When and when not to use complexes

A weightlifting complex is a combination of different exercises done without stopping. Hypothetically you could do as many different exercises as you fancied. Complexes can be made up of any number of exercises. For example:

Snatch Pull + Snatch (2 exercises)

Clean Pull + Hang Clean + Front Squat + Jerk (4 exercises)

If you use fewer exercises you can usually use more weight than if you do more exercises. Because of the high technical demands of Olympic weightlifting, I personally always keep the number of exercises as no more than 4.

You can also make the complexes longer by changing the reps rather than increasing the exercises. For example:

Snatch Pull + Snatch (2+2) meaning 2 reps of snatch pull plus 2 reps of snatch

I have my own views on when and when not to use complexes, which I will list here: Continue reading

Tip: Use smaller weight plates for RDLs and SLDLs

You can use the prescribed weight but make it up using smaller diameter weight plates in order to get a bigger range of motion and bigger hamstring stretch!

For example, 25kg weight plates tend to be bigger than 20kg, 15kg and 10kg plates. So if you are wanting to do an RDL/ SLDL with a 25kg weight plate on each side of the bar, the ROM will be smaller than if you used a 15kg weight plate and 10kg weight plate instead, for example: Continue reading

Tip: Lunge with your front foot on a weight plate

One of my favourite exercises is the barbell front racked reverse lunge. Now, one cool thing you can do with this exercise is to elevate your front foot. Don’t make the mistake of elevating the front foot too high though – just 2-4 inches is enough.

I use a 25kg weight plate as my elevator but most people use one of those plastic exercise steps. (I have a garage gym so I have to be creative with the equipment and space I have!)

Why this elevation is so good? The hamstrings and glutes are stretched even more (between reps as well as during reps). This is an excellent simple modification therefore for working the posterior chain even more than when the front foot is flat.

Squats – can you push your knees too far out?

One of the most common and widely discussed fixes for a person who shows knee valgus (knees coming in) in the squat, is for the person to “push their knees out.” The opposite of knee valgus is known as knee varus which means knees going outwards. However, just like knees going inwards, knees outwards can be undesirable as well.

Knees being out is far less of a problem and far less common than knees coming in. Continue reading

My experiment with Smolov Jr – week 3

Facing Week 3 is a bit like the last couple of miles in a 10k race. You can see the finish line, the brain lets go of its reluctance to supporting your body in this physical effort and there is even enough energy left for the sprint finish! From my experience of running 10k that is how it felt to me. Apparently, there are two key different approaches people can take to physical and mental challenge. One is to at the whole thing with an “I’ve got this” attitude and race all out from the
start, and another is my more cautious one. Break it down into separate challenges and coax myself through stage, one at a time. Whatever works for you! Smolov Jr definitely favors the former approach – 4 sessions, 31 sets, 133 reps each week to be exact. In Week 3, I would be front squatting a total of 7776.50kg!! Continue reading

My experiment with Smolov Jr – week 2

I expected week two of Smolov Jr to be tough. The first week I had ridden the wave of enthusiasm and motivation for a new strength stimulus. The second week would be a test of commitment and belief – could I love front squatting this much!?

I had originally calculated 5kg as my increment each week. My recent 65kg for 3 reps had allowed me to predict a 70kg max rep for week one. However, Alis wisely reminded me that each rep has to be achievable with correct technique. Failure is not an option. At a 5kg increment each week, could I see myself lifting 70kg for 10 sets of 3 on day 4 of week 3? No! Indeed I had never front squatted that weight before, ever, and definitely not at that volume. 2.5kg increments would be intensity enough! Continue reading

How do you load your 5×5?

The 5×5 is a common set/rep scheme, for squats in particular. I really like to use the 5×5 for my front squat training as I tend to make good progress on it as well of course the low(ish) amount of reps being good for front squats.

I have come across a lot of queries on forums about how to load the 5×5. Many sources state that the load for a 5×5 should be around 80-85% of 1RM. There are a few variations on how we can work the 5×5 with this percentage range, which I will discuss below: Continue reading

Tip: Change your gaze

Ever thought much about where exactly you look at the beginning of your Snatch and your Clean? I actually never thought about this until I was asked by a coach, “Just out of interest, where do you look?”

So, where do you look? You can experiment with your gaze and see if it improves your lift at all. I’d recommend for your gaze to be at a fixed point, straight ahead or slightly down. (Some people point their head and gaze up but generally this isn’t recommended due to straining the neck.)

Experiment with any or all of these and see if your technique improves!!

N.B. ‘Position of head’ is different to ‘gaze’, in this tip we’re referring to gaze not head position.

My experiment with Smolov Jr – week 1

Do I even Front Squat? My experiment with Smolov Jr.

I cannot lie. When I first learned about the Smolov Jr. squatting programme, I
was only impressed by its promise that I would have to eat more and sleep more
deeply. Oh yeah, you have to go in the squatting pain cave. Isn’t that what proper
lifters are supposed to do? BUT, what has squatting with such volume and
intensity four times a week got to do with Olympic Lifting anyway? At my age, a

Why Smolov Jr.? The simplicity of the programming; the chance to focus on
improving volume, intensity and quality of my front squat, not to mention
strength. Why NOT do it?

So here are my reasons for starting this programme. Continue reading

The effect of ‘toes out’ on knees during the Olympic lifts

I was always taught that my toes should be straight forward in the snatch and clean starting positions. I recently had a one-off coaching session with a coach because I was a bit concerned with the movement of my knees during the snatch and the clean. I wanted someone to check that my technique was OK.

The coach made an interesting comment. He said that many people find it beneficial to start their lifts with their toes pointing outwards rather than straight forward (the degree to which they point outward dependent on the individual’s body structure, what feels comfortable, and the effect on the lift).

When I snatch and clean, I have what you might call “a very aggressive double knee bend”. How this looks is that my legs almost completely straighten when the bar is at my knees, before my knees re-bend: Continue reading