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Old School Fat Loss

May 21, 2003 10:27 AM

I love being a strength coach. I love helping anyone get stronger, fitter, more athletic?as long as they do it my way. So when coaches or administrators ask me if I can help them shed bodyfat to become more "cut," I say "Sure. But you have to be open to doing different things." If they agree, then we are on our way.

The cornerstone of these workouts is high repetition Olympic lifting: the power snatch and the power clean and push press (both from the high hang position).

The first step is to teach the individual the lifts. Good technique is necessary for an effective workout, but you want the individual to learn the lifts fast so that they can get right into their workouts. This is why I use the high hang position for the lifts, a technique I learned from Coach Burgener. Basically, the high hang position means that the athlete is standing tall, straight up and down (not hinged at the waist). The bar is at the hips and the arms are straight. From this position, to execute either lift, the athlete simply needs to jump. That is, they dip at the knees while keeping the chest up (no forward lean of upper body) and jump the bar up either overhead or to the shoulders. Pretty simple.

To learn the details of this extremely effective way to teach the Olympic lifts, you can e-mail me, contact the master, Coach Burgener, or check out Josh Everett's (Head Strength Coach at the University of California-Riverside) website at UCR for a great description. Also, keep checking the Forum as Coach Burgener will be writing an article on this topic very soon.

After this first teaching session (or once the lifts from the high hang have been adequately mastered), it is time to get into the actual workouts. The goal of these sessions is to move the bar fast and aggressively on every rep. The bar should snap into the catch position. The weight on the bar is not that important. In fact, most women will start with an empty bar or even a light bar. However, heavy breathing and sweating will result. That is a good thing. Here is a sample program:

Day 1: (Monday)

  1. Snatch (from high hang): 5x10, one minute rest between sets. Start with a light weight that enables the completion of the sets and reps. The key is to move the bar fast. Jump hard, pull hard and move the feet fast. Bring the bar down and go right into the next rep. Put the bar down when resting. When 5x10 is relatively easy, add a set and do 6x10. Work up slowly to 10x10. Then add 10 lbs to the bar and start back at 5x10. Continue this type of progression. Make sure to maintain good form and good bar speed.
  2. Walking Lunges: 3x10+10. These will make a person very sore, so take it easy. As you get used to the lunges, you can hold a DB or KB in your hands while you lunge. Coach Burgener has his athletes do walking lunges but makes them hold the bottom position and curl and press the DB's before they come up and take the next stride.
  3. Pullups/Jackknife Pushups: these are done density style (sets on the minute). You can be creative here. For example, one can do 3 pullups and 3 jackknife pushups and rest the remainder of the minute. Or, more reps can be done by alternating the exercises on the minute. Pick a total number of reps as a goal.
  4. DB or KB swings: 1x30 seconds with a light to medium weight. Build up to 2x1 minute.
  5. Hanging leg raises: 25 total, bringing feet up to the bar.

Day 2: (Wednesday)

  1. Clean and Push Press (from high hang): Follow the same rules that apply to the snatch. Move the bar fast. One minute rest. 5x10, slowly increasing to 10x10, then add 10 lbs and go back to 5x10.
    >Back Squat: 5x5 These are all working sets. In fact, I recommend using the same weight for each set. One minute rest between sets. Use a light to moderate weight that allows completion of the sets and reps and a DEEP squat (all the way down).
  2. Chin Ladder: For example, 12345. Do 3-4 ladders.
  3. DB seesaw press: Hold 2 DB's or KB's at shoulder height. Press one up, reaching as high as possible and contract your obliques on the side of the low DB/KB. Bring the DB/KB down and repeat on the other side. Do these in a smooth, rhythmic fashion. Do 4 sets of 5+5.
  4. Pushup and Row: 2x10: Get into pushup position with your hands on DB handles (preferably hex DB or KB). Do a pushup, then, in the up position, lean your weight over to one side, supported by a locked out arm, and pull the DB/KB on the other side all the way up as in a row. Bring the DB/KB down, shift the weight over and do a row on the opposite side. That is one rep. Now do a pushup again. (Coach Reeve has described this on the forum and Josh Everett has a video clip of this exercise on his website.)
  5. Ab Wheel: 2x15.

Day 3: (Friday)

  1. Clean Combo: Clean+Front Squat+Push Press+Back Squat+Push Press. This is one rep. After the last push press in the sequence, bring the bar back to the high hang position and begin another rep. Use light weight and do 5 sets of 5.
  2. Burgener Circuit: Take a light DB or KB and do the following without putting the DB or KB down: 5 swing switches on each arm (swing the DB/KB in front of you, let go and catch with the other hand), 5 full swings on each arm, 5 snatches on each arm, 5 cleans on each arm, 5 clean and jerks on each arm and 5 windmills on each arm. Do 3 sets.
  3. Pick 10 ab exercises and go 30 seconds on/30 seconds off, 1 set of each.

That should do it. Simple yet effective. The high rep Olympic stuff is great. It causes panting and sweating and requires one to move the weight a great distance. All the muscles of the body will be stimulated. Just remember, for all exercises (but especially the Olympic movements) reps, sets and weight should be added slowly. Bar speed is crucial.

Initially, break into this program slowly over an 8 week period. Then take 2-3 weeks off where you do other types of lifting (Power to the People! or The Russian Kettlebell Challenge). Then attack the protocol for another (but far more intense) 8 week round.

These workouts are short enough so that one can add a few other favorite exercises or other athletic activities. This is the way that the average American used to train in the glory days of lifting (1930's-60's). Repetition weightlifting was the foundation of the famous York Courses. Those who followed these programs built great strength, athleticism, vitality and superb physiques. The results back then were amazing, and they will be for you today. Let me know how things go. Enjoy!

Stephane Rochet, RKC, is a strength coach at UC Riverside. He coaches year-round strength and conditioning camps for athletes of all ages in the region. Every month, Stephane holds a Coaching Clinic for high school strength coaches and a KB workshop for all those interested. For more information on dates, times and how to register for the camps or clinics, please call 909-787-2890 or e-mail