This article will be updated regularly with new information as I have time and new content to present it. I presume it will eventually become a small book, then eventually incorporated into a product. So, you will see it grow and evolve. I wanted to wait until I was finished with this, and other articles that I am working on to present them, but I think that you guys might think that I am slacking because it takes a long time to put everything together and in the meantime there is not a lot of new info coming on to the site. So, instead of waiting until the whole project is finished, I will just start slow and gradually build more everyday. I will acknowledge new edits and information so you will know when and where to find it. I will preface this with the fact that most of the information presented herein is derived from my own lifting experience with coaches like Chris Wilkes and his boys at CrossFit Chesapeake who are super strong, my olympic lifting Certification from USA Weightlifting, Coach Mike Burgeners CrossFit Olympic Certification Course, Greg Everett's fantastic book, "Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide For Athletes & Coaches", as well as myriad consultations from various coaches. By no means do I make any claims to be an expert on the subject matter, but I do believe I understand the movements and the sport. Also, I am stating this very clearly, all of the resources I am listing below are wonderful sources of information for you to learn from, so use them, as those coaches are much more experienced than I in the field of Olympic lifting. I simply learn from them, apply it to my training, then find the best way I know how to present it back to you. Teacher teaches student, student becomes teacher and teaches new student. It is how the process goes. I hope to not dilute their excellent information, nor do I want to present their info as it is solely my own, as I have learned so much from them. And now you can too. Many of you probably already have Greg's book or are familiar with some of the other resources presented, and that is wonderful, as most of the information will only rehash and reinforce what you already know. If you do not have Greg's book, "Olympic Weightlifting", and you are very interested in getting better at the lifts, I highly recommend it, as well as getting involved with some or all of the resources listed here.
- More resources will be added regularly, feel free to post suggestions for reference
The reason I have a strong affinity for the olympic lifts is simple: they are relatively easy to learn and perform with a progressive action plan, yet they can take a lifetime to master. A beginner can get started with light hang power snatches to familiarize themselves with the movement, and an advanced athlete can go for pr's with the classic lifts. They cover a wide range of all the aspects physical fitness, such as strength, power, speed, flexibility, stability, coordination, balance and more. It is rare to find any exercise that provides infinite challenge and total contribution to athleticism, not just one or two aspects. In my opinion, getting better at the lifts means becoming a better athlete. Of course, you can become a better athlete by never utilizing the lifts, but since this article is about learning the lifts, we will stick to the topic.
This article has combined has time proven training methodologies from some of the most innovative and successful athletic development professionals. Remember, no article, book, or course alone can provide a complete education regarding all the aspects of Olympic Weightlifting or training in general, or any subject for that matter. It is my objective to share my interest and develop yours in weightlifting and provide a basis for further research and study. By looking through the links I have provided, and even looking through more sites from there, as well as asking questions on this forum, you will increase your knowledge and interest in lifting. But nothing will be as great as getting under the bar and doing the work.
If you watch many different top lifters perform the movements, you will notice that they all have slightly varying styles and techniques, yet they are all lifting massive weights. This means that you do not have to learn to do them exactly the same as someone else, as there is no one single perfect style for everyone. But what is important to know, is that consistency is important in whatever style you demonstrate. For example, your foot position may not be the same as the world champions, but it should be consistent with all of your own lifts.
If you intend to acquire any decent amount of proficiency in the lifts, having a proper facility and equipment is important. That does not mean you shouldn't bother if you do not have the very best options, but acknowledge the fact that if you can clean 150 kilos with an old rusty bar with little spin and no whip, you would certainly clean more weight if you had top notch equipment. The following links are only suggestions, you will have to search for the best options available to you.
Regulation men's bars are 20 kg or 44 lbs with a shaft diameter of 28 mm. The are very strong and yet very flexible so they can bend and not become permanently deformed. I made the mistake of buying a cheaper bar early on in my training to save money. It wasn't long before I damaged the bar and had to buy another stronger bar. I recommend you buy a better bar from the beginning to save money long term if you plan on getting better. Make sure all barbells are loaded correctly and evenly, using collars when necessary.
Bumper plates allow the bars to be dropped to the floor after lifts or in cases of missed attempts. Doing so can help prevent injury. Never leave bumpers lying around to prevent possible injury.
Lifting platforms are preferable but not totally necessary, as you could really perform the lifts on any clean, flat, stable surface. Make sure that your lifting surface is non-slip and firm.
Weightlifting shoes are important for increased stability and decreased compression, which allows for better positioning with the lifts. If you are used to lifting in a flat shoe or a running shoe, trying a weightlifting shoe will certainly be a Godsend.
Chalk will improve your grip on the bar and keep your hands dry. I recommend purchasing broken blocks of chalk in bulk from certain suppliers as you can save some good money by doing so.
Tape can prevent and protect form injuries. You can learn how to tape your hands for blisters and callouses here.
The first thing you have to do when you lift a weight is grab it. The best grip possible on the barbell is the hook grip. Olympic weightlifters use this special grip that is relatively unknown to the average gym goer. The hook grip will stop the barbell from turning while gripped in the hands unlike a conventional grip. A conventional grip of thumb over the fingers can produce more force; however it is not the most secure grip to use. The hook grip is achieved by wrapping the thumb around the bar first and then wrapping the pointer and middle finger around the thumb. Don't just rest fingers on thumb, but pull thumb around bar with fingers for best attachment to bar.
This is a very secure grip. A lifter will not have bar slip out of hands with this grip and it helps with keeping arms straight. MUST HAVE HOOK GRIP-SUCK IT UP! Note, however, that this is not a DEATH GRIP as that will slow down bar and lead to arm pulling. Practice flipping it out at the top to increase turnover. If this is not addressed early, a lifter will not adopt this habit. Lifters will release hook grip in clean so might as well do it in snatch too.
Warming up is all about preparing the athlete for intense training. This can include any amount and inclusion of static and dynamic stretching necessary to enable the athlete to get into the best possible positions to perform their best. You want to warm the body temperature, get the mind right and get the body feeling good, moving good and ready to perform good, to say the least.
I have already made several videos discussing a variety of options for warming up, so I will simply link some options here. But I think it is important to find the right stretches and movements that allow for optimal training. Those movements will vary between individuals. Some athletes have tighter hips and some have tighter shoulders than others. The following videos are general warmups that try to cover the full body. Use common sense, philosophy and training education to determine which movement patterns benefit you the most without wasting time on things that bring no positive benefit in return. You will see a lot of similarities in the following videos for a reason, they help me feel good and train harder. Warm up drills and options are truly infinite, the objective is enhanced performance and decreased risk of injury. The magic is in individualizing your warmup to target your specific requirements, mentally and physically. Also, doing things like cranking the heat up on high in the car on the drive over to the gym can elevate your core temperature on a chilly day before you even step foot in the gym.
A very effective dynamic warm up would consist of a few agilities with some open space, such as:
a) high knees
b) Butt kickes (fanny whackers)
c) High knee skipping
d) Backward skipping
e) Sideways skipping, turn other way on 2nd “GO”
f) 3 “GO’s”: GO-sprint-GO-turn to right and back pedal-GO-turn to right and sprint through
g) 3 “GO’s”: GO-sprint-GO-turn right 360 sprint-GO-turn left 360 sprint through
h) 3 “GO’s”: GO-run backwards-GO-turn right 180 or 360-GO-turn left 180 or 360 sprint through
i) Belly sprints
j) Back sprints
The squat is foundational to the lifts and is a staple strength exercise. If you lack the mobility to perform a full squat with an upright torso, you may perform the power version of the lifts, but I would avoid the full exercise with any weight because it will not be very effective.
Place the feet about hip to shoulder width, toes pointed out slightly. Sit back and down while allowing the knees to track out over the toes. You want your thighs to be parallel to the feet so your knees are hinging properly. Turning the toes out slightly will help the athlete arch their backs better and prevent a more forward lean of the torso. I prefer to sit on a very low box, like a cinder block, and find my squat stance without much pressure on my knees. This helps for athletes as they can deload their weight and make adjustments without the extraordinary stress of being in the bottom of the squat.
- feet hip to shoulder width
- toes turned out 10-30 degrees
- thigh parallel to foot in bottom position
- feet flat with weight towards heels
- back arched and trunk tight
The Back Squat
The snatch is jumping a bar through a range of motion and receiving it in an overhead squat. If you can jump, you can snatch. Jump in place 1” off ground with shrug at top. Do a few reps. If you can do this, which everyone can, you can snatch. While learning, just remember it all comes back to the JUMP. Don’t let your mind get in the way. JUMP. It is this jump that creates the SPEED THROUGH THE MIDDLE critical in the Olympic lifts. This jump starts at the feet.
Jumping (pulling) position: feet under the HIPS; the stance one would assume prior to doing a vertical jump (note: stance is critical as 90% of all missed lifts can be attributed to the feet/base). Everyone will be at hip width initially. Adjustments can be made later once you work with someone individually
Landing (receiving) position: feet approximately shoulder width apart, toes turned out slightly with knees bent (1/4 squat) and knees tracking in same direction as toes (this will open up the hips and allow athlete to squat low “between” the legs). Chest should be up, with a good tall posture and tight back. This is where the athlete receives the bar.
a) Walk feet from jumping to landing position. Make sure proper width for feet in each position and knees are bent in landing position (do not land with straight legs!). Chest should be up, torso straight (tall), butt back a little as though going to sit in a chair. Wiggle the toes to make sure your weight is more on the back half of your feet. It is important to hammer on the DETAILS here. That is a coach’s job! Do this drill several times checking feet and body position.
b) Jump feet from jumping position to landing position. NO DONKEY KICKS. This drill is how you avoid donkey kicks. Reinforce that the ground is a lifter’s friend. This is not a floating basketball jump. Instead, slide the feet out fast to the landing position. Must be consistent with getting the feet where they need to be and one should be able to squat deep from this landing position. When learning, stay down in landing position, adjust feet as needed and only come up when you're set in proper position.
c) Jump feet to landing position while increasing the depth of the squat the group lands in (2”, 4”, 6”, full squat). Again, feet should hit proper spot every time. Should be able to land in full squat without adjusting feet. Practice a few times. (NOTE: address “Butt wink” here. In bottom of full squat, raise chest up, arch low back and drive hips to heels, push knees out. The “butt wink” position is a soft position and not safe if have weight overhead. Do not overhead squat to a depth where wink develops. Cut squat short and then work on eliminating wink when have no weight overhead.)
Skill Transfer Exercises:
Grip Width on bar: (8”-12” overhead) There are a variety of methods for finding a good grip for the snatch: scarecrow method, eyeball method…for beginners, err on the side of too narrow to avoid wrist pain. Have the group use the “eyeball” method to set their grip. Have them put the bar overhead and coaches walk around to verify proper grip. Next show bar position (frontal plane-show too far forward, too far back) and active shoulder (show armpits forward, not down, push to ceiling). Turn palms up slightly. Have group raise and lower bar a few times so know how to find proper position—coaches make sure everyone is squared away. Also, this grip width should put the bar approximately in the crease of the hip with straight arms when holding in a relaxed hang in front of you.
Snatch grip press behind neck
Snatch push press behind neck
- great article on OHS by Sage Burgener
Pressing snatch balance
Heaving snatch balance
We learned all of these previous exercises first to build strength in the receiving position, before we throw a bunch of weight over our head.
Mid hang snatch pull
Scarecrow muscle snatch
Tall muscle snatch
Mid hang muscle snatch
Mid hang snatch
Below knee Snatch
- Moving to floor -
find where the back angle is when the bar is ion front of the knee, then bend knees to move to floor. Minimize forward lean, a vertical torso allows you to break the bar off the floor with more legs and less back. The low back will fatigue first.
1. Foot Position
2. Foot Position
- Receive in power position and split position
3. Footwork drill
4. The dip position
5. Press behind neck
7. Jerk dip squat
8. Push press behind neck
- jerk dip squat + press behind neck
9. Push press
- jerk dip squat + press
10. Tall power jerk
- Start with bar pressed to forehead level
- Jump the feet quickly to squat position
- Punch down against bar
- Land in quarter squat with bar locked out in overhead position
- Try to beat the barbell to lockout before feet contact ground
11. Power jerk
- 1/2 Push press + tall power jerk
- Dip and drive same as the push press
- When leg drive is complete, bar will be in same position as the starting position of tall power jerk, jump the feet to the squat position
- As feet are moving, punch down against bar
- Pull face back and push bar straight up and slightly back, bringing elbows out and under bar
12. Jerk balance
- Feet in split position about half length
- Bar secured in rack position
- Jerk dip squat and drive bar straight up
- As bar leaves shoulders, keep back foot planted and lift front foot
- Step forward with front foot and drive against bar
- Reach front foot out to full length split
- Try to lock elbows before front foot reconnects with ground
- Secure bar in correct overhead position
13. Split jerk behind neck
14. Split jerk