“That lifter’s form is pretty good!” your inside voice says.
Everybody feels good and the weight goes up.
Conversely, you might make an assessment and it does not match your ideal model…
Everybody feels bad, and the weight kind of goes up, or not at all.
What if I told you… that I choose to teach form as part of a three-piece model. In this model, form is defined as only the statically captured positions at any given moment.
In the F3 Method, form is key starting, transitional, and finishing positions which the ideal movement model requires to mechanically execute with efficiency. It is the delivery by the athlete, of the perfect positions for that movement at that moment in time.
F2 – Flow
Flow represents the movement from one position to the next in the correct sequence. Flow, like a river, changes tempo and velocity as it moves past the banks restraining it. In this metaphor, you can imagine that the banks of the river provide the form, and the flow is the movement exhibited by the water.
F3 – Feeling
In the Chinese weightlifting system, as far as it has been expressed to me by coaches and athletes proficient in the style, feeling is the important thing because the feeling will be wrong if the athlete isn’t moving well or in the right positions.
What I’m sharing with you all now is something that I expect to evolve and mature over time. It’s incomplete. Likely it’s also nothing new to many more experienced people in the field. How I’m now engaging with my athletes is often a conversation that starts with feeling.
Form in our method is taught by teaching the precise static positions that an athlete will be required to move through. We do it by teaching the athlete the initial positions, balance points, and the activations that are necessary to achieve the movement. The successful education and execution of the positions will provide the foundations, and well… the form, that the movement is to take.
Metaphorically, how does the river achieve any sort of flow, without the banks to guide it?
This is more complicated. Movement has many aspects: powerful ones, sharp ones, strong ones, braced static ones, balanced ones, and so on. The trick here is having a shared language and physical demonstrations that the athlete can replicate and connect to the previously taught form.
The importance of teaching flow, as an expression of power, or strength, or agility, or timing is absolutely necessary for a weightlifter. I believe this to be the same for coaching any other sport; they all have their critical patterns. Movement has tempo. A beat.
For a weightlifter, the athlete has to express strength in the ground to Position 1 transition, then power in the 2 to 3 to overhead receiving position, then static strength for the catch, and finally dynamic strength in the recovery. All the while they also need to achieve the ideal mechanically advantaged positions or form.
Feeling is the hardest thing to coach, and this is where coaches and athletes must be patient. A new weightlifter will not inherently be comfortable as they flow through their form. It’s a fresh thing, and their body and mind are flat out remembering the positions: when to be strong and when to be powerful. Their sensory awareness is not as easily accessible to them while learning as it is for an experienced lifter.
The lifter must learn what each position within the form has to feel like, what a powerful movement feels like as opposed to light, or strong, and so on. This understanding takes time for both the coach and the athlete to develop. What does the athlete man when they say “that felt heavy”, or “it doesn’t feel fast”? What does the coach mean, when they say “fast”? Which bit, where in the overall lift should the athlete be fast?
“How did that feel?”
From the clues coaches get from an athlete, the coach can begin to diagnose, cross-referencing the athletes feelings and their own assessments of form and flow. If a lift felt slow, the weight may be too heavy, the positions could be off, the athlete could be struggling to produce power for some reason.
Being able to have a natural conversation with the athlete about the lift, grounding it in terms that mean something to them (their feeling) you collaborate on adjustments to either form or flow to achieve better feeling.
Is this bad? Should you adjust something that felt good?
Yes and no; this is part of the coaches black magic or art. In some cases, where form and flow were essentially trending to where you have as an ideal for that given athlete, probably not. “Great! If that felt good, make it feel good again! Back on the bar.”
If the form and flow were away from what you were trying to get the athlete to produce, then without denying the athlete their sense of joy from what they have just done, help them to make it feel even better. I wouldn’t recommend not cueing the athlete to better form and flow, I’d do that immediately. The key here is to do it such that the athletes confidence is built upon, not broken. Build up with praise, then adjust as well.
The athlete, through training, will need to develop both a sense of self during execution of movements, as well as the ability to help create the language of feeling with their coach.
I’ve said before, the best coach for you is the one that makes sense to you, and that you have trust in. Success in weightlifting and powerlifting is the result of the successful pairing of coach and athlete.