Author Archives: Alis Rowe

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

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.

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

Tip: Point your toes out in the starting position

You might find it more effective to begin your snatch or your clean with your toes pointing slightly out instead of straight ahead. The positioning of your toes will change the positioning of your hips and shoulders.

(Apparently), many lifters see quick technique improvements when they point their toes out in the starting position of their snatch and clean. Continue reading

All 3 jerks are useful

When I was first being taught the Olympic lifts, my coach was really keen on me learning the split jerk. His views – at least how I took them – were that if a person only does one type of jerk then they get really good at that type of jerk.

I see his point and I generally have the same view, which is: if a person wants to get good at a particular exercise, they have to do lots and lots of that particular exercise.

He was also not keen on me using different legs to do the split jerk. He wanted me to get very good at using my dominant leg to do the split jerk. My thinking however was that I wanted to prevent myself from getting muscular imbalances! We came to a compromise that I could do my warm up sets using either leg, but I was to do the heavier work on my dominant leg.

That’s the background for this post! It’s been a long time since those days and I’ve done lots and lots of my own reading, self-coaching… etc. in that time. Only an experienced lifter will know what the right choices are for them. A beginner would never know. And the only way you become an experienced lifter is to train the Olympic lifts correctly and consistently over many years. My point here is that when I started out I didn’t know enough about lifting or about myself, so I took my coach’s advice without questioning it.

I’ve never wanted to compete in Olympic weightlifting, so perhaps that has some weighting as to how I train, i.e. at the moment I am training the 3 types of jerk regularly and frequently. Perhaps a competitive lifter would have a completely different mindset (similar to the views of my first coach). This is a new phase of training for me as I have spent 90% of my lifting time to date training split jerks. I’m now at a different phase in which I’ve been training all the 3 jerks a bit more and balancing my time between the three.

I’ve decided that all 3 jerks have their benefits. They are all good for training different things. For example: Continue reading

What is the optimal elbow position and movement for jerks?

What should the rack position look like for jerks? This is a question I have pondered over and I wasn’t entirely sure myself until doing some research around the subject. If you watch various lifters, you will notice they all have different elbow positions and movements. I was feeling a bit confused about how they should be.

Some lifters have their elbows pointing down, but the majority have their elbows up. Indeed, one of the most common cues you have probably heard is “Elbows up” (which means having your elbows parallel with the floor and perpendicular at the torso). Here is an image which shows the jerk rack position with low elbows vs high elbows, i.e. elbows at a nice right angle with torso: Continue reading