11 Nov Progressing With The Olympic Lifts – An Experience With Greg Everett
“There is literally no other sport that challenges your strength, skill, and mental powers more fully than weightlifting.” ~Arthur Drechsler
There’s such power in explosively lifting heavy weights overhead.
I’ve always been impressed with the athleticism, explosive strength, and dynamic mobility that’s required to perform the Olympic Lifts.
I believe that the Olympic lifts (snatches, clean and jerks) are really the pinnacle of strength and performance training.
As I write this, I’m still sore.
That’s because I just finished an outstanding Olympic weightlifting seminar led by Coach Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Here’s what I mean.
If want to grow and develop your skills as a strength athlete or fitness enthusiast, you have to be bold and take actions to improve yourself all the time – take workshops and seminars, get coaching, and do what you need to do to keep moving forward in your own journey.
Get outside of your comfort zone as much as you possibly can.
That’s one reason why I decided to take this weekend seminar, I want to continue to develop myself and get better so that I can help others better themselves.
There’s no question that I have a passion for training with kettlebells, but to move further along the strength and performance continuum (I’ll talk more about this later), the Olympic lifts are the most technically demanding of anything we do related to strength and performance training.
Because they require maximum strength and the highest level of technical proficiency to be successful.
(Damn, I wish I started Olympic weightlifting earlier in my training career!)
Think about this.
Two full days learning the technical progressions of just 3 lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk.
That should tell you how much there is the these lifts.
And, the ONLY way to get stronger with them is the practice them a lot with heavy loads.
To get stronger, you have to train stronger.
These lifts aren’t something you “dabble” with, at least if you want to be any good with them.
But, the Olympic lifts aren’t for everyone.
You really need to understand the benefits of the lifts and you have to be committed to learning how to perform them correctly.
That may mean being REALLY patient and not “bailing” if you don’t pick up the skills quickly.
You also have to know WHY and HOW they fit into your training approach.
As with any training method, you have to know why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Never do something just to do it or because it looks cool or whatever.
Do it because you understand it and know how it contributes to your specific goals.
And, no matter what you think about CrossFit, one thing they’ve done is bring great attention to the sport of Olympic weightlifting.
My approach to strength is really simple, focus on the fundamentals.
Fundamental exercises like squats, deadlifts, swings, get ups, presses, clean, jerks, and snatches.
For me, these are the highest value exercises to address my long term training goals, so they are “my fundamentals.”
Kettlebells, barbells, and bodyweight training are what I completely focus on in my own training.
There’s nothing more fundamental about about achieving a high level of athleticism, strength, and mobility like demonstrating heavy barbell snatches or clean and jerks.
I realize many readers here are kettlebell enthusiasts (as I am), but to progress along and take your training to another level, the Olympic lifts may be that crucial next step in your training journey, depending on your goals.
“Do the thing, have the power.” ~Emerson
Olympic weightlifting is pure power.
Can kettlebell training and Olympic weightlifting co-exist?
Absolutely they can.
They are similar, but different (a big topic for later).
This weekend’s seminar was another outstanding experience in my own journey and I’ll summarize some key learnings and resources for you below, whether you’re new to weightlifting or simply improve your performance the with lifts.
What would stop you from learning and performing Olympic weightlifting?
Age, access, skill?
The reality is there’s nothing stopping you.
Kettlebells are certainly more “accessible” for most, but there’s always a way for get what you want if you’re committed.
For me, the Olympic lifts fit perfectly into the long term training plan, although I admit I have a long way to go to be where I want.
But, I’m willing to work hard to get better.
There’s this thing about TALENT vs HARD WORK.
I’m in the camp of hard work, because I’ve had to work my ass off to do things like press 1/2 bodyweight with a kettlebell or deadlift 2.5 times bodyweight.
I don’t claim to be the most “elite” lifter, but I am a workhorse as a strength athlete and I always work hard to get better.
I work hard on improving my skills and getting stronger.
I work to be the best version, the strongest version of myself and do it as SAFELY as possible.
Isn’t that what it’s all about?
The truth of the matter is that the Olympic Lifts are hard and you have to be patient with them.
You could spend years evolving your strength skills with the Olympic lifts.
That’s such a great thing that we can spend years improving our skills and working towards mastery.
If you look at basic bodyweight exercises, kettlebell training, powerlifts and basic barbell lifts, Olymic weightlifting is the hardest thing out of the group to do really well.
Explosive strength with maximum load is an awesome challenge.
And, the truth is there is NO WAY to get good with these lifts unless you really focus on them.
So, let me tell you about the weekend experience.
SATURDAY: DAY ONE
The seminar was fantastic.
If you want to improve your weightlifting techniques, this is a seminar you should strongly consider.
I would say it’s not for raw beginners, as you should probably have about a year of experience under your belt (as recommended).
I’ve been training with the Olympic lifts for almost 2 years, but I know that to really excel with them, you have to specialize.
That’s just the truth of the matter.
And, I have not immersed myself in the lifts, at this point, as I should have (just being honest).
Anytime you have an opportunity to work with and learn from a top coach like Greg Everett, you have to jump at the opportunity if you really want to get better.
Great coaching is invaluable, no matter what you’re trying to get better with.
One thing I will say, and even Greg admitted this at the seminar, there is no standard in Olympic weightlifting.
This means that there will be many different styles and different progressions to learn proper weightlifting.
Having personally learned now from top coaches like Danny Camargo, Glen Pendlay, and now Greg Everett, and I can tell you they all are different and in how they teach the lifts and progressions.
But, there are certain principles and technical standards that are universal between them.
Saturday was spent entirely on learning the snatch and the snatch progressions.
The Catalyst methodology of training progressions is different from what I learned from other coaches, but highly effective and I learned new technical details to the snatch that will greatly help me moving forward in my training.
Remember that anytime you can learn just a few key insights or tips and then apply them to your training, it can make a massive difference in your training and results.
Those key insights are priceless for continued improvement.
For example, in the receiving position of the snatch (the overhead barbell position in the “catch phase” is the receiving position) I was catching the bar too far back and not directly over my center of mass.
Resetting my overhead position will greatly benefit my snatch performance moving forward, as I’ll have increased strength and overhead stability with the lift.
Unfortunately for me, it was during the snatch sessions on Saturday afternoon that I somehow aggravated my right shoulder.
While I can’t say for sure, my guess is that the excessive back position in the snatch contributed to an encroachment of the subacromial space in my shoulder that irritated the rotator cuff (specifically the supraspinatus tendon).
Later Saturday night and into Sunday, my typically pain-free and “healthy” right shoulder was a bit uncomfortable.
KEY LEARNING: Listen to your body.
I decided Saturday night that I was not going to push things with the clean and jerk on Sunday based on how my shoulder was feeling. (As I write this, the shoulder is feeling significantly better and as a former physical therapist, I’ve taken my rehab into my own hands as I’ve learned to do through the years).
Whatever seminar or workshop you take, YOU MUST listen to your body and not push things if you have some kind of injury or problem while at a workshop.
It’s actually one of the hardest things to do because you have to check your ego and forget about trying for a PR at workshop, unless you’re up for the task (which I was not).
As always, TRAIN SMART and train for the long term.
Anyway, the progressions we learned were fantastic.
While I had read about the Catalyst progressions for the snatch, to actually go through them in the workshop and de-contruct the snatch step by step was really valuable.
In learning these lifts, and just like other technical exercises, it’s all about the proper sequence of progressions to effectively learn the motor control pattern.
There’s no better way to learn the proper progressions and technical aspects of the lifts than with a “live” seminar.
And, this seminar was “hands on” and very active, meaning you’re on your feet all day and working.
There was a short lecture in the beginning, but the entire weekend was working on the progressions and lifts.
After all the progressions, we then put it all together and started snatching.
We were encouraged to load the bar and take things to where we felt “comfortable” whether that meant working towards a PR or whatever we felt comfortable with.
This is when that “ego thing” comes into play, right?
Do you go all out and go for a PR or do you just focus on improving your skill?
I’ve been in situations like this before and it’s an individual thing.
You have to play it out based on fatigue, skill level, and where you are that day.
Like I mentioned earlier, I started to feel “something” going on in the right shoulder, so playing it smart and not getting injured is always going to be my first priority (if you’re a reader, you already know that’s a big part of my philosophy).
All in all, day one was absolutely fantastic, I learned a ton, but just had the minor issue with my shoulder.
SUNDAY: DAY TWO
Day two started off with learning the jerk progressions.
The shoulder wasn’t too bad and I was paying attention to NOT make things worse.
As we did with the snatch, we went through the many progressions for the jerk (11 progressions in all) and then we started to load the bar and get to work.
I should mention that the progressions with all the lifts were done with PVC initially, then to an empty bar, then finally to adding load to the bar (progressions: PVC -> BAR -> BAR plus WEIGHT).
After learning and practicing the jerk, the clean was next.
Progressions, then practice.
And, finally the clean and jerk together.
As in the previous day, we were encouraged to take the loads to the level we felt comfortable with.
And, for me, the shoulder wasn’t bothering me as much as I thought it would, but I took the poundage to a comfortable stop for clean and jerks before ending the day’s training.
After two full days of training and lots of practice with the lifts, most were pretty tired and sore by the end of Sunday, as expected.
The things I learned at the seminar will help me significantly in 2 major ways.
- Improved skill and technique with the lifts.
- Improved ability to effectively coach and progress the Olympic lifts.
Basically, I got better with the lifts and I can help other people get better.
What else could you really want out of a 2 day immersion in Olympic weightlifting?
Greg and his staff were brilliant and helpful to all.
I think everyone who attended had an exceptional experience and I’d easily recommend this seminar to others who want to better learn and develop the Olympic lifts.
If you want to better understand the Olympic lifts, I’d highly recommend reading these great books by Greg Everett.
- Olympic Weightlifting for Sports. (This is the quick and dirty guide to weightlifting. A short, practical guide you can keep with you in the gym and constantly refer to).
- Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches. (This is Greg’s big manual on Olympic Weightlifting. An excellent book and extremely comprehensive).
To find out more about the Catalyst seminars, click here.
And, of course, check out all the great content and resources on weightlifting at Catalyst Athletics.
Olympic weightlifting is a specialized strength skill that represents the highest level of human performance.
If you’re committed to the skill of strength as I am, Olympic weightlifting is the pinnacle you should experience, if you haven’t already.
And, no matter what, always focus on getting better, becoming the best version of you.