How To Improve Olympic Weightlifting Technique For Athletes & Coaches

Talking about technique for Olympic weightlifting, for anything for that matter, we need to establish a technical model. A technical model provides a blueprint for how to perform movements. Think about it like directions telling us where to go. If we don’t know where the destination is, we have no idea how to get there. This means we have no idea what we want to do and achieve from a technical perspective.

Olympic Weightlifting Program

By establishing technical models, specifically for the clean, jerk, and snatch, we can understand where we need to go. It clearly defines exactly how the athlete needs to move. The athlete and coach will understand where the lifter is and what steps need to be taken to get to the most ideal point of technique.


Just remember, technical gains allow for the application of strength through the technique for much greater competitive movements.

By establishing technical models, specifically for the clean, jerk, and snatch, we can understand where we need to go. It clearly defines exactly how the athlete needs to move. The athlete and coach will understand where the lifter is and what steps need to be taken to get to the most ideal point of technique.


Just remember, technical gains allow for the application of strength through the technique for much greater competitive movements.

No Man’s Land And The Reciprocation Point

With weightlifting, the technique starts right off the floor. From there, what is going on from below the knee to above the knee, what we at Garage Strength call No Man’s Land, is of the utmost importance. A lot of lifts are lost in No Man’s Land. It is the place where lifts go to die because of poor technical execution. 

We have established the knees come back off the floor to get the bar to the beginning of No Man’s Land, which is right below the knees. Once the bar passes the knees, the knees travel forward, or as we like to say, the knees reciprocate. We call the point where the knees go forward in the pull and the bar moves to above the knees the Reciprocation Point. The Reciprocation Point is where lifts prepare for launch.


To hammer technique, we will have our lifters perform the snatch with a focus on knees back into No Man’s Land and as the bar passes the knees and they reciprocate forward, we will have the athletes pause at the Reciprocation point. This pause is an isometric muscle action. This allows the athlete to feel the knees forward while holding a flat foot with the chest forward, over the bar. The athlete’s quads and hamstrings will be loaded, creating a nice co-contraction in the hamstrings and the quads. This position helps keep the bar tighter with a really vertical position. This movement is performed to reinforce the technical model we have established at Garage Strength.

Chest Over The Bar

The feeling of the chest over the bar is important for the technical execution of the lifts when pulling. The knees are back and then come forward, but the chest stays over. It all comes back to the hip flexion and knee flexion. The knee flexion action loads the hamstrings and the quads. Feeling the tension in the hip through the flat foot will lead to that vertical finish.

This will prevent the chest from getting way behind the bar. Once the chest gets behind the bar, it tends to loop. Athletes also tend to jump back when they don’t finish vertical. This will lead to the bar being forward. It will also lead to misses because the bar is even more forward from jumping back.  

Big Goals With Technique

Right off the floor, the knees need to clear back. Lifters who can clear their knees back will help the chest stay forward. If the knees stay forward, the bar will go forward, to make up for that, the lifter will move their chest back significantly. This will lead to getting pulled forward if the weight is really heavy or them getting on their toes early. They may also jump back. It is really key to understand what happens if the knees don’t clear back.


The chest staying forward is key. The chest staying forward allows the lifter to be able to utilize their back squat strength. Again, if the chest is getting behind the bar, the strength from the back squat is not being utilized. If the chest stays forward, athletes will be almost mimicking the plane similar to when they perform a high bar back squat.

Holding the heels grounded is important as well. The longer the athlete is grounded in the pull the longer they can apply force into the bar. In addition, the upper body has a lot of action when executing a lift. There is a lot of upper body movement. We know that people say they don’t want their arms to bend. Agreed. However, once the knees are executing properly, it is important to educate the lifter on what to do with the upper body. We like using no-foot variations as technical teachers of the body. The no-foot lifts teach how to stay connected with the bar, finish tight, and how to catch rapidly. It helps weightlifters to learn how to move well and absorb force. 

Recap

Developing lifting technique takes time and focus. The best way to learn proper movement is through technical movements. Movements that will force lifters into the proper positions and reinforce technical movement work. Variations of the lifts teach proper movement better than any cue ever will. If ever in doubt, knees back, reciprocate the knees, stay grounded as long as possible, chest over the bar, and finish vertical. It is as simple as a golf swing, except the barbell weighs a lot more than the club. 


DANE MILLER

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.

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