Written by Max Aita
The most common questions I receive from new coaches and athletes are usually along the lines of: “What are the best accessory exercises for Snatch and C&J?”, or “I have <this> problem; what exercise fixes <this>?”, or “What is the difference between Exercise A and Exercise B?” The answer to those questions is almost always, “Well, it depends…”
In order to get the answer to those questions, we need to first understand what it is we are looking at when we look at weightlifting technique.
In this article, I am going to show you a method I have developed that allows me to breakdown weightlifting technique into its most essential components. I will show you how those components are trained, utilizing commonly-used weightlifting exercises. With this method, we will also be able to organize our exercises in a way that allows us to more quickly and accurately decide how to plan them in a training program.
There are essentially three main components that make up all successful lifts. All three interact with each other and depend on each other to allow for a successful lift to occur. In the diagram below, we can see this collection of the three components, called The Technique Triad.
Technique Triad Components
1. Trajectory of the Barbell/Athlete
2. Relative Height of the Barbell
3. Time to Fixation
Trajectory of the Barbell/Athlete is defined as a trajectory that results in a suitable position for the athlete to fix the barbell in the receiving position without violation of the technical rules (i.e. without elbow re-bending/pressing out, elbow contact with the thigh during the lift, remaining within the competition platform during a the lift, etc).
Relative Height of the Barbell is defined as the height the barbell reaches at the apex of its upward movement. This is measured relative to the lifters actual height. The height of the pull is largely result of the lifters motor potential.
Time to Fixation is defined as the time it takes the athlete to move into the lowest point of fixation from the instant the athlete stops imparting vertical force to the barbell.
Lowest Point of Fixation is defined as the lowest point the barbell is capable of being fixed by an athlete. These positions are:
- Snatch = bottom of the overhead squat
- Clean = bottom of the front squat
- Jerk = bottom of the split
Certain situations that can result in a missed lift that may seem like they are neglected here do NOT fit into The Triad because they are primarily a result of the athlete not possessing the necessary general physical qualities. Therefore, they are not included as a component of the technique. Some of these situations would be:
The lifter cannot stand from the clean after fixation on the shoulder.
The lifter cannot stand from the snatch after fixation overhead.
The lifter doesn’t possess adequate grip strength to hold the barbell during the pull.
Examining the Exercises
Now that we have The Technique Triad, we can look at our exercises and see how they effect the Three Technical Components. We can organize them by their effects. This is a valuable tool for us as coaches because we can now have a consistent and accurate way to select exercises that are aligned with our goals. Matching exercises that correct issues or eliminating exercises that are wasting valuable space in our training program will save time and improve our effectiveness as coaches.
All of the exercises we can choose from will affect the lifter’s technique differently. Now that we understand the different components of technique we can look at how each exercise impacts the components of the Triad.
Let’s look at a few examples of weightlifting exercises, and their impact on the separate components of The Technique Triad:
A key point to mention are that the greater the specificity of the exercise, the more components they effect. However, the magnitude of those effects is dispersed across the different Technical Components.
It is important as well to understand how much work should be devoted to the increase in any one component of the lifter’s technique, so that we can accurately and effectively select the proper exercises to most effectively develop a lifter’s overall skills. The greater the issue is with any one component the more unilateral our solution has to be.
Each athlete will have their own unique balance of technical components that make up the entirety of their technique. The balance between each component will depend on many factors: Physiological, psychological, age, training experience, etc. The one factor that we have control over is the Training Program. We are able to manipulate the Training Program through exercise selection, methods of training, use of drills etc. Because training is the only option that we have, we must learn to develop programs and exercises that solve the problems we have at hand.