Category Archives: Olympic Weightlifting

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

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

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

What equipment do I need to do Olympic weightlifting at home?

Here’s a list of what I consider to be ‘the essential’ things to have. I’ve noted a few ‘luxuries’ at the end!

Essential Olympic weightlifting equipment for home

Bumper plates

You can’t just use any plates for Olympic weightlifting. Bumper plates are important because:

  • They were made to be dropped, i.e. they can withstand the ‘abuse’ of regular drops from overhead height! Using other types of plate will cause damage to not only the plates, but also your barbell and the floor
  • Most Bumper plates are the right diameter i.e. the 5kg, 10kg, 15kg, 20kg are all the same diameter as the 25kg plates. The diameter of the 25kg plate is the standard Olympic plate size and this diameter enables you to set up the bar at the right height. Other types of plate tend to all be different sizes (for example, even a 20kg plate will be smaller in diameter than a 25kg one). If you are just starting out you most likely won’t be starting with the 25kg plates, so Bumper plates let you set up at the right height whilst being able to use lighter plates

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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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