Olympic Lifting For Dummies

Olympic lifting ain't always pretty to watch...
Olympic lifting ain't always pretty to watch...

Alrighty, let’s clear the air here.  Yes, we all realize the Olympic lifts are weird.  First of all, they have funny names that immediately bring out the dirty little kid in people.  Plus, if you’ve watched them performed, they are often accompanied by loud shouts or grunts of effort, red faces, bared teeth, and nearly always terminated with a thunderous dropping of the bar onto the floor.  Normally, the last thing most people want is to share gym space with a bunch of shouting weight droppers!   Thank heavens we at CrossFit Zone are not ‘most people’…

Take the Snatch, for instance.  Proper form in the Snatch dictates that the lifter approaches the bar with feet shoulder width apart, taking a very wide grip on the barbell.  (To determine your own grip, do some shoulder dislocates with a PVC beforehand, and play around with your flexibility and grip width.  Another way to figure out grip width is to place your hands on the bar wide enough that the bar sits at the level of your hip crease, i.e. where your thigh joins your hip.)  After taking a wide grip, the lifter then drops into a squat position, hips pushed back, lower lumbar properly supported, shoulders over the bar, eyes up, chin down, core very tight.  Your arms should be like cables; no slack or bending, but loose.  The lifter then stands with the bar by pushing the feet into the floor and driving through the heels.  The moment the bar passes the knees, the lifter explosively jumps straight up, violently shrugging the trapezius upward, and then immediately jumps the body downward.  The bar will rise with straight arms until it hits its apex, as you simultaneously move your body down, rotating it down and under the weight.  In the full version of this movement you will end in a full, wide, jumped out squat with the bar overhead, just behind the ears.  Stand to complete the movement.   Sounds complicated?  Well, kind of.   Feels a bit weird at first, too.  But practice makes perfect, right?

A common question we hear from people is “Why would I want to learn an Olympic lift”?  If you are reading this blog, you probably already dig training that has a more functional aspect to it.  Heck, functional training is what CrossFit is all about!  But why learn a sport, such as Olympic lifting, that is complicated, takes years to master, and has the potential for injury?  Certainly it would be much easier for you to just take another yoga class, or spin, or keep doing the kind of lifting you have been doing, right?  However, you might find you secretly love heavy lifting or O-lifts, if the following applies to you:

* You want to get stronger without “bulking up”
* You want to become more explosive for a sport
* You like doing things that make other people in the gym stare. 😉

Strength and conditioning coaches and specialists the world over are on the “Olympic lifts for explosivity” bandwagon.  A lot of coaches are trying to increase their athlete’s explosivity with the O-lifts. Why is that? Simply put, they are dynamic by nature.  There is no way to perform a slow O-Lift if you are using any weight; it’s a matter of go fast, or go home.  Athletes are taught to accelerate quickly, from the ground up.  Extra bonus, this type of move is of incredible benefit to such athletes as boxers, wrestlers, volleyball and football players, rugby, hockey, and any other sport where quick movements spell the difference between victory and defeat.  Quite frankly, I don’t even really need to sell this to you.  Almost everyone can agree that O-lifts go a long way to helping an athlete develop more “pop”.

The good news is, if you are reading this site and have tried CrossFit, you are already not ‘most people’.  Maybe in the past you have endured and/or enjoyed the stares that typically go along with trying something new in the “Globo-gym”.  Maybe you learned how to do a kipping pullup, and promptly began to lust after a weighted pullup, or maybe a clapping pullup (!).  People watched you learn how to do this seemingly unusual thing, and you learned to deal with being watched.  If that is the kind of person you are, you are going to LOVE the Olympic lifts.  Who wouldn’t be impressed by someone that has learned how to throw the equivalent of their bodyweight overhead!

To learn Olympic lifting properly, it is very important to get humble, ask questions, and learn to accept criticism.  We realize that this can be very difficult. To facilitate the learning process, may I recommend the following approach:

* Seek out qualified coaches (Handy fact: we happen to have some here at CrossFit Zone!)
* Look, listen and learn, and then actually DO what the coach suggests
* Take on external opinions; do not assume you know what you are doing
* Train in a gym that has a lifting platform or proper flooring, and bumper plates (Again we offer this here at The Zone!)

The main point here is that Olympic lifts have many uses, can be scaled to fit anyone’s physical regime, and will provide athletic benefit to a regular CrossFit fitness program.  Go ahead and embrace these movements, and you may be surprised to discover how fun they can be.  I’m not kidding! It’s very satisfying to pounce on an unsuspecting bar and hurl it overhead.  To top it off, while you’re busy having fun, you will be making yourself into a better athlete.

Today’s Workout:

Buy In – Back Squat technique pointers – depth of squat, bar placement, knee position

WOD – “KyleNESS”

*this is our second go at KyleNESS, compare your results to March 4th 2010*

Part 1: Back Squat – 4×3 reps, work up to around 3RM

Part 2: Floor Press – 4×5 reps, work up to around 5RM (compare to Feb 3 2010 or March 4 2010).

Part 3: Half Tabata each of: situps, pushups, squats (4 cycles of 20s/10s at each station before moving on, add all reps from all exercises for your Tabata score. Work quickly and don’t save yourself, only four rounds each!

Add up best weight in squat, floor press, and your total Tabata score to get your overall score!

Cash Out – Self Stretch


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