One of the major problems with teaching the technique of the Olympic lifts is that newcomers often are not comfortable and/or familiar with the bottom position before they ever attempt to learn the movements. I’ve always felt that learning to achieve a certain position or result was best accomplished if there was familiarity with the goal of the movement. For most people just learning the Olympic lifts, the overhead squat, front squat, and split jerk positions are neither familiar nor necessarily comfortable.
Squat Snatch Press
I begin by teaching the squat snatch press, a movement in which the athlete assumes a full back squat bottom position while taking a snatch width grip with the bar resting on the shoulders behind the neck. The movement then commences with the athlete pressing the bar overhead while remaining in the full bottom position. The exercise has been mistakenly called the Sots press when in actuality a Sots press is performed with the bar in front of the neck with the hands in a clean width grip.
The squat snatch press is a fabulous exercise for familiarizing the athlete with the bottom position of the squat snatch, while simultaneously improving mobility in all the relevant joints. The most difficult problem for many people is learning how to fire the rhomboids in order to stabilize the scapulae, so the shoulders have a proper platform from which to exert force upon the bar.
The best movement for learning the squat clean bottom position is the traditional front squat. This movement performed with an optimal amount of weight will force the body into the bottom position, while simultaneously stretching the tendons and ligaments involved in achieving the position. At this point the front squat is not a strengthening exercise, but a positioning and stretching exercise. The hands are not gripping the bar, but rather cradling it to keep it resting on the shoulders.
The split jerk is best learned by performing overhead lunges. The weight is supported overhead with the hands taking a clean width grip. The athlete then steps forward with the preferred leg into a lunge position and lowers the hips until the thigh of the front leg is parallel with the floor. The athlete then recovers to the starting position. This movement, like the previous two, is to acquaint the athlete with the bottom position before any attempt is made to assume the position at the end of an explosive movement.
Once these positions become comfortable for the neophyte lifter, the technique training can then commence to the process of learning how to get the barbell to these positions.