What I Learned This Week: Volume 1 (5/13/12 – 5/18/12)

This is, what I am planning to be, the first edition of a weekly piece I am will write about my summer vacation spent back at Peak Performance. Every week I am going to delve into topics that I learned more about over the past week. Hopefully there will be both training nutrition stuff in each issue but that is up in the air.

I hope that providing information from the perspective of someone who still has a lot to learn will be encouraging to those who are trying to do the same thing. I also feel like it is my obligation to relay the information I learn from the great minds I am surrounded by on a daily basis.

Without further ado…here’s are a few things I learned last week.

Medicine Ball Squat Clean to Work on Clean Technique

First of all, I am a big believer in the benefits of explosive movements such as Olympic lifts. The problem is most people, when seeking to learn the various lifts, become daunted by the technique. It doesn’t help matters when the first place an average trainee might go to learn the Olympic lifts is not a proven coach, but rather Google or YouTube. A quick YouTube search of the snatch or clean and jerk comes up with Olympians in competition moving serious weight, with speed, in onesies. Daunting indeed.

Luckily this past week a friend of mine, Ed Williams, picked up a simple and effective training technique for the squat clean at a seminar he attended, and relayed it to the rest of our training group. All of us in our crew have been doing the squat clean for a while and consider ourselves to be solid, but definitely with some room to improve.

So, instead of starting with some warm-up sets with 10 kilos on the bar, we began with about 3 sets each of medicine ball version. In each set we focused on getting into the proper starting position, getting to full extension, and getting under the weight. After getting comfortable with the medicine ball technique we moved onto a weighted barbell.

During the actual squat clean workout, our training group wasn’t as concerned with the weight on the bar as we were with the technique of the lift. None of us had personal record lifts, but we all agreed that our collective technique was better for having done the medicine ball clean and squat as a technical warm up. Also, when it comes to the Olympic lifts, once the weight on the bar starts to increase, if you do not have sound technical form to fall back on, there is no way you can consistently get better.

Here is a video of how to perform the medicine ball squat clean:


Lesson Learned: Sometimes you need to take 1 step back so you can take 2 steps forward. (Sometimes it might seem like 10 steps back, but trust the process and focus on the big picture)

The Skinny on CLA

Though strength training and the pursuit of improved physical fitness will always be my first love, I have an insatiable drive to learn as much as I can about nutrition and supplementation. Apparently my family has picked up on this because this week my mom asked me my opinion about a supplement and its possible benefits.

My mom’s friend at work was given some amount of a CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) product as a promotional giveaway at the end of a race she completed. The friend brought up in conversation that she just started taking CLA in the hopes of losing fat. My mom, a supplement skeptic, wrote down some information and later that night asked me my thoughts.

Because I am no expert, when broached with the topic of CLA supplementation I immediately set off in search of some credible information to help me form a reliable opinion.

Knowledge Alert!

  • CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) is a fatty acid
  • It is polyunsaturated (multiple points of unsaturation)
  • It is often found in beef and dairy (grass-fed beef and raw dairy are best sources)

I was able to find a few articles that sited research pertaining to the different effects of CLA intake. Once I felt I had accrued enough information from the various sources referenced, I finally gave my take on the matter. CLA, though probably not harmful, didn’t seem like the best place to start for a person looking to lose weight. This advice was confirmed by another trusty resource that came in the form of a great trainer, a continuing education addict, and friend, Dan Trink. After asking him about his thoughts on CLA he told me:

Warning! Knowledge bombs are falling left and right! Take Cover!

  • Many of the studies done have been performed on mice
  • There is not much evidence supporting efficacy in humans
  • You can be deficient in CLA if you do not eat grass fed beef
  • Considered a “good” omega-6 fatty acid (some omega-6’s can be inflammatory)
  • CLA is probably not beneficial for fat loss
  • It might be better to start off with something like fiber

This whole investigation started with a simple question of, “What do you think about CLA?” Despite the fact I had very little invested into the outcome of the question (I wasn’t the one taking CLA and trying to lose weight), I decided to exhaust the resources around me to find the answer. Somewhere in the process of researching CLA though I asked myself a question. “Why couldn’t my mom’s friend have done her own research?” That is another question, and it is one I don’t have the answer to right now. PubMed here I come!

Lesson Learned: If you have a question, find the answer by using your resources. Literally being resourceful is a great quality.




Dan Trink

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