Integrating the different teaching methods of olympic weightlifting

The aim of this article is to present an integrated method of teaching the olympic lifts. Ho, Lorenzen, Wilson, Saunders, and Williams (2014) proposed a deterministic model of success/failure in the snatch (figure 1).

WL

Figure 1: Deterministic model of the snatch (Ho et al., 2014)

Within this model the authors distinguish between weightlifter and bar-related variables that impact the outcome of a lift. Analysing this model using a sequential bottom-up approach, due to the natural progressive occurrence of these  phases and positions throughout the lift, we first encounter the start position. This position involves setting the correct joint angles (individualised for the athlete) in order to ensure the bar follows the most efficient pathway from the ground to a position above the head of the lifter. The start position therefore affects the following movements and as such it is crucial to achieve the correct initial joint angles.

Subsequent phases include: the first pull, transition, second pull and catch. These phases are more difficult to control and maintain consistency due to the mutual influence of bar and weightlifter variables. Weightlifter variables include: joint angles, joint angular velocities and timing of joint actions. Bar variables influencing the outcome of the lift include: peak bar displacement and peak bar velocity.

Achieving optimal joint angles requires dynamic control of the ankle, knee, hip, torso, shoulders and elbows while contributing to the momentum of a heavy bar. Joint angular velocities are maximised under maximal effort applied by the lifter. However, applying maximal effort involves working memory to be utilised to mobilise effort rather than monitoring kinaesthetic feedback and controlling movement. Therefore, the aim of a weightlifter is to ensure physical skills are trained repetitively to facilitate subconscious control and enable the lifter to distribute more of their available working memory to the mobilisation of effort to the bar.

Technique training should include a variety of loads and become progressively heavier, in order to ensure the lifter can maintain effective technical control of each position under gradually heavier loads. A lifter would naturally begin training with an empty bar or a dowel and progress through either a top-down or bottom-up technical teaching programme. As empty bar teaching at high volumes prevents adequate stimulus being delivered to the athlete to provoke strength and power enhancement, the current author recommends a multi-faceted teaching method including bottom-up, top down and mid-range teaching of the lifts integrated into a coherent programme that aims to increase performance while teaching the lifts.

Bottom-up teaching of the snatch would include developing technical competency and gradual overloading of the pull from the ground (halted snatch deadlifts> snatch deadlifts>snatch grip pulls). Mid-range teaching will involve second pulls from the power position and top-down teaching will initially involve an empty bar but will include: overhead squats>drop snatch>pulls from chest into catch. These will be delivered simultaneously, as a part of a well rounded training programme to develop physical characteristics alongside technical competency, thus aligning performance conditioning with technical training.

Strength phase Power phase
 

Specific warm up and technical (top-down training)

Overhead squats 3×10 bar only  

Specific warm up and technical (top-down training)

Overhead squats 3×10 bar only
Drop snatch 2×5 Drop snatch 2×5
Pulls from chest 2×5 Pulls from chest 2×5
 

Power and RFD maintenance (mid-range training)

Second-pulls>snatch from power position 2×3  

Power and RFD development (mid-range training)

Second-pulls>snatch from power position 5×3
Hang pulls>hang snatch 2×3 Hang pulls>hang snatch 5×3
Strength (bottom-up training) Snatch deadlifts 5×5 Strength maintenance (bottom-up training) Snatch deadlifts 4×2

 

 

The above training program for 2 example phases utilises the warm up to expose the athlete to top-down empty bar work involving: overhead squats, drop snatch, pulls from chest. The overhead squats can also be used to screen for movement dysfunctions, thus aligning movement screening with the specific warm up phase of training. The power maintenance portion of the strength phase workout ensures the athlete receives some form of rapid high loaded exercise to maintain power throughout the strength phase. This will also utilise the mid-range training methods that are simpler to administer than the full Olympic lifts (second pulls, hang pulls) and can therefore be overloaded sooner as they require less technical competency to perform. The strength portion of the workout in the strength phase will be the most concentrated part of the workout and will include the most volume of heavy work (as the aim of this phase is to develop strength). This will utilise snatch deadlifts (bottom-up teaching) to overload the pulling movement from the ground and develop the bottom phase of the snatch movement. The power phase uses similar exercises but at differing volumes which is aligned with the aims of the individual phase.

This integrated approach to teaching the Olympic lifts uses the principles of scaffolding to gradually develop competency in the movements without sacrificing the development of physical characteristics.

References

Ho, L. K., Lorenzen, C., Wilson, C. J., Saunders, J. E., & Williams, M. D. (2014). Reviewing current knowledge in snatch performance and technique: the need for future directions in applied research. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(2), 574-586.