We have lift-off!

Olympic weightlifting. I am suddenly obsessed. A couple of weeks ago I attended a weightlifting seminar run by California Strength. Rob Blackwell along with Jordan Weichers and Jaden Washington came to our CrossFit gym, I Will CrossFit, for a full day of coaching and training.


What a great experience. We started off with quite a long warm up which Rob says he does on any day he is lifting (for the record, he has up to 9 sessions a week). It took almost an hour. By the end of it, your muscles and tendons are pretty thoroughly stretched and you’re sweating already. And the lifting hasn’t even begun.

Since I’m no expert, I’ll not try and explain the details of what we were taught. What I’ll do instead is give some of the cues and tips passed on by Rob and the other experts on the day. Things which stuck in my mind and which I’ll be working on as I strive to improve my technique. The day was well structured. We started with some drills to learn the snatch technique. This was followed by time spent working up to a one rep max for each of us. Rob, Jordan and Jaden then showed us how it’s supposed to be┬ádone. They demonstrated the snatch and moved weights which I can only dream of lifting. Totally impressive. We took a break for lunch during which Rob shared some great insights into the world of weightlifting. After lunch it was time for cleans (first we did an abbreviated version of the warm up). In much the same way as the snatch, we started with some drills and then worked on our 1RMs. Jerks were next. The demonstration from the pros was just as impressive for clean and jerks as it was for the snatches. Rob finished up the seminar with some accessory strength exercises.


Jordan (left), Rob (top right) and Jaden (bottom right) showing us how it’s done

On to the cues and tips:

  • the shrug is actually the start of pulling yourself under the bar vs a move to pull the bar higher
  • expect the bar – as the bar reaches its high point in the pull, expect the weight
  • meet the bar in the clean – it should land on your shoulders without hearing the sound of the weight or the spinning of the barbell
  • chest out throughout – pigeon chest
  • eyes up – looking down makes you fall forward
  • weight always on your heels except right at the beginning of the 1st pull when you move it to the balls of your feet
  • pull is almost straight up – Rob showed this to great effect by standing right in front of one of the lifters during their snatch. If the bar is on the right path it shouldn’t hit the person standing there
  • leg drive is upwards – you don’t drive your hips/waist forward – the bar meets the hips/waist as a result of the upwards movement
  • there is no leaning back
  • after full extension is reached, you need to stamp down on your heels as you receive the weight and go into the squat
  • your arms should not be involved in the pull except to guide the bar path – they should be relaxed and loose as the power comes from the leg drive
  • jerk split is forward and back at the same with bodyweight staying down the middle
  • core tight throughout – breath in to tighten everything at the start of the lift

17 year old Jaden Washington with a massive clean and jerk

I realize that these cues and tips may not make too much sense without the context of the lift so please reach out to me if you have specific questions. Some of them are quite general though and I hope they’re useful.

All-in-all it was a fantastic┬áday. I learned a lot. I PR’ed my snatch and my clean. I feel a lot more confident about Olympic weightlifting now but I still have a lot to work on. I forget to breath in at the start (in fact, I breath out) for one and I look down quite often. My arms also swing forward during the final extension. I’m looking forward to continuing my practice and hope to improve my technique to the point were I’m comfortable with the lifts. I Will CrossFit is also planning to start some classes focused on Olympic weightlifting, which will be totally cool.

Thanks for reading. Any cues or tips and tricks from your side? Let me know in the comments.