Ideally, you would like to start weightlifting with finding an experienced coach. Even once you have read many books and articles on weightlifting, you will find it difficult to maintain the proper technique during performance of exercise yourself, because you need someone to control you technique on every phase of a lift and to notice your mistakes. However if you are not able to find a place where you can work on your technique with a coach, try at least to capture your lifts on camera so that you can review it yourself.
Of course, you would need some experience and knowledge to notice the mistake and find the correct exercise to eliminate it. Even if you are attentive and persistent and you may notice the worst mistakes yourself, there will still be many subtle ones, which will however significantly affect your performance and safety.
Though working out your mistakes yourself will be difficult, there are some guidelines which at least make it possible.
First and foremost - you need to check your physical condition.
That would encompass both general attributes and preparedness for hard work of particular muscles groups (back, legs, arms etc.).
You need to evaluate your muscle groups by the following criteria:
- Strength; and
Find the weakest link of the chain and work on improving of this quality.
For example, if you have weak back and legs, while maintaining other qualities on the decent level, you need to focus on your back, and only then move to improving your legs. Working on your legs requires you to put significant training volumes on your squatting, which may lead to an injury unless your back is strong and well-prepared for such volumes.
Second – work your flexibility.
Even if you are nature gifted with decent flexibility and no way you have thought of it as of your weak attribute, most likely it is, when it comes to starting weightlifting. If you ignore focusing on your flexibility from the very start you will face a serious risk of injuries later on.
To maintain a stable position in the bottom of your snatch, holding your back tight and the loaded bar right over your head you need to be sure that:
- Your shoulder and hip joints mobility provides for the required range of motion;
- You have a decent lumbar-spine mobility (weightlifting has a tendency to form more distinct lumbar curve (hyper-lordosis)); and
- You thoracic spine allows you to hold your shoulder blades tight (normally weightlifters have less distinct thoracic curve (hyper-kyphosis).
Third –working on technique.
While working on your technique, bear in mind the following basic principles:
- Light weight only – you goal is technique, not personal records, so do not load the bar so that its weight would impair your technique.
- More repetitions – you try to establish a movement stereotype. On first few reps of a set you are likely to make a mistake or few, but by the fifth (for example) repetition you may fix your errors and perform close to the right movement. Do not push it to the limit making tens or twenties. But doubles and triples on this stage may not be enough.
- Start with the easiest movements and follow to the more complicated ones –basically you would like to teach the technique "backward" or "from top to the bottom", try making overhead squat, if its fine move to the hang snatch from the middle of your thigh, once you succeed with it – try hang snatch from your knees, etc. At last you will manage it to the full snatch.
- Focus on accessory exercises – overhead squats, drop snatches, etc.
Forth – build the basement.
You need to have a certain reserve of strength. Let us say you want to clean 220 lbs. bar. Technically, with a perfect technique you may do it if your personal record in front squats is 220 lbs. But that would mean that you have no strength reserve. Cleaning 200 lbs. will make you work on you maximum capabilities both on the pull and squat phases of clean, it is risky and energy-demanding. However if you front squat 270 lbs. than the second phase of 220 lbs. clean will most likely be an easy walk for you, allowing you to direct all your energy to a stronger pull.
The following exercises may help you to improve your muscles strength.
- Legs – back squat (NB! Do not accept anything but full depth), front squats, overhead squats.
- Back – various kinds of deadlifts (clean grip or snatch grip, with second pull or w/o, deficit lift or from power rack etc).
- Arms – focus on press and push press. Avoid working on your biceps as it may impair rack position in C&J/front squats.
While working on your strength, do not forget improving you endurance. Without it – that would be hard to continue adding on training volumes and intensity.
Fifth, the last but not the least – gym sessions is just a part of you training.
No matter how hard you train, you will not able to maintain progress, unless you recovery well. You need to plan training wisely not to get yourself into overreaching or overtraining. Your best friends are proper nutrition, decent sleep and bed regime, sauna and massages and other methods of recover, which deserve much more detailed overview, which you will soon see in other articles.
Try to stick to this recommendations, be persistent and dedicated and soon you will see the results!
Author: Sergey Bondarenko, weightlifting and strength & conditioning coach, Master of sports of international class (Russia)
Translation: Artem Chupakhin, Sergey's trainee