Coaching any beginning lifter takes time and patience. It also helps to start from ground zero. With that in mind I wanted to take moment and discuss how I teach the set up for both the Snatch and Clean. Aside from the grip width everything else should be the same.
Coaching the Set Up
Step One – Address the bar:
I like for my newbies to approach the bar and cover a portion of their feet. Depending on hip mobility and their ability to drive their knees out in the set up there may be some differences. If the athlete drives their knee forward and cannot open their knee very well, I have them place their bottom/straight shoe lace under the bar (about the base of the toe). If they can drive the knee out pretty well, I like for them to place their top knot under the bar. If we aren’t sure, we will place the bar over the mid foot and work toward determining a consistent approach.
Why the distinction? As of late, I have begun teaching a straighter pull off the floor and want it to be close to the body, straight to the knee, and as efficient as possible. I have found that an efficient break off the floor is different depending on the quality of the set up in reference to where the athlete can drive their knees. If they can drive the knees out and get relatively close to the bar in the set up (bar over the top knot) a straight pull to the knee is short, quick, and efficient (the knees are already out of the way). If they shoot the knees forward in the set up then in order to navigate their own body most efficiently they will need to be a little further away (bar over the base of the foot) and pull the bar back into their body while shoving their knees back.
In terms of foot width I have found the beginning lifters do better with a tighter foot position because they have a tendency to jump their feet out wider, especially as load increases. I have noticed that as a lifter gets more consistent and comfy with the lifts they tend to get better foot work and jump less. Regarding myself, I have begun adopting a wider set up because I don’t shift my feet out much at all. Personally, I have found then when I have tighter feet in the set up I jump and float. With a wider set up, shoulder width, I jump less and pull myself under the bar quicker. The key for the beginning lifter is consistency. Whenever I have a newbie on the platform I start with feet waist width.
The main focus here is to make sure the athlete is being consistent. I want them covering the same spot, at the same width and breaking the bar off the floor consistently. Much too often a beginning lifter will approach the bar without paying mind to where they are pulling from and that is no bueno.
Step Two – Find Your Gaze:
I like to have my athletes look at the horizon and slightly above at something fixed. Again, this is for consistency sake. I have also had personal success with this head positioning as opposed to looking ahead and at the floor. This isn’t a deal breaker as long as lifts are being made. If an athlete is losing lifts to the front and dropping their chin in the process we will make it a sticking point.
Step Three – Hooking Up:
It’s time to grab the bar. Simple enough right? You’d think so. Make sure new lifters are adopting the hook grip and grabbing the bar in the same place. This isn’t usually an issue on the platform when working the lifts. It generally comes into play when athletes are doing multiple exercises and reps for time (crossfit).
Step Four – Lift and Open Your Chest:
With the proper grip in place I will then task the athlete to lift and open their chest until they have found the mark we established in step 2. I will also ask them to have their hips slightly above their knees and shoulders barely forward of the bar. These last two points may differ from athlete to athlete and adjustments can be made. Again the point is consistency. Once a base is established we will make adjustments depending on performance and feel.
Step Five – Practice: I run beginning athletes through this set up and hit each step the same way I would coach each position in the lift or drill. We may not spend a lot of time on this segment but we will practice it a few times to ensure consistency regarding their approach.
The cool thing about weightlifting is that it is pretty much the same in practice as it is on game day, as long as you are consistent. Take notice yourself; lifters who pay attention to their set up and pull consistently hit consistent numbers. Those athletes who take a grip it and rip it mentality, with no regard for a consistent approach will be all over the place.
Focus and be consistent people and you’ll be on your way to building a better total.