Archive for Olympic Lifts
This isn’t a program for true beginners.
A true beginner would be my dream scenario, a young talented athlete that wants to pursue weightlifting, one with very little training, but untapped athleticism. I don’t get many of those. In the US we don’t get many of those at all.
Instead, i get a lot of “technical” beginners. I get athletes and individuals that know what the lifts are, have done them, and have done them with sub-standard technique. That was exactly the stage from which I began weightlifting over 18 years ago. I had done a power clean, but it wasn’t particularly good.
Technical beginners are the high school football players, volleyball players, and gymnasts that transition to weightlifting, they are definitely most CrossFit athletes that I get to work with. Specifically these athletes have some level of strength already, they are possibly very strong and good at some aspects of weightlifting, but just don’t know how to translate that strength to movement on the platform. Read More→
I recently read an article by a performance coach talking about how he coaches the Olympic lifts. His argument was that it is not correct to “jump your feet” in weightlifting. He didn’t go so far as to say it was out and out wrong, but in pretty strong terms he suggested that doing so wasn’t exactly the right thing to do.
His primary point of emphasis was that in the realm of “performance” we need great hip extension and by jumping the feet you will likely cut off your ability to extend the hips and instead will focus on lifting the feet. I was all prepared to say “not so fast” and post countless pictures of weightlifters jumping their feet. The author tried to preemptively squash that by saying that in the realm of performance typical weightlifting technique might not be applicable.
Lets look at this from a couple angles,
Do weightlifters jump their feet?
Should we treat athletes and weightlifters differently?
If weightlifters jump their feet, why?
Do weightlifters jump their feet?
Some of this argument, “to jump the feet or not” comes back to the language that some coaches use. Many coaches, including myself use the terminology “jump” when teaching the Olympic lifts. Some say “jump and shrug”, I say “jump and punch”, or “jump and sit”. Several years ago plenty of weightlifting coaches turned against this terminology to suggest that the best lifters don’t jump their feet at all, or hardly move them, and the terminology was incorrect. In turn, we have people now trying to say that you don’t need to jump at all.
When looking at elite weightlifters a great number do actually jump their feet in some way, and nearly all of them reset the feet (either by moving them up and out or just out). Almost certainly the high school donkey kick jump that cuts off the pull is incorrect, but as I will point out shortly, jumping the feet in the right way should improve one’s ability to extend the hips.
Are athletes different than weightlifters?
This is an argument from the performance coaches all the time (by the way my primary job is to coach high school and college athletes), that weightlifters are different than athletes and you can’t take what the WL athlete does and apply it to the performance athlete.
I can say unequivocally that athletes are different than weightlifters, but the differences come not in how you coach them on movements, but on the program that you design (More on that in a future post).
Think about it for a second, elite weightlifters have pretty much perfected the technique of the Olympic lifts, should we then coach our athletes to technique that is less than what the weightlifter can accomplish? Certainly time restraints will mean that we probably can’t get athletes to exactly that level of technique, but can we be satisfied with sub-standard technique because they are a performance athlete?
Why is jumping the feet important?
Jumping as a cue is pretty excellent for getting individuals to reach full hip AND knee extension (more on the importance of knee extension in this post). While the actual finish of the pull is not exactly like a jump, the idea of jumping is very helpful.
The second part of jumping assists the athlete in getting under the bar. According to Zhekov in his paper Biomechanics of the Weightlifting Exercises (1976) the athlete must achieve a speed of 1 m/s in his descent to successfully catch the bar. By jumping the feet we now have the assistance of gravity to help us reach the required velocity.
Some elite weightlifters demonstrate what we would call an actual jump while others just reset the feet, both are designed to help the athlete move under and prepare them for the squat portion of the lifts.
While the feet remain in contact with the platform the body is best suited to increasing the vertical speed of the bar, both by pulling upward with the large muscles of the lower body and also the smaller muscles of the upper body. It is only when the feet leave the platform can the athlete successfully move under the bar.
Even when coaching the athlete that will only complete a power clean or power snatch it is critically important that there is a phase of “move under.” Doing so will allow the athlete to prepare the body to receive the bar in an athletic position as opposed to straight legs or the starfish position.
One last important note about jumping the feet and by extension (what many would call) stomping the feet. The audible noise of the feet re-hitting the platform is an important point of a good lift for most individuals. This noise signifies that the feet are meeting the platform in a balanced manner, that is the weight is distributed across the entire foot and not to the toes or heels. Again the point is not to MAKE this noise, but to have this noise because the athlete demonstrated balance through the pull and in the pull under.
For most individuals jumping will be a critical aspect to a successful lift. It can assist in both the finish of the pull as well as the ability to move under the bar. If you struggle with either aspect of the Olympic lifts or have athletes or lifters that struggle in these aspects try jumping the feet.
I am pretty weary of the “squat debate” that has taken place on the internet recently. I think the points of contention that are generating blog posts ad nausem are pretty petty and small. So this post can serve to end that debate, and we can move onto better topics.
The problem, with the debate, is that internet trainers are talking about “a lift” and not a movement. If we were actually talking about the movement of the squat, we wouldn’t be saying stuff like “knees out” and “wide stance” or “oly stance” (ugh, writing oly hurts me a bit).
No, if we were talking about the movement of a squat, we would be talking about stance and mechanics that would allow us to do it across disciplines, and in broader uses like resting in a squat, and the other popular use for a squat stance (insert poop joke here).
The video below is a framework for how we teach a squat, not the back squat, the front squat, the goblet squat, etc. No we are not teaching a lift, we are teaching a movement, and that’s where most people are getting it wrong.
*This is also a perfect way to squat if you are an Olympic lifter, there is immediate carryover from one lift to the other.
I have received the following question recently in my email, and figured it might be time to answer.
“Hey Wil, I have my first weightlifting competition coming up and wanted to know how you should warm-up?”
Before I get to how to warm-up, let’s start with how to not warm-up
At Junior Nationals this spring I watched a competitor to one of my athletes snatch for 30 minutes before the competition up to a weight above his opening attempt, and take 5 attempts at what was seemingly a PR lift. This athlete, bombed on the snatch portion of the competition, and then came back in the warm-up room and finally made that PR, when it didn’t count.
At Senior Nationals this summer, one of my own competitors started warming up for the snatch 20 minutes prior to the start of the introductions, work up to his opener, work back down, and work back up again to an attempt higher than anyone in the entire session was opening. Needless to say he went 1/3 in the snatch portion of the competition
Warming Up should be just that, getting your body in peak condition for maximal attempts. This is not a time to “build confidence” that you will hit a lift, if you don’t have confidence in the lift you shouldn’t be there. Remember there is a fine line between, under warmed up (not good) and over warmed up (also not good).
Part of me thinks that maybe I shouldn’t write this article so my athletes can reap the benefits.
Warming Up the Right Way
First, go through your normal warm-up routine (stretching, rolling, etc), my goal is to make it like a normal day.
(Optional, but not recommended: Chug coffee for 3 hours in a van down by the river)
Then, it’s time to get to business. Look at the attempt cards on the official’s table. Count all attempts before you go as this will give you your ideal blueprint to warming up. You are basically guessing as to the number of attempts before you open, but it is an educated guess.
Let’s use the snatch for instance. You are going to open at 100 kilograms, when you look at the attempt cards, you see that there are lifters opening at 80kg, 85 kg, 90 kg, 94kg, and 97kg.
Here’s where a little guess work goes into the equation. For all lifters 8kg or more lower than your opening attempt, assign them 3 attempts until you go, for 7kg-4kg assign them 2 attempts, 4-1kg assign them 1 attempt.
So in this scenario:
80kg guy: 3 attempts
85kg guy: 3 attempts
90kg guy: 3 attempts
94kg guy: 2 attempts
97kg guy: 1 attempt
So in this scenario you have 12 attempts til you take your first attempt. There will also be a 10 minute clock from introductions/end of the previous session til your session starts.
There are also scenarios where someone opens at the same weight as you. They will be listed before you on the scorer’s table if they are going before you, pay attention to these guys though because they can possibly jump their attempt to a higher number if they choose, and that lift you were counting on is gone.
Planning your warm-ups.
I like to take a total of 15 or so reps, over the course of 6-8 sets. (More for the snatch, and less for the clean and jerk).
So with 100 as our sample opener you would do something like this. I would always prefer to spend more time at lighter weights and “get loose” so the first warm-up sets could be done for even more reps than I list.
Bar x as many as you want
Then you need to look at the timing of those warm-ups, and this is where a lot of people screw up. Time each warm-up 3 minutes or 3 “drops” apart. Do not take the approach to “follow what’s on the bar,” or lifting whatever is on the competition platform while you are in the warm-up room, this does not work.
Drops, is a term I use in reference to hearing the bar drop on the competition platform. You can count drops yourself, but it always helps to have a teammate or coach count them for you. Less for you to think about, and it makes you feel like an absolute machine when your coach/teammate just says “Lift” and then you go lift.
So now it looks like this, and remember at official competitions there is a 10 minute clock that should run after intros and before the first lift.
Bar- all time before the clock starts
50kg 12 minutes to go (2 minutes before intros)
60- 9 minutes to go in the clock, or almost immediately after you return from introductions.
70- 6 minutes to go in the clock
80- 3 minutes to go in the clock
85 -12 drops til you lift (or the very first lifter in the competition because there are 12 drops/attempts til you are on the platform)
90-9 drops til you lift
94 6 drops til you lift
97 -3 drops til you lift
If you were to have a higher opening attempt you might find yourself waiting out the entire clock before even attempting a warm-up, this is fine. If you happen to have the highest opening attempt in the session, you might even find yourself warming up later than anyone else in the session, although nerve racking, stick with the plan and wait to warm-up!
In the clean and jerk you would warm-up in a similar fashion with only some slight possibilities for change:
-Bigger athletes and those with heavier opening attempts might choose to have 4 attempts between warm-ups.
-Because you are generally “warm” you might not need as many warm-up attempts. For instance, if I am opening at 160kg in the clean and jerk, I will often only take 60kg, 100kg, 120kg, 135kg, and 150kg. My old legs need fewer attempts, but this is something you should hash out in training before the competition.
Keep in mind that every lifter has the opportunity to change their attempt 2x before actually being required to take it. So sometimes those opening attempts are not what will really happen. People often move up and move down, and in a national competition, moving up and down is more common as people try to wiggle their way to placing. So I would advise you to continue to check back to the table to keep track of where people have placed their attempts (an ideal job for a coach).
Once my competition starts, I very rarely take any more warm-up attempts between lifts. The only times that I break this pattern is if I have 6 or more attempts until my next attempt. In that case, I may consider going to the warm-up area and taking a “pull” or a power variation.
Kick some Butt
Try this method for warming up in training before going to a competition. Find out how your body works best, 12 warm-up lifts, 18 warm-up lifts, etc. Get some fake attempt cards and play around with how to read and count attempts. And please, don’t warm-up past your opener.
Like many of you that love Olympic lifting, whether it be for performance, CrossFit, or the sport itself, I was shocked when I heard last week that an athlete had suffered a serious and life altering injury from doing an Olympic lift. I received a dozen emails about how to “miss a lift,” and thought that this was an important time to release this blog post.
I don’t know Kevin Ogar, and I will not speak to the way that his injury occurred, I think that it would be very disrespectful to Kevin, his family, and friends. Personally I think this was a completely freak accident, a massively unfortunate, 1 in a billion occurrence. I only wish him the best, and will pray for his recovery.
This is a piece of an upcoming project I am putting together, and wanted to make sure it is out there to share. Read More→