Are you interested in the Olympic lifts? Do you have goals when it comes to moving a barbell in the fashion of a “snatch” and “clean and jerk”? Do you watch lifts on YouTube over and over again? Perhaps you have reoccurring dreams of better technique and putting more weight overhead? Would you like to be able to teach and coach these seemingly tricky, habitually overthought movements more efficiently? Dare I say you LOVE these lifts and this sport!? I’m still shocked, excited, and thankful the answer to any or all of these questions is “yes” for a growing number of individuals. In 2008, USA Weightlifting had a small membership base of 5,000; this count is now quickly approaching 30,000. If you count the CrossFit community – whose participation numbers are estimated to be upwards of 4 million with over 14,000 affiliates worldwide – that’s a lot of love for Olympic lifting!
This growth and interest in the snatch and clean and jerk has led to an endless amount of information from many different sources to become available. Information is valuable, and there is in fact a ton to cover to accommodate anyone’s desires with the Olympic lifts. It doesn’t take long though to conclude that much of the information can be conflicting and confusing. In the end, all of those sources surely have the same passion and purpose of helping athletes and coaches reach their goals with the snatch and clean and jerk, so I’m motivated to chisel away at delivering a perspective to assist in making sense of it all. I’ll do this by pointing out what the best in the world are really doing and why, to guide you to where most of these sources are ultimately trying to take you. Through this exposure, we’ll create more apparent and very basic objectives that more athletes than not in this community are missing (and many coaches are overlooking) that I believe are holding them back from their best.
Only when you first have a more complete and detailed understanding of the realistic demands of these movements can we move forward more simply, with greater purpose, and a progressive plan. But, the deeper we dig in, the more misconceptions and “don’t do’s” we’ll come across; for many this will lend to hesitation and uncertainty for the material. This seems to be a common attribute of any truth though, and as we all know it can be painful. I’ve observed that this lack of “truth” has contributed to a big disconnect in our community (i.e., anyone doing the Olympic lifts on a regular basis whether they be a competitive weightlifter at any level, a recreational lifter, a CrossFitter, an athlete using these lifts to help them in their sport, etc.). What’s being taught, executed, and allowed by both coach and athlete in technique, certain assistance exercises (namely the squat in range of motion and quality standards), and even programming, often doesn’t match up with what these individuals are saying their goals are. Anything and everything you do, don’t do, or allow will either negatively or positively affect your goals. Please read over that last sentence a few more times, let it sink in, and really think about how it might relate to your situation. Be honest with yourself in all of this and get ready to accept some positions, movements, and ranges of motion you might have been told to stay away from. Sugarcoating is not my specialty so I’m not going to try to sell you on any of this being quick and easy (for most athletes anyway). But bear with me, because all of this truth can also set you free and help you find your true potential – so let’s find the freedom you need to get more weight moving over the top of your head!
Before we move any further forward, it is important to me that you understand where this perspective, as well as the methods and recommendations that will follow are coming from. I want you to more confidently and enjoyably join me on this ride from beginning to end of just how I have come to see the lifts through my journey and experiences as athlete, and now a teacher and coach. Any time I have competed, I didn’t just show up and lift, I came to each meet as an eager student of the game and fan of the sport, searching for anything I could use in my own pursuit of lifting more weight. I’ve observed a combination of over 20 years of local and national competitions, with more than 10 years of experience competing internationally somewhere in the middle. As I watched the movement of the best in the world, lift after lift, up close and personal, I began to pick up on what I now refer to as the “common characteristics of elite weightlifters.” Their patterns are ingrained into my brain, as well as the common deficiencies and faults on the local and national levels. Simply attempting to match the key positions and movements of the best in the world is how I first started coaching others, and I’m continually challenging and verifying everything that I’m saying or doing. By examining (and re-examining) videos and pictures of the elite – from different countries, systems, and physical builds – and experimenting with athletes with various abilities/limitations, it is my goal to help you learn, develop, or optimize the Olympic lifts and work toward these elite characteristics. This is where my current teachings and writings in any following blog posts have evolved from.
Joining me from time to time with additional content, back up, and an alternative point of view will be a guy that so many have come to know and love, Dr. Aaron Horschig from Squat University. The fact that he’s helping out should give you an idea where I feel your priorities should be: mobility, balance and symmetry, and health and longevity. Performance is to be nothing but a byproduct, though we believe it WILL show up in a very powerful way – as well as most efficiently and effectively – with our approach. Next up, it is time to “rip off the band-aid” from a handful of misconceptions as we dig into “The Realistic Demands of the Snatch and Clean & Jerk.” Stay tuned!