Improving Your Olympic Weightlifting
Olympic Weightlifting as a sport has been around for decades, but has become more popularised since CrossFit adopted the lifts as part of its framework. I got myself hooked. I wanted to get strong and lift heavier weights and I thought it was cool as shit. I hired a coach, learned the basics rigorously for 2 years training 6-8 hours a week and accepted the highs and lows that came with it.
4 years later, I have a developed understanding and experienced perspective from those trials and tribulations, which has allowed me to continue to not only really enjoy lifting, but also keep progressing. In this blog, I’m going to highlight three points from my own experience that helped me improve at Olympic Weightlifting, and I truly believe they will help you improve also.
I liken learning the lifts to solving a Rubik’s Cube, although one is much more physically demanding than the other. So, how do you go about solving it?
One thing I found really valuable was understanding that each lift (snatch, clean, jerk) contained different phases, and each phase has a list of technical focuses to consider. Think of puzzle and realising that in order to complete it, you need to solve multiple smaller puzzles first. Learning this early on removed me from counterproductive training and drove me towards training with specific intentions. This proved to be a very effective use of my time and energy.
I would avoid trying to solve everything it all at once. This is demanding on time and energy that could be put to better use. Better understanding I believe requires one to become a student. I would suggest asking your coach as much as possible or even doing a little research to enhance your knowledge of the basics. (Obviously) I strongly recommend consistently attending our Olympic weightlifting classes, but trying to increase your level of focus. Doing so in a group environment makes it a far more enjoyable experience, because weightlifting is hard!
Both the Snatch and Clean & Jerk are complex, dynamic movements, meaning you are moving multiple joints simultaneously at speed whilst trying to maintain proficient technique, all in the space of about a second. This can be a little mind boggling when you start out and frustration can occur from time to time. This is where installing patience will come in handy. Progressing with anything complex will take some time, however how much time depends on how you approach learning. If you decide to shortcut valuable steps in your learning (ie the basics), this will not only lower your ceiling of potential, it will also cement poor lifting habits, making progress harder to come by (the opposite of what we want).
On the other side of the spectrum, taking the long term approach allows you to set realistic expectations for yourself. If you can only manage to train 1 hour a week, progress might be slow, but slow progress is still progress and this may be the most efficient way to improve in your scenario. This may not seem very encouraging, but trust me when I say this will be the most effective use of your time, you just don’t know it yet. When your technique begins to click and PB's become more frequent, your patience is beginning to pay off, and you'll be falling in love with the journey instead of being frustrated by searching for quick-fix gains every week.
To improve your patience, try these out:
“The Cardinal Rule of training” - Dan Cleather. It’s a simple truth, If you want to get good at something, you need to practice - a lot. Where some fall short is not recognising the behaviours that negatively impact us being consistent.
Now I am not suggesting we need a perfect life, as life will undoubtedly get in the way. However, having the tools to work around life can make or break your gains. To help you, here is the framework I used that helped me become much more consistent with my training:
Olympic Weightlifting can be brutal, but it can also be an extremely rewarding and enjoyable journey that offers you lots more than just strength gains - gains that transfer to your daily life as well as a high sense of achievement to look back on and think “Wow, I really did that”. By taking a student-like approach to learning the lifts and understanding how to effectively use your time and energy, you will give yourself the foundations that will offer you a higher chance of success over the long term. It will also teach you patience during this period. Remember progress isn’t linear, things might stall for a while, but this doesn’t mean you are regressing. You may just need more time to practice. If you can remain as consistent as possible and create a framework that supports you through the process, the rewards from your hard efforts will speak for themselves. You'll be very surprised what you're capable of when you start racking up consistent sessions over a long period of time!
Happy lifting - Coach Sam