Be a Better Weightlifter
OK, just kidding ABOUT NASA.
But any great weightlifting coach will confirm this, and here’s why.
I hear it all the time in the gym. “I wish my weightlifting was better. What can I do?” Or more to the point, “Man, I love the lifts, but I suck at them!”
My first response is always the same. “Well, are you seriously practicing your weightlifting technique?” The answer is almost always no, but there’s no shortage of excuses…
- I just don’t have the time.
- I don’t have anyone good to coach me, and I can never tell if I’m doing it right.
- My mobility sucks!
- I would focus on weightlifting, but I just don’t know where to start.
- I want to get better at the lifts, but I also want to do improve my metcons! Why can’t I improve at both?
- I get frustrated because I know my lifts suck.
- I know I’ll never ever be as strong as some of the athletes I follow.
I want to focus on the two most common barriers. You CAN become a great weightlifter, you just need to change your approach to training, your focus, your overall mindset.
Let’s start there.
@alexqmaclin is the hardest worker we know. Inside and outside of the gym. Glad to have him on our staff! ・・・ Never back squatted 400lbs before today and did it for an easy triple! 400 has been a goal for so long! No idea what my max is… #squats #strength #thatbarbend #weightlifting #olympiclifting #gym #fitness #gainz #barbellshrugged #mashelite @barbellshruggedpodcast @masheliteperformance @thebarbelllife @barbellbuddha @mcg_faction @faction_sc
Why are you so afraid to step away from the Metcon?
Many folks have this giant fear that if they step away from their Metcons to focus on weightlifting, they will immediately get fat and drop off the whiteboard. They’re scared they won’t be able to go as prescribed any more, which seems like a huge step backwards. Where does this fear come from? Where is the logic behind this?
Just because you stop blasting your lungs daily to the point of inducing vomit and blackouts, that doesn’t mean you will get fat, or out of shape, or slow. Actually, the opposite type thing usually happens. Most great lifters avoid heavy conditioning sessions, yet they’re some of the strongest and physically fit people in any gym.
Have you seen Klokov lately? That dude couldn’t be any more jacked. Hell, I am in the best shape of my life, mostly because I’ve been able to accumulate so much work and muscle mass from my heavy weightlifting training.
Weightlifters are strong and fit.
I’m not saying the Metcon is evil, far from it. If you’re trying to compete in fitness you have to have excellent conditioning, that much should be obvious. But even if you want to make the top of the whiteboard in your box, you’re better off getting used to the suffering. Condition hard, and often…But there’s a catch.
Performing high-rep snatches, cleans and jerks as fast as possible during a WOD will undermine your ability to properly learn the movements. Unless you’ve built some level of movement mastery in the lifts, it’s very likely that your WOD technique will breakdown often. Every failed rep, rushed pull and sumo style catch will push you further and further back from your ultimate goal.
To maximize your performance in weightlifting, as well as your ultimate Crossfit performance, take the time to master the lifts. Be a Weightlifter first. Learn to move weight well and you’ll crush WODs forever.
Commit to working on the lifts. Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of work in. The snatch, clean and jerk are probably the most physically and mentally difficult movements to learn in all of sport. So, you’re not going to learn them by practicing once or twice a week with a PVC pipe is just not going to cut it. It’s not enough work.
You’ve got to devote some serious effort and time to learning the movements. You’ve got to constantly work on getting stronger and more mobile through the key ranges of motion and positions required for weightlifting. And you know this!
Here’s what you need to do.
First, accept that the brutal Metcons are holding back your lifts. Let it go, let it go, at least for a 6-month block of time. You have to commit and move the needle with continuous work, so keep your focus. Change your approach to training a little.
Put everything you’ve got into getting stronger and improving your snatch, clean and jerk technique. You will move better. Your strength will take off. You will add muscle (#GAINZ). And the best part, you’ll perform much better once you go back to pushing the Metcon.
Ditch those fears of getting fat, losing your gymnastics skills or conditioning, not going Rx, or whatever else your excuse may be. They are only hindering your athletic growth.
Not sure where to start?
There are a ton of really great places online that offer solid weightlifting programming. Many of those programs already include strength and conditioning workouts to help you get stronger while maintaining your conditioning and gymnastics skills. Some even offer remote coaching as well.
Just commit. When you focus on weightlifting and strength training – surprise, surprise – you will get stronger. You’re technique will improve. You will put on some lean muscle mass, which is what you wanted from your workouts anyway, right?
If you have any questions about programming or finding coaching, just leave them in the comments below. I’ll do my best to help you out.
Why do you compare yourself to other lifters?
Next to conditioning too hard, too often, constant comparisons to other lifters is sure to limit your performance and happiness in the gym.
Look, I’m super competitive. I understand how it goes, the need to be the best at something. This is a highly competitive environment and it’s frustrating to get beat by someone else. But competition is supposed to be something that makes you focus on YOU and not someone else. This is how we improve our training and grow stronger.
Many times I see people emulating and copying the training methods and styles of other lifters and athletes, believing that if they do as they do they will achieve similar results. But that’s false.
As an athlete you are an individual, with individual needs. Those needs are likely much different and exclusive of the needs of any other athlete. Only by addressing YOUR individual needs will you see progress. Again, deep down you probably already know that this is true.
Stop the Comparison
Stop comparing yourself with other people with different body types, training histories, genetic profiles, etc. I had to learn this lesson the hard way a few years ago. I was thinking, “Man all the best lifters in the world are maxing out snatch, clean and jerk every day. Bulgarian method, Baby! Hell yea! I’m gonna do the same damn thang!”
I stopped addressing my technique, following my program, and started only maxing out on the snatch, clean, and the jerk.
I squatted a lot.
If I got too beat up from maxing out (which happened quite a bit) I would just find some random workout online that had movements that I liked doing.
There was no direction. It was no surprise when I hurt my back. In the end, I was out 3 months. At least I learned the lesson. It’s something you don’t have to repeat.
The minute you start trying to focus on someone else and what they are doing you will lose sight of what is important to you.
Your progress will stop.
As an athlete you have to be a little bit selfish.
If you stop focusing on yourself and your needs, it will be very hard to become the kind of lifter that you want to become. Maybe you won’t ever get there, but doing what YOU need to do is going to help you become the best athlete you can possibly be, and that’s what it’s all about.
I’ve made every one of these mistakes in the past, and I’ve used every excuse. But you don’t have to repeat all of those mistakes. You CAN shorten the learning process, that’s exactly why we created the FLIGHT program. It’s everything we wish we had known and done when we first got into Olympic Weightlifting. If you need coaching and programming help, check it out. It might be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
Got questions? Just leave them in the comments below. I’d be happy to help out.
I have really been enjoying your work lately, Alex. I just started the Wendler program to try and increase my overall strength…I want to be able to do more rx workouts overall. Is it possible to combine the wendler program with snatch/clean and jerk training or should I get stronger overall first and then proceed with cleaning up my technique (and still getting stronger) with snatch/clean and jerk training?
Thanks for the help.
Technique and strength go hand-in-hand really. If you aren’t strong enough to maintain proper position during the lift, you will have failure in technique except with anything other than very light weights.
For weightlifting, strength training and technique need to go together in a program. Dedicated squat/strength programs do a good job of getting you strong but they also don’t leave too much in the tank for much else if you are doing them right. And that’s the problem. I remember when I was doing 5×5 linear progression and Texas method, I was dead from all that volume. I threw some of the Olympic lifting work here and there, but my lifts didn’t really improve a great deal because I wasn’t devoting enough practice on improving the movement.
Sure the novice effect will get you some snatch/clean gains if you get stronger but that will plateau eventually. If want to take it to the next level, you’ve gotta put some time into train like a weightlifter and do a weightlifting program. A weightlifting program like Flight will have an appropriate amount of strength work incorporated to get you stronger so you are snatching, cleaning and jerking more because that’s the goal!
Im currently trying to find a strength and conditioning program to help guide me.
Amanda what kind of goals do you have? Long term and short term.
Thank you so much! I so appreciate you’re advice!
Needed this…..and I will share with my classes tonight.
Last January I THOUGHT I was in good enough shape to do WODs… Cardio, maybe. but NO WAY was I strong enough. I didn’t do a WOD then for 6 months, and just did the 5-3-1 protocol to get strong. Now I’m no Klokov, but my WODs are at the point where I am pushing to get better, not just survive. I owe it all to you guys at “Barbell Shrugged” for your knowledge, guidance, and inspiration. My goal is to make Masters Qualification next year (top 200) and a year after that… We’re goin’ to the GAMES!! ( that’s the plan, anyway) But hey, if life happens, at least I’ll be in AWESOME shape for it!!!
Congrats on the progress John. Did you do any WODs during those 6 months? I just started the 5/3/1 program and am having a hard time deciding what WODs to do and when to do them. Also, did you do the big but boring?
The assistance work I did was “Boring but Big”, with the odd “I’m not doing Jack shit” on the days I was pressed for time. I tried not to do that too often though. Deciding on what WODs to do? What I did was go over the last few years of the OPEN WODS, and pick out 6-8 that hit all the major CrossFit movements (that don’t need a rower or wallball, don’t own either) toss in Fran and Grace as test pieces, and you’re good to go. If you have the time to train heavy and a WOD, awesome, just don’t over do it! Hope this helps…
what are your thoughts on misses (primarily the snatch)? i am concerned the more I miss the more ill miss in the future. Is this theory true? (about building neurological pathways for missing etc) and how does a someone trying to learn the lifts put this aside?
Misses will happen. Not missing ever probably means you’re not challenging yourself enough and getting the benefit of training with heavy weight. But you definitely don’t want to “practice” missing, especially at the novice level.
As a lifter, always work towards being consistent with your lifts. If you look at high-level weightlifters, they rarely miss lifts below 90% because they’ve done the rep so many times, the same exact way.
If you miss a technical lift like the snatch, clean or jerk (especially sub-max) something broke down. You need to rewind and try again at a weight where your technique is consistent and you can move properly.
If you miss I suggest knocking a few kilos or lbs off the bar and work your remaining reps at the lower weight and smoke them. If you miss again, knock it down some more. But always work towards building that confidence and consistency.
I seen your pod cast with Louie.. why would the westside system not work for Olympic lifting .. i seen so many making fun of it..
WHEN I DEVELOPE A PROGRAM because i understand westside completely, i dont see how it goes wrong…
I am not talking about bands and chains
Thanks so much for this article Alex. It confirms my past 8 week journey of peculiar nerves.
After 8 months of straight CrossFit with some weightlifting programing, I decided to switch and try a squat and olympic lifting specific program. I am 8 weeks into it and feeling stronger than ever. I have increased my snatch by 18.5 pounds and my previous 1rm back squat of 340 from 4 months ago feels easy and deeper today. However, the point of all this is that I have stepped away from heavy metcons because my programming is demanding much more time than expected. I am also toasted at the end of the programming day. This got me concerned, and I thought of everything you addressed in the article above (i.e. am I going to get fat, lose my endurance, etc.). I still worry today. But this article helped me realize its nothing to worry about.
I have increased in weight, but it is definitely #GAINZ haha. I put on about 5-10lbs too! I have a very well respected OLY coach and he has helped me significantly. I found myself appreciating the lifts so much more. As if they were people. I am looking at doing an OLY meet soon as well.
In all, thanks for this and PEOPLE, LISTEN TO ALEX, HE IS RIGHT! Step off the metcons a bit when following an OLY program!
Thanks Steven! Those are some awesome gainz! Keep it up!
Hey Alex, great article! What kind of program do you suggest following or which one worked best for you? 5-3-1? Smolov? Barbell WOD?
I work at CrossFit gym , so I have A LOT of time to train. What type of program/schedule would you recommend for someone with ample time to train?
I’m in the same boat. My schedule for the last few months has usually been an Oly workout in the a.m. and a metcon in the p.m. MTW, just Oly on Thursday and Saturday (maybe a metcon on Saturdays, but not usually), Friday I do two metcons, and Sunday is active recovery. I’ve made huge improvements on consistency and technique at moderately heavy and lighter weights (especially with the snatch), but my maxes have been going up very slowly. I’ve been toying with the idea of cutting out the metcons, but how do I take advantage of the extra time while it’s available?
“NASA confirms” “Just kidding.”
That’s not cool. I love the site, i think Shrugged is great but straight up lying to get clicks seriously makes me want to unsubscribe from your emailing list. You guys give out such great information – tactics like this seem unnecessary.
You hear jokes much, Marcel?
Again, I love all the info you guys put out there and I tune into the podcast every Wednesday– this just felt more like buzzfeed style underhanded clickbait thing than a joke. You guys normally don’t do that sort of thing so it caught me off guard – and as a long time listener, I wanted to put that out there.
Did you actually think that NASA was involved with barbell shrugged?
Yea… maybe that’s my bad…. I just figured there would be no chance in hell that anyone would ever take that seriously so I didn’t even think it would be an issue cause it was obviously fake. Ah well.
I bet you learned your lesson from this disastrous blunder CTP! 😛
Lighten up, Francis.
Dude, we make tons of jokes. I get your point, but in this case, NASA has never talked about weightlifting. It’s very clearly a joke, so it stays. If we would have said something like, “NSCA” or “ACSM ” confirms, then we’d be missleading.
Normally I don’t address things like this… but we got emailed by the strength coach AT NASA and they loved the article! Calm down. 🙂
Hi! Any suggestions for an Olympic Lifting coach in the North Texas area?
Am a 47yr old female, crossfitting about 4 years. Totally agree that getting stronger should be first/foremost in plans to succeed at well, anything!
Thanks for any help!
Evening, I’m currently doing a 10 week powerlifting workout to rebuild my base and increase strength. This time however I added in Strict Overhead press and Cleans, as those are two other goals I have in getting stronger. So far it is working. Just wondering if I should have just stuck to the three main power lifts then after the 10 weeks focused on the Oly lifts? Do you think this is ok to do? I do find though with two days of squats, a day of deadlifts and then a day of snatch work and my clean day my knees have been feeling it. Just curious to your thoughts.
I think a better approach would be to squat hard, press, and work your olympic lifts. The deadlift isn’t all that much like the clean or snatch, so working both isn’t optimal. Put your pulling time into working the lifts, learning movement. You’ll pull more anyway.
Chris, Thank you for the info. I’ll work on that after I finish this out. Halfway through the 10 weeks so don’t want to do the shiny object thing and just stop. Thanks again for all you guys do, and tell NASA thanks for the great info 🙂
Hey guys !
I started Starting Strength in october and did have some gains in strength (and some body fat), but decided it’s time to shed it down, so went back to crossfit.
At the same time however, I started paying a couch purely for Power Clean training, as I dont want to be skinny.
My questions: is it possible to do metcons and some strength ? My main concern is CNS – 3x starting strength a week left me DEAD. I would probably modify the strength days to 1-2 strength workout, followed by mobility/gymnastics.
You can get stronger without adding unnecessary bulk. It’s not the programming. Mind your diet. Sounds like that should stile your priority – strength. Adding muscle, form, all that will allow you to perform much better at Crossfit. So, I would still pursue strength, then I would work on my CF and gymnastics skills. Do your WODs, in other words, after lifting. Just make sure you scale down so the conditioning stuff doesn’t compete with your strength work too much.
This article is exactly what I needed to hear! I have a very good lifting coach that has me on a program 3x per week (M ~90 mins, W~50 mins, F~1 hr 50 mins). How would you suggest working in some metcons/skills & gymnastics around that if I’m determined to keep strength a priority?
LOVE all the info you guys put out there!
You can still work it, just do it after your lifting. All the accessory work will, be scaled down, but you SHOULD be working gymnastics stuff after lifting. Hollow body holds. Handstand holds and walks, etc. All super great for your lifting. For WODs, do them. Just, 1. make the movements complimentary to your WL….don’t do the lifts FOR conditioning, and 2. mind your volume. You’re already doing loads of work. Make the WODs easy and you can gain fitness. Make them hard and you won’t be able to recover.
Whoa you guys are fast – Thanks so much for the advice!
Forgot to mention my program I’m on is for the olympic lifts! I work up to a heavy set of 5 on Mondays (squat, snatch, c&j), Wednesdays (squat, push press, deadlift – all four sets of 5 working to a heavy working set), Fridays (squat, snatch, c&j working to a heavy set of 3 (4 sets of 5, 1 set of 3, then backing down to a light set of 8). Hope that makes sense!
I’m considering of doing the program that is being offered plus the foundations of Gymnastics Bodies.
What do you guys think?
I recently discoverd youre website and podcasts, love youre work!
Started out doing metcons 1 year a go, and never had good caoching. Know im training on my own and don have the abillity to afford a coach. Never the les i want to lift weight. I have zero experience outside the lifting in the metcons. Where do i start….any programming to start lifting…get to know the lifts on my own?
From the netherlands
Come check out Flight man 🙂
Since we’re into jokes:
A weightlifter, a gymnast and a crossfitter walk into a bar.
They leave the next morning, each driving respective vehicles.
All of them get pulled over by the police and each were tested for alcohol intoxication by performing feats which they claim they excel in.
The weightlifter squats 100 pounds, 3 reps, no problem.
The gymnasts handstand walks 50 feet, no problem.
The officer concludes the crossfitter is drunk.
“You’re squatting 100 pounds, and doing handstand walks, and both look very ugly.” says the officer.
“Is that a crime?” asks the crossfitter.
The officer replies, “No, but I told you to stop 20 minutes ago”.
Hopefully I’m not too late to jump on this comment train, but what are your recommendations for someone new to Olympic weightlifting? my goals are to become stronger and actually be able to perform those lifts. I have a history of triathlon and powerlifting training as well as metcon stuff. I know you mentioned “not having the mobility” as a poor excuse, but after much mobilization I think I also lack core stability, which I’ve been trying to fix with a strength yoga program. Any feedback would be awesome, thank you! and thanks for all you guys do! my boyfriend and I love you guys!
We did a techniqueWOD series on core stabiliztion that you should definitely look into!
Position and strength are fundamental to weightlifting. You’ll want to address both when starting out.
The first start should be first assessing your ability to get into position (front squat, overhead squat, starting position for snatch and clean, overhead press position) to determine where you lack in terms of range of motion. If you can get into those positions comfortably, you’re off to a good start. If not you’ll need to pinpoint those restrictions and work on them.
2nd you’ll need to start emphasizing good technique and movement patterns and strength from day 1. Start by learning the positions (start, knees, power position then gradually learning the tempo and timing of the snatch and clean movement from the floor. While you do that, work on getting strong in the back and front squat, pulling from the floor, pressing overhead. Eventually you will progress to more traditional snatch and clean from the floor as your technique and strength progresses.
If you downloaded the Flight guide you can see how we use the progression. Early in the Flight program, there will be a lot of emphasis on positions and strength. Later there will be more emphasis on the full lifts as well as strength.
Hope this helps!
I’m really late to the game here with this post. Found myself googling: “Weightlifters that don’t want to compete” and this is one of the articles that popped up. I’m at a crossroads and was curious to you guys’ thoughts on it. I have been focusing on weightlifting for a year now. Have definitely made some #gainz. My technique has improved tremendously as well. I’ve only done one meet, about to do my second soon. Thinking back, I never got into weightlifting for the purpose of wanting to compete. I simply had personal goals I wanted to achieve within weightlifting. I love what a mental and physical challenge weightlifting is. I’m currently a part of a barbell team (for the past 4 months or so) and are required to do meets as a team member. Not sure how I feel about that. Also, I find myself more and more missing gymnastics and CrossFit. Not necessarily metcons, because when I do CrossFit, I’m careful so that it doesn’t effect my weightlifting the next day. I don’t feel I HAVE to rx. And when I do CrossFit lately, I usually will do a non-barbell wod that’s either gymnastics heavy and/or strength endurance like bag carries, tire flips, sled pull/drag, etc. Barbell coach currently programs for the team, very similar to Waxman’s style programming. I was considering going to a barbell wod type programming combined with skill wod? Is that s smart move? I still want to have a heavy weightlifting focus, but would like to work on gymnastics/cf a tiny bit more….is this smart/feasible?
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