Ask Greg: Weightlifting Technique Development
Dan Asks: I’m learning lifts for the first time after 20 years of martial arts, and PTing. My approach at the moment is technique, technique, technique – then when I feel I need the weight to progress the technique to add load so that the load is demanded by my technique progress. Eventually I guess my load will start demanding technique if you know what I mean...
Also I’m following the one way I’ve been taught for a while – then later when nailed – I intend to look around for other ways to improve it – especially for given athletic pursuits
A) do you think this is sound
b) what are the top tips for someone starting out who is dedicated to achieving excellence?
Greg Says: Sounds good to me. It’s definitely easier to master a skill if you’re consistent with your approach. If you spend too much time on the internet reading about different ways to do the same thing, you generally end up spinning your wheels rather than making progress. You can always fine tune things later if you decide it’s necessary.
You do need some amount of weight to completely develop technique. It’s a good idea to stay very light for a while to develop consistency with the basic positions and movements, but the lifts can’t really be performed entirely properly with an empty bar. Graduate your loading conservatively, always making technique a priority, and accumulate a huge volume of accurate practice. This foundation will mitigate the negative effects of poorly performed reps by keeping them a very small percentage of your total training volume.
At any given time, you’ll have a good idea of what kind of weights you can manage well. For example, you may find that you can snatch 70kg all day long perfectly, but when you try to snatch 75kg, your movement falls apart. You can build up the volume at 70kg, i.e. do more doubles, then triples, more sets, etc., doing some singles at 75kg whenever you’re feeling good. As your consistency with those 75kg attempts improves, begin moving your numbers up toward that, starting with more singles at 75kg and reducing the volume at 70kg, then gradually working on regularly making doubles and triples at 75kg.
This doesn’t mean you never snatch above 75kg—it just means you keep those heavier attempts relatively infrequent and continue to ensure that they represent a smaller portion of your snatch volume than the quality reps. Make your weight increases very small—you can jump as little as 1-2 kg at a time—when attempting heavier lifts. This helps maintain technical consistency, largely by preventing changes in movement due to the fear or doubtfulness that often accompany the feeling of a significantly heavier weight.
You do need to attempt heavier weights from time to time, both as a way to measure progress and to train your body to perform the movement with that greater resistance. Doing more reps and volume at lighter weights can be a great foundation, but it can’t replace heavy lifting entirely.