Having control in the sport the Olympic Weightlifting is very crucial if you want to be successful and proficient. If we do not have control, a lot of unfortunate things can happen. On the flip side, if we do have control, a lot of great things happen. One way to ensure control during the lifts is to stay patient (it’s like the old saying, “patience is a virtue").
You can apply that saying to two components in weightlifting. The first, is simply learning the new movements (it takes time and dedication). Both the Clean and Jerk and Snatch require a lot of body awareness and practice before you are comfortable with them. The second, and the one we will focus on for today, is having patience through the entire movement. For beginners, this does not mean "slow," these movements are meant to be explosive. I am more so talking about having patience through the entire movement, so we know where the bar is, in relation to our bodies.
A common area of the lifts where we see people rush the movement is the first pull, from the ground. A lot of people think they have to rip the bar from the floor as fast as they can, and that is how they accelerate the bar (this is actually false). Think of the first pull, like you're sitting at a red light. Are you going to gradually pick up speed or blow through a gallon of gas by going petal to the metal? If we pull too fast from the ground going 0 to 60, we are going to exert a ton of energy and won't be able to generate the power that is needed. We want to think about gradually accelerating the bar on the way up to our contact/target position (where we want to extend from). When we are patient to this position, not only does our body know where the bar is, but we're now in a good position to drive hard with our legs. Since we want to have patience off the floor, we have to be strong in that position to be able to maintain good positioning.
Here are some exercises that will help you develop control throughout the movement.
1. Slow Snatches/Cleans:
When you are in the set-up from the ground, your coach will say “slow”. When you hear slow, you will start to pull off the ground, having your hips and the bar travel at the same rate. You will continue to pull slow until your coach says “go.” When you hear go, you will extend straight up and get good leg drive upward (these can be done in power/half variations as well). The main focus is to control the bar to your contact spot. These can be a good warm-up for your snatches/cleans. Do 3 sets of 3 reps at a light weight and carry the same feeling into the rest of your training.
2. Tempo Pulls/Deadlifts:
Utilizing tempo pulls/deadlifts will force you to move at a more consistent pace.
We usually program these with a certain count on the ascent (upwards) and sometimes throw in a count on the descent (lowering) as well. Both will force you to not only move consistently (while staying in good position) but you'll develop more strength in the movement, because you're spending more time under tension. When we program these, we like to program 5 second ascent with a 3 second descent for 3-4 sets of 4-5 reps at a lower percentage. If the tempo is shorter, we will use higher percentages.
If you feel like you are rushing the first pull or you are not quite sure where the bar is, in relation to your body, give these exercises a try. Remember, it is not a race. Take your time with the set-up, be patient off the ground, and gradually accelerate with the bar.