Squats, pulling, pressing, and the Olympic lifts find their way in all weightlifting programs, regardless of who you are and where you are from. Past the surface layer, we find many unique variations and assistance exercises that coaches and athletes program to serve a lifter’s unique needs and abilities.
In this article we took a look at some of the unique exercises elite Chinese weightlifters do to solidify stronger squats, first pulls, and positional strength.
Before we dive into some of these more advanced training exercises, it is important to note that all lifters may not benefit from the below exercises as well as others, based on their personal strength, limitation, and body anthropometrics.
My goal for this piece is to arm coaches and athletes with some training perspectives that they can then explore and determine if feasible to program within their training plans. That said, simply going into the gym and performing these because high level athletes do them is not the right way to employ more advanced training exercise. Never replace the foundational lifts, and use these sparingly with perfect form to maximize the benefit (and minimize the lack of transfer-ability in the event you are doing them incorrectly).
This exercise can be done various of ways, depending on the goals, training phase, and weaknesses of a particular athlete. For starters, jerk dips entail a lifter to unload heavy, often supra-maximal weight in the front rack position, finding control and stabilization with the upper back and torso. For lifters who may have a poor front rack, these could work to solidify the front rack position.
Additionally, by adding dips, often to the depth at which a lifter dips in their jerk, athletes can train and pattern the eccentric aspect of the jerk, as well as then work on changing directions to develop great amounts of force output that can lead to increased jerk.
Adding jerk holds and dips into one’s training could result in stronger front rack positioning, greater dip and drive mechanics (more vertical), increased eccentric strength and control in the dip, and overall better elasticity and patterning for the jerk.
“Clean Grip” Sumo Clean Pulls
This clean pull variation can develop great amounts of leg drive that can be directly transferred to the first pull in the clean. By assuming a sumo stance (often done in the same foot positioning as the clean) with hands inside the knees, coaches and athletes can expect a stronger, more upright starting positioning, as this allows for the barbell to stay close to the body throughout the pull.
Additionally, the narrower grip allows the athlete to secure a more upright torso position while keeping a strong and stable arch, both needed for a secure first pull. As a lifter gets tired and/or loads are heavier, the hips may rise and the lifter may start to fall forward over the bar, forcing premature hip extension. By narrowing the grip, you allow the athlete to stay more upright and really focus on the legs and hips driving vertically through the floor in the same way one would snatch/clean.
If you are a lifter who has trouble securing a right set up in the clean/snatch, and/or are looking to increase the strength and power of your first pull, this may be a movement to help you do just that.
This explosive snatch pull variation can be done to develop maximal fluidity and timing between finishing one’s 2nd and 3rd pull and the active pull under with the hands and feet. Also referred to as “Panda Pulls”, this movement can do wonders for a lifter’s ability to maximize their pull and find the correct timing needed to then transition under the barbell. While similar to snatch and clean high pulls, this explosive movements also forces timing into the equation, as a lifter must learn to finish the pull, then move the feet and “pull” themselves under the barbell.
The key here is to focus first on high elbows (up and slightly back), chin slightly tucked, full hip extension, and shrug, and then moving the feet into the receiving stance. Use moderate to heavy loading, and work your way up without letting heavier loads distort the movement and fluidity. You just may find that you were leaving a few extra kilos on the bar.
Bottoms Up Overhead Squat
Bottoms up squatting variations (such as the Anderson squat) are widely used across strength and power sports to increase stability, patterning, and concentric strength at the bottom of a difficult position. Often, you will find weightlifters doing jerk recoveries, bottoms up front/back squats, and yes, even bottoms up overhead squats, all to reinforce strength, stability, and balance in the most compromising of positions.
Training strength and balance under heavy loads in the overhead squat can facilitate stronger recoveries in the snatch, great stability and depth in the receiving position (provided you train yourself at that depth), and can additionally increase your upper back strength.
As coaches and athletes we need to become aware of the various weightlifting methodologies and perspective across the globe to better serve our diverse athletic populations. Often, I find that I have to adopt a methodology that is based upon various principles to best individualize my programming to suit the needs of the individual athlete’s (strengths, weaknesses, anthropometrics, etc). Determining to do an exercise based up the success of others should not be why it is programmed within you training program.
Rather, use those anecdotal successes to broaden your options, and then analyze each to determine if they are best applicable to your individual athletes.
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