My Weightlifting Gear

Olympic lifting gearI 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.

Simple. Effective: Short Olympic Lifting Combos

Combos image1

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.

Mike Robertson Interview: MR Talks Olympic Lifts

Mike-Robertson-DeadliftLike 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.

Weightlifting Technique is not complicated

botev CleanThe 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.

Fix Your Power Clean: catch every rep low

Power Clean: LOWThe “power clean” is a staple of modern athletic strength training programs. Unfortunately the ugly ass power clean ends up in most of those programs too.

A better way to power clean is needed to make huge gains in this lift. Just pulling on the bar and finding a way to catch it isn’t going to cut it anymore.

A better way to catch the power clean is to take a cue from Olympic lifters and learn to catch low on every rep.

“But wait…I coach athletes, not Olympic lifters.”

“I don’t want to compete in Olympic lifting.”

“I don’t have the time to teach athletes to catch low on every rep”

While those have been my concerns in the past, they no longer are. The ability to catch the bar low is now a staple in my gym, and gone are the days of ugly lifts. 

Fix your Jerk with two movements you haven’t done

I have had a problem since I was a young weightlifter. It’s a regular jerk mystery. I stand up with the clean and making the jerk is a serious question mark. Since I was 15 years old, I have always needed to fix my jerk.

I have done plenty of jerks from the rack, and from the blocks. I have pressed until I am red in the face (literally and figuratively), but until recently the question of whether I would make the jerk or not was like a Scooby Doo mystery.

The 2 movements in this post are different, maybe even odd, but they have each helped me bring my jerk up to the levels of my clean. No more mystery of whether I will nail the jerk or not.

Too Jacked to Olympic lift: Olympic lifting Mobility

Fixing your  Olympic lifts can happen in one of two ways, typically. Fix your Olympic lifting technique (improving the way to do the movement), or Olympic lifting mobility, improving your ability to do the movement. There are also strength fixes, but they are longer term and we all know how to do those (squat if you can’t stand up with it, deadlift if you can’t pick it up).

There is a game that I play called underrated, overrated, or properly rated. I stole it from Bill Simmons, but I have adopted it as my own game. Having trouble picturing it?

Arnold Schwarzenegger movie: Terminator- Overrated

Arnold Schwarzenegger movie: Commando- Underrated

Arnold Schwarzenegger movie: Twins- Properly rated

When it comes to Olympic lift fixes, mobility fixes are definitely underrated. There are certain problems that most people encounter that cannot be influenced by technique or strength, unless the underlying mobility fix is addressed first.

The Lazy Man’s Guide to Olympic weightlifting

People like the bare minimum. Instinctively we want to know what’s the least we can do to get a result.  Yes there are some that would say “if one ibuprofen is good, then 10 must be better” but those are the same people that end up with liver problems.  It could be laziness, but it’s more than likely intelligence.

Training is no different, we should strive for the minimum effective dose, when delivering it to our athletes or to ourselves. Becoming great at a skill like Olympic weightlifting is a different beast, but for most that is not an issue until after we have tried out the minimum effective dose.

This is the bare minimum Olympic weightlifting program you should be doing to be a good Olympic lifter.

Olympic Lifting 1st Pull: You might be doing this all wrong.

IMG_3072Chances are you have messed up the Olympic lifting first pull in your clean before. The chances are so good, in fact, that I would be willing to bet my collection of rare 70’s weightlifting photos (a stunning collection really), that you have messed up the 1st pull of your clean.

The snatch too, but I don’t want anyone to make anyone feel like they’re inadequate and “do EVERYTHING wrong.”

The first pull is where most errors occur, and a big reason why I teach my athletes to get really good at the hang power clean before we even attempt to move the bar to the floor. I have spent most of my time on the platform working on making a better first pull.

Pull Party: Why you need to be pulling more.

Olympic lifts are renowned for their ability to create more power. I am sure you have heard stories of Olympic lifters with extremely high vertical jumps, short sprint times faster than those of Olympic sprinters. (if not then you are likely hanging out with the wrong people).

You and your athletes aren’t leaping out of the gym and haven’t won a race against an Olympic sprinter in months (or longer), but you’re doing Olympic lifts 1, 2, or 3 days per week. So what gives?

One of the secrets of great Olympic lifting programs is the Olympic lift pull. These movements are the plateau busters, making your technique on point, and forcing you and your athletes to move bigger weights around with perfect form.