Train the Basics

Confusing the advanced techniques for the basics:

- Taking your time to sink in your under-over grip while your lower back is rounded in the deadlift

- Making sure to flare your lats in the bench while you barely muster an arch

- Flexing your abs hard in the squat while your knees cave in and your shoulders round forward

Basics are THE MOST important to performance and safety, advanced techniques can give slight advantages at the most.

Not getting the two mixed up is a VERY good idea, and the best way to do this is to have a GOOD COACH. When you just watch YouTube for your techniques, it's tough to tell what is basic and what is advanced... tough to tell what's important and what's just a detail.” -Dr. Mike Israetel

This was a post I came across by Dr. Mike Israetel from Renaissance Periodization. While the advice mainly deals with powerlifting, the main takeaway can be related to weightlifting or any other sport.

If you look at any high level weightlifter, you immediately see a few things:

  1. How smooth their movements look

  2. How easily they stand up with near-world record weight

So what’s different about these guys than any other extremely strong human being on earth? Surely there are powerlifters squatting and deadlifting more than these guys, yet the transfer of raw strength is only limited to so much.

Obviously, the answer is technique; but saying ‘’It’s their technique’’ is such a broad term that it doesn’t really get the point across. What specifically do these guys do so well? Well for one, all elite lifters have mastered the basics.

When looking at the same high level weightlifters, there are things most people’s minds don’t immediately notice:

  1. The range of motion and stability in their joints

  2. The movement quality of basic movement patterns such as the overhead squat, front squat, overhead press and other movements that are similar to the Snatch and Clean and Jerk

  3. The ability to hold correct positions in various parts of the lift; i.e. having strength in the correct positions

  4. The consistency in which their lifts are performed; i.e. every lift looks near identical to the untrained eye

Developing these qualities should be the most important part of a beginner or intermediate weightlifter’s program. Very, very rarely do you see an elite level weightlifter that doesn’t have these four things mastered.

Despite these being some of the most important things for a weightlifter to develop, I see lifters pass over these time and time again because they’re rushing to get to the big weights. This isn’t how you set yourself up for long-term success.

If you take this route and you’re lucky, your weights are just going to stall long enough until you decide to go get help or take a step back and work on the basics. If you’re not lucky, you’re going to be forced back to the basics due to injury. Either route you take, you’re going to have to take time and learn the basics.

So what do we specifically look to develop in a weightlifter as they’re starting out? What do we go back and fix if a higher level lifter comes to us looking for help? Here are a few things we strive to get our lifters to master:

  1. The start position

  2. Position at the knee

  3. Position at the high hip

  4. Movement quality

  5. Pain-free range of motion

  6. Proper stability and mobility in joints

  7. Proper movement patterns (efficient at squatting and pulling variations, overhead movements)

  8. Proper weight distribution in different exercises and parts of the Snatch and Clean and Jerk

  9. Timing

  10. Consistency

  11. Strength

There are many other things that we can list that we’d like a lifter to master, but working on some or all of these are a very good starting point. As they get better and better, we’re going to be able to progress and do more with the lifter.

If I were to make a list that related to weightlifting similar to what Dr. Israetel did, it might look something like this:

Training like an advanced weightlifter as a beginner:

-Consistently trying to hit above 90% when most of your lifts become powers

-Going to (near) max every day, just because your program doesn’t specify

-Following an advanced lifter’s program expecting the same results

-Not experimenting and finding what works best for your body

-Drilling position at the knee or high hip when your start position is different every rep i.e. not striving for consistency in earlier stages of the lift

While these examples aren’t in exact relation to weightlifting as Dr. Israetel’s examples were to powerlifting, I hope they got the point across.

Everyone’s looking for the ‘’magic trick’’ that these guys are doing that’ll transform their technique and add twenty kilos to their total. It doesn’t exist.

The fact is that these guys have mastered the basics and then built upon them to be elite athletes.

They move extremely well, they’re extremely strong in the correct positions and are extremely consistent in their technique. If you find that you’re lacking in any of these areas, take a step back, get to work and watch the kilos add up.


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