T Nation

Beginning Weightlifting, Program Critique

Hey CT and others,

I’ve been training efficiently for about a year now but want to start weightlifting. I will be attending a university in September with a weightlifting club but until then I do not have access to a coach. I’ve put together a program that incorporates a few olympic lift variations to help develop some explosive power but I’ll hold off on the full lifts until I join the weightlifting club (and get out of my current gym that doesn’t let me drop the weights.) I’ll upload some form check videos in another topic.

I’m 177cm and currently weigh 68kg. The last week of December I squatted 135kg, deadlifted 140, and benched only 70. My pressing strength is definitely a weak point but I’ve dropped bench now so I definitely think the pressing work needs to be looked at.

I’d really appreciate some feedback on my program or some ideas of other exercises/methods that would help me transition into weightlifting.

A general outline of the methods it incorporates:

  • Light work for olympic variations and push press
  • Wendler’s 531 rep scheme for the deadlift and strict press.
  • For squats, a variation by Simon Tsypkin of the Texas Method with 3 sessions a week: back squat 3x5@75%, front squat 5x3@75%, back squat 5 rep max.
  • accessory work

Day 1:
Snatch grip high pulls from pins (just above knee) 8x3
Conventional deadlift - Wendler’s 531
Snatch grip deadlifts 3x6-8
RDL’s 3x10+
Face pull / cable bicep curl superset 3x12+

  • 40 pullups throughout session

Day 2:
Power cleans from pins (just above knee) 8x3
Push press 5x3
Back squat 3x5 @ 75% (add weight each week)
Pete Rubish back extensions (great for hamstrings) - 3x5 (2 second hold at top)
Single hand dumbbell press 4x10+
pushup / triceps pushdowns superset 3x12+

Day 3:
Snatch high pulls 8x3
Overhead squats ramp up to working weight for front squats - 5x3 @ 75% (add weight each week)
snatch grip deadlifts 3x6-8
RDLs 3x10+
Rear delt flies / bicep superset x3

  • 40 pullups throughout session

Day 4:
Power cleans from pins 8x3
Strict press - Wendler’s 531
Back squat: 5 rep max
Pete Rubish back extensions 3x5 (2 second hold at top)
Xiaojun lateral raises 3x8+
pushup / triceps superset 3x12+

Some extra notes:

  • High pulls and power cleans are being kept pretty light until I’m comfortable with my form and developed some muscle memory.
  • I plan on switching out conventional deadlifts to the clean pull style deadlift once my hamstring flexibility improves. I’ve tried them but it currently causes a lot of strain on my lower back.

I feel that you are using an approach that is a bit too complicated for you level. Honestly if you are serious about Olympic lifting then from now until you get a coach you should simply focus on building great positions as well as overall strength. I feel that it is not a good time to start working with a specific percentage-based progression model. What is important is to build muscle in the right places (at 68kg on 177cm you are underweight to be well equipped to perform in weightlifting… ideally at that height you’d be 85kg or ideally 94kg lifter). So using programs based on improving limit strength might not be your best option right now.

Your exercise selection is not bad to be honest. I could live with that. What I’d like to see is the use of pauses in key positions to amplify mobility and solidity in those key positions.

For example:

  • front squats with a pause in the bottom position (focusing on keeping the torso upright, chest up, feet spreading the floor)

  • front squats with a pause at parallel (focusing on the same elements as above, to improve the quality of your catch)

  • Snatch grip deadlifts with a pause just below the knees

  • Push press with a pause at the bottom of the dip, just prior to the projection (focus on pushing the knees out so that they don’t travel too far forward, keeping the low back super arched and the chest up)

Another thing: I would not do too much high pulls They are a great muscle-builder and ONCE YOU ARE TECHNICALLY EFFICIENT AT THE SNATCH they can be a good assistance exercise. But until you are efficient at the snatch, snatch pulls can actually make it harder to learn the snatch. I would much prefer if you focused on doing the power clean more often and doing snatch pulls for now.

And for the power clean, right of the bat learn to receive it no higher than with a 100 degrees (ideally 90 degrees) knee angle: you must learn to move under the bar, not just pull.

A good drill to do that is to do a power clean + front squat complex where you do a power clean, receive it with the knees at 90 degrees, PAUSE for 2 seconds then ride straight into a front squat. If you can’t do that without readjusting your position you wont be able to learn to do a full clean.

Highly appreciate your time CT, thanks for the response. I’ll make adjustments accordingly and focus on positions and building mass.

I’ll avoid doing high pulls then because I am serious about it and don’t want to make learning the snatch more difficult than it needs to be. In regards to that, what are your thoughts on implementing light muscle snatches? I’ve seen significant mass added to my upper back since starting high pulls and am not sure what could really compare.

Muscles snatches are fine. They will teach you to pull the bar close to your body and finish the snatch by punching the ceiling (which is something that most beginner lifters don’t do, they basically throw the bar in the air and hope it falls in the right spot)