Learning the Olympic Lifts

I trained specifically for the sport of Powerlifting for about five years. Then, I lost a bet with my training partner – Jono – and had to enter a CrossFit competition. I had been exposed to CrossFit through running strength training seminars at various gyms throughout New Zealand, so after previously being anti-CrossFit I had come to see many positives. After the competition I decided to give CrossFit a go and it was through this that I first received coaching in Olympic Weightlifting.

Welcome to CrossFit! Aftermath of the Te Mata Peak run at Judgement Day 2015

I had tried out some Weightlifting previously but this was essentially teaching myself through resources online and through chatting to some weightlifters. The California Strength instructional videos were super useful and are a resource I still utilise – I have linked these at the end of this post.

From 2015-2017 I learnt more about Olympic Weightlifting and spent a lot of time working on the movements. I had many struggles with it – especially with the full snatch, which continues to be a work in progress! However, I recently decided to make Weightlifting my main competitive focus in 2018 and I have already noticed major differences through the guidance of Richie Wong.

Here is a video of me during one of my first Weightlifting trainings back in 2013…

I briefly cover three key points below which I consider essential to remember when learning the Olympic lifts – these are especially applicable to those who have strength training experience prior to Olympic lifting.

1. Mobility

You are going to need to improve flexibility to get into good positions. Overhead squatting in particular requires a great deal of mobility throughout the entire body. I think years of bench press probably didn’t help me with this!

I noticed my mobility to be limited through the shoulders, thoracic, hips, hamstrings and calves… so yeah, basically everywhere. Improving mobility isn’t always “fun”, but it is absolutely necessary.

Even now, the more time I spend working on my mobility specific to the lifts, the better my training goes. When I get lazy with this I find snatches harder to catch, and positions harder to hold. This is a continual work in progress.

2. Patience

That Chinese Weightlifter you saw who won the Olympics has probably been lifting since they were a child. Unfortunately, chances are that you are not reading this as a ten year old considering taking up Weightlifting. So you can’t expect to get to anywhere near their level in only a matter of months or years.

Learning these lifts takes time. You have to be patient. If you want to be proficient at these lifts it is going to take you years – you have to be willing to take your time.

After years of performing the Olympic lifts I still learn something every time I train – there is always something to work on!

3. Control

This point will probably be more relevant to those who come to the lifts with a background in strength training.

When you initially try to perform a Snatch or Clean and Jerk it is possible, if you have a decent strength level, to move heavy loads with (to put it nicely) less that ideal form. Sure you may hit that lift in training, but moving weights poorly is a limiter long term and also you’ll get red-lighted for those press outs if you step on the platform.

Timing is paramount in Weightlifting, and control of the movements ensures you move in the correct way at the appropriate time.

Resources

If you are interested in Weightlifting the best thing you could do is find a suitably qualified and experienced Weightlifting coach – but this may not always be an option. Thankfully, there are a great number of quality resources online to assist you so, if there are no coaches in your area, I suggest you start by watching a few of the following California Strength videos:

My Progress

To finish, check out a couple of video’s from my first, and my most recent Weightlifting competitions. Hopefully you notice some differences!

My first competition, June 2015:

Most recent competition, February 2018:

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me below or on Facebook or Instagram!

 

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