My week of July 27th to August 2nd, 2014 was spent training at the Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan University in what (I hope) is the first of many training camps to take place there. There was a lot of coaching going on at the camp, but what I found most valuable were the things I took away as a coach/athlete.
Drills to improve weightlifting technique seem to be getting more and more popular on the internet recently. While I won’t list every single drill that we did at the camp (because there were so many), I’ll list the ones that will be most useful for you and the ones that are most unconventional.
Clean Grip Snatches
This is going to be a drill that will take quite a bit of mobility to perform. I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but I was pleasantly surprised that I could, despite having less than optimal mobility.
Clean Grip Snatches are just what they sound like. You set up in with a Clean grip, but perform a Snatch.
The coach at our camp told us that if we didn’t have the mobility to catch the bar in a full squat, that we should do powers until we were flexible enough to catch the bar in the bottom. I did about 5 or 10 reps before I was catching the bar in a full squat.
Improving on these will carry over to your lifting in two ways. Because of the ridiculous mobility demands that the lift requires, it will help improve your mobility if you need it. It will also help your turnover be quicker and more aggressive. Since the bar has to move so much further than with a normal Snatch grip, you need to be quick and aggressive with your arms, punching through to make sure the bar is stable overhead. Failure to do so in the Clean Grip Snatch will result in not getting under the bar quick enough and not having a good overhead position.
I’ll admit that before I came to the camp, I was a bit apprehensive about the muscle snatch. It seemed like the cost to benefit ratio was too low. It puts a lot of stress on the shoulders if you don’t do it right. Performed correctly these can be safe and valuable.
Muscle Snatches are basically a normal Snatch, but you don’t drop under the bar whatsoever and essentially press the bar out overhead.
While this might seem useless, it isn’t. Done correctly, it’s a good tool to work on bar path, arm movement, getting full hip extension and punching out quickly into the overhead position.
There were two variations that the coach had us do. One, which was for beginners, was where the bar wouldn’t touch the body. This was to limit the attention needed on the pull and to focus on teaching the beginners correct arm movement and to punch through at the top.
The second variation, which was for more advanced lifters, incorporated a correct pull, where the bar made contact with the body. Along with arm action, this developed an efficient first and second pull and helped work on full hip extension.
While Snatch Balances are a fairly common drill used for weightlifting, I think the frequency that lifters use them is still not where it should be.
A Snatch Balance is where the bar starts on the back with a Snatch grip and the lifter will drop under the bar quickly and catch the bar in the bottom of a squat, with the bar overhead. This can be done either with or without a dip and drive. I personally like using a dip and drive because it doubles as working on your Jerk dip and drive (since it should be the same).
This works well in improving speed under the bar, mobility, getting tight in the right spots at the right time and improving anyone who has a tendency to catch the bar high then ride it down into the bottom of the squat. As with the muscle snatch, it will also help punching out in the catch, assuming you’re aggressive getting under and catching the bar.
Pulls/Drills from Different Positions
If you’ve spent any time around weightlifters, you’ve probably heard about being strong in the right positions. All the positions that you hear about: below the knee, knee, above the knee, mid thigh, high hang. You want to be strong enough to maintain the right position when you Snatch and Clean and Jerk. Guess how you do that? Spend time in those positions!
Whatever drill you might be doing, it’s a good idea to do them from the different positions. For example, if I’m weak at the knee and have trouble holding position there and I’m doing Muscle Snatches, it might be a good idea to do Muscle Snatches from below the knee, at the knee and above the knee. Spending time in these positions will help the muscles that hold me in a good position get stronger as well as engrain that position in my mind so when I’m doing the full lifts, it will tell my body “You’re used to being in this position, go there!”.
Remember that it isn’t always an efficient use of your time to do a drill from every single position. Having a coach that can see when you’re out of position will help you know where you need to develop more strength and a better motor pattern.
So there you have it. Three drills that were and one modification of your drills that will help you be a better weightlifter. Remember that just like the sport of Weightlifting, these drills aren’t quick fixes. It takes time to get good at them, but when you do, the qualities that they develop will help improve your full lifts.