In weightlifting as in any sport, you often find what works by discovering what doesn’t. In the quest to snatch your own body weight or make an Olympic Team, you have to always poke and prod, examining every detail. What I find interesting in reading articles about weightlifting is there are coaches who use the word “never” a lot when describing what not to do. “Your shoulders should never be behind the bar once the bar reaches the knees. You should never feel the tension on your quads when setting up to pull, never pull controlled from the floor you should pull as fast as you can.” etc. I could go on and on. The most important thing I’ve learned is lifters learn much quicker when they are made to focus on what to do rather than the “nevers.”
This also applies to coaching philosophy. What if a lifter is much stronger pulling from the floor feeling tension in the quads with shoulders behind the bar? What if a lifter can position the bar more easily by pulling controlled from the floor? You never stop learning so when teaching beginners how to lift properly always seek to find cues and phrases that make sense to them. Coaches it’s not about you or your ego or what you know it’s about doing the job lifters and athletes are paying you to do. Helping them learn complicated movements in ways they understand. There are lifters I’ve coached for years who began with me and sometimes during a training session I’ll have a lifter try a setup that didn’t work for them in the beginning. It could have been lack of mobility or being generally weak but 2-3 years later it might be worth giving it a shot it you plateau.
Recently I was coaching one of my lifters named Renaldo. There are some video’s of him on our Instagram page.. Renaldo used a wide foot stance for his build for years. One day he was struggling with his snatches so I recommended he strip the weight down and try a slightly different setup. He was getting pulled forward and knocking the bar out front. I had him move his feet in a couple of inches, and push his knees out to the side slightly when he set up. I also lowered his hips so his shoulders were just above and even slightly behind the bar. He didn’t like it at first but after a few sets his snatch reps started flying up. We kept going up in weight until he hit a PR at 90 kg. He has PR’d in his clean as well.
There are some drills and tests I like to do to test the “never’s” I hear from new lifters. “My old coach said you should stay over the bar as long as possible before extending” exclaimed one shorter female lifter I coach. “Well that’s generally true for taller lifters but it has to be hard for someone as short as you. Let’s test this and see.” I put her through a drill that exposed the strongest starting position for her from the floor. I had her grab a bar loaded to 35 kg with a snatch grip, stand erect then lower it to mid shin and hold it here as long as possible. I instructed her as I do with everyone to keep her chest open, lower back tight.. After a minute she began to feel fatigue. “Keep holding.” I said and she did but began to shift her body into the strongest position she could to continue holding onto the bar. At the start, her shoulders were over (in front) of the bar but as she began getting fatigued she shifted the weight to her quads, lowered her hips, pushed her knees out and placed her shoulders back more above the bar. She did that on instinct to find the optimal start position. There are other tests I have but this one is the most useful in finding what’s optimal for each lifter. Some stay over the bar and some even have their shoulders behind the bar.
To the coaches who say you should “never” place your shoulders behind the bar from the floor, or as it passes your knees well look at the lifters who do. I’m glad no one said that to Taner Sagir who pulled from start to finish with his shoulders behind the bar. He began lifting at 15 and by 19 won Gold in the Athens Olympics. He had a short career, but he can call himself what many can’t. Champion.