Heavy Day : Clean and Jerk!

IMG_9710CrossFit WOD

Clean and Jerk  

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Strength Focus: Bench Press

Work up to a heavy set of 3

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"The Olympic lifts are hard for me.  I don't seem to ever get better at them."

This was a common comment yesterday and one we hear from many people CrossFit-wide.  Yes, they are challenging.  They are complex and they take time to understand and then coordinate.  I often tell people, the Oly-lifts are like playing the piano.  You wouldn't expect to be able to sit down at a piano and play Beethoven, would you?  You have to play Chopsticks with your pointer fingers first, then you gradually start putting 2 hands together and playing Twinkle Twinkle LIttle Star, then speeding up the tempo of your ability to play more complex music. Mistakes and frustration are part of the process. It doesn't even sound like what it's supposed to at first. It's a journey of skills, technique, increasing the intensity of the speed at which you can play...and down the road...voila - you get to play a beautiful piece in front of people that actually sounds like music.

Don't despair.  Keep practicing the positions of the lifts and the drills we take you through.  You're connecting the dots.  The movements get smoother, the weights will go up, the movement will start to feel less like you're having a seizure and more like you're actually accomplishing a functional task. 

Here are a few tips to be aware of that will make you better at Olympic Lifting.

Tips courtesy Tabata Times

1. Be More Patient - There is little point in yanking (technical term) the bar off the floor, only to end up in a compromised position for the second pull. The sole purpose of the first pull is to set you up for the rest of the lift. Take a little more time off the floor to make sure you are prepared.

2. Delay the Pull ("pockets" position)- Take a look at a frame-by-frame video analysis of any top-level weightlifter. See how high up the thighs the bar is before he or she starts the second pull. Now take a look at where you start your second pull. See my point?

3.. Finish Your Pull - I'm happy you are in a hurry to get under the bar. But just like a bad George Michael song, "You've got to get up to get down." (If that reference doesn't mean anything to you, then ask your Mum/Dad/British friends). Give that bar enough upward momentum and you will have more time than you realize to get your ass down there.

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4. Keep It Close - That bar should remain close to you throughout the lift. It should make contact with your thighs and brush up your top. If those feelings are alien to you, you need to ensure the bar is closer to your body. 

5. More Hips - This is pretty much the only cue I was given for my first eighteen months as a lifter, and for good reason. This is the fundamental premise of Olympic weightlifting. Hit full extension of the hips, and everything else will flow (literally).

6. Keep Control of the Bar - For many beginner lifters there is a point after you have reached full extension where "the magic happens" and you somehow end up underneath the bar. The reality is there is no point in the lift where the bar is out of your control. If you feel like there is, you probably need to be pulling down under the bar at that point.

7. Squat More - Yes, you. Do more front squats. Do them heavier and more times per week. Do I really need to list the benefits? Okay, then: increased leg strength, better body position under the bar, increased confidence in getting under the bar, and simply being able to get up from those lifts that currently pin you to the floor.

8. Consistency of Technique - Once you have these points down, get them consistent. Why do you think weightlifting competitions for young lifters award points for technique? It is first and foremost in the timeline. After that comes consistency of technique - being able to be hit the correct marks the majority of the time. Only then should intensity be a focal point.