Are you ready to Oly Lift/Squat – By Coach Andy Ewington

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You know what you want, do you know what you need?

 As I’ve made my progression from athlete to coach, my views have changed a lot. When I was more athlete only, when someone mentioned wanting to do advanced programming, Olympic lifting cycles, squat cycles I was all for them. I was thinking as an athlete. Now as I have progressed as a coach, and it is beginning to dominate my thought process, things have changed.

So you want to do more Olympic lifting?

Here’s my advice so you know you are ready to Snatch:

1. You can overhead squat weight comfortably. How much weight? More than what you are trying to Snatch is a good place to start. What is comfortable? Spend 5s in the bottom position each squat, neutral back, shoulders externally rotated, nearly vertical torso. If you can’t it’s not comfortable.

 lu vs hawk

Do you look like Mr Red Hawk or Mr Lu Xiaojun??

2. You can perform Snatch Balance comfortably. Again, more than what you are trying to Snatch.

3. When testing internal rotation on the shoulder, your hand can at least get down to the height of your hip. Why? Because this position is a requirement to snatch efficiently. If you can’t, then your shoulder is in a bad position at the beginning of the lift, and will finish in a bad position.

4. To snatch from the ground you need exceptional ROM to setup. Just like the deadlift, you need to be able to get in to the start position with your back neutral, and not require the bar to pull yourself in to position. Stick to the hang until you can achieve this.

You should be able to do number 1 before number 2. Number 3 & 4 are things to work on while working your way to being proficient at number 2. Once 1,2,3 are sorted, you’re ready to Snatch from the hang. Once 4 is achieved, you can snatch from the ground.

How do you know you are ready to Clean?

1. Front rack position is comfortable. You should be able to hold a near full grip on the bar.

2. Comfortable bottom position. Upright torso, high elbows, 5s hold.

3. Internal rotation of shoulder is adequate (hands to hip minimum).

4. Setup with a neutral back.

Number 1 needs to be prioritised. Without that number 2 isn’t possible. Again 3&4 should be worked on while achieving 1&2.

If you can snatch, your mobility will most likely be more than adequate to clean. So prioritise mobilising for the snatch.

lu_xiaojun clean

  Holy positioning batman!

Are you ready to Jerk?

1. Your front rack position allows you to hold the bar somewhere in the palm of your hand, bar resting on your shoulders.

2. You can shoulder press without loss of position. Core still engaged, back neutral, shoulders externally rotated.

3. You can push press without loss of position.

4. You can perform overhead lunges without loss off position. (for the split jerk)

5. You need to be able to overhead squat with a Jerk width grip to parallel (for the tall/power jerk)

6. You need to be able to overhead squat with a Jerk width Grip (Squat Jerk)

Most peoples shoulder mobility is going to be the issue. You need 1,2,3 before beginning any of the Jerk movements.

We allow people to do the olympic lifts without meeting all of these criteria laid out. But we do limit the ROM you use to be safe for the individual. We also do not do a high volume of these lifts. If you can’t perform 1 repetition with good form, what makes you think you are ready to do a complete olympic lifting cycle requiring hundreds of repetitions?

So you want to do a squat cycle?

Often given the title, ‘King of all exercises’ the squat is a foundation movement. A bigger squat is key to improving a large majority of movements. But are you ready? Again I will point you to Lu Xiaojun. Look at this position. Do you remotely resemble this at the bottom of your squat? Can you even squat that far down regardless of how you look? No? Back to the drawing board for you!

You need to be able to get your hip crease below parallel,(with the rare exception of people who physically can’t) with a neutral back, bar positioned above where you tie your shoe laces. If not, you don’t need a squat cycle, you need a squat. Work hard with box squats, goblet squats and work on any mobility issues that are stopping you from squatting.

Lynn vs Lu

CFD Superstar Lynn vs Mr Incredible Lu Xiaojun (260kg FYI)

The current buzz is Smolov. A program designed for Russian lifters, whose jobs required them to have a big squat. These guys had trained for years and their lifts had properly plateaued. They essentially did nothing but squat 3-4 times per week for 13 weeks. They needed a shock to the system, something to break their bodies down to force adaptation. These lifters had nutrition and recovery dialed in. Everything they did was to improve their squat. Are you capable of the same application? I have done the Smolov cycle. It’s not a sustainable method of training. It’s not even the best way of training. It’s a neat challenge, but if it were an optimal training program you would be able to tell me some top athletes that constantly use it.

 Linear progression is still by far the best method for the overwhelming majority of the population. Nothing fancy, as simple as 5×5 starting at a light weight and gradually adding weight to the bar each time you squat. This allows you to work technique as you build up the weight. Once you miss a rep, you deload and go back to a lighter weight and repeat the process. This can be done with multiple lifts at the same time, and conditioning can also be done. The reps/sets aren’t the important part. The important part is starting off light, adding weight to the bar, and keeping form.

 If you really want to progress, you will work towards obtaining these positions. If you aren’t that worried, don’t be offended when you are told to scale because you can’t perform the movement.

Andy Ewington


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