A New Year, A New You. Many of you have New Year's resolutions which you want to keep this year and some of them may be lifting related. Save yourself the disappointment of not being able to achieve them by preventing yourself from making these simple mistakes as you look towards the new year of training and practising your lifts.
Stop Ripping and Start Slowing Things Down.
The weightlifting movements are always perceived as movements of explosiveness and speed. Many people think that you need to be as powerful as your human potential allows you to in order for you to perform the lifts well. This leads to many making the rookie mistake of trying to "grip and rip". Especially when you are in a setting that requires you to perform these lifts faster in order for you to "get a good time".
He sure doesn't pull the bar off the ground aggressively even though he gets quite aggressive in his set up. Image Credit: Hookgrip
According to Fitt's Law, movement speed is inversely proportional to movement accuracy. This also means that if you are going to try to move the barbell fast off the ground, it means that you would have some form of compromise getting into the positions you NEED to get into in order to properly execute the correct movements in the lifts. Instead of thinking of trying to hit it hard and fast from the gecko, you may want to try to generate enough speed to overcome ertia and GRADUALLY increase momentum to the point of extension where you then move with the intent of speed.
Hip Hinge Less, Leg Drive More.
When learning the lifts, as a beginner, you will always hear that you have to bring your hips through in the extension phase of the second pull. This typically results in a more loopy bar path or a swing of the bar around the torso. More importantly, it uses more of the back or torso as a lever instead of the legs as a driving force in the vertical direction. Even when cycling repetitions, it is critical that the intention is to use the legs more than the back. Once the trunk starts fatiguing, things get messy quite quickly.
The image speaks for itself. Knowing to use your legs doesn't mean just your hips. Image Credit: Karl Buchholtz Photography
Learning this correctly from the start will help in picking efficiency up as you will be learning to use your biggest prime movers in the body to do the work. Learn to spread the work across the glutes, hamstrings and quads (3 main muscle groups) rather than putting the stress on the erectors which are not meant to be movement generators. This will not only help get you through your training more effectively but also reduce the chance of a major injury or compensatory movements subsequently causing over-use injuries.
A Bigger Squat Doesn't Necessarily Mean Bigger Lifts.
Being able to execute the lifts well requires a good sense of what the body is going through during the movements. This body awareness is something that takes time in training to build up and gaining it will make alot more of your assistance or accessory exercises more transferrable.
This relates alot to squatting because squatting is a major part of a weightlifter's program. Yes, squatting well and having a big squat will definitely benefit your lifts. IF you are able to transfer that leg strength into your movement. The ability to use your legs in extension is critical and not just being able to push up a certain load. This ability of having awareness in the use of your legs will allow you to properly execute the leg drive needed for most of the propulsive components of the lifts. The mistake is that many novices embark on a squat program without this awareness and put in countless repetitions of squats and end up banging their bodies up but not achieving their eventual goal of improving their lifts.
Don't Just Learn Technique. Learn YOUR technique.
Like a golf swing, there is no one technique that is identical to another. It is pretty awesome now that there's so much more coverage on weightlifting and you can easily gain insight to how the top-level athletes are actually moving through media platforms. However, seeing such movements at surface level and not understanding the complexity of their style in relation to other factors such as anthropometry and training history, the rookie mistake made is to imitate and not to apply.
May look like the same point of the movement but all the positions are different. Image Credit: Hookgrip.
Learning the concepts behind movement, the reasoning behind certain positions or cues and subsequently applying it to your own lifting allows you to then make an INFORMED decision (not just a blind decision) on how you should be moving in the snatch or clean and jerk. Knowing the characteristics of your body such as your lever lengths, and even your strengths and weaknesses or physical limitations will help you make a better decision on how to move and give you a smooth path towards improvements in your lifting.
Accessorize to Maximize Your Training.
I completely understand that if you are executing most of your training in a class setting, you are basically following whatever programming is given on that day and it's completely up to your box's programming if you are getting what you NEED in terms of developing your movement and even body for lifting. When you first get hooked on the weightlifting movements, you will fall into the trap of just doing the main lifts and thinking that the more you practise them, the better you will get with them.
How do you think they build bodies like that? Probably not just from the full lifts. Image Credit: Hookgrip.
Sadly, you are WRONG! Not really wrong but you are not building yourself up to maximize your success in performing the lifts well. As a beginner, it is critical to understand that you need a variety of exercises related to the lifts to create as much practice and motor development opportunities within your motor control. Think of it like building up that memory bank. This helps develop that awareness for the movements as mentioned earlier. Secondly, even if you are doing some variations of the lifts in your training, you may not be prepping your body up physically to handle the physical demands of the lifts. So not only variety, but also the mundane work like mobility, stability and even hypertrophy. In simple terms and in the words of a famous strength coach with his own training system, if you want to build a massive pyramid, you need to build a big base. If you want a bigger pyramid, the base has to be bigger meaning you have to be covering more exercises first before you can begin specialising in the main lifts for the most part of your program.
It's great to see that you have understood that the weightlifting movements are pretty awesome and they benefit you in many ways than just explosiveness and power. Done with the right mentality, you will be on a path of discovery, learning about yourself and what your body is capable of. Too many people look for the easy way out only to find that they have hit a dead-end. Set things right from the start and you will see yourself growing easily into the lifts with ease as you work towards your New Year resolution of being great at them this year.