A tried and true method for coming up with blog post ideas is to jot down any conversations I may have with multiple members. If athletes are asking the same questions it stands to reckon it is either important, there is ambiguity somewhere, or we are not doing a good enough job explaining something. One such question, or idea rather, that I have been exploring lately with more than one member is how to drive progress in the snatch and clean and jerk.
The snatch and clean and jerk are a lot of fun. They are very technical barbell movements that demand more than just application of force. The athlete must consciously focus her mind to meet the demands of the lift. She must possess not only strength but speed, agility, flexibility, coordination, accuracy, and a handful of other important characteristics to perform the lifts well. So much is wrapped up into these three barbell lifts. And that is why we think they are important for athletic development. After all, we are chasing nothing if not longterm athletic development.
*A caveat though. Weightlifting, especially performing the full lifts, requires a requisite amount of stability in some unnatural positions and flexibility to get into some positions that are often restricted in the general population. This is why we do not blindly prescribe snatches and clean and jerks to everyone. Some people do not want to do them – and that is fine. Some people should not do them – and that is hard to understand sometimes but equally important. It is very important to have a good coach to help you make those decisions, and if you decide to move forward then to help you build the correct habits from the get go. Be smarter than the barbell.
And so the conversation I have been having lately during this Summer of Squats is a question of how to lift more weight in the Olympic lifts. I must repeat an often told explanation here, but it is important to understand and is good to often revisit. The best way to lift more weight in the snatch and clean and jerk is to get stronger. The best way to get stronger is to squat and pull. Doing 90% and greater in the O-lifts is not the most efficient way for beginner, intermediate, and even high intermediate lifters (or exercisers) to get stronger. Consistency falls apart for most lifters at the higher percentages. It is much better to build strength with squats and pulls.
The Olympic lifts are great ways to demonstrate strength. The Olympic lifts are not always the best way to build strength.
Let that sink in for a moment. Chew on it. Halfway swallow it and then uncomfortably bring it back into your mouth. Chew on it again. Ok, now swallow it. Digest it. And now let it become a part of you. Do not ever lose it.
The best way to lift more weight in the snatch and clean and jerk is to get strong with squats, pulls, and pushes. That should be your primary focus. The other focus should be improving your position in the quick lifts. Position is power. It is incredibly difficult to lift more weight in positions of little mechanical advantage. So improve your technique by lifting weights that are light enough to allow lots of reps but heavy enough to force proper positions – 70-80% is the sweet spot. And these tenets are foundational to the programming at Ktown.
So in closing, you need to be strong to hit a big snatch. No doubt. But you will never see someone hit a 200lb snatch that can’t squat 300lbs or more. It takes a lifetime to build strength. Keep putting in the work to build your squat and pulling strength. All else equal, everything follows the back squat. Now go squat!