This is for Bike, who wanted to know a bit about form and whatnot for the lifting that I do. I don’t feel totally qualified, which is … weird… since I do this 2-3x/wk and have done for almost three years now. But I’m not a coach.
That’s my first caveat. For the olympic lifting, you NEED a coach. I think you can get away with light/medium weight powerlifting without a coach, but you really don’t want to start throwing barbells over your head without someone there to make sure you’re doing it right, you could tweak your back out pretty hard. We’re watched closely, we’re careful, we drill on form and drill and drill and drill – and we do core work that makes us all wake up at 2am and say, “why?”
There are only two Olympic lifts… not to say we only do two things. But the competition is only two lifts – the snatch and the clean & jerk.
This is a snatch:
Only that happens in seconds. And then you have to stand up, barbell over your head, before you can drop it.
This is a clean and jerk:
So, to do those two lifts, we practice things to make our back strong, core work, things to make our arms strong, and a lot of things to make our hips/thighs/butt strong. That’s where the momentum comes from to throw the barbell in the air – from the hip-snap. (I get yelled at a lot for “muscling up” the bar instead of snapping it up – your arms are really there to control things, not to do the lifting).
Beginners generally start with “power” cleans/snatches … which is the same movement, only you don’t drop to a squat, you just get the barbell in the air. Coach tells me that you can get a lot more weight up with a full clean/snatch, because you’re not lifting the bar as high, you’re dropping under it (see the second to right/top picture in the clean cycle. It takes time and work to be able to drop to a full squat – and full squat under load isn’t easy. (Then stand up!)
One of the lift preps we do quite a lot is overhead squats with a slow drop and hold at the bottom. Even with a PVC pipe (which is what we start with, and what we work on form with every.single.session) this is a challenge. If this becomes easy, get on a bosu ball and try it there.
If you follow me on instagram (amyrosehearth) I put up our workouts most of the time if you want to know what we do. But seriously – get a coach if you’re interested in this kind of lifting. https://www.teamusa.org/usa-weightlifting/clubs-lwc/find-a-club
My coach tells me that there is *nothing* you can do to get stronger than oly lifting… and it doesn’t bulk you up the way powerlifting or bodybuilding do. Helpful tips? Keep your weight on your heels as much as is possible. Land your lifts with your weight on your heels. Go *slowly* and focus on form. Strengthen your lower back and your thighs/butt.
There is not a session that we aren’t using PVC pipes to warm up and then working on form with empty barbells. If you’re concentrating, you can get an excellent workout like that, and that form is more important than adding weight.
We do a lot of airsquats – a LOT of airsquats – and if you think you’re sorted, do airsquats facing the wall. With your nose to the wall. Burpees seem popular (I can’t do them, no jumping for moi). Pushups.
So, what’s powerlifting? Powerlifting competitions generally have three lifts: Benchpress, deadlift, and backsquat. These are much simpler lifts. Deadlifting – hold on, stand up. Keep a flat back (very important), mind your feet are set properly (there are differences in stance, but you want to be happy with how your knees feel – I’ve been taught feet-under-hips).
Backsquat – again, you want to have your feet just right. Weight to heels/outer foot. Hold your core tight (oh, I hurt myself the last time I PR’d because my second-to-last lift was done without holding tight and I almost folded – 255lb is a lot on your shoulders!). Keep a neutral spine. If you can’t break parallel, don’t add weight, just keep working where you are.
Bench… I don’t know that I have a ton of stuff to offer on bench, I don’t feel like I have technique mastered at all. Making sure that shorties have their feet solidly planted is important – I put a box under the bench for my feet. Mind your breath. Be sure to get a spot if you go over 75% of your PR. Don’t put clips on your bar, just in case you have to tip the weights off.
For all of this – you care about form more than you care about weight, and it is not possible to do too much core work, or too insane of core work. I know I look ridiculous when I do these things, and I don’t do them like the youtube videos, but I *do them* and it makes a huge difference.
Vicious core work examples:
When I set 295 as my DL PR – a few months after starting BBC, 1.5 yrs after starting CF – my lower back hurt the next day. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but it was sore. When I set my 300 PR, my back hurt less than it often does after a heavy regular workout. Why? Because of that year of doing core, core, core, and more core.
And that brings us to the benefits… all that core, all that strength, that means that I’m substantially less likely to hurt myself in everyday life. I’d say I’ve gotten back about 10 years worth of endurance (I feel more like a 30something when I’m doing yardwork than a 40something). I can move bigger things – and to a woman who can’t lift all that much in the first place, that’s a big deal. It’s easy for me to deal with a big bag of dog food or a case of water or … you get the idea. Makes my daily existence far more pleasant. I’m steadier, less tippy. I can walk farther, even with my bad foot, because my legs are stronger.
So, why when I talk up the oly lifts do I like powerlifting better? Basically I’m slow and not flexible, but I’m very strong. I like doing things I’m good at 🙂 Like, I’m locked out where I am on the cleans, because my triceps need to come forward before I can put more weight up – and that means I have to commit to daily mobility work. Daily. And I’m slow – I don’t get the speed for the snap to move my snatch up much from where it is. (All of these, full depth squats, are around 100lb. Not weak – but they’ve been there a while). Can’t jump really… you’re supposed to jump for those lifts … so, I’m kind of stuck. Whereas I can feel that if I just get my form and bits and pieces sorted, I can throw more on my BS/DL/BP no problem.
Ask anything you want to ask. I’ll do my best!