Training Movement Patterns to Improve Olympic Lifts

When first learning the Olympic lifts during an introductory CrossFit class, you may remember the coach telling you this popular phrase over and over, ‘Straight bar path!’ The coach is probably referring to the line that the bar travels up your body as you are performing a lift. Using the term ‘straight’ has the connotation that the bar should travel in a straight line. However, this is not often the case and can look more like a smooshed S curve rather than an actual line. This is not to say that maintaining a straight-ish bar path isn’t important. Keeping the bar close to your body for the duration of a lift increases efficiency as the bar follows the shortest distance between two points. 

Oftentimes, coaches only teach about the importance of bar path and neglect to consider how the athlete moves their own body to generate the movement of the barbell. Basically, asking themselves the question, ‘Does the lifter have the proper athletic movement patterns that transfer over to weightlifting?’ Is the athlete explosive (can they jump)? Is the athlete fast (can they sprint)? These are two essential components of being a good weightlifter.

So, if you are an athlete who struggles with the Olympic lifts, try shifting the focus away from just bar path and practice the following drills to teach your body the movement patterns it needs to successfully complete the lifts. 

Backward Medicine Ball Toss and Jumping Good Morning

The purpose of these two movements is to work on the rapid extension of the hips (just like you see in the snatch and clean) while working against resistance. For both of these movements, think about exploding through your legs to forcefully open your hips. Watch examples of the two movements using the links below:

Plyometric Push-Ups

This movement helps develop rapid elbow extension that is essential for successfully locking out snatches and jerks. Once you’ve lowered yourself to the ground, think about driving through your hands to lift your body and hands off the ground as quickly as possible. Speed is your friend.

Concentric and Eccentric Pull-Ups

These two movements help strengthen the elbow flexors and are helpful in aiding elbow flexion during the pulling portion of the snatch and clean. For concentric pull-ups, you want to start from a dead hang (arms straight with shoulders engaged) and then slowly pull yourself up until your chin passes above the bar. For eccentric pull-ups (also known as negatives), you start with your chin above the bar and slowly lower yourself down until your arms are straight. Try to use a 3-5 second count when pulling yourself up and lowering yourself down.