T Nation

Weightlifting Without the OL?

Hello,

since i’m absolutely new to these forums i’m gonna start with saying sorry if this topic/questions was allready talked through somewhere else, i could’t find it.
Now, it’s time to get to the point i guess :slight_smile:

My weightlifting background is close to none, i’v done this and that some time ago but never ‘stuck’ with it for more then 10-12 months. I’v got back to the gym a month or so back, started moving some weight, and somehow got really interested in olympic lifting (maybe a flashback from the Olympics back here in London not so long ago).

The problem is that i live in a one-horse town which has 2 gym’s and after looking (i mean like really grinding through everything i can) i’v only found one lad who knows what he’s talking about when i comes to powerlifting, the olympic lifts though… seems like no one has ever heard of it.

Started looking for a weightlifting club, and the closest one i’v found is really far from close and i might visit it like once a month to try and actually learn the lifts, then again, since there are only 2 gym’s and both of them are ‘public’, there is no way to train them constantly anyways.

While i’m working on a little 'home gym (more of like yard gym) plan to cover things like bumper plates, a squat stand/rack and something to throw the weights after a missed lift (all of than sounds pretty simple, but still takes time).

The question is… how do you train for OL without actually doing any of the OL? Doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, but what can i actually do to help improving the strength/mobility for the lifts without actually doing them?

Seems obvious that there’s going to be a lot of squatting (high bar?), power cleans and military presses involved, but i was hoping maybe there’s someone there ‘outside on the internet’ who actually had this problem and has any advice towards the issue.

P.S. sorry, the story worked out much longer than it was intented.

Thanks in advance,
Hou5ton

You won’t get anywhere near the benefit of training the OL lifts unless you’re doing them specifically. You need to train your body to go through those specific movements to reap the full effect.

Personally, I’d do as much research as you can on your own and try to teach yourself. It will not be 100%, but you’ll definitely learn to do the movements without a trainer. Assistance exercises for the OL lifts would be Deadlifts, Hang Cleans, and OHP. Once you’ve got a solid base of those, move onto Power Cleans and put it all together. Obviously, it will be more beneficial for you to keep the weights very manageable while still learning.

If you are serious about this, and have some space for a small home gym, your first investment should be a decent Olympic bar. Make sure it is in spec in terms of diameter and has collars that spin. Don’t skimp. I myself have a Troy AOB1200 bar at home which retailed for $250. By all standards it would be considered a piece of crap, BUT I have access to an Olympic lifting gym that has excellent bars.

You can and should learn the power versions. Plenty of good instruction online, including good stuff from T-Nation contributor Wil Fleming. California Strength also has excellent progression videos. I would start with those. I recommend first learning the snatch variations, then proceed to cleans.

Until you get your own bar, I would only do empty bar work in the gym. Two reasons. First, the manager will freak if he sees you doing the lifts with any weight, but an empty bar does not pose the same “danger.” Second, with the crappy bars that gyms have - collars that don’t rotate well and bar diameter thicker than regulation bars - you won’t get the right feel. This matters. Unless you have big hands, a bar that is only a few millimeters thicker than regulation will prevent an effective hook grip and feel awkward. Trust me - you want to learn and get comfortable with the hook grip as early on as possible.

Until you get your home set up, get as strong as possible in the squat. Buy Olympic lifting shoes and get used to squatting in those. Go high bar ass to grass. Do not compromise on this. Get strong as f*ck in the squat.

Learn to front squat. Get good at the technique even if you need to use light weight. OL shoes will help here as well.

Get strong overhead. This means presses, and push presses. Presses here mean overhead presses. Say goodbye to the bench press, at least for now. Some lifter find it useful, but it never helped me. You can add it later to see if it helps you, but not now. For the snatch do overhead squats, behind the neck snatch grip push press, snatch balance. I consider these moves part of getting strong overhead but, as you will see, they challenge total body stability as well as flexibility. Here again OL shoes will help.

Do Romanian deadlifts and abs. If you like regular deadlifts, fine, but do them more like the first pull of a clean deadlift or snatch, aka snatch grip deadlift. The first pull is not the same as a deadlift. Read about the differences. My lifts improved once I learned how to correctly do the first pull.

I actually saw a beginner OL program that include short sprints - no more than 30 meters. Something to consider. They really do help with speed and power. Don’t do these as intervals for conditioning. If you want to add sprints, make sure you get full recovery between sprints. Your goal is not conditioning but speed and power development.

Look up some of the videos on youtube by Jon north. Try doing some of the drills with dowels or broomsticks, until the movements become natural. Work on Jerk and Split positions.

Muscle snatches from the hang are also really good for learning to keep the bar close after you extend with your hips.

Just grab the bar with snatch grip, put some weight on it and get it over your head without using any hip drive.

A lot of people have a habit of swinging it up and this helps getting rid of that, or at least it did for me.

[quote]Goodfellow wrote:
Muscle snatches from the hang are also really good for learning to keep the bar close after you extend with your hips.

Just grab the bar with snatch grip, put some weight on it and get it over your head without using any hip drive.

A lot of people have a habit of swinging it up and this helps getting rid of that, or at least it did for me. [/quote]

Agreed. The muscle snatch really helped me with the “swinging” problem and in learning to keep the bar close.

Mike has REALLY good advice.

Oly lifting is fucking awesome, but hard to find people. So, although you won’t be able to reap all the benefits of the lifts without doing them, you can get GREAT general prep for the work by

  1. Getting fucking mobile as hell in the hips, hamstrings, T-Spine, and shoulders. Without that you can’t possibly get the proper positions for the clean and snatch, so you absolutely have to be mobile. This includes both stretching and also mobility drills (“stretching with movement” sort of…basically learning to get into and out of flexible positions, rather than just “sitting and reaching”) Look up Defranco’s Agile 8 as an example of mobility drills. There are tons, lots better for olympic lifting but that’s a good general one that comes to mind fast. Check out MobilityWOD.com

  2. Getting fucking strong in the back squat, high bar, ass to grass

  3. Getting fucking strong as hell in the front squat, ass to grass, and learning really, really crisp technique–tech is most important of all because you have to front squat every clean up

  4. Getting really damned strong overhead. Shoulders, triceps, Overhead squat–ass to grass (notice a pattern?). The overhead squat is absolutely fundamental to learning the snatch, and being strong out of the bottom of the snatch, and is a staple beginner Olympic lifting lift.

Doing these 4 things will set you up for success when you finally get a good olympic bar and/or find somebody who can coach effectively. In fact, these 4 things are things that ALL successful olympic lifters continue to focus on in various ways, no matter what level of competition they’re at from local to Olympic. Not everybody focuses on the same lifts in their veteran years, but they ALL focus on the same positions–front/back squat, overhead strength. So start there.

In addition to those, do tons, and I mean TONS of reps with the empty bar–or even better a broomstick–on the basic positions of the olympic lifts. The one single thing that everybody skimps on or overestimates their “expertise” on is technique. They get tired of “practicing” and want to "do. Classic run before walking scenario. This a) limits their future strength potential by ingraining seriously stubborn bad habits that take forever to untrain and b) predisposes them to injury because they’re doing it fucking wrong and sloppy.

That’s why you go light–you make mistakes with weights (or rather and empty bar or broomstick) that won’t hurt you lol. Look up Glenn Pendlay, Tommy Kono for video tutorials on basic positions and reasons for them in the olympic lifts.

You don’t even have to do the whole lift, just practice the cues and getting into and out of positions smoothly and SLOOOOWLY with a bar. Positioning is everything in olympic lifting and positioning is learned best by learning how it “feels” to get into and out of a proper position, and hold the proper position, slowly. —>funnily enough, this is why lots of martial arts teach you basic positions and punches and have you hold them for minutes at a time and go achingly slow…you gotta memorize how a position feels to be able to hit it properly down the road.

SO, recap:

  1. fucking mobile at hips, hamstrings, ankles, shoulders, T-spine

  2. fucking deep ass back squat strength, don’t ever ever compromise on it, it’s more important for oly lifting that powerlifting (although I love my powerlifting)

  3. fucking crisp technique and strength on front squat

  4. Really friggin strong overhead strength: strict strict pressing, push pressing, overhead squatting, shoulder strength and back strength in general (rear delts!)

and last—practice slowly getting into and out of positions in the snatch at least, and clean too hopefully, with a broomstick or empty bar. Practice slow, and practice a million reps. This can be a warm-up for your strength training, so you actually practice it and so it actually gets the blood flowing a little for your workouts with regular lifts. Again, Glenn Pendlay and Tommy Kono–can’t be overstated. It’s never good to learn from a video if you can help it, but they do some really damned good tutorials on basic positions in the olympic lifts and that can help you a ton until you get a good bar and bumpers or find a coach.

I’d suggest that gym you hit at least 2x a month instead of 1x a month. Lots of money I know, but you need more time with a coach than less. Money is money, but good instruction is priceless.

Dude, welcome man I’m excited for you. It’s a long hard road, but it’s damned fun!

Tommy Kono part 1:

Tommy Kono slide technique lecture part 1

Tommy Kono–world and olympic champion, and 3 time Olympic coach, Olympic judge, all around badass.

Glenn Pendlay on positions and speeds:

This should get you started. lots of other good videos of Glenn on youtube too. Glenn has a dvd on technique available for purchase. He’s also the coach of Jon North that a poster above mentioned searching for for technique drills. Good coach. If I had my pick though, I’d rather have Tommy Kono do my coaching…but then again I don’t have either of them lol.

Home gym is your best bet, but as a gym owner, I’ve been asked for OL in the gym before. I’m the only gym in townas well, and I made arangements for him(because he asked)it’s just a thought. Best of luck

[quote]Goodfellow wrote:
Muscle snatches from the hang are also really good for learning to keep the bar close after you extend with your hips.

Just grab the bar with snatch grip, put some weight on it and get it over your head without using any hip drive.

A lot of people have a habit of swinging it up and this helps getting rid of that, or at least it did for me. [/quote]

A muscle snatch USES the hips, you just don’t rebend the knees, you continue to pull and extend to get the bar UP. So, pull like a regular snatch, pop the hips, then muscle/pull the bar up as high as possible without rebending the knees, using the lats, shoulders, traps, to get the bar overhead into place.

The muscle snatch is excellent for those that tend to cut the second pull and leaves the bar out front all the time!!

Aragorn, your post is fucking great…telling it like it is, baby!