We’re happy to report a spectacular showing for this inaugural competition. Registrations are now closed.
Many lifts are lost before they’ve barely begun. A successful lift starts at the beginning. You can’t have a solid finish with a bad start. Lifts are taught from the hang because as the lifter starts with the bar lower and eventually from the floor, the rate of difficulty increases. Each phase of the lift needs proper technique to maximize efficiency, getting the most out of your strength. Right now, we’ll focus on starting from the bottom position.
The start position is very important. A lifter should first learn a static start, meaning, get into a ready position, locked in, with no movement of the bar or body before beginning the lift. A dynamic start is when a lifter is moving just before starting the lift. For example, when a lifter ratchets their hips up and then down into their ready position just before lift off. A static start should be learned before getting into a dynamic start because you want to be consistent in your start position. If your body isn’t accustomed to starting from the same place and you jump right into a dynamic start, you’re more likely to be starting from different points and being inconsistent with your technique.
There are many different cues a coach will use to reinforce good positions and where the focus on the lift should be. Depending on what the issues are with a given lifter, the cues are meant to direct the lifter’s attention to something specific that will help the lifter complete a successful lift. Here are some cues for the start:
- Monkey feet (flat feet) – I’ve used this one to reinforce the focus on keeping the feet flat, heels down. Picture doing a regular push up – your palms are down, fingers out, with full contact with the floor. In the same fashion, you want your whole foot making contact as you drive the bar by pressing your feet into the platform (not rolling onto your toes). Drive your feet into the platform with a stiff core to hold your position – don’t let the bar pull you forward/off balance.
- Brace! – your core should be super tight.
- Chest up – Pull in your lats/pinch your shoulder blades together, keep a tight neutral spine.
- Pull yourself down to the bar – remove all slack/tight core
Use specific exercises to build strength from the floor. Don’t neglect core work – that may be the weak link that doesn’t allow you to keep your form as you transition into the second pull. There are many options, including unilateral work, to address any weaknesses or imbalances. Here’s a few:
- Paused Deadlift to knees
- Deficit work
- Reverse Hypers
- Good mornings
- 1 leg RDL
- 1 leg squat
- Weighted planks
This is only a quick list of good exercises that should be in your repertoire. Complexes are also good to work the transitions from the start, to the second pull, into the completion of the lift. The start of the jerk is also very important. In the same way, it requires flat feet and a tight core to properly drive the bar up, not forward. The lifts start and end with the feet. Like roots to a tree, they need to be planted and balanced.
When weightlifting, the focus should always be on technique. It’s a constant challenge to maintain that technique. So, of course, you have to make a conscious effort to be consistent in your approach. The only thing that should change as the weight on the bar goes up is your effort.
Use exercises and your coaches eye to fine tune technique. The exercise below is one approach.
In this video, I’m starting with a below the knee snatch pull followed by a below the knee hang snatch. The knee is an important transitional point, so this is a good place to work with. The first lift focuses on you pulling and keeping the bar close. The hang snatch follows the same groove to reinforce an efficient movement. The green line in front of the toes is your boundary. You should be keeping the bar behind that line to maintain better leverage and efficiency of movement. This is where using video is a great way to check the bar trajectory.
The exercise helps to reinforce the correct groove without having the lifter overthink the movement. Ideally, the lifter should feel the movement and know when it’s right. Focus on technique. It’s an integral part of your making that big PR down the road.
Taping your thumbs can help make it easier to use your hook grip in weightlifting. It can also help to avoid blisters and torn skin. This video illustrates a way to tape your thumbs so that you can get a good grip and not hurt your thumb from improper taping.
Some lifters find that it can also help to tape some fingers between the joints for the same reason. When taping the fingers, I typically tear a strip of tape in half lengthwise. I then wrap the finger between the joint and the palm or between joints. This allows full mobility while protecting the fingers.
Video analysis is one way to review your lifts to make sure you are pulling efficiently. Another way that provides immediate feedback is True Pulls.
Tommy Kono was one of the greatest weightlifters of all time. Aside from his tremendous success on the platform, he was a champion bodybuilder and authored two excellent books. I learned the concept of the true pull from him (this is what I call it).
Essentially, the point of using this training technique is to make sure you are pulling, whether it be a clean or a snatch, to the proper height to get under the heaviest weights, most efficiently. It is common for lifters to “cut” the pull and rush to get under the bar. This can work when the weight is manageable, but once the weight becomes more challenging, it is less likely you will make a successful lift. There are many cues, such as, “be patient, stand tall” or “finish the pull” that are used to help lifters focus on pulling the bar as high as possible before getting under it. The True Pull is a way to train your groove so that you instinctually pull correctly every time.
This weekend I tested out to become a USAW National Referee. Why, you ask? Well, in case it didn’t occur to you, without officials, there is no sanctioned competition. I’ve enjoyed competing for many years and it’s important to recognize the efforts of the people who make it happen.
Over the years, I’ve gotten to know many officials and witnessed them working hard to make sure competitions are run right. A few years ago, I noticed the strain this put on a relatively small group of people. It sounds cool to be a National or International referee, but it does take a good deal of work to officiate at a competition – especially national competitions. What makes it harder is the small pool of qualified officials to draw from. This is what motivated me to step up and get my LWC Referee certification and now the National Referee certification. Eventually, I hope to get to IWF Category 1 Referee, the highest level – able to officiate at the Olympics.
There are additional benefits to becoming certified. For instance, having a better understanding of the rules of competition and the ins and outs of how a competition is run is a great benefit as a coach or a lifter. I’ve seen plenty of coaches’ and lifters’ mistakes hurt the athlete’s performance due to a misunderstanding of the rules and procedures followed in competition. Becoming a referee also enhances a coach’s eye – or a lifter’s eye. That is a huge benefit to aid in perfecting and maintaining proper technique.
Lastly, it’s important to give back. This is a great sport and, overall, a very supportive community. I encourage you – yes, you – to step up and join the ranks of technical officials – an integral piece that keeps the sport going.
As a master lifter (read.. older athlete), I can speak from experience when it comes to the benefits of weightlifting. This applies to any physical endeavor – “use it or lose it” – is an absolute truism. I recently had a good conversation on the subject with my good friend and awesome master lifter, Jim Storch. Whatever minor aches and pains we get from pushing ourselves to excel in this sport at our age, it pales in comparison to the aches and pains we feel when we don’t workout. More importantly, as we age we naturally lose bone density. Numerous studies have shown that strength training increases bone density at any age, even if you never trained before.
That said, as you get older, an important part of training – recovery, becomes even more important. Recovery includes rest, massage therapy (and derivatives), sauna, etc. If you have a given injury, you need to rehab it and work around it. “Pushing through” will only make matters worse. This applies to any athlete, not just master athletes; however, our bodies are less forgiving now than when we were younger.
You CAN continue to improve, especially those of you who started later in life. Those whose glory days are behind will need to put today’s numbers in perspective. That said, if you track your Sinclair-Malone-Meltzer numbers, you can see progress relative to age and bodyweight. Here’s the IWF link to their calculator.
As I get older, my passion for this sport continues to grow. I truly enjoy the challenge, the camaraderie, and the benefits to my health. I hope you do, too.