Weightlifting Fundamentals – By Jeff Edwards

Here’s a little December stocking stuffer for you to play with the whole
year(s) ahead!

For many the Olympic lifts can be a bit overwhelming, very much like the
holidays. Despite your best efforts for peace and togetherness, chaos
seems to win out. Fear not gentle snowflake, those scary lifts can be
tamed! Sorry I’m no help on the holiday chaos. You find that secret, booze
is not a secret, let me know.

The Olympic lifts can be boiled down, and simplified, to balance and
speed.  See, no chaos. We’re off to a good start, now stay with me. Each
lift can be broken down into 2 phases; a jump (moving the bar up) and
catch (bar falls a bit). Let’s focus on the first phase, elevating the
bar. The ultimate goal in weightlifting is to lift the heaviest weight
possible, but bigger weights are harder to manage so you have to move it
as efficiently as possible. For efficiency we have to keep our center of
gravity (c.o.g=bar+you) close to our heel, and move the bar up in a nearly
straight line up from that point. Nice and balanced. This applies in the
snatch, clean, and the jerk. Heavy weights don’t move unless you make
them, and since we can’t use a crane you’re going to have to lift it
yourself. Arms are weak and we want to lift heavy so keep your arms
straight until phase 2. Once it starts moving you’re going to want to move
it faster the higher you lift it until we get to the position of maximum
leverage where we can most effectively use our body mechanics to turn our
hard earned muscle into useful elevation and speed. This is called many
things from jumping point, power position, blah blah. It’s the last few
inches before you straighten your legs. The bar will be in different
positions relative to your body during the snatch, clean, and jerk but the
mechanical position is basically the same. Use this leverage to your
advantage and give the bar a little umph by punching your feet a little
harder into the floor once you hit this position to finish the first

Phase two: the catch. After you lift that weight you have to get under it.
The longer something falls the faster it moves, the faster big weights
move the harder they hit, you. Your goal then should be to get under the
weight as fast as possible, preferably while the bar is still moving up
from the previous phase, and support the weight over your foot close to
the heel. Nice and balanced. Anything you can do to move the weight or
your body faster in a near vertical line increases the amount of time you
have to get under the bar by just enough to allow you to lift more weight
than before.  To move under the bar faster we want to eliminate any
resistance to gravity as our body attempts to plummet under this epic
personal record, so we pull our feet off the floor. Since we want to move
under it fast lets go ahead and pull up on the bar to help out, so long as
we don’t try to move it off that straight(ish) line it’s moving on, maybe
back just a little. Feet have to hit the ground sometime so let’s make
sure they land flat so we maintain our balance and maximize our speed
under the bar. Shortly after the feet land so does the bar, and it’s a
heavy one so you better brace for it and get ready to fight to keep
control. Now use that bar flexing rebound and stand that newly tamed
weight on up.

See, No chaos! Unless of course you do something different every time that
makes you throw your bar off it’s near vertical path or land outside of
your balance sticks, I call them feet. This is where deliberate practice
plays a huge role, as does seeking help from someone who has experience
teaching and executing these lifts efficiently to help you figure out what
silly stuff you’re doing to mess up that pretty lift. Eventually however
you might find you lack the laissez faire attitude about life that lets
you drop your pretty head under the heavy weight that’s falling and you in
a moment a weakness succumbed to the evil mistress of self-preservation
and hesitated just for a moment. Good news, that’s something everyone
feels and they eventually learn to get over it from multiple successes
increasing self-confidence and eventually through sheer force of will as
some weights are just scarier than others. Seriously.

No bullet point summation article here, no sir. A true stocking stuffer
treat that you had to do a little reading to earn, and for that I’ll tell
you a secret. The best weightlifters are the hardest workers. They might
not have done everything right the first time, or the 1000th, but one
problem at a time they kept at it. Asking for advice when they struggled,
practicing until they fixed that problem and started looking for the next.
Everyone is slow to learn some necessary aspect to successfully lift the
next big weight, the great ones stick around to keep fighting the good
fight. That’s how winning is done.

Jeff Edwards

- National Coach USA Weightlifting - Crossfit Coach of individual and team competitors - Outdoorsy nerd - Owner and Head Coach at BR Fit Club