Amna Al Haddad
Sports Pioneer from the Middle East

Training Log Split Squats

Published on October 17th, 2012 | by Amna Al Haddad


Training Phase #1 (Mid Sept – Mid Oct): Recovery & Structural Balance

Since this is my first post writing about my new journey into Olympic weightlifting competitively in terms of training, it will be loaded with a bit of information and a general idea of my training instead of what a typical log looks like since I haven’t updated about my training, in well…ages.

Training phase 1 – Structural Balance:

The past month (mid Sept – mid Oct ) was more of a recovery month for me.  The month prior was the time I completely stopped Crossfit and having had practiced weightlifting for three weeks consecutively.

This phase was utilized in a way to work on any structural imbalances I have and any imbalances in strength (oh boy, there was a lot of that!). Having structural balance is important in many ways as it builds the trainee’s or athlete’s base and is considered as a preventative measure from injuries, as imbalances are one of the reasons why the risk of injuries are higher.

Identified weaknesses:

  • Rotator cuffs
  • Core
  • Mid back
  • Lack of motor unit recruitment
  • Seriously tight hip flexors
  • Pushing vs pulling strength in the upper body
  • Grip strength

One of the things I struggled with and still learning to be aware of is my movement –  something very crucial for an athlete – something I wasn’t aware of before.  My coach always stresses on being aware of any – either right or wrong – movement I make. The simple fact I didn’t know how to bring my shoulder blades together, translates into lack of stability in my overhead position while doing snatches (as when you snatch, when you receive the bar overhead you’d need to bring the shoulders back and down to stabilize the weight) – and with my tight hip flexors, no wonder doing Snatches has been a nightmare! Now that I am aware of what shoulder retractions are and what they mean, performing snatches and being aware of I need to do to stabilize under the bar, I will feel a lot more secure than I ever did before. Generally speaking, weightlifters have the ability to recruit nearly almost all of their motor units in a synchronous manner and should be able to execute the clean and snatch in a smooth manner, rather into broken movements (points at self, robot much?)

From a weightlifter point of view, structural balance cannot only reduce my risk of injury (and mine is pretty high), it can also help determine, say my best or 1RM Snatch based on my 1RM back Squat, for an example.

What is structural balance? To achieve optimal athletic performance you have to address specific ratios of strength imbalances in development . Structural balance assessment was developed by Charles Poliquin when he studied the workout systems of European weightlifters. Download this PDF for more on the topic.

Weekly training sessions overview:

Structural balance:
T1,T2 & T3 raises (with a lot of focus on T3 – my midback)
Shoulder retractions with fatgripz
Shoulder external rotations

Upper Body:
Push ups on a bench (focus on not breaking in the mid back and keeping elbows @ 45 degrees)
Shoulder push ups
Pull ups/chin ups

Lower Body:
Step ups ( 100% of the weight shifted in the front foot)
Weighted RDL’s (fatgripz introduced in last week)
Split Squats
TRX hamstring curls

A lot of core work, A LOT…and stretching!

That’s just a general idea of how the training sessions were like, not necessarily in the order mentioned or all of the exercises in each session. Most of the exercises were done with a 4010 tempo.


  • Hips opening up! How? Achieved a split squat with a straight back leg (not the picture above though, that’s almost there)
  • From doing shoulder external rotations with bands to doing them with 10lbs (couldn’t even do one rep in my 1st session)
  • More awareness of my motor unit recruitment and my body as a whole (work in progress, though)
  • Core is getting there – still need to work on it.
  • Being able to balance at the bottom of a squat for some time (with no shoes), and getting out of it (my own observation.)

We have achieved some of the goals in this training phase, and will continue doing some structural balance occasionally for maintenance.

One of the things I enjoy about my current training, although it is not directly weightlifting, my coach explains the relation of what we’re doing into the sport I am specializing in and in what way it can help me with my lifting. At same time, the training sessions are not just about doing the work (and it’s a lot of work, mind you), it is also learning and understanding every aspect or the reason behind each exercise.

More on the new training phase next week.

My training is being programmed by Head Strength Coach, Olivier Lamoureux from FAST, sport-specific athletics training.

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About the Author

Amna Al Haddad , born in 21 Oct 1989, is an Emirati who always had a passion for health and fitness. She made history by being the first Emirati and GCC national to ever to participate in the Reebok Crossfit Games Asia Regionals. Since then she embarked on Olympic Weightlifting with being an IWF Arab and West-Asian Champ -63. A NIKE sponsored athlete, a motivational speaker and published author.

  • Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hamahmy

    There’s a video of you deadlifting nearly 2x bodyweight raw. I wouldn’t exactly call that a weak grip :p But yeah, RDLs with fat gripz are a great choice, because you’ll tend to use moderately heavy weights for RDLS, and your hands have to hold on the whole time.
    If I may suggest an exercise, hanging leg raises will really work both your core and your grip.

    • Amna_AlHaddad

      Hi Mohammed, thanks for stopping by and your comment. Yes I do have a 105kg (over 2x BW btw :P) deadlift indeed. However grip strength work is not just about my current grip strength, but also developing more strength to help when I snatch a miniature barbell! Just Imagine how would that feel like? A walk in the park!

      • Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hamahmy

        Well excuse me, I didn’t mean to sell you short on the deadlift :p
        I never realized Olympic training involved so much variety in addition to the “big lifts”. It’s pretty educational. Thanks for sharing.

        • Amna_AlHaddad

          There are many different methods to train for the Olympic lifts (Bulgarian, Soviet, many other systems/methods). However, each athlete have different individual needs and based on these needs the coach would then decide what program or training routine works best. Since I am in my off-season, I am working on balance and strength, which will both dramatically improve my Oly lifts. But in Nut shell, a normal training Olympic weightlifting program would include front/back squats, drop snatches, deadlifts, pull ups, push ups, rack pulls, shoulder presses, push presses, 1.5 squats, kettlebell snatches/cleans and that’s just an example. All of these exercise would then assist the big lifts. So. nope, I am not “cleaning” all day long ;).

          • Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hamahmy

            Thanks, that was a lot to type! I try not to take too much of your time, but as a self-trained amateur I’m always looking for information anywhere I can get it.

          • Amna_AlHaddad

            No, no trouble at all. I am here to not only share my own personal experiences, but also to inform and educate =).

          • Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hamahmy

            Thanks! I’ll be bombarding you with questions from time to time then! :D

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  • My Profile

    Age: 23
    Height: 5’2
    Weight Category: 53kgs

    Competition total:
    Arnold Weightlifting Championships: 82kgs

    Personal Records (kgs):

    Deadlift: 105
    Back Squat: 68
    Front Squat: 60
    Clean and Jerk: 51
    Push Press: 45
    Bench Press: 43
    Shoulder Press: 37
    Snatch: 36