The Best Weightlifting Technique

13-08-2019 Jeremy Regensburg

My old coach once said that while he certainly doesn’t know everything, he had learned from many years of teaching that far too many people spend an exorbitant amount of time getting lost in details and looking for “that one trick”. 

After all, there is an endless amount of technical variation within weightlifting, but when we snatch we all need a strong back and we must all be explosive from the hips and legs. There are no concessions to be made there, but you can play around with many other aspects of the lift

Foot Position

At the time his statement did confuse me. Does this mean that for instance the foot position doesn’t matter? Sure, there have been entire studies dedicated to the transfer of weight over the foot during the clean or snatch, but are these studies really definitive? Can the takeaways from these studies be blindly applied to everyone who steps into your gym? Take a look at former Kazakh olympian Svetlana Podobedova. Her foot position at the beginning of the snatch is extraordinary, heels almost touching, but it has still won her gold medals at the Olympics. It’s rare, but she is not the only one, since the Japanese Yoshinobu in the ‘60s used that same foot position to win a gold medal. Still, they are not the norm and should probably not be a prime example of ‘ideal technique’, despite it being a very viable ‘technique deviation’ in terms of lifting heavy weights. 

What about jerk technique, is one variant superior? The majority of weightlifters at a competitive level use the split jerk. However, recently several athletes - like the Chinese Lu Xiaojun and Shi Zhiyong - have used squat jerks to lift incredible weights, causing people to speculate that the squat jerk may become more dominant in the future. Whether this is true is beyond my saying, but the infamous Pyrros Dimas became a weightlifting legend with mostly power jerks/push jerks, winning 4 consecutive olympic medals, 3 of which were gold. Again, this does not mean you should stop doing split jerks, but it is still another sign that you should not be too dogmatic about one particular way of doing things. 

Head Position

Another example; where should a weightlifter be looking during a squat or the catch of a snatch? The common answer would be forwards or up, but some athletes like the Chinese olympian Kang Yue consistently look down. While this is somewhat unconventional and sometimes undesirable - because it may cause her to lean too far forward - it has still earned her a very respectable fourth place at the Olympics. Some people thrive on a ‘technique deviation’ like this, in this particular case probably because it almost forces the shoulderblades to stay close to the back of the spine and stabilize the weight overhead.

So what is the best technique?

I don’t know. I try to look at it from a biomechanical standpoint as a ‘base’ to teach beginning athletes. From there, I try to think in ‘cause and effect’. Is there a deviation? Okay, what causes the deviation and what does it result in? From there, we can work with it. That’s the human part of coaching, which goes beyond dogmatically adhering to “one method”. If you don’t understand that long-legged lifters often have to stay over a barbell longer when cleaning, we can talk about biomechanics and anthropometry there. That’s not the hard part. The hard part is when you’re on the floor and you adjust their technique but it hurts, they lack mobility, it ‘feels bad’ or suddenly they start missing lifts all over the place. And you know, sometimes it’s okay to say “I don’t know.” It’s not a nice feeling to admit it but I think it shows integrity in a coach (and an athlete) when you admit you don’t know everything, are willing to learn and don’t become dogmatic in your methods. 

I’ve heard several high-level coaches say that they didn’t know what was “the best”. They knew what they knew and applied it the best they could. Aside from that, you can keep learning but that’s about it. As a coach it is your task to help your athletes improve, not to prove a point. If I can help an athlete by making him or her do something that directly contradicts everything I have ever learned, so be it. If I have to adjust my vision or training methods to accommodate an athlete, so be it. If that means I have to admit I do not know what the best weightlifting technique is, that it varies depending on many factors or may even not exist, so be it.

Leave your ego at the door, right?

Jeremy Regensburg

About Jeremy Regensburg

Jeremy is a competitive olympic weightlifter, occasionally participating in powerlifting meets as well. He has coached kids with selfdefense, the elderly with retaining their vitality, competitive athletes to meets and injured people back to health. Jeremy is an olympic weightlifting coach at UnScared CrossFit and the owner of www.jemfit.net

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