5 top tips from an Olympic Weightlifting coach

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Get ready to take notes

Rich Kite gives us the low-down on how to lift like a pro. So if you want the ultimate lifting tips, from an experienced Olympic Weightlifting Coach, pay attention!

As an Olympic Weightlifting coach there are a number of experiences, which I have personally been through, that I have come to realise can be used in other fields of the fitness industry. So here are my top five weightlifting tips…

#1 You’re Only as Strong as Your Weakest Link

The sport of Olympic weightlifting is highly technical and any breakdown of technique can be the consequence of a miss lift. It can be something simple such as not finishing the drive during the jerk (therefore not getting the bar as high as required to get under it), or even something more complex, such as a poor starting position for the snatch.

A poor start position will place the body in an incorrect position during the initial lift, which will have a chain reaction placing the body further into poor positions for the following movements. This can sometimes be countered by super-compensating with other muscles. However the question remains; how long will you be able to utilise the muscle in such a way before over straining it or even injury?

Don’t ignore your weaknesses. Address them early so that they do not further affect the remainder of your lifting. It could be something as simple as not getting full lock-out on deadlifts, or something more complex such as not mobilising the ankle for squats, which can have effects on squat depth and even place further strain on the knee, push your knees into valgus position, amongst other things.

#2 Get a Good Coach

Considering the level of complexity in weightlifting, it is important to learn from someone knowledgeable in the lifts. Good coaches develop good lifters very effectively. Exercises like the powerlifting movements – squat, bench press and deadlift – may not have as great a level of skill to perfect, however they still require coaching in lifting proficiently.

Considerable amounts of injuries arise from individuals performing exercises badly. Example; lots of people state that the deadlift is dangerous and will damage your back. The reality of this is that the people whom have gotten injured have executed the lift in a dangerous manner, most likely because they have not been taught properly or even at all. Considering we live in the world of YouTube warriors, it is easy to get caught up in self-proclaimed professionals dishing out advice.

My two cents for what its worth; research the subject area yourself so you know what you are looking for in the exercises and the coach, go and find someone who can teach you in person (internet coaching doesn’t work), find out if said coach has a wealth of experience which can be demonstrated academically and/or practically (previous lifters, himself, etc), then enjoy hours of happy lifting.

#3 Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

All good weightlifting coaches will have a good knowledge of programming. This doesn’t always mean a complex version of periodisation either. More importantly it is about knowing “why” you are training and what you are trying to get out of all of it.

I know of a number of weightlifters who go to the gym, perform the lifts and go home. In their heads they use no programme whatsoever. I, however, believe this to be untrue. They know why they are going to the gym: to do weightlifting. They only perform the same lifts, and occasionally a group of assistant lifts to cover areas they feel weak in. Therefore there absolutely must be some form of programming here. Otherwise we’d be seeing people randomly busting out snatches one day, calf raises the next and then yoke walks the day after.

So, establish why you’re in the gym and train towards developing this goal. Proper programming will be the most effective way to achieving your goals as proven over and over by coaches across a range of sports. This really stems back to the previous tip, find a good coach who knows how to programme effectively and individually tailored.

#4 Only do What you Need to do

Tied in to the above tip: don’t do exercises that don’t pay off. For me, the Olympic lifts are my main exercises. I have a bulk of assistant lifts such as pulls and squats as well as partial movements of the lifts. All of these exercises will directly carry-over to the performance of the lifts. Additionally I have a number of remedial exercises. These won’t directly aid in performance of the lift but will help the longevity of the lifter through pre-hab and structural integrity of the common injury points.

I do not, however, incorporate exercises that have no carryover to performance or maintenance of the lifter. These are worthless movements that will waste time and add additional unnecessary fatigue. Even exercises that stimulate hypertrophy will be avoided in some cases as this will increase body weight in areas we may not require. For a sport that competes in weight categories, this is far from ideal.

Be smart with which exercises you choose. Is it truly going to help you achieve your goals? Is it going to give you the most bang for your buck? Is it going to bullet proof you as an athlete?

#5 The Importance of Cues

A cue is a word that stimulates a response to the intended individual. This is important as it allows a complex action to be simplified. We have a continual argument about the use of the word “jump”, but I am yet to find a lifter that doesn’t do a stronger lift without the cue. The point of the cue is to get a more explosive extension of the limbs, and a complete extension. I would not expect the lifter to leave the platform a great number of inches and then land back in the snatch/clean position. This is taking the word for the literal sense; we are just after an internal response/stimulation, not necessarily external.

Cues can be used for any exercises and should be. I sometimes enjoy the comical cues “push your bum out like you’re seducing someone behind you”. Everyone knows and understands what we’re trying to achieve, and it creates a strong hitch of the hips ready for exercises such like squats, deadlifts, even barbell rows and good mornings. Lets be honest, you are far more likely to remember the cue if it makes you laugh also.

Use cues sparingly, as it is easy to overload an athlete/individual with information. So be careful with how many cues you use. Only state the most important things to focus on, usually the individual’s biggest errors. There may be smaller lesser important errors, but don’t be concerned on these just yet. Focus on the big things and work your way down the list one at a time.

rich kite

Rich Kite is a Strength & Conditioning and Weightlifting Coach.

He has worked closely with numerous high level athletes of multiple sporting disciplines as well as running his own weightlifting club.

When Rich isn’t coaching, he is endlessly promoting weightlifting and has been featured in the Performance Menu:Journal of Health & Athletic Excellence, in addition to running his own successful weightlifting website.

Check it out UK Olympic Weightlifting or tweet him at @UKOLifting.

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