If you’ve ever browsed through Weightlifting videos on YouTube, then you know how many individual styles of weightlifting there are. The problem is not watching the videos, but rather trying to match one lifters exact technique.
Pyrros Dimas, who will go down as one of the best weightlifters in history, throws his head back at the top of the pull. It works for him, but it probably won’t work for 99% of weightlifters. Likewise, a large majority of Chinese weightlifters drop their chin and look down when catching a snatch.
Rather than trying to replicate the small details each of these elite weightlifters are doing we need look at the commonalities across all elite weightlifters and what makes them so successful.
So what technique of weightlifting is best? Well, I’m not here to answer that question or really even debate it. What we can do is try to pick out a few of the main commonalities almost all successful weightlifters do.
1. Keep the bar close
This is probably the king of commonalities among elite weightlifters.
Any time the bar travels away from your body the chances of you making the lift successfully decreases. Even if you do hit the lift consistently, it’s taking kilos away from your potential maximum lift.
A couple of things that could contribute to the bar traveling away from the body:
- Weight is shifting too far forward and too quickly (this usually causes the next bullet point)
- Moving the hips/thighs to the bar rather than the bar to the hips/thighs (banging hips/thighs on bar)
- The arms are too tense. The tension should be in the upper/lower back and arms should hang loose.
2. The hips shouldn’t pass the toes
We’ve all heard lift with your legs not your back. This applies to weightlifting too. Excessive hyperextension of the back (i.e. throwing your hips at the bar and throwing your shoulders back at the top of the pull) is not desirable. Newton said it best… every action has an equal but opposite reaction. If you whip your shoulders back, the hips (and essentially the bar) will go forward in the opposite direction. At the top of the pull, the shoulders should be slightly behind the feet, but the body still relatively vertical. This position allows the bar to have enough room to travel in the correct path and allow the weightlifter to stay close to the bar during the pull under.
(Top of the athlete’s extension)
3. Be fast
Yes. The entire lift. Not just on the way up. The best lifters are some of the fastest at getting under the bar. Ideally the pull is complete to extension, but don’t worry so much about over emphasizing the extension to get that last little bit of height on the bar. That last little bit of height doesn’t mean as much in comparison to the time you just lost to get under the bar. If you feel like you and/or the bar are floating at the top of the pull, you’re most likely spending too much time up there. Every fraction of a second counts in weightlifting. “Close” is for horseshoes and hand grenades. Weightlifting is about makes and misses.
4. Consistency is key…
As long as you’re making the lifts. If you have to use two hands to count how many lifts you’ve missed that day… you’re doing it wrong. Consistency begets consistency. Either way you look at it, whether you’re consistently making or missing a ton of lifts, you’re training yourself to do that exact thing more often.
After a lifter has had exposure and shows competency and consistency in the fundamentals, there should be a level of individual preference in the small details based on athropometry (limb length, height, weight), mobility, etc. While I am a firm believer that there are certain things that have to happen in the lift to be successful, every lifter will have slight individual needs. No need to shove a square peg into a round hole.