Here you have it folks, I am about to give you the one piece of advice that is going to eliminate all of your mistakes on the Olympic lifts and is going to turn you into an Olympian in just a few weeks…..Just kidding, I am not. You can only become an Olympian if you have relentless work ethic and perseverance, and even then you still probably won’t be an Olympian. Sorry to offend anyone, but most people just aren’t born with that ability. What I do want to do is to arm you with some information that might prevent a lot of the mistakes you are making during your snatch, clean or jerk.
No matter what level of Olympic Weightlifter you are, misses boil down to a few things: weight distribution, lack of power, lack of efficiency under the bar, and your mental approach to the lift. I want to talk about the first thing, weight distribution. Weight distribution is what I would say one of the biggest contributing factors to made or missed lifts. Unless you don’t possess the power to launch the bar high enough to get under it, or you are that inefficient under the bar, weight distribution is the biggest factor on whether you hit a lift or miss a lift.
What do I mean when I say weight distribution? I am talking about your center of balance with the barbell during your lift. Basically, the direction you are applying force into the ground. This is hugely important because in the sport of Weightlifting it is all about precision and accuracy, and sometimes it comes down to a game of inches. World record lifts would not be world record lifts if the bar was placed one inch in a different direction. This is why weight distribution is so key.
Weightlifting is a directional sport. It’s no secret that to complete a snatch or clean and jerk the bar needs to be moved in a vertical direction. Too much horizontal movement will most likely result in a missed lift. So, since we know this we need to find the best way to move the bar in a vertical direction. This is a very simply concept that I’ve seen many people get way too confused with or make way too complex. If we need to move the bar straight up, where do we need to apply force? STRAIGHT DOWN. Sounds simple, but can be much more difficult with a loaded barbell in hand.
Since we know have to apply force straight down for an object (the barbell) to move straight up it is important to maintain proper balance through the foot. Maintaining balance through the middle of the foot during the lift is the easiest way to ensure to keep applied forces moving straight down through the ground. Think about a vertical jump. If you want to jump straight up you have to push straight down through the middle of your foot. It is the same with a barbell. Driving up on the toes is the most overused and misunderstood concept in the sport of Weightlifting, but yet you hear it everywhere. It is very misunderstood because it makes athletes concentrate on finishing on the toes, which is really the least important part of the movement. I was recently at an Aleksey Torokhtiy seminar and I was very pleased when him and Sergei Putsov over emphasized making sure everyone never got onto their toes. As they explained, forcing to get up on to the toes will usually result in the bar moving horizontally away from the lifter because that is where forces are being applied into the ground. If you strive to maintain a flat foot throughout the whole movement the bar is much more likely to remain moving in a vertical direction for the entire portion of the lift.
Here is a drill to ensure proper balance during the lift that we like to use at Force Barbell. It is also something Aleksey demonstrated at his seminar..
Got a chance to learn from Olympic Weightlifting gold medalist @torokhtiy and his sidekick @putsoff today at Attica High School. Here they are explaining proper positions and balance in the snatch! #weightlifting #olympicweightlifting #olympiclifting #olylifting #snatch #clean #jerk #alwaysseekimprovement #livelightliftheavy #warmbodycoldmind
You simply stop the movement in the middle of the lift and shift your weight forward and back to find where your weight should be at in the center. Pretty simple.
At Force, we also like to compare the Olympic lifts to a jump. To jump straight up, drive force straight down into the ground. If you end up jumping forward you moved to soon to the front of your foot, and therefore if you had a barbell in hand the bar would also be moving forward, which is not ideal. We will even go as far as to have athletes do jumping deadlifts with the barbell to feel where the weight should be at in their foot. The only difference with the snatch and clean and jerk is that you are jumping the barbell and not yourself. Sometimes this will naturally happen if there is enough weight on the bar, but if not we will have athletes jump just an inch off the ground to feel where their weight should be at, but also how it would feel if you were holding a loaded barbell. The arms come into play next, but we will get to that in another article.
Here are a few simple drills we do at Force to feel proper weight distribution…
The first drill is used to feel where the weight should be at in your foot when you jump or pull the barbell while also feeling how hard you need to push through the floor. The second drill is used to feel proper balance through the foot while also getting the feeling of what it truly means to finish on the toes. An important point with the second drill is to make sure the whole foot is coming off the ground before landing on the toes. This is to make sure the athlete is driving through the middle of their foot and not getting onto the toes too early. If the athlete is doing the 1″ jumps and finishing on their toes before the whole foot comes off the ground they are likely not driving through the middle of their foot and are letting their weight get shifted forward too early, which will result in the bar moving forward away from the lifter during a full lift.
Weight distribution is key if you want to see success in the Olympic lifts. Maintaining proper balance through the foot is a way to ensure better efficiency in the snatch or clean and jerk. There are other things happening during the lifts as well, but maintaining proper weight distribution is a big contributing factor in the lifts. Weightlifting is very directional so it is important to apply forces in the right directions. The bar needs to move vertical? Now we know we need to apply forces straight down through the floor to better our bar path and maintaining weight through the middle of the foot is the best way to get there. Too much movement in a horizontal direction will result in inefficient lifts and the practice of poor habits. Hopefully, you will implement these drills and have some success in maintaining proper weight distribution and direction of forces applied into the floor. If this isn’t any news to you then perhaps you are already headed in the right direction!