TABLE OF CONTENTS BACK SQUAT BENCH PRESS DEADLIFT CLEAN JERK SNATCH
MORE FROM TRAVIS MASH: MASHELITE.COM
INTRODUCTION My journey in the world of strength began when I was 11-years-old. That’s over 31 years ago! I have spent my life trying to understand the barbell. I have used it to make myself and my athletes bigger, faster, and stronger for sports. I have used it to perform the two beautiful lifts of Olympic weightlifting: the snatch and the clean and jerk. And now I coach one of the best teams in America, Mash Mafia Weightlifting. At one point in my life, I was considered the strongest pound-for-pound powerlifter in the history of the sport. The back squat, bench press, and deadlift introduced me to the world, and the lifts let me know that anything is possible with the right amount of effort. Strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and powerlifting exist in three different worlds. Each world is made up of athletes, coaches, and fans. Each world has a group of individuals looking for information on how to get better. I am one of the few - if not the only - to bridge all of these worlds. This book is the beginning of my effort to enlighten these communities about all that I’ve learned in my years of barbell exploration.
BACK SQUAT The back squat crosses the most boundaries in the strength world. Whether you are a powerlifter, weightlifter, strongman, or Grid athlete, you are going to need to squat. This article is high bar vs. low bar neutral. Weightlifters should stick with high bar because the positions carry over better. Powerlifters are going to want to try the low bar to take advantages of a shortened lever. However, this section is about increasing either one. I am not going to take on the wide stance vs. close stance. Everyone has slightly different hips, so you are going to want to find the stance that allows you to squat below parallel with as vertical a back as possible. Trying to make athletes fit into a one-size-fits-all stance isn’t a good idea at all. Trying to make an athlete like me squat with a wide stance is like trying to hammer a square peg through a round hole. Now that we have covered what we are not going to talk about, let’s get to the good stuff. Here are the principles that can help increase your squat!
SQUAT OFTEN Lately I have taken the principle of “squat often” very seriously. I have been squatting every day thanks to an idea from my friend, Cory Gregory. The results have been absolutely fantastic. Squatting is like any other athletic movement. You will improve the more you perform the movement. Squatting, in many ways, is no different than basketball or baseball. Practice makes perfect. You don’t have to squat every day like me, though. I know that many of you work too much, but I definitely believe three or more times a week is optimal. Over my first ten weeks of squatting every day, I progressed my front squat by 62lb (up to 517lb), and I have increased my high bar back squat to 616lb from 555lb – a 61lb increase.
BE CONJUGATE IN NATURE I have been able to continue to progress in squatting every day due to the variations that I use on a daily basis. Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell is famous for what he calls the Conjugate System. The idea behind it is to constantly change the way an exercise is performed in order to hit the lift in a variety of ways.
Think of all the ways that you can change up the squat: • Belt
or no belt • High bar or low bar • Front squat or back squat • Pauses 1-10 seconds • Tempo • Total volume • Chains and bands Get creative! You could actually vary the squat for decades with just these aforementioned principles. Not only does the conjugate system get you strong, but it also makes training more fun and exciting. If your training sessions are more enjoyable, you will see some immediate gains as well.
PROPER BREATHING Breathing is often overlooked for increasing the back squat. All great powerlifters know to suck in as much air as possible, but there is more to the story. Suck the air in and push your belly out into your incredibly tight belt. When this technique is performed properly, you can create an insane amount of inner abdominal pressure. This pressure will help stabilize the spine, sending the body a signal to fire all cylinders. Using a belt properly is a 35-50lb increase for me in the back squat. Give it a try!
DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, DIP Down, down, down, dip is a principle that I have instinctively used throughout my strength career. Basically, the first movement I make during the descent is sitting my butt down while flaring the knees out. This will engage my glutes, which will help control the eccentric phase. At about one inch above parallel, I will release my hips and perform a slight dip or bounce out of the bottom. The key is learning to release just the hips and not the rest of your body. The torso has to stay tight or you are going to crash and burn. The dip is going to earn two credits to your squat. First, you are going to get a stretch reflex, or a rapid nerve response due to the rapid stretch. You are also going to use a slight bar oscillation. Most powerlifters don’t think about this one, but it happens even with a thick squat bar.
STRENGTHEN YOUR WEAKNESSES Strengthening your weaknesses should be obvious, but a lot of us, including me, get caught up in the mundane tasks of the day. Sometime we overlook the obvious, which is why we could all use a little coaching. Two areas that are notorious for holding people back in the back squat are a weak trunk and weak glutes.
The biggest battle for advanced lifters is keeping the spine vertical and not caving in. Our legs are normally plenty strong enough, but our core isn’t capable of supporting the weight. If you are missing the weight higher up in the ascent, then you probably have weak glutes. That final part of hip extension is performed primarily by the glutes. In today’s world of sitting behind a computer, I am seeing weak glutes more and more. Bret Contreras has a ton of information regarding strengthening the glutes. If this is you, look him up.
PROPER ASCENT A proper ascent is very important to a successful lift. After the dip, the key is to push your back into the bar. This will automatically keep your spine vertical, and it will bring the hips under the bar. Position is everything in the squat battle. Some cues that will help keep you vertical are lift the chest, drive the back, and press into the bar. A lot of lifters get bent over during the squat, and then they automatically think that they are weak in the torso or posterior chain. Sometimes it is the way that you perform the lift that is causing the miss. It is not always strength!
The second part of the ascent is accelerating all the way to the top. A lot of times, athletes are pushing slowly by accident. My man, Chuck, used to squat super slowly when performing the back squat. However, when I would verbally tell him to go fast, he would speed up. Going fast is important because you utilize compensatory acceleration. Basically, this means that you lift as hard and as fast as you can all the time. Apply maximum force to the barbell. Compensatory acceleration is something that Dr. Fred Hatfield, one of the first people to squat 1000 pounds, has talked about for years. Louie Simmons, godfather of Westside Barbell, trains weekly to increase acceleration. A lot of times it is just a way of thinking. So think accelerate!
POST ACTIVATION POTENTIATION Post Activation Potentiation (PAP) is a fancy way of describing a simple but powerful idea. By letting your body feel heavy weights over your maximum, your maximum weights will feel lighter – and you’ll be able to set major PRs. Psychologically, you’ll be stronger when the weight feels light. But it’s more than just in your head. PAP is a good way to fire up your nervous system so that you actually recruit more muscle fibers.
There are many cool ways of doing this, so I am going to name a few: 1. WALK BACKS This is my wife’s favorite method. First, warm up like normal - all the way to 95% of your 1-rep max. Then, instead of immediately going to 100+% for a personal record, put on 105-110%. Then I want you to set up like normal, pick the weight up, and walk back with it just like you were going to squat it. After that, just stand there with the weight on your back for 10-30 seconds, and then rack the weight. Take the weight back to a PR weight, and then within a minute perform the actual squat. Basically, the weight is going to feel super light on your back. We all know that if a weight feels light, we have a much better chance of squatting it. My wife will do this with 1-rep maxes, 3-rep maxes, and even 5-rep maxes - and it works like a charm. 2. WEIGHT RELEASERS This is my personal favorite. Weight releasers are apparatuses that connect to the ends of a normal bar. You can actually load weight directly onto the weight releasers. The weight releasers are designed so that when they touch the ground, they come off the bar automatically.
Essentially, you can lower 900lb and ascend with 800lb. That is the exact way that I squatted my first raw 800lb. 3. BANDS AND CHAINS When most people think about bands and chains, they think about Westside Barbell’s Louie Simmons and his concept of a Dynamic Squat Day. I’m not going to get into exactly what that is here, because I’m not a huge fan of dynamic days. But I am a huge fan of using bands to warm up for a big squat. By anchoring the bands to the ground, you’ll have a lot of tension added to the bar as you ascend in the lift (where it’s easier) - with the bottom position being light enough that you can handle the weight. Normal blue bands are about 100lb extra at the top per side. In the bottom they are more like 30-40lb each. You could actually end up with 60-100lb more than your max on your back. Chains work the same. A lot of the chain rests on the ground when you’re in the bottom. As you ascend, the links of the chain are lifted off the ground, which obviously adds to the weight you’re lifting as you ascend. After feeling the heavier weights, take the bands or chains off and max out. Once again, the weight is going to feel light on your back. A light barbell is one that is conquerable!
BENCH PRESS I am probably more qualified to teach the bench press than any other barbell exercise. Why? Well, I was naturally good at the squat and deadlift from the moment I tried them. However, I started out mediocre at the bench press. My long arms, which made the deadlift easy, were always going to make the bench press a struggle for me. However, I went on to break the all-time world record in the bench press in 2004… for five minutes. Yes, five minutes! I set the World Record at 696lb. I was still celebrating when I heard the crowd go crazy for Kenny Patterson. He literally came right behind me and broke the record again. No matter, I had taken my weakest lift, and for five minutes I was the best in the entire world at it. Mission accomplished! That World Record was the most exciting for me because it meant that I had overcome my weakness. I realized early on in my powerlifting career that there could be no weakness if I wanted to be great. I wanted to be the best, so I had no choice. I had to learn to bench press!
BALANCE WITH THE PRESS A lot of people hate on the bench press for some reason. The bench press is like any other exercise. If you do it too much without doing exercises that encourage muscular balance, then you might get injured. That goes for all exercises! If I do too many presses without doing upright rows, then a muscular imbalance might take place. If I do too many pull-ups without doing dips, then an imbalance might take place. Here is a good rule of thumb: For every push, you must also pull. For every internal rotation, there must also be an external rotation. I wanted to get this out of the way first, so people can chill out, bench press heavy weight, and get jacked in peace. Basically, make sure that you are doing rows if you are benching. You will also want to throw in some external rotation with exercises like dumbbell power cleans or simple muscle snatches. I have been training powerlifting with Olympic weightlifting for the past couple of months, and I have been able to bring all five of my lifts up in a very steady pace. If you ask strength and conditioning guru Dan John, the bench press is very important for football players, throwers, and all athletes if performed correctly. Now that I have defended my beloved bench press, let’s learn to get jacked with it.
Let’s talk technique first! There are probably more immediately usable technique “tricks” for this lift than for any other. Here are the important aspects of bench press technique:
LEG DRIVE Learn to use your legs! Yes, that’s right - the bench press is a full body lift if performed correctly. There are two ways to do this: A. Feet pulled back to where they are somewhere between the hips and shoulders B. Feet out in front and to the side Either position will allow for maximum leg drive without the butt leaving the bench. I have used both with success. I have been able to produce the most force with my feet out in front. However, I am able to arch better with my feet behind. The higher arch lessens the range of motion, and in doing so keeps my shoulders healthy. I recommend trying both and seeing which works the best for you.
HEAVE OFF THE CHEST Pause all the reps and learn to use the initial drive to your advantage. I don’t know why so many people touch
and go, and then they expect to pause in a meet. Practice the way you play! You will also learn to use the ribs to drive the bar up. We all know that when you lower the bar onto the chest, inevitably the bar sinks into the chest. A great bencher will drive with the legs and violently lift the chest causing the bar to be propelled explosively off the chest. Check out one of my recent benches on YouTube. Here is a video of Dan Green. You will notice how we both leverage the heave off of the chest. Both of us have long arms as well, so being able to use every possible advantage is extremely important for us. Pausing every rep is the only way to master the pause technique.
TUCK SHOULDERS When setting up for the bench press, tuck the shoulders together and down while bringing the butt as close to the shoulders as possible. Once again, this will limit the range of motion, protecting the shoulder - and a shorter bar path is a stronger bar path.
45-DEGREE ARM ANGLE Not so much elbow tuck! The key is keeping a good angle between the humerus (upper arm) and the torso. A 45-degree angle is optimal for shoulder health. The best way to achieve this angle is to slide the forearms towards the hips as you lower the weight. Somewhere around the sternum is the landing spot. At that point, the bar should sit in the palm directly over the wrist and in alignment with the elbow.
BEND THE BAR When lowering the bar, your hands should be squeezing the bar while you are trying to pull it apart and bend it. This will activate the triceps while simultaneously tightening all the muscles involved. This tightness will cause more pressure, and that in turn will cause a spring effect off the chest.
FLARE THE LATS Bracing with the lats during the descent will help decelerate the bar, and it will take pressure off of the pec, delts, and triceps. Flaring the lats to initiate the launch of the bar off the chest is a great technique used by most of the top benchers
in the world. The flaring of the lats takes place at the same time the athlete is driving with the feet, contracting with pecs, and exploding with the entire body. Once again, practice with pausing the bar will teach the athlete to perform this full body movement each and every time.
BACK AND UP The bar path off the chest should be back and up. This curve will take advantage of gravity. The key is flaring the elbows immediately to keep the forearms under the bar.
MY BENCH PRESS TRAINING PHASES There are three different phases of training that I have used to increase my bench over the years. I am going to lay them all out for you one at a time. Here goes: STAGE 1 Charles Poliquin taught me years ago that a 6-12 week block of extreme triceps volume can really move the bench press upwards. If you benched twice a week, for instance, you could do something like: Bench Day #1: Dumbbell Triceps Extensions/6 supersetted with Cable or Band Pushdowns/10 x 6-8 sets
Bench Day #2: Weighted Dips or Closegrip Floor Presses for 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps I definitely agree that to get better at the bench you need to bench, but these assistance exercises increased my bench by over 35lb in a 12-week block. That makes it worth looking into. STAGE 2 Max effort movements prepared my body for heavy weight. The Maximum Effort Principle is the idea that you use as much effort as you can for whatever you’ve chosen to do. You can pick a number of reps and work up to the heaviest weight you can lift for that number of reps (like a 5-rep max, for instance). Or you can pick a certain weight and lift it for max reps. I found success with max effort movements like board presses, reverse bands, Sling Shot bench, and pin lockouts. I would work up to a 1-rep to 5-rep max with the max effort movement, and then finish with reps to the chest. This made the lift feel lighter – and we all know that if a weight feels lighter in our hands, then we are more likely to crush it. Lifting this way helped push my bench press to the upper 400s, and it helped me to start closing in on the 500lb mark. A typical day might look like this:
I would Sling Shot bench, working up to a 3-rep max. Then I would take the Sling Shot off and lower the weight, starting at 85% of my max bench - working from the chest up to a max single. I would finish with subtracting 20% from my max for the day, and then hit a max rep set without actually reaching failure. STAGE 3 This is where I got crazy with bands! Using massive amounts of band tension helped get my raw bench well into the 500s. I used them during my dynamic effort days, but even my dynamic effort days turned into a max out. The key is to get the most out of the least. I took this a little too far, and it quickly led to injury. Back in the day, a typical session would be anywhere from two mini-bands doubled per side to a green band doubled per side. The green bands were way too much and probably pointless. Here’s the way it looked: start with 40-50% of bar weight and two mini-bands per side for 6-8 sets of 2-3 reps. I used the last 3-4 sets to work up to a rep max for the day. Some days I would then take the bands off and work up to a max.
MORE NUGGETS OF GOLD Here are some other principles that I have used to increase my bench press:
POST ACTIVATION POTENTIATION I discussed PAP in the Squat section, and it applies to benching also. Put simply, you prime the central nervous system by handling a heavier weight than you are about to use. An example of this would be benching 365lb of bar weight with 50lb of band tension at the top. When the weight is on your chest, it might be a total of 380lb. However it is 415lb at the top. Then, you would take the bands off and max out with 400lb straight weight to the chest. This is the method that I used the most to increase all of my lifts. You can do the same thing with all max effort movements. For example, you could bench 425lb with a Sling Shot, and then remove the Sling Shot and try maxing out to the chest with 400lb. Personally, I think the Sling Shot is the coolest new invention out there because it allows for benching safely with heavy weight and a full range of motion.
BENCH MOST DAYS Still, if you want to get good at benching, then you need to bench. My guys normally bench press five days per week now with three heavy days and two light restorative days. The results have been remarkable. One of my athletes, Malcolm Moses-Hampton, increased his bench press (which had been stagnant for a while) by over 50lb within the first four
months. All three of the heavy days are a little different with one being a max with down sets, one is multiple sets of triples performed every-minute-on-the-minute (EMOM), and one is a max effort day.
PLATE RELEASERS I mentioned these pieces of equipment back in the squat section, and these are also very effective for benching. I don’t think plate releasers get used nearly enough. I personally love them. Here’s how you use them: Let’s suppose that your max bench press is 395lb. You could load 400lb on the bar and hook plate releasers adding another 25lb per side or 50lb total. You would then be lowering 450lb, and then pushing up a new max of 400lb. It’s basically the most efficient use of the PAP Principle. I have used them several ways, but maxing with them can produce amazing results.
ISOMETRIC CONTRACTIONS An isometric contraction is pushing as hard as you can against an immovable object. This is another tool that isn’t used nearly enough. A great exercise that I used years ago to push through a plateau was closegrip bench in the power rack against the pins. Two pins are needed with one to rest the bar on
and one to push against. I used three positions: right off the chest to about two-three inches, start three-four inches off the chest and press against pins four inches above them, and then set the bottom pin six inches from lockout and the other pin two inches from lockout. I performed three sets of four-six reps at each height performing a maximal isometric contraction (pushing as hard as I could) for three-five seconds per rep. You end up performing nine total sets, and then you are basically done for the day. I recommend playing around with the bar weight anywhere from 50 to 80% of your 1-rep max. Perform this exercise once per week for a total of five-eight weeks. You will get stronger, and you will notice some hypertrophy gains as well.
OTHER ASSISTANCE EXERCISES Recommended assistance exercises to increase the bench press and prevent injuries: • Plate Raises • DB Triceps Extensions • Floor Presses • Closegrip Bench • Dips • DB Power Cleans • BB Muscle Snatch • KB Bat Wing Rows • Band Pull-Aparts • T-Bar Rows
If you only get a couple of things from this article, here is what you need to know: • Bench
often • Use the PAP method • Practice your technique with pauses • Choose assistance exercises that make sense If you do these four things, then your bench will increase. The bench press is a great upper body strength builder. It’s an exercise that is great for all sports if the proper routine with counter exercises is present. At 42 years old, I am able to strengthen my bench press and my snatch at the same time because my plan is well thought out.
DEADLIFT I love the deadlift because it is the rawest exercise in the world. There it is! Now pick it up! I love it. I am sure that Adam looked at Eve and said, “Watch me pick this rock up.” Right? There isn’t a better way to impress the opposite sex. How could you not love it? But the deadlift drives some people crazy because it can be one of the toughest exercises to improve. Jim Wendler, the man behind the famous 5-3-1 system, once told me that increasing the deadlift is like searching for a million dollars that’s hidden under a rock in a rock quarry. You simply keep turning rocks over until you find the money. I have tried a million exercises and a million routines, and I found a lot of great things that helped the pull. Now I am going to give a few of them to you.
2300 Deadlifting 800 pounds was an accomplishment that meant so much to me. I could do anything, and my squat would continue to increase. However, there came a time that my deadlift stalled at 725ish for what seemed like 10 years. It was probably
more like two years, but it drove me crazy. The day that I first deadlifted 800lb came with my first 2300 pound total. It was one of the greatest moments of my career. Joe Ladnier held the meet in Biloxi, MS. It was a Pro WPO Qualifier, so I was primed and ready to go. I opened with 700lb, and then went to 750 for a 25lb PR. That gave me a 2250lb Total, and it left me with a big decision to make. I could have taken 770lb on my third attempt, which was the reasonable attempt to take. However, I could go 800lb, break the 800 barrier, and surpass the magical 2300lb Total. 2300 pounds had only been reached by three or four people at that time. I gambled and went for the homerun. As I was chalking up, all that I could think about was the people that had doubted me. I am from a tiny little town in the mountains of North Carolina. A person performing extraordinary athletic accomplishments isn’t something that happens very often in that little town. When you grow up around a town like that, it can sometimes give you doubts. I refused to listen to those negative voices. I wanted to show all the athletes and people from my hometown that anything is possible with the right work ethic and a little faith. I let all those negative thoughts boil inside me like a volcano, and then I remembered all the people that loved and believed in me. I wasn’t about to let them down. Finally, the realization that this lift would put me in the same league as Jesse Kellum, Chuck Vogulpuhl, and the immortal Ed Coan
overwhelmed me with excitement. This was the moment that I had been lifting for. I wasn’t about to let it slip through my hands. I charged the loaded bar like a raging bull. I grabbed the bar, set my back, and wasted no time in ripping the weight from the floor. The bar exploded past my knees and then slowed a little - but there was no way that I wasn’t finishing. I used every ounce of strength in my body to hoist that weight to completion. Three white lights!!! I had arrived in the sport of powerlifting. I tell this story because the deadlift is a lift of emotion. If there is nothing on the line, it is hard to pull a big lift. It is easier to pull a 10 pound PR than it is to pull a weight that is 10 pounds below your PR. That is a simple fact.
WHO SHOULD DEADLIFT? The deadlift is not just for the powerlifter. It is a great lift for weightlifters if performed with the same form and technique as a clean. It is also a great lift for any strength and conditioning athlete. When it comes to absolute strength and bulletproofing the athlete, Dan John says there is no better lift. Whether you are a weightlifter or an athlete in another sport, it is important to look at the back squat to deadlift ratio. In a perfect world, any athlete should pull about 10%
more than they back squat. Of course, it doesn’t always work out exactly like it is supposed to. Some lifters are designed to deadlift and some are not, but we should always strive to reach perfect balance. If you are an athlete that deadlifts 10% less than you back squat, you should deadlift a little more often. I have watched many athletes like Travis Cooper and Jared Fleming of Team MDUSA focus more on their pull and less on their squat, and doing so yielded great results. Both of them made the World Team, so something about the process worked. Muscular balance is not just about performance. It is also about balancing the body to prevent injuries. When you have a major imbalance, it is like driving a car out of alignment. The car will wear out much quicker, and so will the body. Exercise selection is about a lot more than automatic transfer to the lifts or on the field. It is about preparing the athlete’s body for competition.
GAINING ON THE DEADLIFT Strategies that helped me boost my deadlift:
EMOMS EMOMs or every-minute-on-the-minutes led to huge gains. I would start with 70%, and I would focus on the speed
of the lift. I would work up to around 85-90% based on the speed of the lift. Multiple reps on the deadlift aren’t that advantageous because there is not a big eccentric portion of the lift, so a lot of the benefits of multiple reps are lost. I did use some mini-bands during this phase as well.
EXTRA MAX EFFORTS I added a second day to perform max effort exercises. I have used a lot of partial deadlifts with the bar starting anywhere from knee level down to the plates two inches off the floor. You could use reverse bands as well, but I always preferred deadlifts off of blocks. Deficit pulls are always good too, but not too much of a deficit. I would stick with two-four inches at the most.
STRENGTHEN THE POSTERIOR The posterior chain is so important. I have used GHDs, reverse hypers, and goodmornings with massive success. However, the best exercise for me was Romanian deadlifts (RDLs) with bands from a two-four inch deficit. This was the primary assistance exercise that I used when I trained for my first 800lb deadlift. I performed them once per week using three-four sets and keeping the repetitions at five-eight.
During that same training cycle, I performed the EMOMs once per week, and I only went up to 700lb one time during the entire cycle. Of course, I knew by the speed of the pull that I was good for way more. I performed the deficit RDLs with bands on another day. I used GHDs, reverse hypers, goodmornings, and bent over rows as assistance exercises on both days. The result in 10 weeks was a 75lb PR, my first 800lb Deadlift, and a 2300lb total. I would say that it worked.
PAUSES Pauses are great to add anywhere in the mix. I love pauses two inches off the ground or at the knee. I normally pause two-five seconds. This addition has really helped me move towards that 700lb mark now that I am training again at 42 years old.
CARRIES Heavy carries are great for stabilization, posterior chain development, and overall core strength. These transfer well to the deadlift.
BANDS Pulls against bands are another great exercise, especially for those that struggle locking out. I prefer to do these like the
EMOMs above. A good band platform comes in handy with these, but one can always rig something up with kettlebells and dumbbells. An idea that I am trying out now is to hook a band around the lifter’s waist and then attach it to something like a power rack behind them. Then, I am having them perform multiple submaximal deadlifts with an obvious focus on hip extension. This is great for people that have trouble locking out. If you are a rounded back deadlifter, this is another good tool.
PAP Again, we talk about Post Activation Potentiation. This principle is always great to use when trying to max out, and it applies to the deadlift as well. One way is to use mini-bands on a band platform. You will end up with anywhere from 105-120% of your max at the top. After working up to a heavy single with bands, take the bands off and max out. Another great way to do this is to use reverse bands where the bands are actually pulling up on the bar. You can set this up to give as much or as little help off the floor as you want. You could set it up in the power rack to give you 50lb help off the floor and no help from the knees to lockout.
This might allow you to hit 25-30lb over your max. Then you would take the bands off and max out.
HIP THRUSTS Lockout weakness can also be solved with barbell hip thrusts. This is where you lie on the floor, roll the barbell to the hips, bend the knees, and then extend the hips against the barbell. Great glute exercise! Put some bands around your knees to engage the glutes even more. Bret Contreras is the expert in this area, and actually sells an awesome machine that makes this process much easier. You can check this out at BretContreras.com.
BUILD THE BACK Back work in general is crucial. You will rarely see a great deadlifter without amazing back development. Ed Coan comes to mind when I am thinking about back development. He was notorious for his ability to perform strict bent over rows with 400+ pounds. If your goal is to deadlift 800+ pounds, then your entire back musculature needs to be strong for maintaining position, lockout ability, and injury prevention. The back is massive, so I recommend hitting it from all directions: rows of all types, all pull-up variations, pull-downs, and pull-overs.
I hope these tips help you conquer the Deadlift Beast. They’ve helped me have a lot of fun over the years breaking through barriers that once seemed impossible. I encourage you to never stop the search for the secret that increases your deadlift. I know that sometimes it will feel like that it simply won’t move, but it will. Keep turning over those rocks! Right, Wendler?
CLEAN Although the clean is less technical than the snatch, it still requires a great deal of practice. However, the strongest weightlifters are going to win the battle of the clean. Guys like Travis Cooper and Kendrick Farris are able to produce enough force on a heavy load propelling it high enough for them to rip under it, and then either one of those two are going to stand the weight up. Once guys like these two have figured out the mechanics of the clean, their strength is going to allow them the ability to be successful. Of course, one has to still be mobile, fast, and stable to master the clean - but strength is very important with this movement. I have watched several athletes possess the ability to get under almost any weight, but then lack the ability to stand it up. This brings me to my first point:
EFFICIENCY RATIOS Constantly keep an eye on the ratio between your clean and front squat! If you can clean 90+% of your max front squat, you are efficient. At that point, squat every day and get your legs as strong as possible. All the kilos that you add to your squat should equate to a bigger clean.
If you clean less than 90% of your front squat, focus on the clean until your technique and movement catches up to your strength levels. It is that simple! This ratio is something that you will have to keep an eye on for the duration of your career. You will probably chip away at one, and then you will go back to the other.
THE THREE PULLS The pull is very similar to the snatch! The start position can vary some, but there are some universal truths. The shoulders must be higher than the hips. The back should be tight with the scapulae anchored together and down. The athlete should take a deep breath and brace in their abdominal muscles. The shoulders should be over the bar. During the first pull, the angle of the shoulders and hips to the ground should be maintained. The shoulders should, at this point, stay over the bar. The athlete should focus on driving through the floor with their feet. The bar speed should increase throughout the entire pull. It’s also important that the back remains flat by continuing to be braced the entire pull. The second pull should be the most aggressive part of the pull as the lifter squeezes the bar into the hips with the lats while transitioning the hips under the bar. When the
hips meet the bar, the shoulders should be over the bar with the torso vertical. At this point, the athlete extends the hips, scooping the bar vertical. The third pull separates the veterans from the rookies. The veteran lifters will lift the knees while simultaneously ripping under the bar. The lifter should pull down and slightly back like a starting a lawn mower. This will bring the bar deeper onto the shoulders, and it will allow the torso to be completely vertical. The lifter should focus on meeting the bar, so there is no crashing effect. All that is left now is to stand up.
SQUAT TO CLEAN DEADLIFT RATIOS In a perfect world, a weightlifter should clean deadlift somewhere between the same and 10% more than they back squat. If they can back squat more than they can clean deadlift, I recommend paying considerable attention to the deadlift. I watched Travis Cooper of Team MDUSA prepare for the 2014 World Championships almost solely with the deadlift. There are two reasons why pulling power is important. The first is the most obvious: The lifter needs to be able to generate enough power in their pull to get under the bar. The second point is not as obvious. If the pull is weaker than the squat, there is a muscular imbalance that can cause
injury over time. This is the part that most weightlifting coaches overlook. If the lifter can stay in the game without injury, they have a better chance of reaching their limits.
SQUAT EVERY DAY Well… or at least most days! The thing that I have noticed from my athletes and my own experience is better range of motion and a better position from squatting every day. Obviously, the lower the athlete can squat transfers directly into a bigger clean. The best way to gain mobility in the squat is to squat. The pauses have helped me gain extra mobility, and just as important the pauses have helped stabilize those positions. I have coached several super mobile athletes that didn’t have the stability and strength to catch the weight in a strong position. You have to possess both mobility and stability to be great in the clean.
GRIP The front squat especially should be used for mobility and to find the perfect position while strengthening it. The goal is to keep a full hook grip while front squatting. If you can keep that hook grip, you can rip into that bottom position much faster. It’s also easier to keep your chest up
with a full grip on the bar. When athletes catch the bar with two or three fingers, their elbows tend to drop. This can get them into a rounded position, which isn’t good for catching a clean. A trick that a few of my athletes perform is front squatting with straps. Warning! Only try this if you are already fairly mobile, and have a high pain tolerance. This will really help to improve that position. Jon North is amazing at cleans, and a big reason is his ability to maintain that hook grip and rip much faster under the bar. All of this will allow the lifter to meet the bar in a much smoother way. When athletes let go of the hook grip, they are no longer ripping under the weight. When they let go, they are simply falling under the weight. This can lead to one of two things: The bar will crash on the lifter or the bar will descend faster than the lifter - causing a miss.
GOOD OLD PRACTICE Like Coach John Broz says, “To get better at the clean, one has to clean.” There are all kinds of tricks like threeposition cleans, cleaning from high blocks, and high hangs - but the only way to get good at the full movement is to perform the full movement. It is a timing thing! The key is to be patient and realize that it is going to take some time. If you expect to have the perfect clean
within one year, then you are in the wrong spot. Personally, I like performing the clean every-minute-on-the-minute for singles. This allows the lifter to focus on perfecting the one repetition, and it allows them to get in a rhythm. I suggest anywhere from 8-15 total work sets.
BOLDNESS Be fearless! When it’s all said and done, the lifter that is willing to rip under the biggest load wins the clean battle. It comes down to courage. Great lifters can pull under bars that only reach waist level. Ripping under 400+ pounds takes guts, so that is something that the lifter has to look deep inside to find. Usually the most fearless lifter wins!
MAX EFFORTS Travis Cooper is the man at tracking certain exercises and watching how they correlate to the main lifts. For example, Travis knows the 5-rep maxes, 3-rep maxes, and 1-rep maxes of exercises like power cleans from blocks, cleans from blocks, power cleans from floor, and hang cleans. This knowledge comes from years of tracking and documenting. The Max Effort Principle is a great principle made popular by Westside Barbell. It’s a way of going to a maximum effort or exertion without hitting a plateau from doing the same exercise all the time.
Westside varies from the original exercise a little too much for weightlifting. You will want to stick as close to the original movement as possible. Also, I recommend only using max effort exercises once per week. You will want to spend most of your time focusing on snatch and clean & jerk from the floor.
PATIENCE AND PRIORITIES Hopefully some of these tips and suggestions will help increase your clean. Remember to be patient! It takes at least 10 years to master this sport, so pull up a chair and get comfortable. The key to success is to embrace the process more than the daily result. The daily result often lies to the lifter. Remember to do the most important things the most in training - so snatches, cleans, squats, and pulls should be an every day thing. All the other accessory work is secondary. You will never get better at the clean without performing the clean. It is just like swinging a bat or shooting a basketball. One must perform their sport to get better at their sport.
JERK My friend and mentor, Don McCauley, has a great approach to jerk technique - and I agree with him 100%. Here’s his take straight from the words of Don himself. The only thing that I am going to add to the subject are a few drills that might help improve the jerk using Don’s technique.
From Don: There aren’t too many things that upset a weightlifter more than to stand up with a clean, hard or easy, and then proceed to miss the jerk. Yes, missing a snatch is always a pain, but you know that it is a very technical lift and is more likely to be missed. But the JERK is simple…down-up-down and split front and back. All of these are basic movements with no around the knees, pull-under, readjustment, and not finishing the pull to worry about. Down-up-down and split front and back. Simple. Right? Well, how come we keep missing them? The problem, as it often is in weightlifting, is that we are projecting a bar somewhere over our head in the jerk. The bar, in this case, is sitting in front of our neck, laying across the collarbone behind our front deltoid - and it’s fairly uncomfortable…and it seems to want us to tilt towards it… and it’s heavy.
Although we know the bar has to be driven over our head (ideally over and slightly behind the head) to arm’s length, our brain has much more stored information about the tendency to move us forward - not down-up-down and then split in its movement memory. It prefers us to go that way. What generally happens is the brain wants to get to the part of the lift it is comfortable with. So it has you lean or drift into the step forward (that it knows is coming in the split) before finishing that bothersome and unusual downup-down movement. And, of course, you’ve never finished the drive portion of the lift – so you miss the jerk or you drive the bar into the head judge’s lap. So, what to do???
MY APPROACH This is what I do when teaching the split jerk to make your brain commit to doing the dip and drive first, which is, by far, its most important movement: 1) Show the body position right at the starting position and in the split. 2) Explain to the lifter where the balance should be on the feet at the start and throughout the dip and drive and in the split. 3) Not talk much at all about the split. 4) Explain the split jerk as a down-up-down motion ONLY!
What I try to do is to take the idea that there is a forward movement out of the equation to allow the brain to have less to think about (and not allow it to go to its preferred movement). Instead, I want the lifter putting effort into driving the bar upward quickly. My reasoning here is that a lifter is not likely to ever be as good at the jerk as he can be unless he makes the dip and drive the priority. Now, just to settle a question you might have here: “Is there forward motion in the split?” Well… just a bit, but it’s not worth mentioning (so I won’t).
SETUP FOR THE JERK This is how I set a person up for the jerk. In the split jerk, you start in the standing position. Your back is in a vertical position with the balance over the rear of your feet. The bar should be set in the natural groove created when you clean the bar. So it rests across your collarbone and behind the front deltoid. Your hands are on the bar in a position wider than your shoulders, the bar is in your palms (if possible), and your elbows are pointed somewhere below horizontal. Your legs should be straightened but not stiffened at the knees. Your feet are under your hips and pointed slightly to the outside. You need to be aware that your back is tightened and will travel on a perfectly vertical track down and up and
down again during the dip/drive/split motions - as if the upper back between the shoulder blades and the tailbone are on that vertical track and can’t leave it. 1) Set, 2) Dip, 3) Drive. Oh, and take a breath in and hold it through the dip and into the start of the drive.
THE DIP To dip, you ALLOW your knees to travel forward in the direction of the toe point. Keep your hips over the rear of the feet, and keep your back on the vertical track downward. (By the way: For most people, the dip is not an accelerating movement but almost a simple falling one).
THE DRIVE After a few inches of descent, you DRIVE back upwards, staying over the rear of the feet and delivering an explosive force up through your torso - which is sort of like a battering ram going vertical and causing the bar to accelerate upwards from it. A word here: DO NOT try to accelerate the bar upwards by a shrugging movement of the shoulders. This is wrong. And DO NOT consciously try to push upward through your forefeet to make the bar go higher. This is also wrong.
As the bar accelerates upward from your torso, you will punch your arms and shoulders upward and punch your feet downward. One foot is slightly to the front and one is slightly to the back, but downward is the thought you should have. The rear foot should be plantar flexed to a good degree in mid-air as this movement occurs, and the sole of the front foot should be kept rather horizontal. The rear foot should touch down first, and that leg should be preset in midair with a slight bend at the knee. This touchdown of the rear foot actually starts a slight movement forward of the lifter, but it won’t be sensed. The lifter will feel he is staying in place. The front foot, immediately after the back foot touches down, will be driven forward and down. You should land with your force going downward through the heel and the shin vertical or slightly pointed back at you. (There is a One-Two or Bam, Bam sequencing here: back foot touching down first and front second) So, the legs should be thought of more as stakes driven into the ground than limbs stepping, splitting, or lunging. The length of the split will be determined by 1) how powerful the lifter is driving the bar and then moving his feet and 2) how technically sound the split is - NOT some arbitrary distance he is to step through. The bar’s position overhead will be determined by the correctness of your dip and drive technique. It should end up at arm’s length (wrists bent back, by the way) slightly behind your head and above your shoulders.
CORRECTING SOME MISCONCEPTIONS Should you try to get low or long in the split? NO. Should you even think of the split during the lift? NO. Should you try to land both feet at the same time? NO. Are there other parts of this lift that you didn’t go over? YES… but this movement and position are the most important things you have to know to be successful at the jerk. I will guarantee that if you get the dip and drive correct, you will have a high percentage chance of making the jerk, even if it isn’t pretty. If you don’t, your chance of making the split jerk go way down. Should the feet in the split stay at least as far apart horizontally as they were at the start of the movement? YES. The feet should never split and move toward a centerline creating a tightrope position but mark the diagonally opposed corners of an imagined rectangle on the floor. Should the feet be turned inward or be straight? They should both be turned inward for most, especially the front foot. Remember the front and back legs are driven down as stakes in the ground to stop movement, not as legs and feet going for a walk or lunge. People walk with their feet pointing forward or even outward. Turning them inward tells the brain that this is NOT a walk. Should you tighten the quads primarily to stiffen the split upon landing? NO. You should squeeze your butt cheeks
together as the split is completed. This will hold your torso in a vertical and centered position in the split and not put the whole job on the legs. This, in turn, allows your legs more easily to start the recovery to the final standing position with the bar overhead. Isn’t that one-two landing of the feet in the split too much to think about rather than just having them both land at the same time? Do you walk every day or do you hop? One-two is the way we move. Should I walk forward pushing off my back foot to recover? The answer for almost everyone is NO. Recover from the split from the front foot by slightly straightening the leg, although not to a locked knee position and pushing backward off the HEEL, not the front of the foot. This should make you lift the front of your foot. Quickly do one or two of these push back steps until you have risen enough to comfortably bring your back foot up to be even with your front. These questions come up all the time. If I think drive down with my legs rather than forward and back, won’t the split be too short - and won’t I fail to step through enough? NO, it won’t - and NO, you won’t. Your arms will punch upward against the bar and will drive you downward to the level you need - and your feet will split to the natural distance they need as well.
By the way, I never tell lifters to get under the bar or step through during the split jerk. Rather I tell them to get tall and drive up at the start of the jerk. I know, in fact, that they will move both downward and just slightly forward. But in my mind, emphasizing those things won’t improve the split jerk. Driving the bar upwards and getting the feet back on the platform quickly will. So, I emphasize that in my cueing. Shouldn’t I just DROP my back knee to keep it under the hip in the split? NO. The knee is not just dropped to a position in the split but driven to it with accelerating movement. Your back knee may or may not end up vertically under your hip, but it is not an absolute necessity by any means. If you doubt this, check the many videos of world-class weightlifters on YouTube. The knee position in the split is determined by overall leg length, femur and tibia relative length, flexibility in the hip/knee/ankle, and the weight on the bar. So, those are some of my ideas about how to look at and perform the split jerk. There are drills that should be done before doing jerks and the positions should be fully explained by your coach. But to me, the concept of it being a down-up-down movement is the one that will eventually make you a successful split jerker, not a teaching emphasis on an image of striding into the split.
DRILLS FROM COACH TRAVIS Thanks to Don for providing that great section on jerk technique. He nailed it. The only thing I’m going to add to his wisdom are a few drills that might help improve the jerk using Don’s technique.
JERK DIP SQUATS Jerk dip squats are a great way of strengthening the musculature required to perform an explosive dip and drive. To perform the drill, load the bar with 90+% of your 1-rep max jerk. From a rack or blocks, place the bar in the rack position (assuming the position that the bar would be in after being cleaned and set to jerk it). Once the bar is in position, shift the weight towards the heels, squeeze your glutes, and tighten your abs as if you were about to get punched. You are now braced for a strong dip and drive. Next, unlock the knees - allowing your knees to bend about six inches. Then drive the body up without letting the bar leave the chest. Perform this movement three-five times before racking the bar. The body can handle upwards of 110% of its 1-rep max in this exercise. I recommend threefive sets of this exercise.
This exercise is valuable for many reasons. It is great for strengthening the entire torso, which is required for a great jerk. It’s also great for practicing the dip and drive. Last, it is a great way of overloading this movement to make 90-100% of an actual jerk feel attainable. Once again, if a weight feels attainable, the chances of making the lift go way up.
PRESSES FROM THE SPLIT POSITION This movement is a great way of strengthening that split position. You can perform this movement from the front rack position or behind the neck. The key is to get into the perfect split position just outlined above. Performing multiple sets of five-eight reps is a great way of making the body stable in a good position. You will also be teaching the body where to go during the drive-under phase of the jerk. Muscle memory is a beautiful thing.
PAUSES My favorite exercise for the jerk is pausing in the dip and/ or the catch. I use this exercise sub-maximally at first, so that I can focus on proper positions and movement. Once the athlete starts to figure the movement and positions out, I will use the exercise as a max effort movement. For example, I will work up to a 1-rep max with a three second pause in the dip and the catch.
ASSISTANCE EXERCISES I also like to build the drive and overhead strength with a select group of assistance exercises. Here are some of the exercises that I use:
PUSH PRESS The push press is my go-to movement. Push presses are superior to standing strict presses because they teach the athlete to initiate the movement with the dip and drive as opposed to pushing with the arms. However, there is a lockout portion that will help strengthen that overhead position. Once again, if the weight feels light overhead, you have a much better chance of completing the lift.
DIPS PAIRED WITH PULL-UPS This is one of the pairings important to upper body muscular balance. Muscular balance leads to stability overhead. It also leads to lower risk of injury.
VERTICAL PRESSES UPRIGHT ROWS
This is another of the muscular balance pairings. I prefer to use kettlebells or dumbbells for the presses, so the body
doesn’t get used to pushing a barbell with the arms off of the chest.
HORIZONTAL PUSH PAIRED WITH ROW The final pairing that I use for upper body muscular balance is a horizontal push with a horizontal row. You can use bench press with bentover rows, but I prefer weighted push-ups. Push-ups keep the serratus anterior muscle engaged, which leads to better scapula health. However, the bench press is fine for athletes that have healthy shoulders and functional scapulae.
CARRIES Carries of all types are great for jerks! When the spine is completely stabilized along with the hips, more force can be distributed into a barbell. If there is a weakness in the armor, force will be lost. Nothing is better at strengthening the true core than heavy carries. Dan John writes about the importance of carries for all athletes, especially throwers and weightlifters. These drills can help one improve the mysterious jerk. Some people are simply born able to Jerk just about anything, like Sean Rigsby of Team MDUSA. The rest of us need some work. Practicing the technique while using some of these drills can help you all solve the mystery of the jerk.
SNATCH The snatch is definitely the most complex movement that one can perform with a barbell. You are basically playing golf with heavy weights. Just like golf - if you are off an inch one way or the other, you’ll miss every time (no matter how hard you pull the bar). The snatch is where the just get strong argument fails miserably. First let’s look at the elements necessary to perform a snatch: • Mobility
to catch the bar in an overhead squat position as low as possible with a vertical back. • Ability to stabilize a heavy barbell in the overhead position • Solid technique that produces a straight line or slightly s-curve bar path • A long, powerful first pull that accelerates quickly • An aggressive second pull, giving the bar lift • A third pull that is lightning fast The first two are initially the hardest elements to acquire. People new to the sport either lack the mobility to get under the bar in a good position or they lack the strength overhead to stabilize the bar in the catch position. These two elements are the easiest to affect.
Lately, at 42-years-old, I have been able to push my snatch higher and higher. I only max out once every onetwo months, and I mainly just practice the movements with several sets of EMOMs (every minute on the minute). So far, I have snatched 131k/288lb. I did that pretty easily without any misses, so I know that I am good for more. I credit my squat every day program for these results. Part of my squat every day plan is an overhead squat variation three-four times per week. Both the squats and overhead variations have helped my mobility, stability, and speed.
STABILITY AND MOBILITY Most of you don’t realize that in 2007 I fractured a vertebra in my cervical spine. That has really caused stability issues on my left side. My radial nerve was damaged, so holding anything with my left arm is challenging. The overhead squats have increased my overhead stability greatly. Here are some of the variations that I have used: • Overhead
squat with three-five second pauses in the
bottom • Snatch push press to overhead squat • Snatch grip thruster to overhead squat • Snatch balance • Snatch balance to overhead squat paused
A lot of people want to fix snatch mobility with lacrosse balls and voodoo bands, but that is not the answer. If you want to get better at a movement, perform the movement. The body is amazing at adaptation. The body will get better at performing any movement that one does frequently. When the body is familiar with a movement, it will release tight muscles and recruit extra fibers to allow for movement. A lot of the tightness that one experiences when trying to perform new movements is the body’s response in an attempt to protect itself. Basically, the body is limiting the range of motion to prevent injury because it isn’t familiar with the movement. I am not saying that mobility work won’t help. Mobility work is a great way to prepare for the performance of any movement. I am just saying that the actual performance of the movement pattern on a frequent basis is more important. Mobility work with frequent performance is the best option.
STRONG BACKS A very developed neck, trap area, and back are required to snatch big weight. Developing that stable base requires lots of hard work. Snatching along with overhead squat variations is a great way to develop stability. Here are some other great assistance exercises that will help you build your stability in the snatch:
grip push press • Snatch grip strict press • Muscle snatch • Sotts press • Axle bar OH carries • Kettlebell or dumbbell OH carries • Plate raises • Plate lateral raises • Pull-ups • Rows • Upright rows • Dips
SNATCH TECHNIQUE Technique in the snatch or Olympic weightlifting in general is one of the most controversial topics on the planet, so I am going to stick with the basics that we can all agree upon. START POSITION: • Shoulders
on top of the bar • Arms long and relaxed with elbows turned out • Shoulders should be above the hips • Back should be tight • Scapulae tucked together and down • Slight arch in the low back • Feet should be about hip width • Weight distributed on the ball of the feet • Eyes looking straight ahead and slightly upwards
DURING THE FIRST PULL: • Shoulders
and hips rise at the same time maintaining the same angle • Knees move out of the way of the bar • Bar should move in a straight line up or slightly back (never forwards) • Continue looking straight ahead and slightly upwards • This movement is more of a push with the feet into the floor • Shoulders stay over the bar for as long as possible • This is a patient long pull DURING THE SECOND PULL: • The
bar is swept into the hips by squeezing with the lats • The hips meet the bar for a scoop upwards - this is not banging the hips into the bar • Shoulders move slightly behind the bar • Hips and knees aggressively extend at the same time propelling the bar upwards • This is an explosive and aggressive movement DURING THE THIRD PULL: • Constant
pulling of the bar takes place throughout the pull, and the third pull is no exception • The best athletes rip themselves under the bar into the receiving position • Lift the knees to move the feet slightly out to a shoulder position • Lifting the knees will remove the feet slightly from the floor, allowing the athlete to move even faster
All of these pulls should be practiced and perfected. The best way to get better at snatching is to snatch. You can also do position pulls, which is simply snatch deadlifts focusing on maintaining the positions. However, to get better at snatching one has to snatch.
BOOSTING EACH PULL IMPROVING THE FIRST PULL WITH THE SNATCH: • Pauses
two inches off the ground will help you get the start position right, and they will help you maintain the proper posture off the floor. FYI, most lifts are missed right off the floor. • Pauses at, below, and above the knee will ensure that you are staying over the bar and maintaining the angle of the shoulders and back. They will also teach you to generate speed from the knees and up to ensure proper acceleration. • Tall pulls are great for staying over the bar. This is where you perform a snatch pull staying over the bar until the bar is at mid thigh or higher. This is an exaggeration that will teach a long first pull. KEYS TO GAINING IN THE SECOND PULL: • Pulls from high blocks are great for teaching aggressive
second pulls. You have no momentum from the first pull, so the finish has to be aggressive. • Hang snatch from hips teaches the same thing. • Slow first pull to aggressive finish will teach one to finish aggressively and to be patient in the first pull.
FOR A BETTER THIRD PULL: • High
blocks and hangs from hip also help the third pull. Once again, there is no momentum with the first pull, so one must rely on an aggressive second pull and then speed underneath. • Practicing the snatch. • Learning to visualize and not think. Thinking is too slow. • No-hook and no-feet drills are a great way to teach speed underneath and to ensure a proper bar path. If you bang the bar with your hips, the bar will leave the hands. • Dead hang snatch from the hip! During this exercise, you are to get in the power position with the knees bent about six inches, torso is vertical, and the bar is resting deep in the hip. Pause the bar for two seconds in that position, and then extend the hips and rip under the bar. You are not allowed to get a stretch reflex by dipping a little before extending the hips.
ADDITIONAL CONCEPTS Here are some bonus ideas to improve the snatch:
SNATCH DECONSTRUCTION DAYS I totally stole this from Coach Wilkes at Team MDUSA, so I want him to get the credit. Basically, you perform several sets of technique pulls. I recommend emphasizing the start with the torso angle, staying over the bar, and a straight bar path. Then perform multiple sets of snatch balance, emphasizing
speed under the bar, proper position, and a strong catch. Then, the athletes will perform a medium volume snatch workout. You will find that your movement will be much improved.
ANTICIPATE THE CATCH I learned this verbal cue from my friend, Coach Don McCauley, also of Team MDUSA. A lot of us pull the heck out of the bar, and then when it is time to catch it, we go after the bar like we are catching a nerf ball. Go after the bar assuming that it will be in the right place. This assumption will make the athlete go after the bar more aggressively in the catch phase.
LIFT YOUR KNEES TO MOVE YOUR FEET Coaches all around the globe are after their lifters to move their feet. However, very few will teach them how to move their feet. A little lift of the knee will create just enough clearance for the lifter to pull quickly under the bar, and it will allow them to get back to the heel as fast as possible for a solid landing. This verbal cue will help stop the infamous donkey kick.
VISUALIZING Let’s talk about visualization a little before moving on. Two-time Olympian Wes Barnett taught me this a long time ago. The best way to use visualization is to face the bar
about five paces away. Then the athlete will shut their eyes and see the perfect snatch. Then walk up to the bar and pull it as hard as possible. Trying to think while snatching will inevitably slow you down.
THE PROCESS The snatch is a complex movement. To get good at snatching one has to snatch. Period! An athlete should start by building that stable base and learning the movement properly with an empty bar or PVC pipe. Once the movement and the stability are there, then the athlete should be snatching as often as possible. For the duration of your career you will be practicing the snatch, developing stability, and increasing strength. It is one big game of chess requiring a balanced approach.