Truth? Half the reason I love weight lifting is to chase a PR. However, the longer you’ve lifted and the more experience you have, the harder a PR becomes to get.
New lifters enjoy frequent celebrations, as technique plays a huge role in how much weight we’re able to lift. As your technique improves, you’ll see huge jumps in your weight lifting numbers…at least, for a while.
Once you’ve been weight lifting for a while, even a 5-pound PR can become as elusive as a CrossFit girl NOT wearing knee socks on a rope climb day.
With the Open right around the corner and with it, the official kick-off of the 2016 CrossFit Games season, we’ve put together a tutorial on how to maximize your lifts and finally nail that PR you’ve been looking for. Thank us later!
1. Get Violent — With Your Hips That Is
According to Greg Everett, an all around weightlifting badass who not only is the owner and head coach of the Catalyst Athletics weightlifting team and a Masters American record holder in the clean and jerk, your hip extension plays a huge part in how much you’re able to snatch or clean and jerk.
In an article published in 2011 he says, “The extension of the hips must be extremely violent, and the legs should continue pushing against the platform until it’s completed and no longer.”
We highly recommend reading the article in its entirety, but its focus is actually addressing the question as to whether or not you should “bang” the bar off of your hips during lifts. As most CrossFitters know, this is a highly contentious subject of much debate between experts. But one answer is clear amongst all the gurus — if get your hips to snap and explode with tons of force, you’ll see more weight go up than ever before.
2. Slow It Down a Little
Also from Everett, I give you the next most common mistake in Olympic weight lifting — starting the second pull too soon.
Take your time with your second pull, or as Greg Everett says, be patient. Be sure to give your body enough time to complete the entire explosive extension before beginning your pull under the bar.
To get a better visual understanding of how this works, take video of yourself completing one of your lifts and compare it to a top weightlifting champion in the world.
Watch how long you wait before bending your elbows, and watch how they do it. A lot of phones now even have features that will allow you to slow the video down, so you can really get a blow-by-blow of how you’re moving underneath the bar. If you see that you’re beginning phase two too soon, try to slow it down and watch results happen!
3. You’ve Got Your Own Special Sweet Spot — Find it!
Matt Foreman, a coach with more accomplishments than you can shake a stick at, authored an article last year to examine the difference in pulling techniques. Here, he came to one overwhelming conclusion: *gasp* every athlete is a bit different.
Here at FitnessHQ, we’ve known that for a while. Take time to get to know your body and figure out what works for you!
4. Positioning is Everything
Five-time California State Weightlifting Champion Sean Waxman discusses the importance of the start potion when weight lifting in a short video on the Breaking Muscle website. He provides us with an important tidbit that can improve your lift before you even start — improving your starting position.
In a perfect world — or shall we say, a world where you’re going to hit a new PR — you should be staring with the middle of your shoulder in direct line with the bar before beginning your lift.
Limitations in mobility, flexibility, or even simply not knowing your body position can set your lift up for failure before you begin. Have a lifting partner snap a photo or take a video to check your starting point and make sure you’re always aligned for success.
5. Get Warm!
Mat Fraser, second place finisher at the 2014 and 2015 Games as well as Brooke Ence, victor in the 2015 Games’ clean and jerk and snatch speed ladder event agree: taking your time with the warm up can be the key to hitting the bigger numbers when you lift.
Both elite competitors have made the mistake of jumping through their warm up sets and set about hitting their target weights too quickly. As a result, they had missed reps and bad form. Brooke says she makes an effort to “…spend a little more time in the moderate weight before I get up to the big numbers.” Follow her train of thought and you’ll be more likely to hit that PR.
One of the best known and most effective Olympic lifting warm up sequences is the Burgener warm up, developed by legendary coach Mike Burgener to help athletes prepare their bodies for the movement and improve their technique on the pull and catch.
Check out a free download of the six-step sequence here.
6. Focus on Your Feet
Another favorite cue of Mike Burgener is to “focus on the feet” during your lifts, specifically in your landing position. Most athletes are going to miss on a lift from landing either too far forward or with their weight too far back, making it impossible to stand the lift up and complete the rep. By focusing on your footwork — both where your feet begin your in lift and then transition seamlessly into a strong base for your catch — athletes can see a huge opportunity for growth very quickly.
7. Squat…Like, A Lot.
Olympic Weightlifting silver medalist and all around Russian badass Dmitry Klokov has some incredible max lifts, including a 196 kg (over 432 pounds) snatch, and a 232 kg (over 511 pounds) clean and jerk. His training program is rigorous, but one thing that he mentions in this interview is the importance of squat training and it’s impact on your overall ability to perform well at Olympic weight lifting.
During a three-week period, Klokov would include 10 leg training days. Seven of those 10 would have a focus on the front squat movement, and three would focus on back squatting.
As the front squat position is the same as your catch position in the clean and jerk, and forces you to maximize the efficiency of your quads as you would in a snatch, Dimitry believes these are the most effective movements to practice for overall improvements on weight lifting numbers. And he has the stats to prove that it works.
Two of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve ever received, that I feel like translate especially well to Olympic weight lifting are:
Practice makes permanent.
and perfect practice makes for perfect weight lifting.
Regardless of what tips and techniques you choose to incorporate, remember to focus on good, efficient movement patterns, and give every lift the time and attention it deserves to be your best.