Category Archives: Olympic Weightlifting

How close should my bar be in the starting position?

When I first started Olympic lifting I was taught that the barbell should start approximately over the balls of the feet. If you read around on the internet, you’ll see that this is the preferred position for most people.

For some reason, I got into a different habit. You know sometimes how we might slightly change our technique without realising? This is what happened to me. At one point I was doing my snatches (and probably my cleans – but the effect wasn’t as bad!) with the bar over my toes. Of course, in Olympic lifting – especially snatches – a change even as small as that can have enormous consequences on the rest of the lift!

I will say though, that I’m glad this happened as it led me to quite a positive outcome in the end. Read on.

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Measuring performance without focusing on the weight

It’s very easy to become completely consumed by how much weight is on the bar. Even me, although I’m not an ‘ego-lifter’, I still care about the amount of weight I am lifting. Although I don’t compare the weights I lift with the weights other people lift, I do compare the weight I am lifting to what I was lifting before. My big focus is actually what I am lifting now compared to what was I lifting last week, last month, last year… etc.

The problem is, lifting isn’t as simple as this! You can’t just go up and up in weight for every exercise, every workout, every single time. Here I provide some other strategies you can use to measure your performance and have peace of mind that you are improving, even if the weight isn’t necessarily going up. Continue reading

Ask Alis & Sharon: Should I practice both feet forward in the split jerk?

Alis says:

Most, if not every, weightlifter will have a preference for either their right or left foot that goes forward in the split jerk. One of the questions I had with my coach when I first started Olympic weightlifting was whether I should be training the split jerk with different feet going forward. His answer was a strong no.

My own research tells me that the reason you shouldn’t practice with both feet is because you want to get very good, very strong, and very confident with your dominant foot, so that you can lift the most weight. If you spend time switching feet then you are reducing the volume and time spent training the dominant one, which will likely slow down development of motor patterns.

Research also tells me that you should practice with both feet so as to limit chances of developing muscle imbalances (for example, hip flexors, abdominal muscles).

I’d probably say that, for me, the correct answer is this – I train my warm up jerk sets alternating the front foot, only switching to my more dominant foot on the working sets. I also do a lot of single leg training (lunges, Bulgarian split squats), which I hope would help with any muscle imbalances that I may have developed!  The total volume of jerk training tends to be pretty low (only 1 or 2 reps at a time usually), the movement is very brief (because it’s so fast), and there is also no eccentric phase (the part of exercise which is supposed to break down the muscles) so perhaps training most frequently or even exclusively only one foot will have no significant negative consequences after all.

Tip: Jerk using a power rack

Not many people have the luxury of jerk blocks. You can use a power or squat rack as an alternative.

Some things to be aware of:

  • Rack height – if you are tall the bar may hit the top of the power rack when the bar is overhead
  • Noise – the sound of the bar dropping on to safety bars might be uncomfortably loud. You could put barbell cushion pads on the safety bars to dampen the noise
  • If you don’t use safety bars, be aware of what happens if you fail a lift – what is the floor underneath? Is there a platform? Are you using bumper plates?
  • ‘Confined sense of space’ – inside a power rack you may feel aware of all the bars around you and experience feelings of confinement or a lack of space, which can affect your lifting psychologically (and therefore technically)

Be aware of general safety. If you miss a lift inside a power rack, it could be dangerous. Proceed with caution.

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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