the day on Friday. On Saturday, they lift.

“At the midway point, already people were PRing their maxes from their previous numbers, so they're really looking forward to potentially lifting even more,” Krpan said.

The athletes have even convinced Davidson—who has jumped in on a few regular CrossFit classes—to compete. He recalled a workout at which he assumed he would excel: Six rounds of 10 deadlifts, 10 cleans and 10 power jerks.

“I got a little bit ambitious with the weights I chose,” Davidson admitted, laughing. “It was very different than I'm used to, but it was also very fun to see how some of those people excelled over my lifting abilities when it came to the longevity of (the workout).”

Bedrock CrossFit athletes thought it was fun, too.

“My goals for the Liftoff are definitely to hit new PRs in my snatch and clean and jerk,” said Liftoff athlete Nolan McTaggart. “I also just want to survive whatever crazy metcon gets thrown our way—although I think coach Ford is going to struggle with this more than I will!”

Though the official rules of the Liftoff permit athletes to take as many attempts at the two lifts as they please over the course of the competition—which ends Monday, Dec. 5—Bedrock CrossFit athletes will have just three attempts at each lift.

“Pick a first number that you know you're gonna hit, pick your second number as your previous PR, pick your third number like a wishful thinking kind of number,” Krpan advised her athletes.

They’ll also be lifting before an audience as well as three judges, just as in a traditional Olympic weightlifting meet.

“For some people that small bit of extra pressure actually makes them perform better,” Krpan said. “That adrenaline gets kicked up, and people that have never competed before sometimes find that that actually (brings) them to a whole new level of ability that they didn’t even know that they had before.”

Still, it won’t be all rules and formality.

“In the evening we're having a proper adult party at the gym,” she added.

Register for the CrossFit Liftoff here.