The following post comes from Eric Cressey. Eric is world renowned as the “shoulder guy”, and in this post he gives you an assessment tool to see if you are ready to train overhead. Never have I seen such a simple assessment and simple corrections if you are found to be lacking. If you want to press, snatch, or jerk you must keep reading.
“It’s all comes back to breathing”
Breathing it seems has become a panacea of sorts to nearly all that ails us, our clients, and my athletes.
- Bad squat mobility: Breathing.
- Bad shoulder position: Breathing.
- Back Pain: Breathing.
I am not exaggerating when I say that most (not all) problems that we encounter can be fixed or improved by breathing better.
Olympic lifting is filled with cues for even the most minute details of the lifts. These lifts have been studied by sports scientists for decades and there are no real secrets to them anymore, as such it is common to hear jargon that is filled with precise internal focused coaching points.
- Maintain a 30 degree torso angle.
- Push the knees back until the shins are at vertical.
- Externally rotate the shoulders overhead.
These are certainly valid points, but what athlete really has great command over the individual angles of their torso, hips and knees? Some athletes certainly do, but we have been working to diversify our coaching points to include more external focus cues.
I get questions all the time about what I use to train for weightlifting. The shoes I wear, the bumpers and bar I use, or what I would recommend for training, or for home gym set up, etc. There are plenty of choices, but in my experience the best options when price and quality are considered are what I try to get.
If you are interested in Olympic lifting, there are only a few things that you MUST have.
Bumpers-Without rubber plates you are going to have a very tough time dropping the weights over and over. Not that the weights or the floors won’t be able to handle it, but the impact of metal weights hitting the bar when dropped will eat through bars quick!.
Bar– A good weightlifting bar will mean you can put more weight on the bar without sacrificing your wrists, shoulders, etc.
Shoes– Weightlifting shoes are more than just nice to have. They give you an essential base of support, and open up your ankles for squatting deeper. Plenty of problems that I see with athletes in the clean and snatch can easily be cleared up simply with some weightlifting shoes.
Platform– While not 100% necessary, they are really nice to have, so I shared with you the way to build a platform in about 10 minutes.
There are plenty of other things that I like to use all the time and keep in my weightlifting bag, but those are all listed as miscellaneous.
I have written several posts (both here and elsewhere) on complexes and combos. Lots of those have been absolutely murderous (5 and 6 exercise behemoth’s for up to 5 reps each) and each serves a purpose in my training.
Recently though I have found myself navigating towards simpler and simpler combos. Instead of 5-6 exercise slogs, I am focusing in on 2-3 movements and doing them at a fairly heavy weight, (similar to what I wrote in this article for T-Nation). These simple combos are more suited for developing strength and enhancing my technique.
They just so happen to be the types of combos that we use at my gym the MOST often for athletes. 2-3 movements done really well, not taxing on energy systems, but on strength. Athletes and olympic lifters get the most out of this type of combo or complex, short and to the point.
Below you will find 3 combos that I have been using in my own training a lot recently. The clean and jerk combo, and the jerk combo are really well suited to everyday athletes, and the snatch combo is perfect for the more weightlifting centric types.
I have said it here and many other places that “squatting is the life blood of Olympic lifting.” As your squat goes so do your lifts.
I should be clear, the primary part of your program should consist of the competition movements or a variation, probably 60% or more of your total reps, but the remainder of the program will be a lot of squats, with just a small amount being pulls of some sort and pressing.
A certain level of technical competence is required for the “squat more, lift more” motto to be in effect. For me this is seen when my lifters have been in a few competitions, but in general after an athlete has been in the gym for a year or more. We have to remember that lifting is a skill and that skill has to be learned well for strength to carryover to the platform.
Like the rest of you, I view Mike Robertson as fitness royalty. Up there with guys like Alwyn Cosgrove, Robert Dos Remedios, Eric Cressey, and Mike Boyle. These are the fitness pros you MUST listen to when they speak and write
As the operator and brains behind RobertsonTrainingSystems.com, as well as being a former competitive power lifter, Mike knows exactly how to be strong, and do it while staying healthy. There really is no combo of experience, smart training ideas and good looks in the fitness world like Mike Robertson.
Mike also happens to have one of America’s best gyms (IFAST) and I, just so happen to, know that they have some large Olympic lifting platforms. Mike uses the Olympic lifts in his gym on a regular basis, and even values them enough to bring in one of my favorite Olympic lift coaches, Grant Gardis, on the regular to help hone his and his athletes’ skills.
So today I am turning to Mike to tell us how to be stronger in the Olympic lifts, and stay healthier while doing them.
On my travels to the junior national championships several months ago, I ran into one an awesome young man. I spotted him in the Dallas airport on a layover because he was doing snatches with a custodian’s broom (100% serious).
We struck up a conversation and I found out he was self taught and self trained in the Olympic lifts. The kid was rapidly becoming one of my favorite young people when he asked me how many years left I have as a junior (the answer is negative 11 years left). I asked him about his training program he said 3 words that no American weightlifter should say, “Straight Bulgarian homie.”
My favorite, age-mistaking, young Olympic lifter, just made me realize that he didn’t have a hope. Sooner or later, but likely sooner, he was going to break down, or burn out.
The basic premise of the Olympic lifts is simple. Unfortunately, much of what people try to do runs completely contrary to the simple premise. This premise should shape how we approach every part of the lift and when you understand it your lifts will go through the roof.
When we understand the basic premise of a task it should shape everything we do within that task.
In basketball the goal is to score more points than the other team. It shapes how teams play offense, and defense.
In the shot put the premise is to throw the ball as far as possible, all parts of the technique are aimed at improving the likelihood that you will throw the ball farther.
In weightlifting we sometimes over-complicate or overlook the singular premise of Olympic weightlifting.
So what’s the simple premise?
Lift something heavy.
That’s it. Lift. Something. Heavy.
I hope that no one disagrees with that point. Whether ending up with the bar over your head, or at your chest, the premise does not change. If you understand the idea of lifting something heavy your technique should be shaped for the better.
This article is not one to urge you to lift more than you can handle (as in “don’t lift light, lift heavy”) but to approach your technique with this premise in mind. The idea of “lift something heavy” is not me imploring you to go beyond your limits, but to change your thinking to dramatically improve your technique.
Nearly everyone wants to be a better version of themselves. It’s one of the most human traits that we have. We want more money, we want more knowledge, we want more SOMETHING.
Some of us want to BE that better version and work to get there, and some of us want to appear to be that better version of ourselves.
This post is about becoming that better version of ourselves and one simple tip to get to that place.