Does Kuo Hsing Chun Have The Best Olympic Weightlifting Technique Ever?
Establishing a technical model that can be taught is a tough task. Not only is establishing the model tough, but creating a model that is repeatable and can carryover from lifter to lifter is a struggle for olympic weightlifting coaches. Let’s face it, there are numerous body types that compete in the sport of olympic weightlifting. We got athletes with long legs, short legs, great ankle dorsiflexion, hip mobility for days, physical heights, arm lengths and the gambit of body levers is ever an amalgamation with whoever walks into the gym and decides olympic weightlifting is the desired competitive demonstration of sport to be explored.
At Garage Strength, we have been through the wringer. We have had long leg lifters lift a certain way. We have had short leg lifters lift another way. All this did was create mass confusion about the optimal technique sought after in the sport of olympic weightlifting. We would hear our athletes complain about different positions off the floor, while other athletes would complain about what they were doing with their knees or hips. Not good. Not good at all.
A ton of confusion was coming through Garage Strength concerning the technique of the snatch and clean and jerk.
With the problem identified and a need to end the confusion, a deep dive of intense study of the creme de la creme of olympic weightlifting technical movement commenced. Watching and understanding Yuri Vardanian’s and Norik Vardanian’s movement helped a lot. But still, more information needed examination. We began to notice and recognize inconsistencies in some of the best lifters in the world. But then, an Aha! struck.
Enter Kuo Hsing Chun.
Over And Over Again
We began by looking at Kuo Hsing Chun’s videos from the 2015 world champions. Studying what she did in the 2016 olympics. Continuing to study what she did in the 2017 world championships.
Finally, Garage Strength started to implement and imprint Kuo Hsing Chun’s technical movement, positions and movements into the athletes here at Garage Strength.
We saw immediate success. Jordan Wissinger in 2018 qualified for the senior national team to represent Team USA. It also resulted in multiple junior world qualifications with Hayley Reichardt and Julianna Riotto going to Uzbekistan to represent and compete.
Consistency in the Garage Strength lifters started to pay off. The technical model of Kuo really paid off. Lifters started to have more consistency in training and in competition. The athletes started having a greater understanding of the movements, specifically with relation to various positions.
So what is it that Kuo Hsing Chun does so well to make her, arguably, the best technician in the world?
Let’s dive in, analyze and learn something.
1st Key Factor: Floor To Knee
Pyrros Dimas says, “You have got to understand what happens from lift off to below the knee.” A concept we had heard echoed by Norik Vardanian all the way back in 2014. Right off the floor Kuo Hsing Chun does exactly what everyone wants their athletes to do.
The first thing she does when she pulls off the floor in the snatch and clean and jerk is she clears her knees back. Her shin angle is vertical. This is a key factor that keeps the bar in an optimal position.
As coaches and athletes, it is important that we educate and learn and teach about clearing the knees back to establish a vertical shin angle as the bar gets right below the knee.
2nd Key Factor: No Man’s Land
No man’s land is that area in the pull located just below the knee to about six inches above the knee (give or take). At Garage Strength we believe this is the area where many, if not nearly all, lifts are lost. Why are all lifts lost here? The simple answer is because weightlifters don’t do what Kuo Hsing Chun does. It’s actually a very, very difficult concept.
The complicated answer is it takes years to implement the athletic skill needed to execute the skill. What is the skill? It is this: as the bar enters No Man’s Land and passes past the knees, the knees travel forward while the feet stay flat and the chest stays forward. This means as a coach you need to be cueing knees forward. This means as an athlete you need to be thinking to push your knees forward.
This is an important But.
THE FEET MUST STAY FLAT. THE CHEST NEEDS TO BE KEPT FORWARD.
3rd Key Factor: Hips Then Knees Extend
We know that Kuo is one of the most DOMINANT female weightlifters of all time. We know she has unique training and we know that her training will differ from that of her male counterparts.
But that doesn’t take away the lessons we can learn from her technique! We’ve heard a lot of coaches say that the hips are the final accelerator in the lift. They teach this as well. Love to break it to everyone, they’re not. The hips extend first and then the knees finish to end up as vertical as possible.
Kuo, on the other hand, tends to extend her hips first and then extends her knees. Watch Kuo lift or, at the very least, visualize Kuo lifting. She holds a flat foot for a very, very long time. Her hips come under her and her torso is upright and then, finally, her heels start to pop.
4th Key Factor: Feet Slide Out
Once Kuo makes contact off the hips, her feet hold the ground for a near eternity in lifting time. Her hips come through, then her knees flex and her ankles plantar flex. What do her feet do after the plantar flex?
They don’t jump, that’s for sure. Nope. They slide to the catch position.
By not jumping but sliding her feet to the catch position, this means that she has a longer pulling period. This also means that she gives herself a longer catching period as well. Face it, lifters lose lifts by jumping all over the place. By raising their feet extremely high off the platform, they create a disconnect with the bar.
Stay connected. Slide your feet.
5th Key Factor (Snatch Specific): The Finish
To talk about the finish in the snatch, we have to talk about utilizing the upper body. After the bar comes off the hips, Kuo Hsing Chun tends to get her elbows back behind her torso. Her upper body on the snatch is phenomenal.
Coaches love to cue lifters on shrugging vertically. But that is not what happens. The best lifters in the world don’t shrug vertically, they shrug back so that the elbows get behind the torso. From there the bar rotates up. Cues like, “Shrug back and pull yourself under the bar!” which is okay. Just make sure to hammer home the idea of shrugging back over shrugging vertically.
Remember, shrug back and get the elbows back behind the torso and then PUNCH with the upper body through actions of the elbows and upper back.
6th Key Factor (Clean And Jerk Specific): The Jerk
If you watch Kuo take a dip with 140+ kilos as a 59 kilo lifter, notice that she is extremely tight and vertical in that dip. Once she drives, notice how vertical her drive is as well. Looking closer, notice how she has tremendous ankle mobility and tremendous mobility in her upper back.
When Kuo drives into the split, it is uncanny how she can nail an almost exact 50% split of the distribution of the weight overhead to the front leg and back leg. She is so mobile she drops the back knee while her back heel stays elevated. As we’ve said, her upper body mobility is phenomenal, but it is her precise dip and drive that makes her jerk so strong and consistently world class.
Kuo Hsing Chun is the absolute best technical weightlifter in the entire world.
Don’t agree?! Fight us! We’re right and we know it.
All joking aside, Kuo Hsing Chun’s technique is exceptional and filled with lessons. She demonstrates optimal bar path from the floor to the knee, she navigates through the trenches and landmines of No Man’s Land like a ballerina, remaining flat footed as the knees penetrate through. After maneuvering through No Man’s Land, she extends her hips and then finishes vertically. With the knees extending, she slides the feet out to stay connected with the floor for as long as possible to enhance the duration of the pulling period. Finally, when snatching, she shrugs back with the upper body so the elbows get behind the torso, enabling her to punch like Tyson in his prime to lock-out the catch; and, when she is taking that third clean and jerk attempt for the gold on the biggest stages in the sport, she makes it a point to stay extremely tight and vertical in both the dip and drive, distributing the weight an even 50/50 between her front and back leg.
For some reason, if you still don’t think Kuo Hsing Chun is the best technical lifter on the planet, comment below and let’s here about it. We will gladly tell you why you’re wrong.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.