I am horrible at blog titles, so excuse me if I led you on, but the best “drill” for weightlifting is not a drill at all, it is perfect practice of the movements with little to no weight at first, and then more weight as you can do it perfectly with no weight.
First let’s talk about drills for weightlifting. Invariably they have catchy names, and so as to not call out any drill in particular I won’t list the particular drills. Safe to say they usually have a word like pop or drop or “pop and drop.” While definitely catchy, most of these drills do not have use in weightlifting, as popping has as much to do with a lift as locking does (B-boys unite).
Catchy drills miss the point. A lift is like a jump shot, or a really heavy golf swing. While I am certain there are drills to be done with those, true practice comes from, you know, practicing the movement. In basketball this means getting up shots, perfectly 100’s of times. In golf, it is 100’s of balls on the range. It isn’t playing a round of golf, or playing some 3 on 3, it is dedicated practice to the craft.
Intuitively we know this, heck we have been told this countless times. We have been told by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell that we need to practice 10,000 hours to reach expert status. Although that claim was knocked down a notch in the book The Sports Gene, the truth is that only perfect practice, no matter the number of hours, is what it takes to get to expert status. Weightlifting is certainly included.
Perfect Weightlifting Practice
So what does that perfect weightlifting practice look like?
1.Gain an understanding of the global positions required for weightlifting. For me this is the overhead and racked position, this is the hip position, the knee position, and the start position. You can do this from the top down or the bottom up, just do it.
2.Gain an understanding of the transitions from one position to the next, generally the first pull, the second pull, and the third pull. Then learn to link the positions together with the right transition.
If you haven’t done steps one or 2, do not pass go, do not proceed to anything. Go find a coach, a good one and learn. You must start with an understanding of the positions of weightlifting.
Then it’s time for your practice, start with the bar. See below for more info.
I know you are stronger than the bar, and I know that some would say using more just the bar for prolonged periods of time will drive athletes away from the sport, or inhibit our gainz but seriously, no one is above using the bar. I do drill sets or “bar work” every week and I have been lifting for 18 years.
Bar work is supplemental work for the advanced lifter, and the main course for beginning lifters. We will still get a training effect from squatting, and even doing the lifts to a heavier degree, but bar work should remain.
Below is the bar work that we typically do. It’s not just snatches or cleans with the bar, it is directed practice at each position and each transition with the bar. It works.
Try going through sets of 5 at each position, floor to knee, knee to hip, and hip to overhead. We do something similar with the clean. Throw 3-4 sets at the beginning of a training session to prime the positions.
(Photo Credit: Barbell Poetry)
With all due respect the the makers of padded compression shorts designed to protect pubic bone from the impact of the bar on a snatch, you seriously don’t need them. I have nothing against the makers of this product, it seems like it is well constructed and has certainly proved to be a decent business for the creators of these pants.
If you’re not familiar with this item, let me first share with you an email/comment I get fairly often.
“Hey coach, I have a serious problem, whenever I snatch I end up with a bruise right above the family jewels. Please help me, I don’t want to lose them.”
Or sometimes they are a little more reserved,
“Hey coach, would you recommend someway for me to not end up with severe pain right above a very important area?”
Let’s first say this, snatching should not be painful. If you have shoulder pain, you should fix it, if you have back pain, you should fix it, before snatching again. If you have pain in your pubic bone and bruising around it, you should fix that too.
This is not just an inevitable part of snatching, the bar does not need to make aggressive contact with your pubic bone to the point of discomfort. Your issue if you are running into this problem is that you are likely leaving the bar away from the body for too long as you transition from first to second pull. This “hanging” bar will move back into the body, make hard contact and cause the pain and bruising we are talking about.
Some coaches even talk about the “banging” sound that the bar makes as you complete a violent extension. While there is an audible sound, it is not due to the contact of body and bar, instead it is due to the inner workings of the bar itself. The sound you are hearing is the sleeve of the bar compressing onto the shaft of the bar, this occurs because of the change in speed around the hip, as the bar goes from fast to faster!
We want to create a “brush” point and not a contact point. Think about that for a second, in all weightlifting literature you have read and conversations you have had people refer to a brush point. Now think about a brush, do you take a hairbrush and bash it against your head to get your hair in place?
Oh you don’t? Good, now you get the point. Don’t bash the bar against your pubic bone to get the bar overhead.
To fix this you need to start with your first pull, we must pull back on the bar and move the bar closer to your center of mass. We often talk about a long first pull that ends when the bar is making contact with your thigh just about an inch above the knee. The second pull commences with you pulling the bar up your thigh the rest of the way so that you can create that smooth brush point and not the harsh contact point.
Here is a video talking about how to make this happen.
Save your money and don’t buy the specialized padded pants, fix your snatch technique and you won’t need them! Commit to a long first pull, and feel the bar make low and LONG contact along the thigh.
While I want to spend a great deal of time considering the sets, repetitions, and intensity of things like snatches, squats, jerks, and the like, I don’t want, nor do I need to spend much time thinking about how intensely my athletes hit it on the biceps curls. So the scratch list is what came about.
A scratch list, is a list of movements that need to be “scratched” off every week in training. There are not necessarily sets even, although you will see things that I think are especially important listed more than once. I would suggest picking 2-3 exercises every training session to add to your normal work.
The exercises in this list are important, for things like armor building, balanced muscular development, and to prevent injuries.
Those that know they will make the jerk, and those that don’t know if they will make the jerk.
For many athletes falling into the second camp, this can be a constant source of frustration. The clean is the hard part, the jerk should be the easy part. I have always struggled with the jerk and have written extensively about it, so I am always looking for the best way to try to reward my hard work in the clean to complete the clean AND jerk.
The Jerk of the Future.
Recently, I was listening to the Commissioner’s of Power Podcast when one of the hosts asked the guest, America’s top weightlifter, Norik Vardanian whether the power jerk (Norik’s preferred style) was the jerk of the future. It had been initially said by one of the most decorated weightlifters in history, David Rigert.
Certainly as one watches the world championships you will notice more athletes than ever before are employing either the power jerk or the squat jerk. Vardanian himself competed in the 2012 Olympics using a split jerk but switched to a power jerk in the last year. So the question remains, is the power jerk the jerk of the future?
Before we get into the differences, and benefits of a power jerk vs. a split jerk we should talk about the similarities and needs of any jerk that you choose to do.
Rack support: Upon standing up from the clean the athlete should have a solid position of the bar resting on the shoulder, the bar should not be resting on the chest or wrists, but on the shoulders. This position allows the athlete to keep a solid contact with the bar as they begin the dip phase. The athlete can have the bar firmly in their hands (my preferred method) or on their finger tips. The elbows should be below the bar to allow for a more direct path to taking the bar overhead. The elbows should not be down at the expense of maintaining a solid position of support on the shoulders.
Dip Phase: The dip phase is the countermovement to begin to take the bar overhead. This phase should be completed on flat feet with a vertical torso. Forward bending of the torso or a dip on the toes will cause the bar to be moved forward. Typically this will mean a movement to the depth of a quarter squat
Drive Phase: The drive phase starts as the athlete changes direction at the bottom of the dip phase. The athlete should retain a vertical torso through this phase and drive through flat feet as long as possible. This means the athlete is prioritizing extension of the knees and hips over plantar flexion.
“Why do you guys split your feet to receive the jerk, it seems silly?” My wife asked that question to me recently, and it got me thinking.
The split jerk is the most common technique you will see when it comes to getting the bar overhead after a clean. For many athletes this movement is foreign and difficult. In today’s age of squat style cleans and squat style snatches, the split jerk is completely dissimilar to the motions of the snatch and clean. Certainly when the split snatch and split clean were employed there was direct carryover, but today there seems to be a serious disconnect. If watching local meets is any indication it is a source of frustration for a big percentage of lifters.
The split jerk is the style most commonly employed by world record holders and world champions. Off the top of my head at the recent world championships all men’s classes were won by split jerkers and a largepercentage of all competitors employed the split jerk (the notable exceptions include athletes Apti Aukhadov, David Bedzhanyan, and when competing Lu Xiaojun). The majority of individuals competing in local weightlifting meets also use the split jerk. It certainly has its benefits and is the jerk which I teach to most individuals when they begin weightlifting.
Splitting your feet to receive the bar overhead serves a dual purpose that is important for Olympic lifters.
The first is that it, like any technique to move the bar overhead, is that the splitting of the feet allows the athlete to lower their center of gravity to receive the bar at a lower position. By splitting the feet the athlete can go from a fully standing position to one with their hips lower, to receive the bar.
The second and more important reason for splitting the feet is that the athlete is able to counter the forces that would be most likely to cause them to miss the lift. By splitting the feet the athlete can lengthen their base of support in the sagittal plane. The balance of the weights on either end means that there is very little risk of the weight being missed due to lateral forces, but by the nature of the lift, missing forward or back (particularly forward) is a potential problem. Splitting the feet can counter forces that would otherwise make the lift un-makable.
This also leads to the biggest problems of the split jerk, an athlete must be able to accurately balance between the 2 legs to support the bar directly overhead and not drive it forward and cause a miss. The splitting of the feet can be difficult to do accurately and more importantly, REPEATABLY.
Why Power Jerk?
The power jerk is commonly used as a way to teach athletes the timing and tempo of the split jerk, but less commonly used in competition.
The power jerk also allows the athlete to lower their center of gravity to receive the bar overhead, in this case very similar to the way that the COG can be lowered in the split jerk.
The primary benefit, and the one which I believe could be the reason that some have posited the power jerk as the “jerk fo the future” is that this technique allows the athlete to have a longer drive phase.
A power jerk of the same weight as a split jerk requires 13% more power to complete. With equal weights this means the bar must travel faster to be secured overhead in the power jerk. Immediately, off hand this would lead one to believe that the power jerk is harder to complete, but the power jerk itself lends theathlete to a longer ground contact time in the drive phase, meaning that this 13% difference is achievable for an athlete.
The other benefit of the power jerk is its simpler nature, the athlete does not need to think about the balance between the feet as they would in the split jerk. Instead it is primarily about dipping vertically, and driving vertically to completion. At the end of the drive phase there is no concern for where the feet go, just jump the feet to ensure a complete drive.
A power jerk may be limited by an athlete’s shoulder mobility, as the receiving position to secure the bar overhead may mean that the athlete must drive their torso forward and shoulders back in the locked out position. This cannot be done at the expense of a vertical dip and drive, however.
So which one should you do?
World record holders’ all over the world are probably not wrong about the split jerk, and I doubt we see a revolution at the world level where split jerkers all switch to a power jerk. It is certain that the split jerk is here to stay, but if you are an athlete (like myself) that sometimes struggles to end up in the right position with the bar overhead then the power jerk might be worth a whirl. It may just allow you to simplify your thought process enough to secure what is rightly yours, a PR clean AND jerk.
On this episode Coach Dos and I discuss how to build the Ultimate Home Gym. We give you ideas from the cheapest of home gyms to the most expensive.
Things we discussed:
These are the items we said should be in every home gym.
Stepping it Up a Notch
Making your own platform (video with the basics of what Dos and I discussed)
SearchTempest.com (Where I was able to find Eleiko bars and cheap bumper plates)
My post on what is in my home gym (and the rest of my gym bag)
Independent Squat Stands (These could be used for both bench and squats)