Thursday, September 29, 2016

Weightlifting: Olympic Weightlifting for Beginners

I had to use a picture of former Russian lifter Klokov because America sucks at lifting.

Due to the popularity of Crossfit (or so the internet tells me) Olympic lifting has underwent something of a renaissance, though I doubt you'll find too many people in your globo gym snatching or clean and jerking, since most people are terrified to do either without rubber bumper plates. Because of a shoulder injury, I cannot bench press anymore, so I decided to forgo powerlifting for the moment and work on learning the Olympic lifts. It's been an interesting experience so far, though I have yet to put any impressive weights overhead (unless you consider 210 lbs impressive, which you shouldn't). Unlike the powerlifts, you can't simply muscle up a heavy snatch or clean. The art is in moving under the weight; it requires quickness, agility, and decent form. Certainly strength is required, yet unfamiliarity with the lifts means that if you're a beginner, you're probably not cleaning or snatching a decent percentage of your squat. Below, I'm going to discuss some initial problems I've had and their solutions, as well as lay out a program to follow.

Snatch problems (haha! Keep your minds clean, folks): The snatch is pretty hard, I must admit. My two biggest problems are a soft lockout and not moving under the bar. Both are connected, I imagine; when you don't get under the bar enough, you catch it with bent elbows. Plus, I have ridiculously long arms, which means I have to use the widest grip. The tendency to over pull is great and must be recognized. Currently, I've snatched 165 lbs in a power snatch style, meaning that I've caught it around or above legs parallel to the floor. I need to work on quickly squatting down as soon as the second pull starts. Practice makes perfect, so I snatch three times a week and start my workouts with this lift. I'd recommend searching youtube for videos of elite lifters snatching, and then using the pause button to really nail down the form in your mind.

Clean and Jerk problems: Really, I don't think this lift is particularly hard, at least compared to the snatch. There is a desire to press the bar, but it's not hard to overcome. Really, I just need to work on my clean, which is around 235 lbs. My best front squat is 315 lbs. Your clean and jerk should be about 85 percent of your best front squat, so saith the internet, so I should be cleaning around 265 lbs. Just like with the snatch, it's about moving under the bar. I certainly pull it high enough.

Programming: Obviously I'm no expert at these lifts, but this is how I've gone about learning them. I try to do the Olympic lifts and squats three times a week, and then work in upper body days in between. Switching to the Olympic lifts will not do much for your upper body if you're doing them right, so it's important to press, do strength pulls, and add arm work. Here's the program I've concocted:

Sunday: Snatch for 8-10 singles, working up to a heavy weight. Clean and jerk for 6 singles following a similar progression. Back squat for five sets, starting with 5 reps for lighter sets, then working up toward triples or doubles.

Monday: Strict press for 5 sets. Lat work, choosing from snatch grip rows, dumbbell rows, or chin ups for 3 sets of 8. Barbell curls added unless choosing chins.

Tuesday: Same as Sunday, except Jerks omitted for heavy cleans, and front squats added. Usually I do 4 sets of 3 for front squats.

Wednesday: Same as Monday.

Thursday: Same as Sunday.

Friday: Off.

Saturday: Optional upper body day.

So that's how I've went about tackling the Olympic lifts. I'll give a report on my progress in a couple months.

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