Waves… They’re Not Just For Surfing

Sage happy dance by Sage Mertz

Growing up, Mike’s Gym was THE PLACE to be on Saturday mornings. People from all over California would drive to the little town of Bonsall to come and work on their snatch and clean and jerk under the watchful eye of Coach B. The number of people in the gym (sometimes four to a platform) made the environment chaotic and positively electric.

What made Saturdays SO special was the fact that no matter what kind of lifting cycle we were on, we would take that day to work up to a heavy snatch, heavy clean and jerk, and heavy front squat. It didn’t matter if we were borderline paraplegic from being in the middle of the Hatch Squat Program. It didn’t matter if we had stayed out too late the night before… come Saturday morning, everyone was determined to hit some kind of PR lift.

Unfortunately, despite spending the night praying to the lifting gods to bless us with leg strength, speed and fluidity, there would be some Saturday mornings where we all just felt like we had somehow contracted Ebola.

We would warm up, and slowly start working our way up to a heavy single, only to find ourselves seriously struggling with our 80-85%! So what happened then? Did we stop at 80% and move on for the day? NOT IN THIS HOUSE!!

I’m only half kidding. In the sport of weightlifting, there are definitely days when the stars just aren’t aligned and the daily temperature and humidity are not conducive for maxing out purposes. On those days, it can be smart to call it quits and save it for another day. BUT, there are also times where a lack of focus can be the sole reason for missing those weights that you know you are capable of hitting.

This is where snatch and clean and jerk “waves” can come in handy. A “wave” is when you work up in weight and then take weight off and work back up again. For example, say my best snatch is 75 kilos. My warm up attempts look like this: 35kg, 45kg, 55kg, 60kg, 65kg, 70kg (miss). I missed 70kg, and I now have two choices. I can either continue to attempt 70kg and get progressively more frustrated from missing 7 times in a row, OR I can move back down in weight to 60kg and feel what a proper snatch is supposed to feel like. I’ve taken the mental pressure off of myself of having to hit a heavy weight, and I force myself to think solely about being fast and being technically proficient at a weight I’m extremely comfortable at.

That “moving down in weight” can often be the key to REMINDING my body how it’s SUPPOSED to move.

So, I hit 60kg beautifully and move up to 65kg and nail it! I now have given my body a chance to feel two additional PERFECT reps before moving on to 70kg again. Now that I’ve felt how my body is supposed to move, I hit 70 kg effortlessly and am able to move up to 75kg.

UH OH!! 75 kg was a disaster! I freaked out because I convinced myself that 5 more kilos on the barbell was somehow definitely going to kill me. So, I move back down to 70 kg (a weight that I have now successfully lifted and am much more confident with) and retrain my perfect mechanics. 70kg feels great, so now I have convinced myself that I am not, in fact, a total sissy girl and I move on to successfully lift 75kg with speed and grace and tenacity.

In conclusion, missing weights and having an “off day” doesn’t HAVE to be your fate on certain days. Maybe, all you’re missing is a lack of focus. Work up in weight and then take weight off and remind your body how to move efficiently. Once it has been reminded, then you can move back up in weight.

You never know, maybe you’ll surprise yourself with a new PR (given that you’ve offered some sort of sacrifice to the lifting gods)!

3 Responses to “Waves… They’re Not Just For Surfing”

  1. josh everett

    I miss those days at Mikes gym! Another good strategy your dad has us do if the snatch wasn’t going well was move on to the C&J then come back to the SN. When you came back to the SN after the C&J you had a revenge factor on the barbell and that pull feels really light after your used to the feel of the clean. Good article Sage. I enjoy the new blog.

    Reply
  2. D Douglas

    I just wish I could hit 75 Kilos for a snatch!! As a mid 40’s guy with a teenage daughter who absolutely loves the sport, I look forward to using some of your dad’s wisdom and methodology with her as we both grow together in this sport. Thank you for a great website.

    Reply
  3. Lois

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