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. 

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.

Can you Olympic lift without a Coach?

Olympic lifting is highly technical, of that we can be sure.  We can also be sure that Olympic lifting is one of the most beneficial things that you can do to become more athletic and powerful.

The problem with Olympic lifting for most individuals is that it is extremely coaching intensive. Typically you need an eccentric, track suit wearing fellow in the

Ivan 2background, watching each lift, diagnosing your technique and providing you with your next weight on the bar.

But what if you don’t live in a training hall, in Europe, with a plethora of Bulgarian experts? Then what can you do?

Heck what if you don’t even have a guy with any knowledge at all about the Olympic lifts within an hours’ drive?

Can you even still Olympic lift safely, let alone well?

I say you can, but you have to have a plan, and here is the plan that you can use to Olympic lift without the benefit of everyday coaching.

Did Teen Wolf Olympic Lift?

Some things are just so simple that they all logic says they won’t be awesome. Experience those simple things and you make the discovery that some of these simple things are freaking bad a$$.

The cinematic classic Teen Wolf  fits that description.

Here’s the clif notes version for those that have not watched the movie (shame on you btw).

High school athlete turns into a werewolf when “excited”,  as opposed to normal stress responses, and rather than face almost assured shaming and humiliation, he uses this affliction to become the most popular kid in school and to do impossible dunks.

Simple premise: Werewolf movie.

Interesting twist: He is actually popular instead of being called the “hairy kid.”

It’s weird how things like that happen. All logic would indicate that this movie has too simple a premise and be a waste of time. As anyone that has ever watched Teen Wolf knows. This movie rocks..

Sometimes the most complex problems like movie scripts, require the simplest solutions.

Are you teaching the Olympic lifts the wrong way?

Picture the first time you went into a weight room. Maybe it was 10 years ago or 15 or 20 years ago.

The smell of stale sweat, the guy in the too-short, short shorts , and the coach or guru (likely with a sweet mustache) of the gym telling you what you should be doing to get strong.

Got it?  You remember that picture don’t you?

The first time you were introduced to the Olympic lifts, the mustachioed guru told you that the big three lifts were the squat, the bench, and the power clean. Straight from the books of Bigger Faster Stronger.

Pick that weight up and put it to your chest.”

It’s as easy as that.

Since then you have been following the same protocol. Sure you are teaching the goblet squat before the back squat now, and balancing your bench presses with some TRX rows, but the power clean is still the staple of your program.

Well my friends this is the wrong way to do things, and teaching the Olympic lifts in the wrong order is like going to the bathroom before you eat, S#*t’s just no going to get done right.

Here’s the right way to teach the lifts

When you start with the power clean you are asking athletes to fail. Now maybe you like to be a heel and show your athletes how easy something is that you have had years of practice doing. If that’s your thing then skip the rest of this post.

If, on the other hand, you like to help your athletes succeed, and want them coming back eager for more then you need a better place to start than the power clean.

You need a progression of movements that helps athletes build on their skills, helps them improve as an athlete, and lets them see success in being a part of your program.

You need a better order to teach the Olympic lifts. Start here….