We can all go a little off track in our training of the Olympic lifts. Sometimes we might get carried away lifting heavier and heavier weights and care or think less about how they are lifted, i.e. our technique.
If you do not have regular coaching, or if you do not film yourself regularly, you may start to develop incorrect movement patterns (technical errors), even without realising.
‘Habits’ are easy to make and hard to break. Lifters often have natural tendencies to lift in particular ways, even if those ways are not optimal or correct. For example, a lifter who is very strong in their upper body might naturally use their arms far more than what is optimal when they are snatching. A lifter who is used to squatting with a very wide stance might catch the bar far wider than is optimal in their snatch. etc.
Someone who does not have coaching regularly or who doesn’t film and observe their own lifts, could very easily be making technical errors and using incorrect movement patterns in their lifting without realising, therefore continuing to train in ignorance that anything was ‘wrong.’ And obviously the more you train a certain movement, the stronger the habit will be and harder it will be to break.
The significance of technical errors
There might come a point where we reach a weight in the snatch and we struggle to go beyond it. If this is not a fear issue, this is most likely a technique issue, i.e. technique is the limiting factor rather than strength.
When this happens, it might be time to stop lifting that weight and go back to the very basics of snatch training… as though you were learning it again for the first time.
How to correct your snatch technique errors
In my opinion, the two main programmes to use to correct your snatch technique errors are:
- Go back to a lighter weight, in which you can lift with perfect technique, and continue developing your snatch from there. Repetition is important. Do lots and lots of reps at this weight using perfect form. Only once you have become consistent at performing perfect snatches at this weight should you put the weight up. Do lots and lots of reps. Repeat.
- Break the snatch movement down into segments and work the segment that is causing you difficulty
Number one is self-explanatory and has been covered in more detail in my overcoming fear in the snatch article.
Let’s look in more detail at number two.
How to work on the segment that is causing you difficulty
- The first step is to determine what and where exactly your technical error(s) are in the snatch
- The second is to decide on which exercises you could perform which would directly tackle this error
- The third is to prioritise this exercise in your training (even to the sacrifice of stopping the full snatch altogether). This exercise ought to be a primary focus for the time-being
- The fourth is to schedule into your programme the two exercises in which you ought to be able to lift far more than you can snatch with good form. These two exercises are: the snatch pull (or the snatch deadlift would be fine too) and the overhead squat
Here is an example:
Alis is struggling with her second pull in the snatch. Her elbows bend too early and she is using her arms too much to move the bar. She has successfully determined what her error is in the snatch (step 1).
Alis decides that two good exercises to perform to help her improve her second pull would be hang snatches and hang snatches from blocks. She has successfully determined which exercises will directly tackle this error (step 2).
Alis schedules these exercises into her training programme twice a week. She prioritises them in her training. She uses the days where she would have done full snatches to do these instead. She successfully prioritises and focuses her training (step 3).
Alis adds in to her programme PB snatch weight – and heavier – overhead squats and snatch pulls (or snatch deadlifts). The weight she uses for these is the heavy snatch/near PB weight she was doing before she realised there was a big technique error going on. She successfully schedules in the two most ‘heavy’ snatch exercises (step 4).
She carries out this snatch training programme for a few weeks, until the second pull issue gets fixed.
To stay in the ‘flow’ of doing full snatches, she does full snatches at light weights with good form during her warms up.
After this phase of training this snatch segment, she returns to doing full snatches and allows herself to build up the weight again, hopefully back to where she was prior to deciding to fix this error, but this time her form will be much better.
The aim of this training is to have you start the snatch again as though you were a beginner, focusing on drilling in the correct motions whilst removing the incorrect motions.
After this phase is over, you will have hopefully broken your original snatch plateau and find yourself able to pass your snatch PB and create lots of new ones!
N.B. The assumption here is that you only have one major error in the snatch. If you have more than one, it might be best to work on one at a time. I personally like to fix one issue before I work on another, as opposed to working on two issues at a time. So for example if the two issues I had going on were an early arm bend and jumping forwards in the snatch, I would focus on fixing the early arm bend and only once that was corrected would I start thinking about fixing the jump forwards. (And sometimes you will find that one issue automatically fixes the other anyway.)
Olympic lifting is a constant work in progress! Wrong technique will inevitably be self limiting. A time will come where we can’t progress further until we improve our technique (the ARSE acronym!). I hope this article gives you some ideas on how you can do this.