Coach Newton’s Blog

Olympic Coach Harvey Newton’s blog features insights and announcements concerning technique, training, and competition for the sport of weightlifting, along with relevant topics dealing with strength training for other sports.

Open Mouth or Closed Mouth? Does It Make A Difference?

An open mouth or closed mouth while pulling? Today we see both, but does it make a difference?

A recent study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research caught my attention. The Effects of Jaw Clenching and Jaw Alignment Mouthpiece Use on Force Production During Vertical Jump and Isometric Clean Pull (July 31, 2017 published-ahead-of print) concluded:

“This study supports previous research demonstrating that the implementation of remote voluntary contractions such has jaw clenching can lead to concurrent activation potentiation and a resulting ergogenic effect during activities involving and requiring high force production.”

This is not a new topic. During my time as USA Weightlifting’s National Coach (1981-1984) the lifters at the Olympic Training Center had custom mouthpieces made in an attempt to determine possible effects. Prevailing thought at the time was, jaw clenching during high force moves (squat, heavy pulls, etc.) may enhance performance.

Read more: Open Mouth or Closed Mouth? Does It Make A Difference?

Writing for US Olympic Committee’s Coaching Newsletter

The Olympic sport of weightlifting has experienced phenomenal growth in the past decade, mostly due to the increased use of our lifts and training via CrossFit. More people now know what the snatch and the clean & jerk movements are. They know many of the supplemental exercises we use in training. Basically, between this new popularity and the Internet there are very few weightlifting secrets left undiscovered.

But I always have to caution newcomers that our sport is located at the extreme far end of the resistance training continuum. Weightlifting, plyometrics, and other explosive forms of resistance training are advanced, not basic training tools.

This presents several challenges. First, if our lifts were easily mastered, everyone would be successful. We know this is not the case. Second, anything complicated requires good instruction and educational materials. This does not always happen. Third, popularity often brings people and practices together long before they should couple.

Read more: Writing for US Olympic Committee’s Coaching Newsletter

Get-A-Grip: How Does Yours Measure Up?

Recent evidence of our society’s gradual loss of gripping strength is very interesting. This writing even suggests there may be a connection between grip strength and one’s longevity.

While I tend to think the average weightlifter today has pretty good hand strength it would be interesting to gauge this against lifters a few years back. Any grad students out there need a research project?

When I was USAW’s executive director (and national coach, at the same time) I started up Weightlifting USA as a member benefit (back when you actually got something for your then very small annual registration fee). This publication remained a hard copy mailing to members until 2008.

In the May-June 1983 Weightlifting USA we published a report on my measurements of Soviet, Bulgarian, and USA lifters, using a standard hand dynamometer, like that referenced in the Nautilus article.

Read more: Get-A-Grip: How Does Yours Measure Up?

Jump Back Snatch: Why?

Coach Mike Rosewell (Superior Athletes, Kansas City) contacted me last year with a question about one of his lifters, Emma Nye, who was the dominant winner at the 2015 USA Weightlifting National Youth Championships.

At the event Emma, weighing 41.8kg, snatched 41 and missed attempts with 44 and 46 (national record). She C&J'd 53kg, missing 57 twice. Coach Rosewell's question to me was about her snatch style that includes heavy contact at the hips, a looping, straight-arm swing overhead, all combined with a significant jump rearward.

Here is Emma's attempt at the snatch national record, as featured on my Dartfish.tv channel. Use the various Dartfish tools to check my analysis and commentary.

Read more: Jump Back Snatch: Why?

Why Not Try the Split Style Lifts?

(This is due to appear in #8 issue of OLift Magazine)

In the earliest days of weightlifting competition the barbell was typically "manhandled" (sorry ladies) into its final position. Rounded back, bent arms, maybe a little press-out… whatever it took to get the weights overhead.

But it wasn't long before lifters came up with techniques that allowed for greater performances. Always on the lookout for an advantage, early lifters quickly adopted the hook grip, for example. In these early competitions it also became obvious that one could lift a heavier weight to a lesser height if one obtained a lower receiving position.

Enter the split, and to a certain extent, the squat styles of snatching and cleaning. Now, instead of simply hauling the barbell overhead we saw the same type of pulling action transition quickly into a split or squat receiving position.

Read more: Why Not Try the Split Style Lifts?

Let the "Games" Begin: A Look at Today’s Anti-Doping Measures (Part III)

Just prior to the Rio Olympic Games the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released the Independent McLaren Investigations Report, a damning document that calls for strict penalties against the entire Russian sports organization, in Rio and beyond.

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) removed a small number of Olympic slots from countries (including Russia) due to violations of anti-doping rules earlier. Just prior to the Games the IWF voted to suspend the participation of Russian weightlifters at the 2016 Olympics.

The resulting slots were awarded to representatives of small nations that otherwise might not compete. This action is a quick and effective way to "win friends and influence people" relative to the electoral process conducted near the end of the year.

The recent number of doping violations in weightlifting reinforces the appearance of serious, state-run efforts by numerous countries bent on winning medals. On the other hand we have countries that tend to have solid anti-doping programs in place. These lifters are perhaps not likely to be using PEDs, but what about the possible use of popular and readily available nutritional supplements? This area of concern is often overlooked until it’s too late.

Read more: Let the "Games" Begin: A Look at Today’s Anti-Doping Measures (Part III)