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The Snatch

Caleb Ward —  November 12, 2009 — 1 Comment

If anyone were to ask me what my favorite exercise size is, I would say, the Snatch.

The snatch is more mentally challenging than the clean and jerk and it is more rewarding. It’s more rewarding because most experienced lifters cannot make a new PR snatch with bad technique; So, if the lift is stood up with, the lifter can know for certain they did something right. Thus, there is less margin for error in the snatch than that of the clean and jerk.

Snatches also leave a more vivid imprint in my head. I have 3 specific snatches that I can feel, not remember, but feel. I can feel myself moving under the bar and catching in a solid position, and every day my drive is to make that number go up to 4, and then 5, and 6 and so on.

2004 (right before Schoolage Nationals)- Glenn had us doing what we called 20-10’s. My snatch PR before this day was 82.5kg and I was doing my work weight at 75. On reps 15 and above I started to increase my numbers. By the time I got to 85kg, it was rep 18. New PR. Then, the grand rep 19 came about with 87.5. Something about being 19min into the workout and 18 heavy reps behind me made this lift special to me. Who knows how it looked, the camera was probably pointed at one of our greats at the time, but I remember how it felt to this day. Every position was solid, concluding with a PR. Call it the exhaustion that made this so memorable, but who cares, because it was the monumental day for me that I realized how great this lift was.

2006 (right before Schoolage Nationals, again)- I hadn’t been snatching for what I can remember 6 months. Any time I lifted the bar above my head with a snatch grip, my back would almost go into complete spasm. Once this was fixed we literally had to start from the basics, and work my way back to the weights I need to win a meet like this. We were training in Sammi Nichols’ garage on one platform and the weight was 110. It was my 3rd single with that weight and for some reason this one felt completely different; it was the first time in 6 months that I had felt “back.” Again, every position just felt perfect along with a solid catch. It felt quite like Deja Vu, in that I was feeling the same way, yet I wasn’t in the same place or around the same people. I tried to explain to Glenn how perfect it felt and that it was the second time I had ever done that, and I got his normal response “It was a good lift, Caleb. Let’s go up.” Something about this lift just helped solidify in my head that I was back in the scene, ready to lift.

2009 (recovering from Junior Worlds)- Yes, I had to wait 3 years from this one. Going into Worlds this past year, I was a mess. I was having a rough time in my own life and it just seemed to follow me into the gym. Also, I couldn’t seem to stay healthy, in a physical sense. February 14th, 2009 I tore a muscle in my back. 2 weeks before Juniors I tore some ligaments in my foot (the one that bends for the jerk) along with back pain. April 18th, I had drove to Collegiate Nationals to watch and while training I re-injured the muscle in my back. Memorial day weekend I was healthy, made a PR snatch of 160, then the next day I strained a muscle in my quad (Thank you to Lancaster back and joint who helped me through it all). So, needless to say I needed some down time after Worlds. We focused a lot on strength in July, when I trained, and not the lifts for the first time in my life. We only were snatching once a week and clean and jerking once a week, but when we did do the lifts we wanted to make sure my technique was back to where it was before all those bumps. To do this we mainly did doubles and only counted the ones that were as close to perfect as I could achieve. One day, getting ambitious and tired of doubles, I went ahead with singles past 140 (which was not ok with Glenn, but he was chatting with a friend and not watching me). When I got to 148 I performed my normal routine before I grabbed the bar, everything the same as always, except the feeling. That feeling came back that I hadn’t had in so long. Another perfect lift achieved according to my standards. The important this about this lift was it showed me the importance of strength in training. I’ve never been a strong lifter, I could barely dead lift 200 when I cleand it the first time, and I’m still not a strong lifter. But having done that snatch with all the strength training we had been doing made realize how much stronger, not technically proficient (I have that now), I need to become to reach my goals.

I believe my strong point in the snatch is that I’m not intimidated by the lift. It doesn’t make me nervous, although I do feel  relieved after making my opener at a competition. I am able to see the lift in my head as I will do it in the near future and that’s the key is focusing on a positive outcome.

I talk to myself on the platform in both lifts. People tend to ask me after I compete, “What are you saying up there?” I mostly talk out loud, in a whisper, to keep myself calm. There is so much noise in the room, that if I can hear myself say something, I can focus and breathe normally like I need to for a big lift. The words that come out of my mouth hardly every make sentences either. I tend to just say key words that Glenn has said to me in practice recently and that I know I need work on. But the thing that makes this whole process for the snatch good for me is that I am able to remember those 3 perfect lifts before I lift. I think about how normal things were on those days, and that the present moment is just like that. I can focus all the positive energy from my head to the bar and usually compete a successful snatch.

I’ll follow this blog up with why I hate the clean and jerk soon.

The REAL Linear Progression

Caleb Ward —  October 20, 2009 — 7 Comments

Lately, while learning about strength training for new athletes, I’ve heard a lot about the linear progression most people go through with their first couple months of weightlifting. Basically, as time goes on, each lifter will get stronger and stronger at a linear rate (y=x will be used for this example) until they reach a point where their lifts level off to a more flat progression (y= 1/2x, y= 1/4x, y= 1/8x, etc. and smaller and smaller). Note: I know there are better examples, but that’s not the point of this blog.

Well after some thinking, I’ve made my own observation: The real linear progression lies in the rate at which, as Glenn W Pendlay III loses weight, our workouts increasingly get harder and harder.

Hypothesis: The X-Axis, or independent variable, will in this case be as time goes on the closer we get to death. The Y-Axis, or dependent variable, will in this case be this specific Gorilla’s weight loss as he loses more and more weight.

Research: On more than one occasion Glenn has come into the gym in the morning and made this exact, word for word statement, “Guys! Guess what? I lost another 5lbs…. By the way we’re going to add 2 more doubles to each workout today.” Although this nonchalant comment may seem harmless to the elite weightlifter, I should mention that Glenn has lost 30lbs, and since 30/5=6, he has made that statement about 6 times to use. Yes, our blog SAYS we’re only do five doubles… but we’re really pushing the CrossFit minimum of 100 doubles per workout right now.

Solution: Jon North and I have tried to comprise many possible ways to make Glenn retain his weight, for our well-being of course, and none of them seem to work. We’ve taken Glenn to all you can eat wings at Hooters on Tuesdays… nothing. We’ve spiked his diet coke with anti-laxatives… nothing. We’ve put extra sugar in his coffee.. nothing. We’ve practically ran out of solutions other than chopping his head off.

Conclusion: As Glenn’s confidence rises, our death bed is going to look closer and closer each and every day regardless of our noble attempts to save our own lives.



Caleb Ward —  October 15, 2009 — 4 Comments

I’m so completely fed up with the steroids hype these days. If someone tells me, or references, that it is impossible to win World or Olympic medals without the use of performance enhancing drugs, I’m likely to hit them in the face. Ok… So I’m not aggressive enough to punch someone, but do you catch my drift? So what if the Europeans and Asians and WHOEVER else is using them out there, I don’t need them or want them. Has anyone ever heard of the word cheating or morals? I guess that when my parents and teachers warned  me of the consequences for cheating it was some anomaly that no one else has ever ever been taught before. And I guess the guilt I feel for even thinking about cheating, A.K.A. morals, makes me one of a few people out there in this world who  have felt that.

There recently was a movie released called “The Invention of Lying.” In this movie, a world is created where no one can lie. It’s not that they can’t, but they just don’t understand what it is. However one man tries to change his fate by “inventing” this crazy concept of lying, which propels him into this life he thinks he wants. The way I feel about drug-use is oddly parallel to this movie, in that everyone in the world has no concept of cheating or morals, and I’m the lone guy who was struck with the conscience of what is right and what is wrong.

Not only do the consequences of cheating lay heavy on my conscience, but the physical effects of long term drug abuse are revolting. I remember the first Weightlifting camp I went to, USADA gave a presentation. In this presentation they showed a couple slides of Men who had taken steroids for competitive sport. Although they were a little rough looking, nothing was too shocking, until the end when the presenter told us that actually every one of those pictures had been pictures of females. Men tend to grow breasts and their testicles shrink, among other things, and to me, that alone is not worth taking anything to enhance my performance.

I’m taking a vow now that I would rather compete with a clean conscience and a clean record, than compete at all. I will never fail a drug test, and I will willingly be tested at any time of the day or night, by anyone, anywhere, blood or urine. I will get to the World class level in my own time, by my own means, and by my own talent in untainted fashion, you can count on it.

If I won the Lotto:

Caleb Ward —  October 7, 2009 — 4 Comments

Ever since I was 12 years old and started taking long car trips with my old team, Wichita Falls Weightlifting, we’ve have played the game “If I won the Lotto, I would…” I think a lot of people would get a kick out of this game and put some imagination into it, so I’m going to get the game started.

Right now, the estimated CASH value of the Mega Millions California Lotto is $79 Million (to be drawn 10/06/2010), so this will be our amount. And someone please call me out you think I pass my budget.

First, most people would take care of themselves, but I would have to devote the first million to my family (I’m sure they’ve spent that much on me anyway LOL).

Then, being the business major that I am, I would take about $10 million and invest. I’m only 19, so I’m not as educated as some, but I think that would be a pretty good idea. I would want to invest in something long term so that years down the road, when I make my money back, I would feel similar to someone who just found $20 in their pocket…. But it will be more like $10+ million.

Here’s where the imagination kicks in:

I will next take about $40 million and build a weightlifting “boarding” school. This is being somewhat reminiscent of  being 14 years old again because my best friends were weightlifters and I didn’t like going to school with non-weightlifters (who does?).We will most likely be located in Tennessee (don’t as why, I just like Tennessee for some reason). This school will employ all my favorite teachers from my high school, because I was fortunate enough to be given an education in Texas, and we will only go to school for about 4 hours a day… if that. This school will also be college accredited for those of you who want to continue. We will have steak lunches and dinners complemented with a glass of milk to drink. Our dorms will house both men and women (I will of course live in the penthouse up top). We will have a movie theater and an Olympic size swimming pool with a low spring board. We will house only the best Sports Med Staff (this of course being the Lancasters, my favorite doctors, and crew for chiropractic and general care). Glenn Pendlay will coach us because, well, that’s enough said already. Tuition will be free because after the USOC sees my investment they will realize that more money should be allocated to weightlifting and my program so that I won’t have to funnel more money into it. If I don’t like you, you can’t come. We will host nationals every year because we will practically be housing all the great weightlifters in the USA anyway, and big guys like me don’t like getting on planes. Real salaries will be paid out to the top lifters in the gym, me excluded because I’m a multi-millionaire anyway, to increase competition and motivation.This school will basically be what training centers have dreamed to be of all time.

Let’s see…. I’ve got about $28 million left.

I’ve always wanted to own my own island… How much does that cost? I’m talking an actual, tropical, inhabitable island with a HUGE house on it. I’d say in total that’s going to cost about $25 million (1 yacht, 1 house, 1 island = about 25 million, right?)

For another $1 million I would pay USA Gymnastics to credential me as an official, traveling fan for all national, world, and Olympic teams for the future (No, I’m not pervert… I’m just not completely obsessed with weightlifting like most of you weirdos).

My last 2 million I would keep on hand. I’m sure there are lots of things I will want with this new lifestyle of mine… Cars, Vacations, and “Toys” (in this sense I’m talking about what rich people refer to as toys…. like helicopters). And I’m sure I’ll have bills and unexpected expenses (like the speeding tickets I will get with my fast cars). 2 million should cover all that, huh?

To be completely honest I have NO idea what I would spend $79 Million on. It wasn’t until this past year that I thought $100 was a ton of money, so my concept of money really doesn’t stretch that far.

I really hope if you read this you can take some time to post what you would do with your $79 million… or at least let me know how I wasted mine!


Caleb Ward —  September 24, 2009 — 10 Comments

Lately, in preparation for the weightlifting “season” (referring to the consecutive months focused on national events), we have been training so hard that I have found myself falling asleep while trying to put on my weightlifting shoes. This is a problem because I usually only put my shoes on before I practice, although I did wear them to school once (this is not a joke). Then, I have to find a way to motivate myself to do one of these “marathon” work outs that I know are going to put me through some serious pain.

So here is my dilemma: I am constantly questioning myself whether or not this is all worth the tired days and pain.

Of course it is! Who, at this level of training, doesn’t question what they’re doing? If you can’t be honest enough with yourself to question your motivations behind the sport, then you haven’t been pushed hard enough yet. It’s human nature to question your own actions when your limits have been crossed. But why is it all worth it?

Well, everyone should have a different answer. My answer lies in the fact that when I was 6 years old, entering the first grade, eating my Pop-Ice (don’t judge) and sweating the Texas heat, I watched the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and knew I had to do that. I didn’t know why I had to do it, I didn’t know what it would take to get me there, but I didn’t care. What I knew was that I wanted to feel the same way Kerri Strug felt when she landed her vault on a broken ankle for the gold medal (people don’t understand that that is probably the most inspirational feat ever performed… ever) or when Michael Johnson became the first man to win the 200m and 400m races in the same Olympics. Just to experience the same thing that they felt saluting the judges or crossing the finish line has been my main determination every single day for the past 13 years and is still the reason I wake up everyday, put on my weightlifting shoes and work harder than the day before.

Training with Glenn, Donny, Max and Jon every day and pushing myself to these mental and physical limits has led me to be somewhat inspirational myself. While I’m trying to motivate myself, I’m also trying to be a fearless leader and motivate my troops. I have found myself thinking up my own, original quotes that sound like they came from my own hero’s. Each time I come up with one of these quotes it pushes me through my workout and makes me forget that I’m lifting heavy weights and remember that I’m training towards the goals that have made me come the determined athlete I am today.

Some may say that training solely to go to the Olympics is detrimental, because it is so hard to peak at the right time, and  if you don’t,  you will have disappointed yourself. Well here is my rebuttal to that: “The Olympics don’t just happen every 4 years, they happen every day in the gym. Every 4 years is simply a celebration of achievement.” I would love nothing more than to celebrate my achievements at the Olympics in London and 4 years later (hopefully in Chicago), but it is not the sole factor that determines my own personal satisfaction or success. Every day that I work harder than the day before is my own personal Olympics. Every day that I make a heavier lift stands for the Olympics. Every day that I wake up and pick up the bar, means just as much to me as going to the Olympics, and that makes it worth every single time.


Caleb Ward —  September 20, 2009 — 9 Comments

Alright, I’m finally joining the cool kids and writing a blog for this site.

A little bit about me as an introduction for this blog:

I just moved from Texas to train with better lifters and lift in a more competitive atmosphere. I was not poached, I’m capable of making my own decisions, and for those who care, Glenn chose to move to California after I made my choice. Glenn, as previously mentioned, is my slightly overgrown, hairy, one of a kind coach. Glenn is the best coach for me because he works just as hard as I do in and outside of the gym to help me achieve my goals, which is the most humble, altruistic thing anyone has ever done for me. I compete in the 1-0-fatty-plus class, yes I know I’m fat, Mark Rippetoe, but so was Chemerkin, Steiner, Reza and most other Olympic Champions in that class and at least I’m better than anyone you ever “coached.”  I set high goals for myself and work harder to make those goals old news. Although 2009 has been my worst year in weightlifting, I’m finally healthy and looking forward to 2010. Weightlifting is business for me; I’m not looking for a good time… and besides who likes waking up in the morning after a hard, joint grinding workout? I think that this helps me be a better weightlifter than I would be if I were in it for fun because my focus in the gym each day is to make all lifts successful like my life depends on it (missing lifts is not acceptable on my platform).

I trained by myself every day for so long, that now, training with 3 great lifters is like having 3 new brothers. I look to them to push me every day.

Donny- If you don’t know who Donny Shankle is then you need to make a trip on over to Cal Strength and meet this guy. Donny is one of the strongest guys I’ve ever met and training with Donny is like playing against the computer in a video game. It’s like the odds are always on his side and no matter how well I am training that day, he always pushes a little harder and beats me. One day I’ll have Donny shedding tears, but for now this is my biggest help in training.

Jon- I’ve watched Jon North at 2 competitions before and made fun of him so much that I was almost embarrassed to meet him. This kid has some energy, and some amazing potential for this sport. I think most people have overlooked how hard it is to work to the numbers, in clean/untainted fashion, as he has, and not to mention his “needs-improvement-technique.”  Now that Glenn has changed around a few things, I may have to watch my back from 2 weight classes down for Jon North.

Max- Max Aita is great to have around in the gym. Before I visited California I had never heard of him, but now that I do, I feel like everyone should get to know him. Max is one dedicated individual to the sport of weightlifting. Max can easily be not only a great American Weightlifter, but one of the next great coaches for the Untied States. He lives, breathes and eats weightlifting every day. His knowledge of weightlifting and technical eye are such an advantage for the lifters at Cal Strength that everyone should sign up for a session with THE Max Montana Aita.

-Caleb Ward