Tag Archives: technique

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.

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.

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

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.

My experiment with Smolov Jr – week 1

Do I even Front Squat? My experiment with Smolov Jr.

I cannot lie. When I first learned about the Smolov Jr. squatting programme, I
was only impressed by its promise that I would have to eat more and sleep more
deeply. Oh yeah, you have to go in the squatting pain cave. Isn’t that what proper
lifters are supposed to do? BUT, what has squatting with such volume and
intensity four times a week got to do with Olympic Lifting anyway? At my age, a
lot!

Why Smolov Jr.? The simplicity of the programming; the chance to focus on
improving volume, intensity and quality of my front squat, not to mention
strength. Why NOT do it?

So here are my reasons for starting this programme. 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