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A Case for Bottom-Up Weightlifting

In complex systems theory there is this idea that small stressors to a system magnify over time. While something may not seem catastrophic to a system in the near-term, and perhaps it is even beneficial to the system, over time it can have catastrophic effects. This idea is also called the “law of unintended consequences.” But, what does this have to do with Weightlifting?

A lot of Olympic lifting is taught from the top down. Meaning, when a lifter first starts to learn the lifts, they might learn the overhead position first, then they learn the position at the hip, then the knee, and then finally the floor. This is a pretty popular way in which many coaches decide to first teach the Olympic lifts to someone. There is nothing inherently wrong with this way, but I believe an approach from the bottom up is actually better.

Just like I mentioned with complex systems, how small mistakes magnify over time, as to with Weightlifting, this same idea applies. If a lifter doesn’t have a good position off the floor, a tiny mistake here can result in an even bigger mistake when the bar gets to the hip. So, at Lift Lab, we decide to first teach the lifter a good starting position, and then a good position bringing the bar off the floor to the knee. The only reason as to why we do this is because we feel it sets the lifter up much better when they start to drill positions at the hip.

We believe that lifters might have made a bunch of technical progress at the hip, but then when you move them to the floor they can’t even get into a good position at the hip, because they screwed up in some way off the floor. So, in order to limit this magnitude of mistakes we try to keep mistakes very small or negligible at the beginning of the lift to set the lifter up for success to finish the lift.

This might have been a mistake of mine during my first 3-4 years coaching the Olympic lifts. I was so worried about good position and execution at the hip and when the lifter finishes their “pull,” that I was setting the lifter up for optimal success when they had to do the full lift from the floor. I now see and truly believe that learning an ideal start position and push off the floor is extremely crucial in the rest of the lifter’s learning and development as time goes on.

Just as something can look sweet early on there may be unintended consequences to this. Cookies taste sweet in the present, but if you eat too many you can quickly gain weight. Dial in a quality position off the floor so you can limit mistakes the rest of the lift.

If you have any technical questions in regards to Weightlifting, or how you can get started in the sport, please feel free to contact me at Justin@liftlabco.com. We would love to help in your journey.

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