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.
No matter how many videos you watch, lifts you make, lifts you attempt, and books you read you will never eliminate missed lifts. I have had athletes go 6 weeks without missing 1x, but at some point you are going to miss.
It might be simpler to go with that old proverb, with one slight modification “In a weightlifter’s life there are 3 things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and missed lifts”
This is not about how to “prevent” missed lifts, we are not correcting mistakes, but rather trying to eliminate the potential for harm WHEN you do miss your next lift. This is how to miss Olympic lifts, because you are going to, and likely soon.
The first thing we cover in my gym when an athlete gets to the point where they are racking the bar at the chest, or receiving a lift overhead is just why we have so many weights made of rubber. Bumpers are meant for dropping, and I don’t particularly care, in the grand scheme, if you make this lift, and neither should you. Let’s just try to make the next one.
So that leads us to the second part, don’t fight for lifts, especially if you are a beginner. Experienced lifters know what kind of lift requires a little adjustment, or settling, but beginners do not. If you find the bar coming down toward you in the snatch, wherein you feel as if you must press it out. Resist the urge and just dump it. In all likelihood you won’t make the lift when you feel the need to press it out, and you are shortening your time to react if you do miss the lift by trying to press out. So in the short term (maybe 6 months or so), if it doesn’t feel perfect overhead or at the chest, just drop it. No one is going to think less of you.
How to Miss Olympic Lifts
Despite the myriad of reasons for why you could miss a lift, there are only 2 end results to miss a lift for which we must prepare. Lifts can be missed forward of the athlete, or lifts can be missed behind the athlete.
The snatch can be missed forward or back. The clean can only be missed forward. The jerk can be missed forward, and less commonly, behind. I will address how to do your best to safely miss lifts in any direction.
Forward in the snatch and jerk
When missing a bar forward in the snatch you will know pretty quickly that you can or can’t save it. Typically the hands can’t even get turned over and the only thing you can do is drop it. Pulling the bar back into place overhead is NOT an option. More experienced lifters may find a small window to settle the bar into and may ultimately make the lift, but that is rare.
The jerk, is similar when missed in front. The arms will be extended, but just not in the right position to make the lift. At that point you are better off to just drop it and get out of the way.
In either case, just drop the bar, and hop out of the way backwards. If you are able, make sure to follow the bar down with your hands a bit, so that you can control the bounce. Keep your eye on the bar, and make sure that you can get out of the way quickly if there are boxes or other bumpers on the platform. Hopefully there are not, but in most gyms (including mine) there usually are some random items on the platform.
Missing forward in the clean
Missing a clean forward will typically result in your hands not turning over quickly enough. This can be a clear miss where you can’t get the bar racked and it just falls out of your hand harmlessly. Not getting the hands turned over can also “look like” you are receiving the bar with your elbows down. I would encourage most athletes to not fight through this one, just dump the bar forward and get out of the way, catch it too many times with elbows down and you may end up with a broken wrist. Forward cleans, near a maximum are really hard to save, you are better served to dump it, and go after it again after a rest.
Since your head and neck are “in the way” it’s not possible to miss a lift behind in the clean, but there is a way to miss a clean that could send you on your behind.
In the instance that you receive the bar while it moving backward, towards you, you may find yourselves on your heels and off balance. In this case, the ideal is to try to push the bar off your neck and forward. In the instance that you cannot miss in this way and find yourself continuing to fall back, you must go against every instinct in your body and just fall backwards. Don’t put your hands down, and don’t let your elbows hit the ground while the bar is still in your hands. Unless you have a tree trunk for a neck the bar will hit the ground before it hits your neck. This is probably the worst way to miss, and there are very few instances where a bit of quick thinking to throw the bar off of you won’t be able to happen.
Missing Backward in the snatch and jerk
While these two lifts are distinct, missing backward in the snatch and jerk require the same reaction and strategy to get out of it safely.
In both instances the natural instinct of trying to balance a weight that is moving backward will put you in a position where your torso is moving forward. In this case missing the lift behind you is a simple task. Simply let go of it, and jump forward. Make sure to get your eyes on the bar and get out of the way.
I encourage people to not just drop it and look down in disgust at their missed lift. You must find the bar, so that a weird bounce doesn’t cause it to collision you.
Here’s a video on how to miss a lift backward in the snatch and clean.
Just accept the fact that you are going to miss lifts here and there. The key to staying safe in the instances in which you do miss lifts is a little quick thinking and a strategy to implement when you need to get out of the way.