Category Archives: Olympic Weightlifting

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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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

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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Overcoming fear in the snatch

The snatch is a scary lift. For me, there are primarily three reasons why it is scary:

  1. The bar goes over your head (I find snatches and jerks far ‘scarier’ than cleans)
  2. The bar moves very, very quickly – this has scary consequences, including that it may sometimes feel psychologically that you don’t have a lot of control of it (you do); there’s also that big fear – or ‘dread’ – knowing that as soon you put your hands on the bar and begin the first pull (which is ‘slow’ in comparison to the rest of the lift) you know sure as hell that it’s going to get faster and that all you have is a second or two and then it’s over
  3. The bar can feel very heavy at the start – even though you can deadlift far, far more than you can snatch. This is because the snatch start position is a weak position for pulling, as opposed to the deadlift start position. This heavy feeling plays tricks with your mind. A bar that feels heavy at the start when it’s safely stationary on the floor makes you question how on earth you are going to get this over your head!

The snatch is a phenomenal exercise. When I think about it from an outside perspective, for example when I’m not lifting or as though I was an observer who didn’t know anything about weightlifting, it’s absolutely surreal that a person can lift such a heavy weight from the floor to overhead in a single second or two. Continue reading

How do you know if you’re better at squat jerks than jerks

The squat jerk is not used as frequently by as many lifters as the split jerk. Having read around the subject, my understanding is that for the vast majority of people, the split jerk is the method to use for them to lift the most weight.

It is a highly interesting subject as pretty much every person who starts out on their Olympic lifting journey will by default begin by learning and being coached the split jerk. What this therefore means is that, over time, the split jerk gets developed and has more attention and time spent on it than any other type of jerk, which would cause distortion to the idea that “for the vast majority of people, the split jerk is the method to use for them to lift the most weight.”

Perhaps indeed, one of the reasons that people may be able to lift the most weight in the split jerk is more because they have spent more time on it, rather than because of the actual method (split vs squat) in which the bar is received overhead. Continue reading

Choose your cues wisely

What cues do you use? What are the best cues to use in Olympic weightlifting?

As I am a consciously competent lifter i have the tendency to give myself many instructions. Is my back aligned correctly? check my feet? have I set my shoulders? have I braced? is the bar over the top lace hole of my shoe? It is endless. And then the coach says, “stop over thinking, just do it.”

So a good cue will clear my head and get me through the part of the lift that I find difficult. It has taken me a while to find the right single words that connect with me visually to elicit the right physical responses. Here are some examples:

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Monitoring your back angle during the first pull

The first pull in the Snatch and the Clean is when the bar moves from the floor to approximately mid-thigh. One part of your technique to consider is the angle of your back as this movement occurs.

Your back angle should be the same from floor to mid-thigh. Another way to describe this, is to say that your hips and your shoulders should rise at the same rate.

You can check how good your back angle is, by taking a slow motion video and freezing the frames of the first pull.

If you look at your start position, draw a line over it from your shoulders to your hips. Use any image-editing software (or even Microsoft Word, if you copy and paste the images into it). Assuming your start position is good, this is the angle of your back that ought to be maintained until the bar reaches approximately mid-thigh.

Copy that line and paste it on some of the other still images of your first pull. If the line still fits nicely along your back, you are doing a good job! It means your back angle hasn’t changed.

If you notice that either your hips or your shoulders start to deviate from the line in any of the images, you’ll know that either your hips or your shoulders are moving too fast relative to the other. In most cases, for most people, their hips go up faster than their shoulders do.

Here is an example of this: Continue reading

Tip: How to find your landing position

If you’re just starting out with Olympic weightlifting, you’ll still be fiddling around with the foot placement for the Olympic lifts.

There are two feet placements you need to be concerned with – the start position (where you first begin the lift) and the landing position (where you catch the bar in the squat in your clean or snatch). Continue reading

What your Snatch to Clean and Jerk maxes tell you

I like to watch weightlifting competitions, such as the British Weightlifting Championships, which is on this weekend. Something interesting about these competitions are the results tables. Results of each lifter individually are often more interesting to me than seeing the overall results. I will explain why. Continue reading