Cleaning Up the Olympic Lifts


Cleaning Up the Olympic Lifts

Tom Morrison


There is nothing I love more in the world than weightlifting! No two people lift the same and no two coaches teach the same. There are hundreds, if not thousands of strength drills, speed drills, mobility drills, programs, you name it. All of that…. And it’s just two lifts, the snatch and the clean & jerk.

An advanced athlete is someone that can do the basics extremely well and can perform these with precision and consistency. A beginner athlete should only focus on those things. Precision first of all, can you hit every position needed to make a good lift and can you do it at speed? Then, could you take a video of 100 lifts and be able to tell them apart? Only really when you have your consistency should you think about loading up, by all means go as heavy as you want in the rack but don’t cut corners with your technique or you’ll get stuck later on down the line.

Perform the basics extremely well with precision and consistency.  Play the long game! Strength is cool, technique is cool, but both combined are a recipe for success.

Here are some of the common errors I see with lifters all across the board, beginner to advanced and a few things you can add to your practice and warm ups to start hitting some PR’s in the near future. Remember, strength programs aren’t worth a damn if you can’t move well!

Losing the bar in front or jumping forward: hip snatch

Probably the most disheartening one, being under the bar and it just falling in front of your very eyes reminding you of the disappointment you have become as you still sit there in your squat. Missing your triple extension* will be a massive cause of this, especially for newbies. Wanting to be fast under the bar can cause you to be too fast at the wrong point (a favourite saying of mine is “be fast but don’t rush it”) if you mess up your timing then you’re basically going to have to try to adjust in mid air and that will only get you so far.

You have to remember that when you make contact with the bar, that bar is weightless for a moment and in that moment you have all the time in the world to get under IF you finish your pull and close the hip at the right point – which is immedately after triple extension. The hip snatch is a great drill for giving you confidence in that position and really lets you see how much power comes from that small hip extension!

*triple extension occurs when your ankles, knees and hips reach full extension, therefore achieving their maximum power output.



Losing the bar behind: muscle snatch

Mini heart attack anyone? I hate backwards escapes and I HATE when people refuse to jump away! YOU SHOULD ALWAYS PRACTICE YOUR ESCAPES!!!

That being said, if you’re going to fully commit to a lift and have no fear, it’s gonna happen. One of the main causes can simply be down to the bar path, any major deviation from a straight line will cause you to have to work harder to pull the bar back in on yourself, therefore making extra work for yourself – and no one likes that.

The muscle snatch is good for getting you to keep the bar close and help you to visualise what should be happening on the way down, great for warm ups too! Just make sure that you don’t start to develop an early arm pull, it is an assistance exercise not a part of the movement!



Unstable jerk: elbow position

With the 4 basic skills: position, motion, changing levels and penetration. The one I spend most of my time correcting is “motion” which is moving correctly from one position to another. Any extra movement that isn’t needed is energy wasted. Ever notice the people with the most consistent form at the CrossFit games also seem to be the fittest?

Elbow positioning during the dip in your jerk movements is critical for having a solid receiving position! If they move as you dip, it’s game over, you will plateau at some point. The fancy drill for this one is… Practice.



Catching too high: hip clean

This was a big one for me, if your mobility is not up to scratch and you subconsciously have no confidence in your deep squat, you’ll often find that you’ll power clean then ride the weight to the bottom rather than getting under straight away. This is wasted energy, which we don’t like.

Your arms will only be able to yank a weight up until a certain point, you HAVE to start catching in the bottom. The hip clean is great for practicing fast elbows and speed under, plus it’s a great movement to load up! It’s crazy how many athletes I have met that don’t know what they can hip clean! Again, it give you confidence in that position and trains that contact point, add it to your training immediately!





Forward bar path: weight in heels

I say weight in heels with caution, what I mean is, you need to be thinking about loading the hips and having all of the foot on the ground and maintaining a nice, upright torso.

This is probably THE most common error especially when it comes to PR time, that slight shift in weight can have dramatic effects with heavy loads. And no, a strength program won’t fix it. Your dip and drive should not resemble the loading process for a box jump, the goal is not to jump forward but more to accelerate vertical force without flying off the ground.

I would definitely recommend filming your footwork when you’re doing jerks and practice, practice, practice until you never want to jerk again… Then practice some more and you might start getting somewhere!



One more tip I would like to give to all that have made it this far is the secret to everything, the holy grail of weightlifting as it were:

“Weight is irrelevant, the bar is eternal”

You are always going to get stronger, your numbers are always going to go up and down but no matter what, you’ll always have a barbell in your hands. If you know how to feel the bar and own every position then your development as a lifter will be a smooth one. Leave anything to chance, and then you’re guessing!

Check out my Facebook Page for more Olympic lifting technique and drills!



*Editor’s additions:

Getting comfortable with positions of the bar:



Hip Uppercuts to propel bar height:

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