Summer Olympic Lifting Cycle: Perfect practice makes perfect

The Olympic lifts (Snatch, Clean and Jerk) are highly technical movements that require far more practice than most standard CrossFit exercises. Dedicated O-lifting sessions on Wednesdays (all day) and Saturdays (at Noon) will focus on skill-development, and not on “working out” in the sense of pushing for ever higher intensity or weight.

To oversimplify: the focus of Olympic lifting is training a violent, accurate “vertical jump” or hip extension, which sends the barbell flying straight up in the air.

During our O-lifting sessions, Beginners will focus on:

  • Developing the “vertical jump” (second pull) as a skill. The vertical jump must be accurate (sending the bar in nearly perfect vertical path) and precise (sending the bar in nearly the same path every time)
  • Developing requisite flexibility and joint mobility. Having launched the bar into the air, the lifter must be able to catch or “receive” the bar in a position that is mechanically efficient and safe.

Intermediate lifters will focus on:

  • Developing the timing necessary to execute the full movements – i.e. the skill of accelerating the bar from the ground (first pull), and the skill of “pulling under” (third pull) to receive the bar in a full Olympic squat.
  • Developing the confidence necessary to begin lifting substantial weight.
  • Because Beginners and Intermediates have slightly different training goals, the exercises prescribed will differ accordingly. Nearly everyone will begin by following the Beginner program. A trainer will let you know when you are ready to move to the Intermediate program.

The following training principles will apply to all Olympic-lifting workouts, no matter the level:

  • Workouts will not be timed.
  • Unless specified, rest intervals between sets will be as long as necessary.
  • The weight for any given exercise will be determined by “feel.” A technically flawless lift will always “feel” comparatively easy and light. For example: Beginners might be prescribed: Hang Power Snatch x 1 x 5 (light), meaning that they will be working up to one set of five reps at a weight that still feels fast and light; the lifter will not be worried about “missing.” If a “light” weight is prescribed and you miss a lift, you need to lower the weight. Intermediates might be prescribed: Power Clean (heavy single) meaning that they will work up to a single Power Clean at a weight that starts to feel heavy/slow and that poses a real possibility of a missed lift.
  • Achieving perfect reps takes priority over finishing the prescribed number of reps or sets.
  • Achieving perfect reps takes priority over increasing the weight from week to week.
  • Achieving perfect reps takes priority over everything.

6 thoughts on “Summer Olympic Lifting Cycle: Perfect practice makes perfect

  1. Any recommended sources or brands for oly-lifting shoes?

    1. I love my Adidas Ironwork II shoes. The next generation (Ironwork III) is also a good shoe from what I’ve heard. Tim just got a new pair, so you should ask him.

      Here’s a site that reviews most of the major brands:

      They put Risto at the top of the pack because they’re exceptionally well made and decently priced.

  2. I’m a fan of my shoes, but they’re also the only pair I’ve ever tried.
    The only place I could find for the Adidas shoes is here. It looks like a webpage from the ’90s, but they’re reputable.

    Landon has a pair of Pendlay shoes.

  3. Would you recommend that we get a pair of oly shoes? Or to rephrase a bit, could you tell us a bit more about what oly-lifting shoes will provide us? At this point I feel like I can improve my lifts a lot more easily by improving my flexibility and form than I can by changing my footwear, but I’d like to hear a more informed opinion.

    1. Jason – my opinion is wait till you get some experience and mobility gains. Chucks are going to be just fine for the time being. I was clean and jerking barefoot for a while and plenty of good lifters won’t get good shoes. Joby hadn’t used oly shoes his entire life and was C&Jing around 350#. My lifting PRs were all done barefoot. Sure, they help you with additional depth and stability, but aren’t necessary if you are still working technique.

      Bottomline: Shoes aren’t a substitute for crappy form, so if you are on a tight budget, save the cash for the time being.

    2. Jas0n — Kyle is correct that you can spend a good deal of time improving your lifts without special shoes. They are not a necessity for you at this point. On the other hand, if you want to be “serious” about Olympic lifting, you need a pair of these shoes. Joby is very much the exception, and I believe that he would be able to lift far more if he had the right footwear.

      O-lifting shoes do a couple of important things:
      1) provide about 1 inch of elevation in the heel, allowing you maintain a more vertical torso in a full squat.
      2) a hard sole provides superior contact with the platform (without the squishy feel of tennis shoes).
      3) a hard sole also provides some traction on the platform while allowing the feet to slide smoothly into the squat-stance or the jerk-stance.
      4) instep straps provide a more secure fit than ordinary shoes.

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