Work Your Weak Areas
Part III: Strength
Leo Totten, M.S., USAW 5
As a follow-up to the previous article on “Work Your Weak Areas”, Part II Technique, now let’s get into the STRENGTH aspect. Obviously, strength is a big part of what we weightlifters are all about but the key is to be really strong in the right positions. Weightlifters need to be able to be strong enough to get into the correct positions and stay there.
From the first article, “Work Your Weak Areas”:
Strength – You may have really good technique with lighter weights, but as the weight gets heavier, do you have the strength to hold the correct positions? Are you not able to keep the back and shoulders in the correct position when the bar is at the knees due to poor posterior chain strength? Do you lack the overall leg strength for proper pulling power or to recover from those heavy cleans? Do you have the technique to get under those snatches in a quick, efficient manner but lack the overhead strength to support the weight?
(Keep in mind the correct positions desired from Work Your Weak Areas, Part II)
STRENGTH of the PULL:
Strength to the Knees: We discussed the correct start position in the Technique article, but the lifter needs to be strong in the back, hips and legs to make the starting pull to make that happen.
Pulls to the Knees: Get to the point where 100%+ of your top clean or snatch is easy. Stress correct bar path, hips and shoulders rising together, keeping the shoulders in front of the bar.
Deficit Pulls to the Knees: ONLY if the flexibility allows a good start position can this exercise be utilized. Back in the day when I was lifting, the weight always felt SO heavy off the floor but when I started doing these and got good at them, the pull from the floor felt easier and therefore I felt I could generate better speed (and confidence) through that strong power position.
Overall strength of Pull:
3 Stop Pulls: Absolutely love these! After a strong set position, pull so the weight literally goes only 1” off the floor, hold for 3 seconds. Then, continue up to below the knees and hold for 3 seconds. Then, continue up to the power position and hold for 3 seconds. Return to the floor in the exact same positions as in the pull.
- Coach should count the 3 seconds for the lifter. Trust me, they will cheat on their own!
- Wanna really get strong? Do a 6-8 second eccentric descent.
- Make sure the lifter knows that the first hold is ONE inch! (Again, its hard so they cheat!)
- Use low volume on this one, typically 5-6 sets of singles, maybe doubles.
RDLs: Most people tend to be “quad dominant” just because of the way humans sit so much. However, this doesn’t help when it comes to keeping the shoulders in front of the bar when it is at the knees. If the shoulders are back too far, the quads are doing the work instead of the hamstrings, but that leaves the bar in front of the foot, not over the midfoot where it belongs. The bottom line is the lifter has to be extremely strong in the posterior chain! Check out the back and hamstrings of the top lifters in the world and you will know what I mean! I saw video of Nicu Vlad years ago doing correct RDLs with 300kg for 5 reps. Hmmm….wonder why he was able to set world records and win Olympic Gold??
Of course, we all do regular Pulls to make the snatch and clean better, but here are a few hints:
- When doing pulls, make sure you match the same pulling pattern that is used in the snatch or clean itself. Teach the body one pattern so it becomes automatic. Weightlifting is a very nervous system-oriented movement so teach that nervous system one pattern.
- For pulls that finish with a strong top pull, be careful not to go too heavy. By that, I mean make sure the weight isn’t too heavy that speed and position are compromised. Typically, I recommend no more than 10% higher than the 1RM of the clean or snatch. If it is a more strength-oriented movement without the speed or “pop” at the top (partial movements), then you can go much heavier In that case, 20-30% should work. (of course, keeping correct positions).
- Pulls vs High Pulls: Typically, we recommend Pulls finishing with straight arms. That way, we are more assured of maximal force production. We focus on finishing tall with a good snap at the top of the shrug. We only do a limited number of High Pulls, finishing with the elbows up. I like that version of pulls, but I find that most athletes tend to cheat and bend down to meet the bar rather than finishing and then bending the arms.
In the next article we will discuss developing the leg strength for the pull as well as recovery from the bottom of the clean as well as the overhead supporting strength for snatches as well as jerks.
Until next time!