Set Up So You Don’t Mess Up

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Pay attention to your Set up so you dont mess up (1)


A shitty and inconsistent setup can lead to many lifting troubles.  Wobbles and mishaps that you may experience late in lifts usually start an inch off the floor.  For me, a vasectomized work in progress, I know I have issues with consistency.  Take a look at this training clip and see if you can spot a few of mine.  



To spare my ego we will only discuss one. However, before we beat up my lifting lets give me some credit for a boss selection regarding training tunes.  If you don’t know Sturgill you need an introduction, immediately!

Now, to my shitty lifting!

Yes, I make all the lifts but you will notice that from 102 and up instability starts to take shape in my receiving position.  Just like working rehab and mobility dysfunction you have to search up and downstream to diagnose the problem.  I attribute the instability above to bar path problems that start as soon as I break the barbell off the floor.  

Ultimately my problems in training led to missing the podium in competition.  Hopefully reading through the steps below will help you fare a little better in your next meet.      


1 – Set Your Feet

The value of your feet when Weightlifting can not be overestimated.  Your feet are your point of contact with the ground.  You must push against the ground to create movement on the barbell.  Also, without your feet on the ground it is impossible to establish a stable base in the catch.  And, without either you will not make lifts.    

Establishing a solid point of contact requires that you know where your feet are in reference to the barbell.  I take note of my shoe laces in reference to the barbell before every single attempt. This is as simply as looking down.


I like to cover my top knot with the barbell but anywhere from that point to your straight lace will work.  Body type, mobility and experimenting with the place you feel most powerful off the floor all matter.  Practice and play with different placements thoughtfully and you will land in strong place.

A 12 o’clock position with toes forward is also most optimal to generate power and stability.  I believe the same rings true for squatting patterns or anything athletic for that matter.  If you lack the mobility or awareness to keep you toes forward start fixing that now.  

For convincing watch the video below.  A12 year NFL veteran is a good place to learn a thing or two about a thing or two.     



With your feet in an athletic position under the barbell you have to turn them on.  To do this establish three points of contact with the floor.  Your big toes, anterior side of your foot and heel should all be on the ground and digging in.  Two cues seem to help folks actively engage with the ground.

  1. Separate the floor, or
  2. Screw your feet into the floor.  

Either cue works and will help you create power, or as John puts it, torque in the hips.  Considering we will be changing direction and squatting shortly after the barbell breaks from the floor this is of great importance.     


2 – Set your Hips

Where your hips are when you break the bar off the floor matters.  It’s also where I seem to have the greatest difficulty with consistency, especially in heavier snatch attempts.  Notice in the clip above and my snatch attempts from nationals that my hips are even with my knees as the barbell breaks from the floor.



More importantly, watch my knees as the barbell breaks from the floor.  Due to “MY” poor hip position, as the bar travels upward my knees stay out in front and the bar path is forward.

This is a massive, veiny, and throbbing no bueno.  If my bar path were a porn star its first name would be “Johnny.”  

The take away for you is that you need to establish a hip position in your setup that allows and ensures that your knees track back, extend, or more eloquently put, get the fuck out of the way as the barbell travels vertically.  If your bar path starts forward you are leaving kilos on the platform and will be fucked royally when it matters, eventually, like me.

My only comfort is knowing I did this to myself.  Fact is I was paying far to much attention to numbers in training, and not enough to consistent movement.


3 – Set your Shoulders

Staying over the bar is a critical fundamental in the sport of Weightlifting.  Staying over the barbell means that your lats are engaged and that you will keep the bar close as you move through a violent and total extension of the body.

The sooner your shoulders begin to drift back the harder the bar is to control.  Also, if you do not stay over the bar, the potential for it to move horizontally and away from your body increases.




I have seen folks cover the barbell from their armpits to their nipples and be successful.  The key is making sure that as you rise you can hold that position as long as possible without any horizontal movement in the shoulders or change in back angle.

I like to incorporate pause and partial lifts variations to the knee to simplify things and ensure that proper positions are being displayed and maintained.  

Stuff like this

or this…

 will work.

But, you have to practice these drills a lot to make them stick.  Not just demo them for a youtube channel no one watches. 


Each of the simple tips listed above leaves some wiggle room to account for your body type, range of motion and experience level.  You could be part squirrel, giraffe, gorilla, transgender baby seal, or play pretend at each for all I care, and applying the above tips will result in more consistent weightlifting.


Each step also works for both the snatch and clean making them great to pass along to new athletes.


Do as I say here folks, not as I do, and you’re bound to add a few kilos on your next trip to total town.


If you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it, many of these point were covered in a recent podcast.  


Thanks for your support, dealing with my humor, and fearing the squirrel!