Kingfield Barbell Philosophy: Stable Shoulders

You do not want to be like a house of cards and tumble over as soon as a gentle breeze comes in. When you finish the Snatch or the Jerk, you want to be stable and strong.

Last week, we talked a lot about having control when performing the Olympic lifts (Snatch and Clean and Jerk).  Now that we better understand how to maintain control throughout the movements, what do we need to do now?  In this next installment of Kingfield Barbell Philosophy, we are going to talk about the importance of stability.

In this first series of "stable," we are going to talk about being stable in our shoulders.  It is obvious that you need to have stability when performing the Snatch and Clean & Jerk; two out of three movements end with the barbell over your head.  You do not want to be like a house of cards and tumble over as soon as a gentle breeze comes in.  When you finish the Snatch or the Jerk, you want to be stable and strong.  Usually, we call this stable position overhead a “strong lockout.”  Today, we are going to talk about some exercises that will help develop that strong lockout.

1. Overhead Carries:
When you bring the weight overhead, it is important to keep the weight supported over your body (this is done by having your arms behind your ears). We can be much more efficient using larger muscle groups (back, torso, and hips), instead of keeping the weight out in front and recruiting smaller muscle groups.  Sometimes we see people with tight shoulders or t-spine who have difficulties with this.  

If you're a part of this group, slowly work on getting the weight overhead.  You can start with a waiter’s carry or “L” carry.  For overhead carries, you can use kettlebells, dumbbells, farmer handles, axle bar, barbell, or yoke (if you have access to one).  We recommend finding a moderate weight and slowly progressing.  As far as distance, start with a longer distance, and slowly decrease that distance, while increasing weight overtime.

2. Handstand Holds:
Doing different variations of handstand holds/push-ups are a good way to build stability in the shoulders. You can start by using a wall and kicking up into a handstand and focusing on pressing your hands into the ground.  Start by holding for 30 seconds and slowly increase the time.  After some time and your comfort level increases, you can start to add in some shoulder shifts.  Once you have the hang of that, you can start doing shoulder taps/chest touches while in a handstand.  Instead of going for time with these, you should try to accumulate a certain amount of reps.  


3. I’s,Y’s,T’s, U’s:
This exercise is very good to do for your warm-up, before training.  The first letter (I), the athlete will hinge at the hip and hold 1.5-2.5kg plates pointed to the ground.  The athlete will squeeze their shoulder blades down and lift the plates just to their ears with straight arms.  The second letter (Y), the athlete will set up the same way as the letter I.  Instead of raising their arms straight up, the athlete will raise them up at a slight angle (think 40 degrees.)  The third letter (T), the athlete will hinge at the hip again but this time, the athlete will squeeze the shoulder blades together and raise the plates up to the side.  The athlete just needs to raise the plates parallel to the ground. The last letter (U) is a little more confusing.  The athlete will start with the plates facing down and bend the elbows so that they are pointing to the ceiling.  After the elbows are pointing up, the athlete will rotate their shoulders so the flat part of plate faces the ground.  We recommend doing two rounds of eight reps on each letter before training.

Having stable shoulders in Olympic Weightlifting is very important, so if you feel like you are struggling with getting a strong lockout, give these exercises a try. Thank you for reading! See you next week!

- Kingfield Barbell