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. 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.