3 Rules for the Beginner Weightlifter

With an abundance of people being introduced to weightlifting through CrossFit as well as the general increase in popularity of the sport, there are now more entry level Olympic lifters in the US than ever. That being the case, weightlifting is quite a bit different than the average ball sport.

This means an athlete’s approach to the sport is going to be different. If you’re a beginner athlete, here are a few rules to follow.

Don’t Add Weight Just to Add Weight

I’ve noticed a lot of American lifters who make reps that look terrible, only to add on even more weight for the next rep.

This might be due to the American mentality of ‘’More is better’’, the lack of focus on the long-term goal of better technique and strength or that in other sports hustling or trying harder is encouraged.

Remember that as a beginner (and most weightlifters for that matter), your main goal should be to make your technique as efficient as possible. You have all the time in the world to add weight onto the bar, but if you engrain terrible technique you’re going to run into severe limitations when it finally comes time to lift the big weights.

Stop adding weight just because you made a lift. Make it the right way, then go up.

Take Your Time, But Not Too Much

When beginners come to us, it’s very common for their strength levels to be way ahead of their skill level with respect to weightlifting. Skill in weightlifting will help you to efficiently use your strength. Knowing this, beginners will be lifting much, much lighter weights when Snatching or

Clean and Jerking than a more advanced athlete.

With how easy these reps should be with such a big difference in strength and skill, beginner lifters don’t need to be taking three or four minutes in between sets like intermediate and advanced lifters should.

For early beginners, one or maybe two minutes should be sufficient for technique work. As your skill improves and you start lifting bigger and bigger weights, it’s okay to up the rest time if needed.

Keeping rest time down for a beginner athlete benefits the athlete two-fold.

First, it helps conditioning and weight loss (if needed). If an athlete is so out of shape that it’s hard for them to recover from their training, they need to do some GPP, or general physical preparation. Some of this can come from keeping a faster pace during their barbell work. This faster pace will lead to a higher heart rate which will lead to increased aerobic capacity (a big component of conditioning) and more calories burnt.

Second, keeping a faster pace helps get more volume in. If an athlete can handle recovering from increased volume, keeping a faster pace will make sure they aren’t spending 4 hours a day in the gym.

As a note, beginner athletes might need to take more rest time on their strength work than their skill work. This just goes back to them (possibly) being more advanced in terms of strength. If they’re lifting heavier weights, they’re going to need more rest.

Keep Getting Stronger

Strength trumps all. You can have the best technique in the world, but if you’re only able to front squat 70kg, that technique isn’t winning you any medals.

Sometimes athletes get caught up in all the technical aspects of weightlifting that they forget that they need to get strong! Of course, if your technique is your limiting factor to Snatching or Clean and Jerking more weight, you’re going to want to do more technique work and make increasing strength a secondary focus. Just because you’re working on improving technique doesn’t mean you can’t get stronger too. Eventually your technique is going to catch up to your strength and if you haven’t been working on getting stronger, you’ll wish you had been.

These are just a few things that I see beginner weightlifters do that could be done better. Heck, I’ve been guilty of all of these at some point or another. Sometimes athletes fall into these habits. It’s alright, it happens. The most important thing you can do is identify them, make the necessary changes and continue to get better.


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