The Point: Technique for Olympic Weightlifting
I spend a lot of time on this website and elsewhere discussing weightlifting technique, often in intolerably boring detail. Why technical proficiency is necessary and important is been mentioned with regard to things like CrossFit™ and athletic training, but it occurred to me last night that I can’t think of a time when I’ve said explicitly why it’s important for… weightlifters.
Maybe this is unnecessary and I’m concerned for no reason, but presumably you’ve come to accept my verbosity and affinity for repetition and will not find this an affront to your intellectual magnificence. I find myself giving this explanation to lifters in my own gym when I’m unmercifully hammering them with technical work and starting to wonder if they resent it or understand it.
Anyway, the point is this: The purpose of mastering weightlifting technique is to ultimately make the movements so natural that all of a lifter’s focus and energy can be channeled into producing power. That is, the less of a lifter’s resources are directed into ensuring proper mechanical execution of the lifts, the more of those resources can be directed into aggressive, vicious, explosive and decisive activation of the body.
The reason this issue gets complicated is that in the US, we’re overwhelmingly dealing with adults or at least late adolescents who have athletic backgrounds in sports other than weightlifting. Their introduction and development is occurring relatively late, and as a consequence, the process often looks different than it would in cases of the systematic recruitment and development of children into certain sports.
Primarily this difference is the timeframe in which such development needs to occur. In the ideal situation, motor patterns can be learned and ingrained extremely rigidly very early in youngsters with little or no flexibility limitations. The remainder of a lifter’s career can then be dedicated to developing strength and speed, with the repetition of technically consistent classic lifts with heavy weights further ingraining the skill. (Watch the elite of weightlifting in competition and you’ll notice that their misses typically look essentially identical to their makes with the exception of whatever extremely minor detail caused the miss; in contrast, US lifters’ misses are more likely to look significantly different than their makes.)
Instead of this, US lifters are often attempting to develop technical proficiency (and flexibility) alongside strength and speed. The processes are both abbreviated and conflated in a way that complicates the progression of the lifter considerably. This is not to say a good job can’t be done with US lifters coming to the game late; but it certainly makes it more difficult and special considerations need to be made.
The more time and effort you put into learning the lifts and mastering technical execution in the earliest stages of your foray into weightlifting, the more successful you will be, and possibly as appealing, the less overall time you will need to dedicate to technical work.