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→
In college I would beg and plead to lift from the blocks. If snatches were listed, I’d figure out a way to get the blocks out and lift. Cleans, same. All this work from the blocks didn’t go without reward, by the time college was out I got really good at it too.
During my college career, my finagling allowed me to snatch 145kg from the blocks and clean 182.5kg from the blocks.
On the other hand, all that lifting from the blocks had me especially good at lifting from the blocks, I would venture to say that my best from the floor at those times was more along the lines of 125/160, but I honestly haven’t a clue because I never did it.
I had developed technique all together dissimilar than the technique it takes to lift from the floor. I actually see this a lot, it seems that in American weightlifting there are a lot of instagram videos of massive lifts from the blocks but not the same lifts from the floor and definitely not on the competition platform.
I don’t think this needs to be the case, lifting from the blocks can be extremely valuable to developing position specific strength and technique in the weightlifting movements. The keys are all in the set up (this next line is important)
Your position on the block needs to be exactly like the position you would have achieved if pulling from the floor.
Although Dmitry Klokov once said “Americans lift from blocks, Russians lift from deficit” I think there is some value to training from the block when applied correctly.
In the video below I share some of my thoughts on how to correctly use the blocks.
Yasha Kahn on how to lift from a different type of blocks and the “Back Angle”
My weightlifting Poster for positional reference: HERE
What a good bar path looks like: FirstPull.net
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.
It’s been almost 6 months since I was last here with an update. I go back and forth about whether I should apologize or just ignore it.
Wilfleming.com has become a dead blog, but I am here to give you my plan on how it will be brought back to life in the next year.
First I will give you reasons that I didn’t end up posting much in 2015 (I like to call them reasons but some might call them excuses), and then give you my plan for 2016.
2015 in review
- I spent the last 7 months of 2015 learning what it is like and how to be a dad (it’s awesome). Including holding a newborn for the first time, and changing my first diaper (nothing like on the job training).
- In October we opened what I believe to be the coolest gym in the country, it’s such an upgrade over what Force 1.0 that I would be remiss to call the new gym Force 2.0.
- My wife Ashley left her job at a medical device company to come work at the gym with me (also awesome).
- I competed in a couple weightlifting meets with little to no actual training, which can be extremely bad for one’s ego.
- I wrote and had published a pretty awesome book on weightlifting (Complete Olympic Lifting Handbook), but it might have taken all the words that I have in my body, at least for the year.
- I contributed to one of the most awesome e-books around on Long Term athletic development with the IYCA.
- I did 10 seminars (in 4 countries), and even got the chance to speak and coach at the Olympic Training Center.
In short, I had these competing things at home (the physical world) that made reaching a wider audience (the digital world) really difficult, and 100 times out of 100 I will choose the things at home.
My Plans for 2016
I’m excited for 2016 and there are a lot of reasons why. First of all, #dadlife is pretty freaking cool. Some other reasons below.
- I will actually write again. This time with a PLAN. The internet is a great place, full of awesome information, but with the explosion of weightlifting popularity, there is some silly info out there, I hope to provide some non-silly info.
- Each month I will have a minimum of 4 posts per month, with a combination of written posts, video posts and podcasts. The initial plan is to do a written post the first week of the month, a video post the second week of the month, a sample program (or something from my current program) the third week, and the final week of the month post a brand new Performance Podcast.
- I’ll probably add some other topics outside of just straight weightlifting all the time, general program design, athlete training, and long term athletic development (but for the most part you can count on me to stay in my lane).
- I will be competing a couple times in weightlifting again, with the goal of finally hitting a 300 kg total in competition (right now I’ve only done it in training) and at a bodyweight of 85kg.
- I am going to re-open up my online training program to accept more individuals looking to improve as weightlifters (right now I cap it at about 8-9 people, but will be expanding that number by a few).
There are plenty of other things that I am pretty excited about, but aren’t concrete enough for me to put them out here right now with deadlines and details (seminars, DVD’s, website updates, etc). Suffice to say, 2016 is going to rock.
I am horrible at blog titles, so excuse me if I led you on, but the best “drill” for weightlifting is not a drill at all, it is perfect practice of the movements with little to no weight at first, and then more weight as you can do it perfectly with no weight.
First let’s talk about drills for weightlifting. Invariably they have catchy names, and so as to not call out any drill in particular I won’t list the particular drills. Safe to say they usually have a word like pop or drop or “pop and drop.” While definitely catchy, most of these drills do not have use in weightlifting, as popping has as much to do with a lift as locking does (B-boys unite).
Catchy drills miss the point. A lift is like a jump shot, or a really heavy golf swing. While I am certain there are drills to be done with those, true practice comes from, you know, practicing the movement. In basketball this means getting up shots, perfectly 100’s of times. In golf, it is 100’s of balls on the range. It isn’t playing a round of golf, or playing some 3 on 3, it is dedicated practice to the craft.
Intuitively we know this, heck we have been told this countless times. We have been told by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell that we need to practice 10,000 hours to reach expert status. Although that claim was knocked down a notch in the book The Sports Gene, the truth is that only perfect practice, no matter the number of hours, is what it takes to get to expert status. Weightlifting is certainly included.
Perfect Weightlifting Practice
So what does that perfect weightlifting practice look like?
1.Gain an understanding of the global positions required for weightlifting. For me this is the overhead and racked position, this is the hip position, the knee position, and the start position. You can do this from the top down or the bottom up, just do it.
2.Gain an understanding of the transitions from one position to the next, generally the first pull, the second pull, and the third pull. Then learn to link the positions together with the right transition.
If you haven’t done steps one or 2, do not pass go, do not proceed to anything. Go find a coach, a good one and learn. You must start with an understanding of the positions of weightlifting.
Then it’s time for your practice, start with the bar. See below for more info.
I know you are stronger than the bar, and I know that some would say using more just the bar for prolonged periods of time will drive athletes away from the sport, or inhibit our gainz but seriously, no one is above using the bar. I do drill sets or “bar work” every week and I have been lifting for 18 years.
Bar work is supplemental work for the advanced lifter, and the main course for beginning lifters. We will still get a training effect from squatting, and even doing the lifts to a heavier degree, but bar work should remain.
Below is the bar work that we typically do. It’s not just snatches or cleans with the bar, it is directed practice at each position and each transition with the bar. It works.
Try going through sets of 5 at each position, floor to knee, knee to hip, and hip to overhead. We do something similar with the clean. Throw 3-4 sets at the beginning of a training session to prime the positions.
(Photo Credit: Barbell Poetry)