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3 Things You Are Doing To Help Your Olympic Lifts (That Aren’t Actually Helping)

 Article written by Fletcher Pierce

Different Coaches have different philosophies and secrets for developing the elite athlete. This is a short list of things I have found many athletes do (or don’t do), which they believe are the key to success when they are most likely detrimental to their ultimate goals. Keep in mind that every athlete is different and this list is not without exceptions.

#1 Always Snatching Without Straps 

I can’t tell you how many disgusted looks I have gotten from Olympic lifters when I have pulled out my straps to get in some good snatch work.  Lots of coaches and athletes believe you should only train the snatch without straps to simulate the way it will feel in a competition, to develop your grip strength, and because using straps could easily lead to injury. Here is my rebuttal to these notions; it should be very easy to follow. First of all, straps are not very dangerous in the snatch. Because of the wide grip, it is easy to release the strap without injuring yourself (Not so easy in the clean though, I wouldn’t recommend it). Second, we use the hook grip which lowers the amount of brute grip strength necessary to hold the bar (Unlike a strongman using an axle or farmers walk). Finally, not every workout needs to simulate a competition. In order for an athlete to truly max out their snatch, it is beneficial to remove the element of doubt that comes with grip strength and hand fatigue over the course of a long workout. Not to mention, you will save your hands a world of hurt. 

#2 Mix Grip Max Deadlifts 

Using a Mix Grip Deadlift to simulate a clean pull is like doing jumping jacks to simulate cartwheels. Your body sort of makes the same shape for a split second, but the movement is completely different. First of all, a lifters need to develop their mix grip strength is virtually non-existent. It simply doesn’t replicate any grip ever used by an Olympic lifter. That being said, someone will say, “what about increasing overall strength?” To that I say this, increasing your overall strength with a slightly rounded back and your hips above your knees at the start will not develop your clean of snatch pull strength as effectively as simply doing a snatch or clean pull. I believe there is room for deadlifts in an Olympic Style program, but they are clean and snatch deadlifts that can be directly applied to the Oly lifts (they are used for developing the pull pattern under max loads). The purpose of the Mix Grip Deadlift is to get as much weight as humanly possible to an upright and locked out position, it is an amazing feat what some athletes can do. The problem is that Oly lifters need to develop the ability to accelerate a bar until it is practically floating and then catch the bar in the rack or overhead position, which involves an entirely different set of positions. This means it probably isn’t the most effective use of your time. 

#3 Shrugging Your Shoulders into Your Ears When You Jerk & Snatch (“Active Shoulders”)

This isn’t one that I’ve ever personally been coached on, but I know it is a common misconception for many athletes. Lots of lifters out there shrug their shoulders into their ears when they jerk; the problem is that it isn’t meant to be taken literally. If you shrug your shoulders upward toward your ears, all you are doing is elongating the distance between the bar and your center of gravity. You are also creating more room for instability in the stack of joints that make is possible to hold four hundred pounds over your head, while opening yourself up to an easy trap injury by adding unnecessary strain.  If you don’t understand what your coach is really saying (hopefully) then here is a little explanation. You aren’t supposed to lengthen your torso or strain your traps, you simply want to active your traps, upper back, and shoulders to create the most stable position possible. Wherever you are right now, you should be able to reach your arms up in the jerking position and tighten your upper back, shoulders, and traps without your shoulders moving toward your ear. This is the stable position you want to replicate.  For most people, literally shrugging your shoulders into your ears when you jerk will just create a whole new list of problems to work on.


9 thoughts on “3 Things You Are Doing To Help Your Olympic Lifts (That Aren’t Actually Helping)

  1. dumb question…do you still hookgrip when you use straps?

  2. depends on person preference I guess, but I would say the average person does not hook grip with straps. For me, the straps add too much material to hook at the same time.

  3. Interesting take on the straps. I would have never thought of that. I’m a bit nervous to try that, however.

  4. Good article Fletcher. Thanks

  5. I don’t know many Olympic lifting coaches who are against straps. For repetitive sets from the hang or to hit a high volume of lifts in your training, they are a necessity. You can’t let your hands getting torn up limit the volume of lifts you can handle.

  6. Olympic coaches, no. But if you want to see the mass illiteracy when it comes to straps, just watch one of our next deadlift videos and read the comments.

  7. 1 and 2 are great but #3 needs some discussion I think. Shrugging the shoulders up to your ears like Kendrick Ferris or Jon North do is nearly impossible for many lifters, even though it works well for them. I would say that allowing the shoulders to “settle” in a snatch or jerk contributes to greater injury potential and overall instability than keeping an active shoulder. Part of this is overcoming the crossfittishness from doing Nancy or other higher rep/low weight OH squats where folks just tend to get lazy with the barbell. I’ve found that one of my most useful cues for lifters struggling with OH stability is to KEEP PRESSING the barbell up in the bottom of a snatch/OHS/jerk recovery/etc. I’ve never had to tell someone to relax their shoulders to get them away from their ears. You’ve noted that you’ve never coached anyone according to this advice and I certainly haven’t either… perhaps it’s less of an issue than the opposite problem.

  8. This is the video I thought of about the snatch/strap thing:

  9. You notice how the Chinese always point their heads down when they snatch and jerk? That’s because they do “shrug their shoulders into their ears” in the receiving position. You may have a lot of experience, but don’t go thinking your way is the best and only way, my friend. “I know one thing. That is that I know nothing” – Socrates

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