Weightlifting is a lifestyle. It takes years of dedicated hours, reps, and methodical training to develop yourself into a stronger, more power, and technically-improved lifter. The snatch and clean and jerk require great amounts of strength, speed, mobility, and technical prowess, each only as good as it’s weakest link.
For non-weightlifters and weightlifters alike, we can often go through many ups and downs in our training, performance, and progress.
When looking back on my journey as an novice weightlifter into a competitive one, I uncovered ten aspects of my training that I wish I knew back when I started. While I am not sure they would have changed my course drastically from where I am today, they may have aided in solidifying a stronger, more fit, more technically sound foundation to built upon for the future.
Below are 10 things I wish I knew when I first started Olympic weightlifting, and hope that many beginner and intermediate lifters (and all lifters) cherish as they embark on their weightlifting journey.
1. Front Squat Like You Clean
The front squat is a movement that needs to mimic the receiving position in the clean. When I first started lifting, and even in more later years, the front squat would be trained with little focus on actual positional strength and movement patterning, rather than using it transfer strength and movement directly over to the clean. Often, in beginner stages, we may place more value at moving heavier loads at any cost, rather than focusing on strong movement integrity. Learn to be conscious of your back angles, and to not round out the upper back/let the wrists and elbows buckle and while performing front squats to maximize that position strength.
2. Squat Heavy-Ish Weight Well
I find many beginner lifters lack the ability to move moderately heavy loads (75-90%+ of 1RM) with integrity. Learning to train the front squat at those intensities not only takes strength, but also a skillful setup, bracing, and positional strength. Spending time moving loads that are equivalent to you 1RM clean and/or 75-90% RM of your front squat for a few reps per set can drastically increase strength and movement integrity.
3. Take Mobility Seriously
Flexibility and mobility are both vital aspects for reaching optimal positioning under the snatch, clean, and jerk. In the beginning, many lifters fail to full warm up, stretch, and address their mobility concerns, which could result in counterproductive movement patterning that can ultimately hinder long-term performance and/or result in injury. If you find you have limitations (ask you weightlifting coach), take the time now to address them rather than waiting for it to either catch up to you, or worse, until you get injured and sidelined from training.
4. Train Jumps and Plyometrics
Plyometric based jumps, depth drops, and other drills are key for developing the neural capacities to maximize acceleration, muscular force output, and maximal performance. In earlier articles I discussed the science being plyometric based training and the applications they have upon weightlifting, and feel that many weightlifters can reap the benefits of plyometrics in 10-15 minute segments done a few times per week.
5. Embrace Behind the Neck Pressing Variations
Behind the neck pressing, push pressing, and jerk variations can do wonders for upper back strength, proper overhead mobility and movement patterning, and overall development of the stabilization needed for snatches and jerks overhead. Many lifters can begin to build these movements into workouts immediately to develop strong, move mobile, and more vertical overhead mechanics.
6. Do Rows, Pull-Ups, and Pulls A Lot
Pulling strength and muscular development is critical in the pulls of snatches and cleans, squats, and overhead performance. As weightlifters, having strong lower and upper back muscles, as well as traps, can play a huge role in maximal strength and performance. Additionally, by training the back, you can balance your training better to avoid injury caused by asymmetries and neglect.
7. Use Hangs and Blocks to Pinpoint Weaknesses
While learning the full snatch and clean is needed to compete and maximize performance, many lifters spend far too little time performing hanging and block variations. Hang and block training offer a lifter to pinpoint their specific weaknesses in the pull, turnover, etc and can help to improve the lagging components of the overall lift.
8. Train with Better Lifters
As with nearly anything in life, if you surround yourself with better, stronger, and more advanced lifters, generally speaking, you will absorb more of their training habits and techniques (provided they are well-versed with coaching a wide array of lifter’s and customizing cues, setups, etc based on weaknesses and anthropometrics). Additionally, many beginner lifters fail to recognize the consistent effort and focus more advanced lifters must take to maintain the integrity of their movements, joints, and overall health as they progress throughout their lifting careers/lifestyle.
9. Squat and Push Press Often
This may be obvious, but squatting and push pressing may very well be two of my top movements for developing highly transferable strength and barbell patterning that can correlate to stronger, more balance lifts. Squats, both high bar back and front, need to be trained on a regular basis to increase necessary strength and power production. Push presses, which have been discussed in this article, can offer athletes a means to develop strength, power, and integrating fluidity that can directly transfer to jerks.
10. Being Good on Bad Days Builds Character
No matter who you are, you will have a bad day on the platform, You may have a bad few days, a week, or just not feel 100% all the time. Many lifters fail to realize that most of their training will be spent feeling 70-90% of you maximal best, and that some days you’re 70% RM clean and jerk will feel like a semi-truck. Learning to embrace the process of supercompensation (provided you are following a well-programmed weightlifting routine) will take diligence and unwavering commitment to train on days that you may not feel like you want to. Like anything, ”If you pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too.”
Final Words of Advice
Every lifter has their own tips and advice that they could have used when they first started out. Taking the time to talk with more seasoned lifters and coaches will only help you throughout you weightlifting journey. Take the time to address your weaknesses, set stronger foundations, and fight the urge to blindly sprint your way to your goals.
As coaches and athletes, we must all listen to our bodies. Programming is not created equal, and various variables exist within our training and recovery matrix. Closely monitoring day to day fluctuations, sleep patterns, nutritional status, bodyweight, long-term progress, and lifestyle stressors (work, family, etc) is important to fully customizing training programs for every athlete.
Featured Image: @thej2fit on Instagram