Author Archives: Alis Rowe

Tip: Try 1.5 reps to break strict press plateaus

For me, the strict press is always one of the hardest exercises to get stronger at. I like to do 1.5 reps for these.

If you are stuck on your strict presses too, you could try lifting 1 and a half reps to help you move up in weight.

How to do it:

  • perform half a rep of the press (pressing bar from shoulders to half of full arm extension)
  • bring the bar back down to your shoulders
  • perform a full rep through the entire range of motion

This is “1.5” reps and counts as ‘one’ full rep. Perform these at the weight you are currently stuck at for the desired rep/set scheme. Check progress in a couple of weeks. See if it has helped you successfully break your strict press plateau.

Drills to stop hips rising first in the snatch

A common error in the snatch is that the lifter’s hips will come up before their shoulders do. I have discussed before that in the first pull the hips and shoulders should rise at the same rate and this means that the back angle will be constant until the second pull begins.

First pull: from floor to around mid-thigh

Second pull: from mid-thigh to triple extension 

A common error is that the hips rise first. Let’s look at how we can try to fix this error.
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Tip: Use bands to get better at pull ups

Are you able to do a pull up? If not, do not worry, it’s very common to find pull ups really, really hard (especially women).

You can use Pull Up Bands to get better at them. Pull Up Bands come in varying resistances so you can use as much support as you need and progress to less support until eventually you are able to do without one!

Bands are the best way to get good at pull ups as they train the motion near exactly (as opposed to assisted pull up machines and lat-pull down machines). Continue reading

Olympic lift variations when your lower back is tired

If your lower back is tired or if you have lower back pain, there are a couple of Olympic lift variations that might reduce the load on the lower back, if you still want to continue training them. Always check with your doctor however. And remember that sometimes the only remedy is REST.

The variations are: Continue reading

Fixing elbows up in the front squat

Many people – myself included – struggle with keeping elbows up in the front squat. This is an extremely important part of front squat technique however and needs to be learned, improved and executed at all times.

There are a few problems that can arise when our elbows drop in the front squat. All of these link to each other:

Your back rounds

If your elbows drop, your upper and mid back will round and your abs will no longer be able to support you. If the back rounding is excessive, the bar will fall off your shoulders and you won’t be able to complete the rep.

Something more important to be aware of though, is that allowing your back to round like this can really strain your back muscles and your spine.  Continue reading

2 programmes to correct your snatch technique

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.
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Why and when you might use jerk blocks

Most gyms and home gyms do not have jerk blocks. The primary reason for this is that they take up an awful lot of space.

If you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to use them, they can be very helpful.

When you don’t use jerk blocks, you have to clean/power clean the bar up before you can practice the jerk. If you only ever train the jerk after you have cleaned it, there are several things (good and bad) to consider:

The good:

  • you are training the full clean and jerk movement. If you are an Olympic weightlifter, your goal is to be strong at the clean and jerk, not just the clean, not just the jerk
  • you get to practice your clean
  • you get to practice repositioning your hands between the clean and jerk
  • you get a better cardiovascular workout (training both together works far more muscles and takes a longer time than doing the jerk on its own)

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What shoes for which exercises?

I wear different shoes depending on what exercise I’m doing. Here is a brief breakdown of what shoes I wear for which exercises and why.

Weightlifting shoes – for snatches, clean and jerks, squats and overhead work

I use Olympic weightlifting shoes for most exercises. It goes without saying that I use them for the snatch and clean and jerk and their variations, and I use them for squats and overhead work as well.

I prefer weightlifting shoes for anything overhead (not just the jerk, but also the push press and strict press). I use dumbbells or a barbell. Weightlifting shoes feel solid for pressing and help remind me to use my glutes. I like having my heels raised for overhead work, it seems to help me activate my glutes more. Whenever I press with a barefoot shoe, I don’t feel I am able to generate as much power and my body/core doesn’t feel as solid.¬† Continue reading

Tip: Increase work of hamstrings during RDLs

Here’s a trick to increase the work of the hamstrings during your RDLs (Romanian Deadlifts) and SLDLs (Stiff Legged Deadlifts).

All you have to do is put weight plates underneath the front third of your feet. Just a small height is needed — roughly half an inch to one inch.

In this position, your hamstrings are stretched, which increases their recruitment.

Remember that when you execute the lift, push your hips back (you should be doing this anyway, but it’s good to remind ourselves!).

Your hamstrings will be worked harder! Continue reading