Review: Fubarbell Seminar

Diane Fu Courtesy of Hella Life

I got the chance to attend one of Diane Fu’s Fubarbell seminars recently and since there are no other reviews of her seminars online currently, I figured I should be the first to do it!

For those who are looking for the bottom line and don’t like to read lengthy reviews, here is the edited version: if you have an opportunity to attend one of Diane’s seminars, then go. Now for those who want to read a little more in-depth…

The seminar was August 25, 2013 just north of Kansas City and was held at CrossFit 816. I stumbled upon this seminar a few months ago and was the third person to sign up for it. $250 to attend an 8-hour seminar on Olympic weightlifting seemed like a good deal to me, particularly considering that Diane is a “known entity” through her work with Kelly Starrett at San Francisco CrossFit. Looking at her website it would appear that she started teaching weightlifting seminars in March 2013. As the word spreads, it looks like she is getting quite busy and in a short period of time, which is a good thing! I was completely unable to find any third party information out about her seminars, so it was a minor leap of faith to attend. I did run into one person on the CrossFit.com forum who recommended I seek out a “real weightlifting coach” (of course, he recommended himself) instead of going to Diane’s seminar, but I’m not a big believer in the idea that just because you’ve done something for a long time you are necessarily good at it or even doing it right, so I ignored what I think we’d all agree was a bullshit comment.

Diane is new to the seminar teaching circuit, but she has a good pedigree in weightlifting training and she is a full-time weightlifting coach through her business, Fubarbell, which operates out of San Francisco CrossFit. Diane proved herself to be a good communicator and teacher, too, which is where the rubber meets the road in this game for me. Has she been to the Olympics? No. Can she teach people to lift? Yes. Questions answered.

So, enough of that and let’s talk about the seminar. CrossFit 816 did a nice job hosting it, providing a great lunch for us from PaleoFit Meals, too. It was a typical super hot and humid August day in Kansas City and, as you would expect of a warehouse/light industrial location the box heated up and got pretty swampy pretty quickly, but that’s life in the midwest for you and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it other than drink water and have fun! The box had a variety of bars, plenty of weights and a few lifting platforms for those who wanted to make their shoes sing! I got to use a Rogue Beater Bar (or something similar to it, which has a 31mm diameter grip) for the snatch instruction portion and it was VERY illustrative to me after almost 9 months of using a standard Rogue Bar (28.5mm grip) how a couple millimeters makes such a HUGE difference in something like weightlifting.

Photo Courtesy of Hella Life

Diane spent the first two hours or so lecturing. The lecture included her background story on how she came into the CrossFit world and then transitioned into full-time weightlifting, her background with Kelly Starrett (mobilityWOD, etc fame) and her coaching at San Francisco CrossFit through Fubarbell.  She didn’t spend a lot of time tooting her own horn, so the majority of the lecture time was spent on the why’s and how’s of weightlifting for a CrossFit audience. Why bother? Does it have a positive effect on other activities? Should CrossFitters spend extra time mastering the lifts and if so, why? Etc.

In terms of the how’s, I’m sure weightlifting can get extremely technical at the hands of a biomechanics geek (good Lord, I can’t imagine what a nightmare I would make it! LOL) and I have full confidence that Diane could’ve lead us to esoteric corners of lifting theory and lever arms and, hell, maybe even math and physics, if she’d wanted to. Coming from someone who teaches 12 hour continuing education seminars to other doctors, restraint and editing are two things we all struggle with and Diane did a fantastic job with that, especially on the didactic part of it.

She communicated well both verbally and through visuals making good use of a whiteboard to draw on. Diane started with a model of the foot, explaining where the area of support is as well as where “no mans’ land” is relative to going outside of the area of support. From there she explained the ideal USA-style weightlifting bar path, the “s curve,” and why it is the ideal bar path (sparing us the controversy of what other countries strive for while also highlighting the fact that there are different regional styles and the point is to lift the heaviest object the easiest way possible). To highlight common lifting errors Diane drew some common bar path errors and we discussed why they happen.

From here it was time to get rolling on the hands-on portion. Diane started with a brief mention of flexibility and stability, but this was obviously a Fubarbell seminar, not a MobilityWOD seminar, so she went straight into the main problem areas for lifters and we had a nice mobility session that lasted about 30 minutes or so. She showed a nice thoracic spine extension partner mobilization (and no, unlike what a few people said, that will NOT replace your need for a chiropractor! LOL), a banded ankle mobilization (that felt awesome), a basic hip mobility routine (that was done unbanded but could easily be adapted with a band) that also felt awesome, and a banded wrist stretch.

Once we were done limbering up we went into the snatch setup and progression which also doubled as a warm-up.

Diane is a big proponent of “top-down” learning. In other words, she recommended learning and mastering these lifts starting with high hang snatches (in the power position) to above the knee, below the knee (low hang), to shin, finally to the floor. The reason for this is that a lot of the problem new lifters have is putting it all together, so breaking the lifts into components and adding to the complexity in steps only makes sense. Diane also said that for some reason getting the bar around the knees is a steep part of the learning curve for adults, so the top-down progression helps groove “muscle memory” and proprioception without having to deal with what is the hardest part of the lift for many people.

Photo Courtesy of Wellnessfx.com

We spent probably an hour or so lifting while Diane circulated the room and watched and coached each lifter.

We broke for lunch for about an hour and then there was a little digestion/chalk talk time going into the additional things the clean and jerk require on top of the basics from the snatch then we got lifting again. Again, we went through progressions first, primarily for the jerk, learning how to properly do the split jerk and recover from it, paying careful attention to foot position, etc. Being a chiropractor with advanced movement observation training as well as MobilityWOD junkie, it was cool to see how Diane bypassed a lot of specific coaching on biomechanics simply by telling us what she wanted us to do. For example, Kelly Starrett can make “knees out” and torque of the knees and hips a four hour talk, but simply by telling us where she wanted our feet to land Diane accomplished the same thing without having to go into the detail of why. I think this is important to note for beginners.

Anyway, we did about an hour or so of open clean and jerk lifting, again with Diane circulating the room, and then finished the seminar with Q/A and some tips for box owners/coaches who want to program lifting.

All in all it was a great seminar. I have close to 900 hours of butt time in continuing education seminars, and this is my first non-profession related seminar. That being said, the principles of what makes a good/bad seminar of this sort are very similar and Diane killed it. Plenty of activity, she maximized her lecture time, and as much personal attention as one person can offer 23 athletes. For the first time since picking up a barbell in December of 2012 I was able to finally go into a full squat with the clean and did much better on my snatches, too. She really connected some dots for me and gave me a path to follow to improve my weightlifting more. That’s pretty awesome for 8 hours!

Photo Courtesy of Fubarbell.com

Of course, keep in mind that this is an 8-hour seminar. It’s one day of lifting. It’s not going to turn you into a super lifter and then you lie around on the couch, which I’m sure you understand. You have to use the information and put together lifting program if you want to progress. The snatch and C/J hadn’t come up in any of our WOD’s at my box for 1.5 weeks after the seminar and today we did high hang snatches and C/J’s as well as a metcon containing squat cleans. It took me a while to get back into the groove of things and of course I was super rusty compared to how I felt at Diane’s seminar. You can’t attend a one day event and then be ready for the Olympics a week later! LOL

Diane Fu’s Fubarbell seminar was a worthy investment of my time and money and I’m excited to know that she’ll be back to KC in the Spring, so I’ll probably attend a second time and keep on working on these awesome lifts. Check out Diane’s Events page and if she isn’t coming to a city near you contact her about setting something up. She’s awesome!

Pros:

  • Diane’s a good communicator and made good use of auditory, visual and kinesthetic learning
  • Diane was able to summarize what is pretty advanced material into an effective one-day bite
  • Diane busts her butt on Facebook, Instagram and writing articles for sites like Hella Life, so there is plenty of support material out there to deepen the principles learned in the seminar

Cons:

  • It’s only one day! Once you get a little taste of Diane’s teaching you’ll want MORE!
  • It’d be nice to have a packet of notes available. I PERSONALLY prefer to take my own notes during a seminar, but it’s always nice to have them available afterward in case you missed something.
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2 thoughts on “Review: Fubarbell Seminar

  1. After attending this seminar as well, I think it’s worth noting that while I do not question Diane’s proficiency and expertise in coaching, the “Olympic Weightlifting Rules” seminar is a VERY high level, beginner course with extremely limited bar time (maybe about 2 hours total?). Understand that the ~1 hour or so spent snatching and then C&J while Diane walks around the room does not mean you will have a big opportunity for her to asses you and offer corrections (this is something that would take much more time). If there are 30 people in the class, her time is very limited per person (having a second “assistant” with her would greatly improve this btw..).

    I was hoping to take away some new drills to or pointers on what I can do to improve my lifts but unfortunately, I walked away with a new mobility drill, at best. I do not consider myself a highly technical lifter and have been crossfitting for about 2 years. Perhaps it’s a testament to the emphasis our coach puts on oly lifts at our box but I can’t really see how anyone whose been crossfitting for more than a year and had exposure to oly lifting would really gain much from this. I tend to gain more from a primarily hands on seminar so for me, it was not worth the money-but I can see where someone who is just starting off can gain some insight from it. It sounds like the “Leveling Up” seminar would have been much better suited for me as I understand the foundations of each movement and am really looking to identify my weaknesses and what can be done to improve them.

    Again, I want to make it clear that my critique isn’t about Diane as a coach or an instructor but rather the course itself-bottom line is it simply wasn’t for me. Also, she does make it clear in her descriptions that iterations of the seminar can be created to fit the audience so she’s obviously willing to cater to different crowds, if asked.

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion, Dan. I just took my Level 1 seminar two weeks ago and the instructors said a few times that because of the technicality of the lifts that a LOT of CrossFit boxes do not teach much, if any of the lifts, avoiding them for easier things. My exposure to other boxes is pretty limited and ours sounds a lot like yours that there is a fair amount of weightlifting included. At the time I took Diane’s seminar there weren’t multiple ones available, so it’s possible mine and yours were a bit different, so it’s good to see that she is making an effort to cater to her audience. With any course there is always a big struggle to have enough instructors available, I’ll agree with you on that.

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