Ask Greg: Weightlifting Technique Development
Greg Everett

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.

Free Snatch Learning Manual

When you subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive training tips from Greg Everett & more.

Greg Everett is the owner of Catalyst Athletics, coach of the USA Weightlifting National Champion team Catalyst Athletics, author of the books Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches and Olympic Weightlifting for Sports, director/writer/producer/editor/everything of the documentary American Weightlifting, co-host of the Weightlifting Life Podcast, and publisher of The Performance Menu journal. He is an Olympic Trials coach, coach of over 30 senior national level or higher lifters, including national medalists, national champion and national record holder; as an athlete, he is a fifth-place finisher at the USAW National Championships, masters national champion, masters American Open champion, and masters American record holder in the clean & jerk. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, and sign up for his free newsletter here.

Read more by Greg Everett

Coops 2012-05-21
What about the other side of the coin? Max out with whatever you can, whenever you can but often as possible. Sure, the technique will not be perfect but it will teach you to handle your maximum weight and will teach you the mental side of weightlifting too.

I feel that this approach, when used responsibly for the more mature athlete, could offer greater progress as the technique will come as the total number of reps increases but also that the technique tweaks that are kept are the ones that offer the lifter to lift more weight for their specific level of mastery.
Greg Everett 2012-05-21
Coops -

I disagree with the idea that technique will come w reps. The only technique that will come is the one that's practiced. If taking lifts to max forces the lifter to lift differently from what is ideal, this is what his lift technique will evolve into. You can see this happen even in short training cycles w this kind of training, even w relatively experienced athletes. And your maximum weight will not be what it could, so learning to handle it isn't as good as it sounds.

That doesn't mean I don't think that approach can never be a good one, but this question is about developing technique in a new lifter - not training an experienced lifter. Even Ivan Abadjiev himself has said the bulgarian program is not appropriate for beginners.
Natasha 2014-10-13
Hey Greg! I just purchased your book, Olympic Weightlifting.....I'm new to lifting and am following your technique program. All I have is a 45 lb barbell, is this Ok for me to start with and when in the program should I start adding weight? Also, I noticed for the first day it says to do the snatch, clean and jerk demo s, does that mean to just read through those or should I practice them too? Thanks!
Greg Everett 2014-10-13
Natasha -

You start adding weight when you can do the movements properly with the empty bar. If all you have is a 45 lb bar, it will have to do.

The demos on day 1 is referring to a coach demonstrating and explaining the snatch and clean & jerk to a new athlete so they know what they're doing.
Natasha 2014-10-13
Thank you for your response. That all makes sense. I don't have a coach, so I suppose I'll keep reading and watch some videos. Thank you again! Enjoying your book, it's descriptive and intelligent.
Nick 2014-12-17
Hi Greg. I started beginning of this year with these lifts. My cleans have developed quite well. However I have a problem with the snatch because of my concern of how much I can overhead squat. So as my technique improves on the snatch I want to increase weights but then I wanna increase weights on my overhead squats to be confident enough to snatch!?
Please can you post an article ( or if you already have pls repost) on the correlation between the overhead squat and the snatch. Its kinda breaking my confidence. My power snatch is bigger than my snatch.
Greg Everett 2014-12-18
Nick -

Honestly there really isn't a strong correlation. Some lifters can overhead squat huge weights and can't snatch anywhere near them; others can snatch far more than they can overhead squat. There's no guarantee that increasing your OHS will goose your snatch along.

That said, if the primary issue holding back your snatch is a lack of confidence in a low receiving position, more overhead squat work can help. I would also include snatch balances in that equation. Stop power snatching and squat everything, and hold in the bottom for 3 seconds every single rep. That will do more for you than increasing your OHS weight.

Look at this article, this article and this article.
Nick 2014-12-23
Thanks for responding Greg. And thanks for the articles.
So Im gonna take the snatch balance then as the reference point rather than the overhead squat. I have a feeling that I can snatch more than I can overhead squat.
Ive ordered your book as well by Daniel Camargo.
If you ever do a seminar in South Africa that would be great
Free Snatch Manual
When you join our newsletter!

Help support our free content!

Weightlifting Movement Assessment & Correction by Quinn Henoch

Subscribe to the Performance Menu Magazine