Posts Tagged ‘olympic weightlifting’

by Greg Everett (web)

Back Extension(s), Greg Everett,
If one of your problems with the Olympic lifts is a weak back arch, that needs to become a focus for you in just about everything you do. Some of you have become very strong in round-backed postures and are finding yourselves unable to set a proper back arch in the pull of the snatch or clean, or even all the way through your squats. Reversing this can take a long time and a lot of patience and consistency.One of my favorite exercises is the plain old back extension, or hyperextension as we used to be allowed to call it. I think this is a great way to feel proper and complete forceful back extension because of the postioning (i.e. no stretch on the hip extensors), and it’s an easy way to build up a large volume of repetition without killing yourself. This is an exercise that can be done every day before and/or after training.

Remember that we’re talking about a back extension, not a hip extension–literally flex and extend your spine. Adding hip flexion and extension into the movement is fine, but you need to learn to control your back directly and develop dynamic strength, not just isometric.

When you get to the point at which you’re ready to add resistance, hold weight behind your neck instead of in front of your chest. This can be in the form of a dumbbell, but a barbell is a lot more comfortable. Have a pal hand it to you if needed, but you won’t be using huge weights, so you should have no problem lifting it into position yourself. Holding it behind the neck allows you to get better and more consistent resistance with less actual weight–holding it in front makes it easier to let the weight move down toward your stomach, reducing the resistance and tricking you into believing your back is a lot stronger than it really is.

Isometric holds at the top of the extension reps are great too. I like doing a normal set of extensions with a very brief pause at the top, then finish the final rep of each set with a near-max time hold.

If you’re doing back extensions daily, modulate the volume and intensity somewhat day to day. That is, alternate between days on which you use resistance and days on which you do the reps unweighted. I prefer putting heavier/harder back work on training days that also have heavier/harder lifts and squats–nothing like going into a heavy lifting day with a tired back from the day before, although this is not entirely impossible or necessarily bad. If you have conditioned yourself properly, you should be able to manage.

I also really like good mornings with only very slight knee bend (really just unlocked, not bent) in your squat stance. However, these MUST be done with a complete and solid back arch, even if that initially means a limited range of motion. There is no point in just bending over with a round back a bunch of times–it will make your back strong, but not in the way we need it to be for the Olympic lifts. We’re interested in specific postural strength. Over time, if done without sacrificing the arch, the good morning will serve as a hip extensor stretch as well as a back strength exercise. Focus on extending the entire length of the back–create an arch from your sacrum to the base of your skull.

In addition to developing better back extension strength, you need to be improving hip mobility to allow your back to extend in flexed-hip positions, e.g. squats and pulls. No amount of back strength will overcome really tight hip extensors. Make sure you’re actually stretching your hip extensors and not further mobilizing your lower back. The best way to do this is always stretch with an arched back. A simple way to do this is to lie flat on your back with a rolled towel, ab mat or similar support under your lower back and stretch one leg at a time with the other remaining flat on the floor to help prevent the pelvis from rotating back and softening the lumbar curve.

With every exercise you do in training, if you should be arching your back (which is pretty much everthing but jerk-related exercises in weightlifting), you better be working on arching your back. Don’t get lazy and think you’re going to solve your problem by continuing to train the way you always have and throwing in a few sets of back extensions. In addition, force yourself to always be aware of your posture and your back arch. When you’re sitting, standing, bending over to pick something up, work on arching your back properly. This is the kind of consistency that will really add up over time.


This comes as I see a post by Diane Fu talking about how the eyes contribute to weightlifting. And recently I have read several posts on what can be done to fix the snatch. So adding to what you probably have already read, here’s my list of 8 points to consider when you are looking to fix your snatch:

1. Grip

Your grip should allow you to comfortably get the barbell to your hips when coming up from the ground.

How narrow or how wide you go in your grip determines many other factors in your snatch. An example would be a narrow grip which means the bar sits lower at your hips when you are in the power position or fully extended. So slight adjustments to your technique to bring the bar higher and close to the hips are required. Fixing your grip also depends on flexibility and strength in your joints. Going wider, although allowing the bar to move into a better position at the hip crest, may be strenuous on your wrists and shoulders in the receiving position. Another issue with the grip is not having a full grip when setting up. This results in the hand being loose and possible friction against the bar which could result in gaining calluses easily.

2. Feet

Feet position will be a common question to the coach. How wide, how pointed out etc. Having them forward or barely pointing out would be a very general answer. If we look at individual differences, we then have to consider flexibility and lever lengths (this I mentioned when I spoke about the start position in a previous post). This will determine how you set your feet for optimal force production and stability. I will talk abit more about the feet in the next point about the toes since weight distribution is related to the feet as well.

3. Toes

Toes contribute to the understanding of weight distribution. If the toes are too active and you can feel weight moving towards your toes, you know that the centre of mass is moving too far forward. When talking about weight distribution, common points brought up include feeling your weight through the mid-foot, sitting back on the heels in the first pull, ball of the foot/flat-footed in the second pull etc. In my opinion and from a biomechanical perspective, weight distribution needs to be as centered as possible in order to achieve maximum stability. I’ll just post a question regarding balance. It’s hard to balance a pen on its tip right? Same for your feet. It’s hard to balance on your toes and more muscles need to work just to maintain balance if the contact surface between the feet and ground is reduced right? If more work is needed to maintain balance, less work can be done to produce force to generate a ground-reaction force (GRF) strong enough to move the weight effectively and efficiently (read the section about GRF here).

4. Shoulders

Position of the shoulders help cue the right positions to be held in the snatch. Keeping your shoulder blades back allow for the lats to be engaged and allow for a stronger receiving position at the bottom. Ensuring that this happens will prevent firstly loose shoulders in the first pull which results in losing the slack when picking the weight off the ground and subsequently have the hips shoot up too quickly. In the second pull, a poor shoulder position results in less force being transferred to the barbell and the barbell moving away from the body. Keeping the shoulders blades back even after initiating the second pull allows the bar to remain in a straight path when the hips “punch” the weight up instead of the bar being “punched” out of a straight path.

5. Head/Eyes

Looking down during the movements might not be a good thing as you will lean your body forward. Picture from David Lasnier Sports Training.

Our sense of balance is established through feedback from the eyes and ears. They provide information regarding what the horizon is and allows us to maintain stability through our muscular and skeletal system. In simple terms, where our head is directed, our body will follow (wise words from a wise man I know). Looking down or too far up will result in the body having excessive lean through the snatch. Therefore, correcting your focal point and keeping your visual focus at the right level will allow you to attain a consistent and stable movement pattern in the snatch.

6. Hips

When we talk about the hips in the snatch, we see it as the driving force in the body for the entire snatch movement. Many strength and conditioning coaches see the weightlifting movements as a good carry-over exercise to many athletic movements due to the violent hip extension involved. Yes. it is definitely hip extension involved but understanding the direction of force applied by the hip is important to have effective and efficient force production and transference. Treating this portion of the snatch as a romanian deadlift is a big no-no due to the fact that the hips are moving forward and not in a upward motion. One of the big factors to a snatch is vertical displacement and to drive the bar upwards, the hips need to be moving upwards, not forward.

7. Knees

Like the hips, the knees also contribute to force production through the legs for the second pull in the weightlifting movements. But many do not focus enough on the knees due to the excessive emphasis on the hip extension which as mentioned contributes to high force outputs. For the knees to contribute, the knees can’t be straight at any point until the second pull is completed. This basically means from the moment the bar gets lifted off the ground, the knees cannot reach full extension. This is to allow the knees to go into the transition phase and let the double-knee bend occur. With that, the stretch-shortening cycle allows for the quads to be utilised to contribute to force production in the second pull. This also means that in the second pull, it’s not only hip extension but knee extension which gives the violent upward propulsion of the body and barbell. So understanding how your knees move allow you to effectively produce force in the right (vertical) direction.

8. Bar

In the second pull, the bar needs to remain close in order for it to move in a straighter path.

Notice how the last thing to consider is the barbell. This is because if you focus internally on what your body is doing, you are making the bar move the way it’s supposed to move. It is afterall an inanimate object which requires you to manipulate it during the lift. More importantly, the one thing to consider regarding the bar is to keep it as close to your body as possible. If the previous points are taken into consideration and adhered to, the bar is going to be kept close to your body and eventually the bar will travel in a straighter path, making it move upwards more effectively and make the receiving of the barbell an easier one at the bottom position.

So when fixing the snatch, there are these 8 points I would actually focus on. Sometimes fixing one of them could result in fixing a few of the other points. Apart from the bar, the rest of them are not in any order of importance (each of them is as important as the others and needs to be addressed if they are an issue). They are equally critical to helping you achieve better movement mechanics in the snatch and subsequently better performance.

by Bob Takano, Contributor – Olympic Weightlifting (web)

The process of coaching weightlifting at the beginner level has changed considerably over the last few years. If you are one of the coaches who is new to the game you might not notice the difference, but there is a difference. Part of that is due to the changes that have taken place in physical education during the last twenty to thirty years. The tactics and approaches that coaches might have employed in the 1990’s are no longer so effective for the majority of people wanting to learn the technique of the snatch and clean and jerk.

A Look Back in History

weightlifting, olympic weightlifting, coaching olympic weightlifting, crossfit

We need to look back at the history of weightlifting in the United States to understand the change. In the 1950’s and 60’s, the majority of weightlifters learned to lift on their own or with the help of other weightlifters. We had very few coaches, and since the technology of biomechanics was still in its infancy, there were very few people who knew what took place during the performance of a lift and how to coach it.

The winning weightlifters of that era were by and large good athletes who could, as all good athletes do, learn a movement by watching proficient athletes perform it. Pictures were helpful, but there was very little in the way of video. The only way a newcomer could learn how the lifts were performed correctly was to go to a meet and watch the lifting. 

In the 1970’s there began to be more and more biomechanical studies taking place, and so more knowledge of the events that occur during the performance of the lifts became available. Some coaches went further and began to analyze the movements and developed arsenals of exercises and approaches for teaching the snatch and clean and jerk. These strategies, however, were developed while working with more or less committed athletes with above average movement patterns and body awareness. Keep in mind also that most of the U.S. coaches at that time were hobbyists with no professional training in teaching motor skills.

The Paradigm Shift in Physical Education

Up through the 1970’s, physical education classes were largely taught by former athletes with physical education degrees, and the emphasis was on performance-based activities. All students were taught skills that were involved in the playing of sports, and as a result the students coming out of these public school programs had developed an array of movement patterns and some sense of body awareness.

weightlifting, olympic weightlifting, coaching olympic weightlifting, crossfit

During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s a change took place in the physical education curriculum. For one thing physical education was eliminated from the eleventh and twelfth grade curricula, so students came out of the public school system with two fewer years of physical activity. At the university levels many physical education departments were feeling the stigma of being associated with the “dumb jock” and restructured themselves into exercise science departments with considerably more rigorous academic standards. This caused athletic departments to find other places to enroll their athletes. The physical education teachers that were now coming out of universities were not nearly so much sports and performance oriented, as they were fitness oriented.

This had the effect of de-emphasizing physical skills, movement patterns, and complex motor learning. After a couple of decades of re-inventing the physical education curriculum, the products of that transformation are now discovering the sport of weightlifting or the Olympic lifts as a modality for improving strength and athletic ability.

The Way It Was

Thirty years ago anyone going to a weightlifting coach and wanting to learn the snatch and clean and jerk was fairly serious about becoming a competitive athlete. Furthermore most of them had had some background as an athlete and were probably above average in their athletic abilities. Most of them had probably mastered a complex athletic skill and were used to responding to coaching cues and the process of learning a physically intricate skill. The coaching methodology of those days was geared to working with that population.

The Way It Needs To Be

Right now we are at an interesting period in history in that there is a swelling of interest in the Olympic lifts. More people want to participate and spend money within the sport. This is an indication of future good health, as all the Olympic sports that do well in the United States are the ones where the coaches can make a living by coaching.

weightlifting, olympic weightlifting, coaching olympic weightlifting, crossfit

What has changed for coaches who will be providing coaching and teaching services is that the incoming population is not the same. The increase in juniors and youth is not keeping up with increases in the overall population, and instead there is an influx of twenty- and thirty-somethings anxious to learn the lifts to improve their performance in other sports as well as being recreational competitors. Many, however, do not have an extensive background in training for sports and a substantial percentage have come from the altered physical education system previously mentioned. Others may come in with sound sport specific skills, but insufficient athletic skills.

Weightlifting coaches of the future may be able to run primarily weightlifting-based gyms, but a good deal of time will be spent teaching casual participants the nuances of weightlifting technique. The coaches will be able to earn a livelihood and spend a goodly amount of time working with serious competitors, but they are going to have to devote some energies to developing new strategies for working with a more generalized incoming population.

What Needs to Be Mastered

Younger coaches starting out in this brave new world are going to have to catch their athletes up. They are going to have to learn how to coach basic movement patterns and devise approaches for improving their athletes’ performance in these areas. They are going to have to teach body awareness and come up with strategies for getting their athletes to feel what is happening in their bodies as they go through the technical learning process.

These coaches would be wise to acquaint themselves with motor learning theory, and to realize that even talented individuals may have had certain learning windows closed upon them. In short, tomorrow’s weightlifting coaches will have to not just coach weightlifting, but consciously improve athleticism and teach basic movement patterns. The game has changed.