5 Olympic Weightlifting Game Changers

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by SEAN DODRILL|CF-L2, USAW Club Coach

5 Olympic Weightlifting Game Changers

When I run across articles that tell me “X ways to improve your lifting” or “XX ways to fix your snatch,” or what have you, I rarely come across something that is truly novel.
Over the past six and a half years, I have been training athletes in CrossFit methods while doing all that I can to continue learning new and exciting training methods, absorbing all that I can about training and coaching. In the last few years, I have really taken to the Olympic lifts: the snatch and C&J — even going so far as to limit my competitive CrossFit and increase my competitive weightlifting. A few months ago we starting our Black Box Barbell Club at CrossFit Black Box, and it has been a huge success, approaching 30 lifters in a very short time.

Being so interested in weightlifting, I have gotten multiple certifications, attended and coached seminars, and read several books and every article that comes down the pike on the subject so I have the best understanding of what’s going on, not just to be as good of a lifter as I can be, but to be the best coach I can be as well. One common theme that I have noticed with many of the articles and blog posts that I’ve read is that they seem to focus on the same basic things.

When I run across articles that tell me “X ways to improve your lifting” or “XX ways to fix your snatch,” or what have you, I rarely come across something that is truly novel. These articles will typically address a lot of the commonly taught technique cues that you’ll find in any intro to weightlifting course (i.e. stay back on the heels, don’t bend your arms early, reach full extension, use a hook grip, etc.).

Don’t get me wrong; I do not want to discount these points. All of these are important things to think about and are absolutely necessary when learning and progressing as a lifter, from beginner to advanced. But, beyond a certain level, these are almost meaningless. There are other key things that I think every lifter needs to know and/or understand, and for me, these have caused major turning points in my lifting, as well as my ability to effectively coach the lifts. So, let’s get into it.

1. Understand the Whys…

Understand the Whys...

Hearing just the simple technique cue and trying to implement it while not understanding why entirely (especially those who have had little coaching) can be confusing and may make your lifts feel awkward and weak…
I’m starting with this one because, in my opinion, if you were to stop reading after this point, you would get the most important meat of the article. Now, I’m not talking about a physics lesson, and I won’t be getting technical, but what I mean is to understand what exactly is going on with the mechanics of the lifts.

My point is this: don’t just shift back to the heels because your coach tells you to. Don’t just try to keep your arms straight because you read that you are supposed to do that. Don’t be patient and allow the bar to reach the upper thigh because you heard you’re supposed to. Try to understand the reasons why these things are supposed to happen. Your coach is telling you to do certain things to help you be more effective as a lifter, and you should ask them what the benefits are to each point.

For instance: Patience during the clean or snatch — that is, allowing the bar to approach the hips so you can explode vertically in the second pull rather than jumping early — lets the shoulders get above or behind the bar before the aggressive extension upward. Jumping here rather than earlier keeps the bar over your base (feet) and gives you more control over its path and receiving position.

Hearing just the simple technique cue and trying to implement it while not understanding why entirely (especially those who have had little coaching) can be confusing and may make your lifts feel awkward and weak, possibly making you question the advice of your coach. Pry a little bit and try to get a better understanding of what’s going on and why. It could be a huge difference maker in your development.

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