Weightlifting is a pretty straight forward sport. Lift a weight over your head. There are two ways you can do it. The snatch, which is taking the bar in one movement from the ground, or the clean and jerk, which takes the bar from the floor to your shoulders and then over your head.
The beauty in the sport is its concurrent simplicity and complexity. After hosting Mike McKenna and his coaches for an amazing seminar at Steelworks Strength Systems this past Saturday and taking some time to reflect on the experience, I arrived upon some very simple conclusions that may impact how you lift.
- Weightlifting is indeed jumping…sort of. Lots of coaches frown upon the idea of cueing a jump when teaching an explosive finish. Heck, even I was wary of using the term. However, at its core, weightlifting is really like jumping. You just need to jump without moving leaving the ground… (I’ll let that one marinate for a while). One of the biggest problems in weightlifting is teaching an aggressive finish at the right POSITION. Learning to explode through the heels without leaving the ground is paramount to this. To get an idea of what I mean, jump as high as you can. Then, repeat the same motion, with a force drive of the arms and legs, but don’t leave the floor. If you can do that, you have the makings of a weightlifter.
- The hip hinge is not a strict hinge. The hip joint is the same kind of joint ball and socket joint that exists in the shoulder. As a result the joint does not move 2 dimensionally, but rather 3 dimensionally. It seems so obvious, but understanding the nature of the joint changes the manner in which we move it within a weightlifting context. As the bar comes from the floor, instead of simply pushing the knees back, we need to think more about pushing the knees back and OUT. This activates the glute med and minimus (key stabilizers of the hip). With added tension and support in the hip, we can translate that into more speed into the bar. This also allows us to stay over the bar more vertically and efficiently and reduces the opportunity of thrusting the hips into the bar horizontally; the bar has less of a chance of kicking out.
- At the catch of a snatch, punch AND pull. Elevating the shoulders into the bar (shrugging the bar) at the catch of the snatch misses a key point of activation and therefore stabilization. By putting your ears into your shoulder (shrugging), the middle and lower traps are not working as best as they could and therefore not stabilizing the scapula (shoulder blade) as best they could. To help activate these muscles, cue a punch and a pull as the weight is received. I was skeptical at first, but doing it reinforced how much more SECURE this positioning felt. Much less external and internal rotation of the shoulder when doing this; the shoulder is locked!
- Your jerk grip is wider than you think. Mckenna’s coaches moved my grip out so wide I thought I was going towards my snatch grip. But I have relatively longer limbs, so a wider grip will make the catch more secure. Sure enough, it felt much more snappy and crisp.
- A better orientation of the hands is more important than hitting the power position in the snatch/clean. After watching the taller athletes during the seminar, I noticed that the coaches suggested that the hands be taken in much narrower. This narrower grip allows more power during the pull.
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