CrossFit workouts are becoming more focused on heavy weightlifting as the prescribed weights for competitions on both the local and regional level are increasing each year. In order to stay competitive, all athletes need to master the Olympic lifts. These lifts, the snatch and the clean & jerk, are the most powerful lifts in the world and take a great deal of skill, time, and determination to learn. So how do you know if you’re ready to take on this CrossFit training challenge? Here are 3 CrossFit exercises to master before training the Olympic lifts.
1. FRONT SQUAT
The receiving position for the Squat Clean is a basic front squat. If you have a weak front squat or cannot get into the bottom position of a front squat, then you won’t be able to properly execute a Squat Clean. Additionally, you have to get comfortable in a full front rack position with the bar resting on your shoulders without your hands having to grip the bar for stability. The bottom position of a front squat helps to lengthen and stretch the ligaments involved in an explosive Squat Clean. Training the front squat will greatly improve your ability to perform a heavy Squat Clean.
2. OVERHEAD LUNGES
The lunge stance is the receiving position for the Split Jerk – one of the three Olympic lifts and the most efficient way to get the heaviest weight overhead from your shoulders. However, the Split Jerk is much more explosive and dynamic than a simple lunge. As a weightlifter, you need to be able to perform the movement slow and controlled before violently jumping into a heavy Split Jerk. Try to get comfortable with moderate weight overhead while stepping forward with your front foot into a deep lunge. The goal for depth is when the femur is parallel to the floor. Once you hit that depth, recover by bringing it back to the starting position. A good way to ease into this movement is by training with a heavy kettlebell overhead. After your form is solid with the kettlebell, work your way up to increasing loads on a barbell and then LIFT ALLLL THE WEIGHTS!
3. OVERHEAD SQUAT
The most technical of the Olympic lifts, the Snatch, is known for being the quickest lift of the three and requires the weightlifter to receive the barbell in a full overhead squat. The overhead squat is the sport of Olympic Weightlifting’s ultimate test of stability, coordination, and flexibility – particularly in the shoulders, hips, and ankles. As a CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting Coach, the overhead squat is where I can most clearly spot improper technique and mobility problems. Most weightlifters have trouble in one or more of these areas, therefore this challenging position tests an athlete. Maybe you lack shoulder range of motion or mobility in your thoracic spine, but can still complete an overhead squat. Though you can perform the movement, I can almost guarantee you that you sacrificed core stability and proper positioning by hinging forward and bringing the bar way behind your mid-line. At a light weight, an athlete may get away with sacrificing position. But as the load on your barbell increases, compression forces from over extension will build in your back. If this is happening in your overhead squat position, then you lower back might not so hot the day after some hard training. Working on mobility and good position will pay off in a more proficient overhead squat and greatly increase your competency. Once your overhead squat starts looking nice and you will be on your way to a stronger and more powerful Snatch.
Olympic lifting is extremely technical and takes a lifetime to master. Don’t get frustrated. Have fun with the lifts and don’t be afraid to try BIG WEIGHT! Fun fact: Statistically speaking, the sport of Olympic Weightlifting has one of the lowest rates of injury of all sports. If you don’t make a lift, chuck the bar, and walk away. Hey, if your buddy has to dodge your flying barbell, it’s their fault for being too close to a weightlifter during heavy snatch day. #Gymetiquetteson