3 things we have beginner lifters do first – TechniqueWOD



This week on TECHNIQUEWOD, we talk about the 3 things we use with all of our new Weightlifters. This is a simple and effective strategy for improving your technique and strength as quickly as possible.

1. Start with the overhead squat test.

If you can compete this drill then you probably don’t have any serious mobility restrictions keeping you from performing the Olympic lifts correctly.

Start with a light PVC pipe and hold it overhead with a snatch grip. As a twist, turn your hands up towards the sky and let the pipe sit on your open palms. This is little a tricky, but enforces full external rotation at the shoulder, which ultimately makes for a more stable overhead position.

You might fail this test at first. Or, you might struggle outright. But the more you can practice reaching and holding this upright position in the squat – without wrenched shoulders and flopping heels – the better off you’re going to be.

Get comfortable and you’ll see a big improvement in your lifts, guaranteed.


2. Know your power position.

The secret to lifting a heavy barbell is keeping it as close as possible to your center of mass. This is why the power position is such an important idea in weightlifting.

During the second pull of the snatch, for example, the barbell should brush (not crush!) your pelvic crease. Right where your torso and thighs meet. For the clean, that contact point will be just a few inches down, right at pocket height.

If you miss that mark and make contact lower on the thighs, the load will feel much heavier than it should. That’s obviously terrible for performance. Further, if you make a habit out of hitting a different spot every time, then you’ll always struggle to master your technique. It’s like trying to win a race with your emergency break on. The barbell is already heavy enough without you handicapping yourself, right?

Practice proper hip contact over and over again, until it becomes second nature. That’s the single best thing you could right now to accelerate your progress.

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 4.04.39 PM

At the crease and pockets, ideal for the snatch and clean. @klokov #stronglikebull


3. Finally, squat for strength!

Mastering the Olympic lifts is a huge challenge. It takes a lot of time and repetition before the movements become engrained and barbell loads start to increase.

For that reason, you can’t afford to skip the heavy lifting during the early learning stages. All of those practice snatches and cleans are great, but the light weights will never make you strong. Until you’re capable of snatching double bodyweight, for example, your weightlifting loads won’t be heavy enough to stimulate serious strength adaptations.

That does take time, so you must start accumulating progressive, heavy sets of squats as quickly as you can. Also, you really should be spending a lot of time performing deadlifts, presses, rows, and other heavy assistance exercises as well.

The stronger you can get all over, the easier it will be to maintain those tough new weightlifting positions.


Got questions for us?

Just leave them in the comments below. We’d love to help you get started on your Weightlifting journey. Until next time, you can find more TechniqueWOD right here.

Move well,

17 Responses to “3 things we have beginner lifters do first – TechniqueWOD”

  1. Trent

    “Until you’re capable of snatching double bodyweight, for example, your weightlifting loads won’t be heavy enough to stimulate serious strength adaptations.” Did you mean clean? Don’t think there are too many people who can snatch twice body weight

    • Chris

      Nope, we mean snatch. This is exactly why many new lifters struggle to get strong. They need more balance. Work technique, and really drive up strength on the fundamental strength movements.

      • Trent

        Only one person over 94kgs has ever snatched twice bodyweight, but it’s a good goal I guess.

        • Chris

          Well, yeah, it gets harder with weight eh? Perhaps not twice for the big boys, but what’s for sure…If you weigh 100 kilos and are still struggling to snatch that for easy reps, squat is still the go to strength builder. Cheers

  2. simon

    what if the personne who tried the overhead squat test got a back probleme … like on the lombard ! I coach people and a couple a persone told me my back hurt when I do my ( overhead squat, back squat ). What can they do ?? core exercise ?

  3. Ari

    Great video as usual guys!
    What about heavy pulls to increase strength?

    • Chris

      You mean snatch pulls and clean pulls? Only if you’ve got the strength to keep position. Most new lifters don’t.

  4. Peter

    What sort of set/reps/percentages are you taking on back or front squats

    • Chris

      I would prioritize tempo work and pause sets on both, plus just a bunch of submax sets with great form. 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps is the classic formula. Progress at least weekly by 5-10 pounds.

  5. ErR

    I’d love a little more descriptive info on shoulder position (sepcifically the scapula) when overhead squatting, pressing, etc…

    Does one shrug the shoulders and let the blades float as they naturally do, or “put them in your back pockets”. I’ve been told the latter is more stable. But I’ve also read (Starting Strength) that the former is correct to avoid impingement.

    Which is it, and why?

  6. jamie

    Great video! going to be working on the squat test this week in my 5am class. if i can only get them to buy-in to not holding back on squatting heavy so they can “kill” a metcon…..

  7. Will

    I have long arms and my power position for the clean is way too low on my thigh. How can athletes with longer arms get into a better power position for the clean? Wider grip? Focus on rowing the weight into the body?

    • Chris

      Wider grip, yes. You can also play with a rowing motion, once you’re comfortable enough to keep your form consistent.

  8. Melanie

    I’ve got some mobility issues (can’t pass OHS test) and my max OHS is only 65lbs…My question is, should I stop doing the lift all together in WODs until I have the mobility? My old coach would have me sub heavier front squats during the metcons instead…Any advice on hip and shoulder mobility would be great. Thanks!

  9. Chance

    In regards to an optimal squat stance, in the books Starting Strength and Olympic Weightlifting both authors call for the feet to be turned out twenty five to thirty degrees , however in Mobility WOD a stance with toes pointed straight or slightly outwards is considered optimal. Are they both correct, but for different reasons, or is only one right?

    • Chris

      This will be a matter of individual preference. I think you’ve got two good approaches to try. On a light day, adjust your stance and see what best suits you. Ultimately, that’s the only thing that matters.


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