Technique moves the bar

I'll begin tackling this issue with a Question. Can Lasha Talakhadze snatch 223 kg officially (225 in training) on the basis of strength alone? No. However, some strength coaches (Mark Rippetoe) say yes. We will answer why no is correct with empirical science and data collected from the best weightlifting coaches and sports scientists throughout the world for 65+ years now. I will also let Lasha speak for himself in an interview shortly before departing to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olmypic Games. However, let me not get ahead of myself.. A few terms in physics will be defined first before applying their definitions to answer this question.

Mark Rippetoe states to snatch 223 kg technique doesn't matter 6:26 in the video.

The world of physics and mathematics is not my forte. If I can understand them you can too..

Force=mass (size of object) x acceleration (the amount of force necessary to move an object)

Strength (Work)=force x distance (application of force through displacement and distance)

Power= force x distance


(how quickly you can produce force, speed strength)

Nueromuscular coordination=the ability of the nervous system to efficiently recruit a group of muscles to perform specific tasks. Greater ability to produce force

To put more simply strength is the ability to produce force. One is strong enough to squat 700 pounds or to pick up a large boulder. The ability to produce force is required to be strong. The ability to produce force quickly does not. One can be very strong and slow. Power is the ability to produce force quickly. In weightlifting producing maximum muscular tension in the least amount of time is crucial. You cannot be slow and be an adequate weightlifter. Notice force is in both equations for strength (work) and power. Weightlifters are very strong, amongst the strongest athletes on the planet. They are not strong at the expense of being able to produce force quickly. This is where technique becomes extremely important.

Technique is the execution of a task in a skillful or efficient way. Economy of effort. In order for Lasha to snatch 223 kg or 200 kg he must be in precise relationship with the bar from start to finish. The trajectory of the barbell must be kept close to the body, especially when the barbells begins to rise due to the force generated by the lifter. The margin of error to snatch these weights is so small one slight displacement of the bar in any phase of the lift results in a missed lift. The technically efficient lifter beats the less efficient lifter. The ability to produce force quickly and efficiently through technical skill and athleticism is what is necessary for weightlifting.

Weightlifters are strong. Saeid Alihosseini from Iran easily deadlifts 370 kg (full video on his Instagram).

According to L.N. Sokolov in his published work, "The Significance of Speed in Weightlifting and Methods to Develop It" there are 4 skills required for performance in weightlifting.

  1. The speed of a single movement

  2. The ability to switch from one direction to another

  3. The ability to produce maximum muscular force in minimal time

  4. The ability to volitionally relax muscles

Do you have to be strong to accomplish these skills? Yes. However, not at the expense of diminishing power or neuromuscluar coordination.. Sokolov goes on to say, " Weightlifters need to be able to move the body quickly in accordance with the ability to execute a single movement at high speed. For example, in the first phase of the snatch (similarly with the clean and jerk) the knee joints straighten, bend to shift the knees under the bar, straighten again in the explosion, and bend again during the entry into the squat position. All of this occurs in a fraction of a second." From this we can conclude that weightlifters must be able to express strength quickly through different directions (up then down) in order to successfully snatch or clean.. Have you ever seen a weightlifter snatch 200 kg slowly? Or a triple bodyweight clean & jerk? No. I have seen a number of world records in powerlifting be done slowly.

A world record squat in powerlifting

I'm not here to bash powerlifting. I love it. I'm simply comparing the speed requirements of it to weightlifting.

Weightlifter Mart Seim squats 400 kg explosively. Weightlifters are strong and fast.

If weightlifting were a sport where strength were the most important factor, Mart Seim would be the reigning World and Olympic champion holding all world records. He squats Lasha's max for 5 easy reps. Mart also deadlifts close to what he squats. His result in the snatch is 30 kg less than Lasha and 12 kg less in the clean & jerk. The same can be said of a number of U.S. lifters in the past 20 years. Shane Hammon squatted 400 kg multiple times in training. Kendrick Farris back squatted 280 kg for 6 reps, while competing in the middleweight class when it was 85 kg. Yuri Vardanian,competed in the old middleweight class (82.5 kg) during the 1980's. He totaled a staggering 400 kg at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. A total no one has come close to achieving in the last 25 years. His best snatch 182.5 kg and clean & jerk 2224 kg where in competition at the 1984 Friendship Cup.. He went on to clean an unbelievable 230 kg narrowly missing the jerk. His best back squat was 250 kg. Best front squat. 230 kg.

Yuri's son Norik Vardanian is now a coach in the U.S. along with this wife Jenny (formerly Jenny Arthur). I asked him how his father was able to lift so much weight, Was it strength or technical mastery? Norik responded, "It was definitely his technical mastery. He was known for his lack of leg strength but known for his speed and lifting maximum weight with the same technical efficacy as light weights. When he coached me he stressed technique heavily. He would rather I snatch 140 kg with great technique than 170 kg with good technique. He wanted them to be done with the same technical mastery." With this in mind why didn't the stronger U.S. lifters achieve high results in the snatch and clean & jerk? They did not have the ability to express their strength as efficiently as their rivals. This is what technique is. You don't have to be the strongest weightlifter to be the best. You do have to be very powerful and technically efficient.

Yuri Vardanian totals 405 kg at 82.5 kg. Cleans 230 kg which was his max front squat.

This brings me to how weightlifters train. Is there a percentage of time weightlifters devout to strength? Yes. However it's not even close to the majority of spent developing technique then technical consistency in the classical lifts and their variations. As a lifter advances in technical mastery developing power, speed strength and explosive strength with varying intensities of sub-maximum to near maximum weights. Roughly between 85-90% of maximum effort.. Two coaches from the former Soviet Union, Nikolai Laputin, and Valentin Oleshko compiled years of research in their published work, "Managing the training of weightlifters." point out the primary emphasis of training, " When increasing strength, it is necessary, along with the development of the biochemical and morphological structures,, to constantly create conditions for perfecting the coordination connections of the central nervous system. It is advisable that weightlifters train with weights for this purpose because only these intensities improve the contractile ability of muscles and perfect the coordination structure of the central nervous system." There is an emphasis for strength but primarily training is devoted to improving the speed with which muscles can contract and relax and improving the interrelationship between muscles and the central nervous system. In short, the ability to produce maximum force in minimal time. Technique moves the bar.

What does Lasha think about during training and competition? Technique! Go to the 10:30 minute mark and again the 30:35 mark for discussions about how much technique is emphasized

In closing, I want to reiterate a few points. Do you have to be strong to lift the weights Lasha Talakahdze or Naim Suleymanolgu did? Yes, but not by strength alone. The ability to express strength quickly, along great mobility is required for weightlifting. Technique (efficient movement of the body in relationship with the barbell) is how weightlifters express their strength. For decades, coaches around the world have analyzed everything from optimal start position, what kind of squat best serve weightlifters (high bar) and precisely how much strength a lifter needs to reach their potential in weightlifting. If a high hip start to pull a snatch or clean, low bar squats or box squats were effective in improving performance in weightlifting then weightlifters the world over would do it. Every single method to improve weightlifting performance has been tried through various decades. Developing technique enables weightlifters to produce maximum force in minimal time. No matter how strong Hafthor Bjornsson or Brian Shaw are, neither would walk up to a bar loaded to 223 kg and give it a heave ho and successfully snatch it.

This amazing video

Pavel Tsatsouline achieved the rank of Master of Sport in Weightlifting in the former Soviet Union.

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