Function Training Tips

20 Tips to improve your olympic lifting (second ed.)

October 20, 2014
Olympic lifting

I put together a post in mid-January on 20 tips to improve your Oly lifting game. Since then, I’ve refined that list of 20 by adding to, editing some, or replacing a few altogether. Below, find the revised and improved 20 tips to keep in mind when working your Oly lifting. Let’s start…

Work on the basics – Weightlifting can get complicated very quickly. Make sure that you master the basics of the lifts and continue to work on the basics before you start focusing on some crazy new Russian drill you heard about from a buddy at your box.

Pull from the blocks – Using the pulling blocks correctly is a great tool to help with mastering the basics of Weightlifting. This allows you to focus on individual positions and break down the pulling motion.

Don’t forget the jerk – If for every CrossFitter I saw that could clean waaaay more than they could jerk, I was able to hit one more KG on my lifts, I would be in the Olympics. Do not forget to work on your jerk!

Lift before you squat – Sometimes Lab Rats get it right. You should almost always perform your cleans, jerks and snatches before you squat so your nervous system is fresh. Plus, the plyometric component of the olympic lifts will prime your body for squats.

Get flexible – The flexibility that high level Weightlifters possess is astounding. The best will have no restriction anywhere. Diagnose your problems and fix them. (Hint: Lats, triceps, calves, hip flexors, hamstrings)

Stay flexible – Continue to work on your flexibility. High level Weightlifters stretch every day. Why don’t you?

Stay healthy – You cannot weightlift if you can’t lift weights. Make sure to stay healthy by sleeping a lot and treating any aches and pains right away to make sure they do not become anchors (anchors prohibit you form moving).

Progress gradually – Sure, it would be great to add 50kg in a month. However, is that really plausible? Focus on adding a few KG every month and trying to improve your technique every day instead.

Focus 3 weeks at a time – This is older advice in the Weightlifting community and I found it works great with my athletes and myself. Every 3 weeks, alternate the focus of your drills. For example, spend 3 weeks working on snatches and cleans from the hang and then change it up and spend 3 weeks focusing on multi-position lifts.

Technique, technique, technique – Chances are, the easiest way to get better at Weightlifting for you personally is to improve your technique and improve your nervous system. This is done by perfect repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Add load appropriate to your technical base. (Refer to #8)

Get Olympic lifting shoes – Olympic weightlifting shoes are like football cleats. You can play without them, but most people will wear a pair. They will help improve your ankle range of motion allowing you sit on your hips better, providing an improved upright torso receiving position. I wrote up a good post about this, here it is linked below: Related Post: How To Pick The Right Weightlifting Shoes

Learn as much as you can – I guarantee there is someone out there that knows more than you when it comes to cleans, snatches and jerks. Seek them out and learn from them. Use their experience to improve yours.

Do not over-think! – In addition to #12, it is also important to not over-think. For every Olympian, there is a slightly different style of lifting. But they all made the Olympics so they are doing something right. Just because it is not the same technique as your favorite coach does not mean that it is wrong.

Fast Elbows, Fast Feet – This is one of the best cues I have for CrossFit weight lifters as well as Division 1 athletes. When your feet reposition on the ground and make that “POP!” your elbows need to be in position. On a tough clean, feet hit and elbows around. On a smooth snatch, feet hit and elbows lock out. On a big jerk, feet smack and elbows lock out. This needs to be fast and aggressive.

Think Vertical Jump – At the end of the day, you are moving a barbell up. Weightlifters are basically vertical jumping with a bar in their hands and then quickly changing direction. If you start to get confused with all the different cues, just think “Vertical Jump” or “Box Jump”

Do Not ‘over hip’ it – A huge problem I see in CrossFit weightlifters is the excessive use of the hips since all they have been taught is ‘hips hips hips’. This is best seen in the large amount of lifters that seem to stay back on their heels and then jump forward for the receive. It is a whole body lift, do not boil it down to one joint. You need to use the entire legs, hips, back and shoulders to get the bar up and keep it back in position.

Strong Back – Weight getting a little heavy? Focus on your upper back. The nature of CrossFit leaves little concentrated work on your upper back / scapula retractors. Take some time out and work on bent over rows, face pulls, or band pull-a-parts. This has much more carry over to Weightlifting than a reverse hyper.

Strong Middle – Weight still getting a little heavy? Provide some extra work for your middle unit by focusing on functional drills like strict leg raises, barbell roll outs, and front rack work.

Know when to back off – We all know the feeling where that next big milestone is in reach but you can’t seem to grab it. For me, it always helps to back off for a few weeks and work on the little things. When I come back to the main lift, I tend to not only achieve my goal, but surpass it.

Have Fun – All these lists need to end with a cheesy one, right? Remember to have fun. You are more likely to PR if you are enjoying yourself. (Unless your family is dirt poor and live in mud huts and making the National team is not only a question of pride, but a question of saving your family. Then, fun or not, you are more than likely to PR as well.)

For further reading on Olympic Lifting, I also wrote up this one: Beginngers Guide: Olympic Weightlifting that may be worthwhile checking out (especially if you’re just starting out). Oh, and here is the original 20 Tip list that I posted back in January: 20 Olympic Weightlifting Tips For Your WOD. Have a question for me? Post to comments below!

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