Simple Fix to Train like an Elite Lifter


Vardanian Weightlifting Seminar at CrossFit SAA

For many years I assumed my warm up was just that – warming up my muscles and joints.  Warm up sets are diagnostic in a way.  They are an indicator of current technique issues.  I believe I wasted a lot of time and potential progress by not focusing on my warm up.  You are probably in denial if you think you don’t need to make corrections during your warm up.  Elite lifters are elite lifters due to this attention to detail, no matter how much weight is on the bar.  I noticed this when I was in China a few years ago, and since then the seminars I’ve been has reinforced it.  Norik Vardanian, Oleg Kechko, and Jian Ping Ma are all former Olympians who now coach.  All of them will emphasize the importance of a good warm up.

You have to think of the warm up sets as preparation for the big weights.  Like watching film or studying a scouting report before a game.  You must know what your technique looks and feels like, and be able to duplicate that time and time again.  This attention to detail also helps diagnose what parts of the lift need extra work.  Often times after doing some warm up sets, my workout will be adjusted based on what Will has seen. There should always be a plan when you walk into the gym, but you must also be open to changing that plan based on how the warm up goes.  Some examples of adjustments to a workout:

  • go from the hang instead of the floor
  • power instead of full
  • clean + front squat
  • add in jerk dips at the end of a workout

And here are some examples of corrective exercises used to clean up technique:

  • Thrusters to improve the rebound at the bottom of the clean
  • Narrow grip power snatch if you are having trouble finishing your pull
  • Scapular stability exercises are good to stabilize your overhead position

There should be a purpose behind every accessory lift, so put as much effort and energy into those as you would your Olympic lifting.  At SAA, there are individualized workouts, as well as a warm up that coordinates with the lifts you will be doing later on.  These are designed to correct individual flaws and to ensure progress for each member.


Mallory working on scapular stability

Flaws MUST be addressed in the warm up.  Don’t mess around during these sets, thinking that they aren’t important.  Any issues you have will be magnified with added weights on the bar.  Typically only minor adjustments can be made at 90%.  Correct mechanics first, and then add weight.


Oleg Kechko, OK Weightlifting, Weightlifting Seminar

You must also understand the cues given to you.  If you aren’t sure, have a conversation with your coach.  It’s frustrating for both parties if the cue isn’t understood and applied.  Use examples, practice with a PVC, and ask questions.

Will sometimes uses the cue “Finish!” when I snatch.  The first time I heard this, I thought I knew what he meant.  So I made what I thought was the proper adjustment, and kept lifting.  When I finally took a second to ask what he really meant, I realized that I was not making the correct adjustment for that cue.  I could have saved myself some time had I just made sure I knew what he meant in the first place.



Vardanian Weightlifting Seminar

Intensity magnifies flaws.  Use your warm up sets to minimize the imperfections in your technique.  Allow your coach to make adjustments to your workout based on how things look that day.  Be open to adjustments to your technique as well, regardless of how it feels at first.  Some of the most uncomfortable and awkward exercises have helped improve my lifts the most.  Narrow grip power snatch, I’m talking about you!  Be coachable, be open-minded, and accept that the journey of improving your technique is one that never ends.



Posted on August 24, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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