T Nation

Will I Ever Clean, Jerk and Snatch?


#1

Dear people, I’m writing to you with a question that might be ridiculous, but I seriously haven’t found an answer to it yet: Are there people in this world who because of how they are built will never be able to do olympic weightlifting?
I’m not saying 250 kilos. I’m saying doing the exercises in general and getting stronger through them.
I’m asking because I started doing front squats a while ago and find them quite fun, I have also been deadlifting. And I would absolutely love to someday be able to to a proper clean and jerk and snatch, because it feels like even for a tall ectomorph like me, it is the best strength-builder. I just don’t know if it’s possible for me because of my built.
I don’t have the money to consult a trainer, I recently spend what little I have on the Inov 8 fastlift shoes and here’s a video of me squatting with a very light weight:

Now the shoes help, but before I used to put my heels on even higher plates. This is how upright I can possibly be now with the shoes. As I am female, I have proportionally heavier hips and butt than a man and I have extremely long limbs. Biomechanically I simply fall flat on my ass should I try to keep fully upright. You can’t really see it in the video, but my legs are very wide as well. It is the only way i can even be remotely upright. There are zero mobility issues in my hips or feet. I am a musical theatre actress and have been dancing for years. My hamstrings can completely touch my lower legs should I go down with a bent back and I have a very long achilles-tendum.
This is a picture of me squatting w/o shoes with feet shoulder-wide, to see the difference:

And the effect of going as wide as I go when I front squat:

The shoes do the rest. So unless there is a secret ingredient to defy physics, I don´t know how I could accommodate the conventional “don´t squat to wide, it´s wrong” advice…
That rather sharp bend in my back has been there forever, my lumbar spine actually is a bit immobile, but I don’t really know if it would make a big difference if it weren’t. My butt would still be where it is now, I guess…

I’m wondering: can I put more weight on this? Is that slightly forward back angle acceptable? Or should I send the shoes back and cry because this isn’t for me?

Next question would be about my arms. I have huge hands, as you can see:

In the video, I have two fingers under the bar. I can hold it with the whole hand no problem, but presently have trouble keeping the ellbows at 90% if I do. I see olympic lifters put there ellbows in quite a lot and the hands out, maybe I oughta try that.
This is how far I can physically bend my wrist: I haven’t squatted heavy yet, but will I choke myself?

Last thing: shoulders. I actually think that might be a mobility issue. Of course there’s no weight on this now, but I’m a bit scared that the slightly forward back might keep me from doing a snatch or even a simple overhead squat… or would that sort itself out once it´s loaded? (i´m scared of trying)

Well, that’s my catalogue of questions- what do you think? Is there a way for me to do this? Thanks a lot in advance for bearing with me!


#2

Sure you can! You have much better mobility than a lot of the men who start. So many of them take months to obtain the flexibility you already have. Take heart. You’re looking good to me.

I will say, the OLY lifts are soooo technical. It really helps to have a coach. I felt like I could watch videos and learn the basic barbell lifts (bench press, squat, deadlift), but needed a coach to be confident enough to learn to snatch or jerk. Also, it’s very easy to pick up bad habits on your own, and at first you don’t know enough to know if you’re doing it right or not. You may be able to find an experienced person to train with you if you can’t afford a coach, or find group lessons for beginners.

In terms of mobility, I think your shoulders and wrists may give you more trouble than your lower body. These stretches are helpful.

Look up shoulder dislocates with a stick. Helpful in stretching your chest and biceps so you can keep the bar in the proper position, and get your elbows locked.

Also,these for wrists and forearms.

If you’re trying to go the self-taught route. Catalyst Athletics has a very nice exercise library. I don’t know if I can link to them here, but you’ll see. You can look at all the variations, see proper form, and start breaking the lifts down. I’d start with learning to Clean. There are Clean variations like the Hang Clean. You’re already doing Front Squats and Deadlifts so the Clean variations may come very naturally. You can break them down, and you don’t need to get heavy with them. Go slow.

I’ll tag @Aragorn here. I’m still a beginner with the OLY lifts. He’s much more capable of pointing you in the right direction.

Best of luck! You can do this. They are WICKED fun. I wish I’d started learning them when I first started lifting. NO FEAR!

Puff


#3

Thank you so much !!!


#4

Your welcome, miriam! This will be fun. About ROM, seriously, some of the men in my beginner class were so tight, they struggled to even squat to parallel at first.

Also, you mentioned that you’ve been practicing Squats and Deadifts.

The other main lift I’d suggest is the BB Over Head Press (OHP) and OH variations like the Push Press. If you aren’t training them yet, they’re a good way to ease your way into building confidence and strength with holding the BB Over Head. Then you can work your way to doing Snatch Balance variations with a stick, working your way to a BB. Putting these here because they help break the movements down.

My coach had me pressing DBs overhead as well like this, to get used to keeping my elbows locked out OH. Sometimes I stand with my feet apart like in a Split Jerk stance with your torso upright (not leaning forward). Great for strengthening your core, which was a weak spot for me when I was trying to learn to OH Squat.

Really, if you can’t find an inexpensive group class to help you get started, look for more experienced people. I met people taking classes together, and some of them are just very nice about practicing with me, sharing a platform, and correcting me a bit when I asked them to.

EDITED


#5

Don’t forget to build your strength with back squats, rows, shrugs back raises and jumping while you figure out your technique on the competition lifts.

100% opinion:
You can overhead squat, so you should be able to do some power snatches (no deep squat to catch the bar) from the hang position (bar not on Floor to start) to get a feel for things.


#6

That is great advice, thank you!
I am doing DB shoulder presses now because I feel they force my core and upper body to work harder because the weight is less stable. With my endless arms its´also good to do full ROM because it pays off. Will throw in some BB presses from now on, as I´ll be able to handle more weight I reckon I will progress in both exercises that way!

Wow, some of those girls are even more forward than I am- I can see that those shoulders and upper arms will really have get some stretching!
May I ask what shoes you use?


#7

I’ll get to it!!! Thank you !!!


#8

Yeah, these lifts will find every ROM problem you have. Haha. I didn’t think I had any ROM issues, but I was actually a bit tight through my chest and biceps from doing a lot of horizontal pressing over the years.

@ Shoes - I have these.

Not expensive, but I’ve been really happy with them. I paid closer to $88 for them last summer when they were new. I have really good ROM in my lower body from ballet, so I was a bit surprised at how much the shoes helped me. I’d been doing some wimpy 95 lb back squats in Converse for years. Haha! I still like to trian DLs in Converse.

You may want to buy some chalk if you haven’t picked some up yet. I like this kind.


#9

I have some chalk in my climbing gear, I think. Also, right now I´m in a fitness gym, I don´t think I´m even allowed chalk or drop weights. I have to see how that goes. Once I´ve built up some decent strength, I might change gyms…


#10

I would pay a large sum of money to be working from your starting point. You’ll be just fine. I would definitely seek coaching if at all possible. At least a few sessions to get you going in the right direction.


#11

Thank you so much! You have no idea how that makes me feel!


#12

@miriam17–there is no reason why you can’t learn to do the lifts! They are kind of intimidating to think about for a lot of newbies, but as PP said wicked fun to do.

You don’t have any mobility issues whatsoever right now, your dance background has helped with that. Also as PP said, your shoulders and wrists are more likely to give you personally issues in the beginning.

What you do have is strength and coordination issues. Conceptually not all that hard to think about–when you started to dance when you were young…and then when you started to become more advanced in middle school and high school…did you ever struggle with learning or executing certain moves or sequences? I will bet yes. What was the reason? Your body hadn’t seen them before and didn’t have the coordination right off the bat.

Same thing here, only with extra weight involved. It’s a new skill. One of the components of mobility is control–you have to be able to control yourself (+the extra weight) in the position and that requires strength in odd postures that you haven’t likely practiced with dance. Or, using muscle combinations that you haven’t needed before in dance. It’s like learning a new language.

As far as squatting goes, the conventional wisdom about not squatting too wide is based around a specific hip structure, which it looks like you do not share. In a “typical” hip the deepest squat is attained in an approximately shoulder width stance. However the only real rule is that you should use the stance that allows you to get the deepest with the most upright torso and straight back.

Edit–you can also angle your toes out rather than keep them straight forward. Experiment with that. The ideal situation would be keeping your knees stacked more or less over your ankles in the bottom of the squat, no matter your stance width.


#13

I do not see any reason why you could not do the lifts. It is difficult to learn from scratch on your own. The internet can help. Is there a weightlifting club near you? If not, is there a gym where lifters train? I would look for either and join, training partners can be a great resource for help.

Back in the day, coaches were few and far between and we pretty much coached ourselves.


#14

Yes, keep working on your mobility. You aren’t built to squat well, but really built well for pulling. You can be a good snatcher if you work on it.

A coach certainly makes things easier, but there have actually been self coached olympians, so I am sure you can learn how to do the lifts by yourself.


#15

Thank you everybody !!!
I´m sure there is a lifting gym somewhere around, but the sport is a lot less popular here in Germany. There are tons of fitness gyms in my vicinity, though.
I´ll look around to see what´s on offer. In the meantime, I´ll work on the progressions you´ve suggested to me and try to get a feel for things. I think I have an advantage because of dancing: I usually feel well when something is off, much earlier than other people. I think the chance of hurting myself is a little lower that way.
Thank you, to all of you !!! I´ll let you know how things go!!!