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Abby (short for Al, Jr.) owns a wilderness lodge in the Chapleau Game Preserve. You can't get there by car. There's no electricity, no roads, and not much to distract a ragtag group of teenagers other than the fish. I spent 5 months with Abby in 1996. Two hundred miles from civilization, a million miles from a gym, and I learned how to lock out a weight.
My first week, Abby's wife asked me to move a bed from a cabin on this island to a cabin on that island. There was a short bridge between the two, so I could thankfully pull this off without use of a boat.
First, I drug the mattress to the door. Then I stood and looked at it for a few minutes. It was heavy. Worse, if I drug it in the dirt, it would be destroyed. I needed help, but there was none around; besides, I'd been asked with the assumption that I could do it alone, and alone it would be.
Eventually, I went back to the main lodge to ask for a hand truck. Bosslady told me there weren't any. So I returned to the mattress, picked it up, and half-lifted, half-slid it a quarter mile through the forest. I'd lift it up a few inches, slide my foot forward a few inches, and set it back town on the bridge of my foot so it didn't touch the ground. An hour later, I arrived, leaving a curious wake of dirt and leaves the width of a size-eleven Nike.
Abby followed soon after, carrying the bed frame over his head. I thought he was Superman. How the heck did he do that? I asked. "It's easier to carry heavy stuff if it's over your head," he said.
As soon as he was out of sight, I wrestled the mattress over my head. NOT easier. My back felt like it would snap in half. I rested it on my head, feeling again the sheer mass of an old mattress, and thought maybe fear would give me the strength to move that sucker down the dock and back.
I fought, shakily, my way to the end of the pier. I rested the mattress on my head again while I opened a gate to the dock. When I tried to move between two posts at the entrance, the mattress bumped against them. Oh – oh: I'd have to lift it over. And so I quarter-squatted, jumped up, and let the inertia pull the mattress into the air. Its sheer springiness made me grip it tightly with my elbows fully locked out. But then….
…it was easy. At full lockout, you don't have to struggle to extend your elbows, or even hold them in a state of semi-extension. At full lockout, your deltoids can rest while infraspinatus anchors your scapulae into a comfortable position. At full lockout, your humerus is sucked deep into the shoulder, where it anchors and sets itself to stay awhile. At full lockout, your pelvis is properly aligned to support your core musculature. It's safer for your back, because the horizontal distance from point of rotation (base of your spine) to weight is virtually zero. That means less rotational torque, and a spinal position that we're actually built to hold.
The technical details came later, of course. All I knew was that I could carry a mattress to the end of the dock and back. Watching Ty coach the Jerk this weekend, I thought of Abby Errington Jr., and how lessons learned the hard way are usually the ones that last.
Highlights from Tyler's OLY course this weekend:
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