20 Tips That Will Make You Better at Olympic Weightlifting
The road to success in Olympic weightlifting is often a complex one to navigate. There are many routes to take, some more direct than others. An experienced lifting coach can help you map out your journey, particularly as he or she will have traveled enough paths enough times to be able to provide you with both direction and directions.
So here are twenty simple directions, from my experience as a lifter and lifting coach, to help you along your way.
20 Tips for Better Olympic Weightlifting
1. More Hips - This is pretty much the only cue I was given for my first eighteen months as a lifter, and for good reason. This is the fundamental premise of Olympic weightlifting. Hit full extension of the hips, and everything else will flow (literally).
2. Delay the Pull - Take a look at a frame-by-frame photo analysis of any top-level weightlifter. See how high up the thighs the bar is before he or she starts the second pull. Now take a look at where you start your second pull. See my point?
3. Squat More - Yes, you. Do more front squats. Do them heavier and more times per week. Do I really need to list the benefits? Okay, then: increased leg strength, better body position under the bar, increased confidence in getting under the bar, and simply being able to get up from those lifts that currently pin you to the floor.
4. Finish Your Pull - I'm happy you are in a hurry to get under the bar. But just like a bad George Michael song, "You've got to get up to get down." (If that reference doesn't mean anything to you, then ask your Mum/Dad/British friends). Give that bar enough upward momentum and you will have more time than you realize to get your ass down there.
5. Keep It Close - That bar should remain close to you throughout the lift. It should make contact with your thighs and brush up your top. If those feelings are alien to you, you need to ensure the bar is closer to your body.
6. Keep Control of the Bar - For many beginner lifters there is a point after you have reached full extension where "the magic happens" and you somehow end up underneath the bar. The reality is there is no point in the lift where the bar is out of your control. If you feel like there is, you probably need to be pulling down under the bar at that point.
7. Consistency of Technique - Once you have these points down, get them consistent. Why do you think weightlifting competitions for young lifters award points for technique? It is first and foremost in the timeline. After that comes consistency of technique - being able to be hit the correct marks the majority of the time. Only then should intensity be a focal point.
8. Hit the Actual Lifts Often - Remember, everything you are doing is to make you better at the snatch and the clean and jerk. These are your competition lifts. Assistance lifts are important, but they are a means to an end.
9. Hit the Percentages Mostly - Struggling to hit your max lifts with consistency? Work the numbers. Get some reps in at high percentages of your max instead of going straight for max every session.
10. Go (Very) Heavy Often - Having said that, make sure you are hitting max singles on a regular basis. Your body needs to learn how to lift these and push past them.
11. Be More Patient - There is little point in yanking (technical term) the bar off the floor, only to end up in a compromised position for the second pull. The sole purpose of the first pull is to set you up for the rest of the lift. Take a little more time off the floor to make sure you are prepared.
12. Be More Aggressive - Once you are able to hit all the key positions consistently, unleash the beast. Get aggressive and become fast. No, faster than that. Simply continually striving to be quicker and more aggressive will help you.
13. Consistency of Lifting - Like anything, if you want to get better at Olympic weightlifting, you need to devote the time and effort to make it happen. Hitting a few cleans in an open gym session once a week does not earn you the right to complain your lifting isn't going anywhere.
14. Deload - Do not underestimate the importance of taking regular, planned deload weeks. Pay heed to these weeks and they will help you to progress faster, not slower. Give the sport you love some space when she needs it. It's all about the long game.
15. Seek Expert Guidance - Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Seek out a good weightlifting coach early on in your lifting to practice good habits. Get in front of this coach regularly and often.
16. Mobilize - Are you guilty of going straight into your lifting after a few air squats and perhaps the odd power snatch? You are limiting your potential as a lifter, not to mention asking for injury.
17. Wear Lifting Shoes - So far, I have never seen a lifter who doesn't look better after wearing weightlifting shoes. The clue is in the name.
18. Compete - Strange things happen on the platform. As a student of weightlifting, you owe it to yourself to test your learning. You will likely find that you learn a lot about yourself through the experience too.
19. Seek Virtuosity - If you want consistent gains (and this includes minimizing injury), you need to seek mastery of the movement every step of the way. This will ensure you build the relevant strength on a basis of solid technique.
20. Enjoy the Journey - This sport is fun. Sure, it can be a demanding, frustrating, and even perplexing process at times. But it is also extremely rewarding. It's not all about those goddamn numbers. Enjoy the journey!
Photos courtesy of Andrew Lockey.