Improve Your Olympic Lifting: Control

Joes Barbell
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I was able to thrive as a Cornerback in high school and small college (really small) because my job was simple.  I was usually asked to do one of four things, not get beat deep, not get beat to the outside, cover the man in front of me, and tackle the guy with the ball.  Knowing exactly what was asked of me allowed me to just play and when I was able to just play I did my best.     

Fast forward to today.  As a Weightlifting coach I try my best to make snatching, cleaning, and jerking as simple as possible so my athletes can just lift.  While coaching my athletes I try to consistently use the simplest cues possible to get the job done.  Over the last 3 months I have had the opportunity at Carolina CrossFit to coach many beginning lifters and develop my own method, which is definitely a work in progress.  Over that time frame I have found myself using three words more than any other’s – Control, Squeeze and Finish. 

Today I wanted to take a moment and discuss what I mean by Control.  Control is the cue I use as my lifters navigate the first pull, breaking the bar off the ground and getting it to their knee.  From the floor I simply want my athletes to get the bar to their knee as efficiently and deliberately as possible, and above all else I believe that takes control.  That’s it.  I try to avoid the “S” pull “I” pull debate and ask only that they get the bar to their knee in a controlled, deliberate and efficient manner. 

What does being in control look like? 

First, the athlete must keep the bar close.  The further out in front the bar travels the harder things get.  Second, as the bar is broken off the floor as little as possible should change from the initial set up.  I want my beginning lifters to have their hips slightly above their knees, shoulders directly over to slightly forward of the bar, and a big open chest.  Down the road as an athlete develops a consistent approach there is some room for a dynamic start, however in the beginning I very much stress consistency.  With the previously discussed markers set, the athlete will achieve a back angle and depending on body type there may be some variation from lifter to lifter.  As they break the bar off the floor and move the bar to their knee I look for them to hold that angle.  The only joint angle that should change as the bar breaks off the floor is the knee, that’s it. 

In terms of tempo control doesn’t necessarily mean slow.  What control means is that the lifter pull and break the bar off the floor with as much force as necessary to get the bar moving and to the knee.  Pull to slow and the weight will pull you forward.  Pull to fast and you may lose positioning and yank yourself into a bad place.  When the bar is at the knee I look for a few things; (from bottom up – not most important) balanced feet, a vertical shin, consistent and tight back, and for the shoulders to be sightly forward of the bar.     

Think control and do what’s necessary to most efficiently and deliberately get the bar to the knee.  From there things get a little more interesting, but without establishing control and maintaining good positioning you’re working up hill.  Some of these points are illustrated in the video above.  You can also check out a few highlights from this past Saturday’s Barbell Club out of Carolina CrossFit. 

Happy totals!!