Weightlifting

A Change of Direction


Written by

Weightlifting is a complex sport.  So much so that there are a lot of things about it which I’ve simply stopped trying to figure out.  Why did I PR my snatch after 3 days of lifting like complete shit?  Muscle confusion or something?  I don’t know.

It’s even more complex when you are trying to figure it out alone.  And the unfortunate truth is that without some kind of regular coaching, it’s going to be very hard to nail down the details.  No amount of video analysis, reading Soviet training manuals, or listening to gurus on interweb forums is going to replace real time feedback from an experienced coach (for example, I often give my weightlifters useful cues such as “what was that bullshit?”  “I hated that lift” and “please make it less awful.”)

However, while the details are very hard to figure out, I think there are some large scale changes the lone wolf weightlifter (it makes you feel cool when I put it that way, doesn’t it?) can make, which will lead to a very big improvement in mechanics, consistency, and eventually kilos on the bar.

Today I want to talk about a change in direction, both metaphorically and literally.

One of the biggest misunderstandings about weightlifting is that the primary directive is to get the bar up.  At first glance, of course, this makes sense.  Until I was learned to watch the lifts properly, that’s what I saw too  Of course it’s about going up – after all, that’s where the bar is supposed to go.  Up, over the lifter’s head.  Well my friends, I have bad news: up is the easy part.

(DISCLAIMER: THE FOLLOWING IS AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION FOR THE PURPOSES OF VISUALIZATION) When was the last time you had trouble just deadlifting your max snatch?  Your max clean?  Though there are undoubtedly some super efficient weightlifters out there who clean & jerk nearly what they can deadlift, you are probably not one of them.

Does Oleg Perpetchenov look overly concerned with the height of the bar?

And now we come to our change in direction.  Weightlifting isn’t about getting the bar up.  It’s about getting the bar back.

This realization came to me slowly.  I was lucky to have some great coaching, and if I’d been smarter than I am, I probably would have quickly grasped the concept.  Instead, I picked it up as my technique slowly improved.  Sweep the bar BACK.  Get the knees BACK.  Stay BACK on the heels.  Put the bar BACK behind your head.  At some point it occured to me that the reason I kept having to work hard to stay back is that the bar wanted to pull me forward, and that focusing on pulling the bar up was helping it do so.

Once you look for it, it’s very easy to see.  Watch here.

Marcin Dolega of Poland: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AluxHZGgh38

Lu Xiaojun of China: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqQ0cionyNc

Ilya Ilin of Kazakhstan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAhulfFggFw

Jon North of the United States: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdehUqGfZ24

With the exception of Ilin’s slight forward kick off the ground, it is easy to see that all of these lifters pull back, far behind the so called “vertical line of pull” (the direct line up from the end of the bar at the instant of separation from the floor.)

So what good is this to you?

Well, in your next training session, maybe not much.  But if you can learn to change your thinking so that your focus is on bringing the bar back and in towards your hips, it might just make you a much, much better weightlifter.

There are, of course, drills which can help you learn this.  My favorite is the snatch or clean paused just below the knees.  Make sure you’re hitting this position correctly – weight in the heels, shins vertical, shoulders well in front of the bar.  Focus on pushing the knees and bar BACK as you ascend to this position, and as you ascend past it.  If you’re unsure of what this should look like, you probably need to step back and learn the positions – I recommend Glenn Pendlay’s “How To Snatch” and “How To Clean” videos.  Part 1 of “How To Snatch” is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6SjuAOjMEk.

Over time, as you learn to feel the backwards movement of the load as you ascend through the pull, you will likely find yourself more powerful and snappy through the finish, more stable in the receiving position, and with more kilos on the bar.

Jacob Tsypkin is a CrossFit and weightlifting coach, and the co-owner of CrossFit Monterey and the Monterey Bay Barbell Club in Monterey, CA.
Website, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter

More articles

Maximizing Speed and Power Development For Baseball
Training

Maximizing Speed and Power Development For Baseball

In this article I would like to discuss what I believe to be the optimal approach to speed and power development over a 5–6 month …

Making Sense of Bondarchuk: Periodization Models
Training

Making Sense of Bondarchuk: Periodization Models

Check out the previous installments of this series: Exercise Classification, Transfer of Training, Athlete Adaptation Profiles.Right off the bat, I want to make the reader aware of …

Fixing the Motor Moron
Fitness

Fixing the Motor Moron

When someone has the desire and motivation to learn and improve, their possibilities are endless.  As a coach, it can be frustrating when you are …

The Best Damn Squat Mobility Article.  Period.
Movement

The Best Damn Squat Mobility Article. Period.

  A squat is thought to be a fundamental movement; one that a healthy human being free of injury should be able to perform.  However, when …

6 Questions with Ryan Russell – Auburn Strength Coach
Training

6 Questions with Ryan Russell – Auburn Strength Coach

What are the first things players to Auburn do as part of the program? The first thing our incoming athletes do is go through a Functional …

Training Football Players: Part 1
Training

Training Football Players: Part 1

As a strength coach in the NFL, I have worked in several philosophically different weight rooms.  Most of my time has been spent in the …

The Pyramid of Strength
Powerlifting

The Pyramid of Strength

This concept is crucial for understanding athlete qualification and exercise selection. Consider a pyramid: broad at the base and narrow at the peak. This is the …

Overtraining or Undertraining? Plan From a New Perspective
Training

Overtraining or Undertraining? Plan From a New Perspective

Over the course of my weightlifting career, I have heard just about everything imaginable when it comes to designing training plans.“Overtraining is a myth.”“It is …