Thursday, October 8, 2015

U.S. Weightlifting Federation Coaching Manual: Technique Part Four


Preparation of the Athlete's Body

Good technique depends on three items:


If the athlete is not flexible, he won't be able to get into the most efficient positions. If he lacks basic muscle strength in the key areas he won't be strong enough to hold proper positions. For example, if the erectors aren't strong, the lifter will round his back instead of keeping it rigid. And, if he's not explosive, he won't move the bar with the proper speed. Therefore, before starting to teach technique the coach must evaluate these three items, and if the athlete is deficient, spend initial workouts improving flexibility, basic muscular strength, and explosiveness.

Improving Flexibility: Flexibility Evaluation

The flexibility tests which are recommended can be an important facet of the coach's evaluation process. These tests are the Sit and Reach (trunk flexion), Trunk Extension, Ankle Flexion and Extension, and Shoulder Elevation. Through the use of these tests, a coach can determine the flexibility of his athletes in the areas crucial to efficient lifting, that is, the ankles, hips, back, hamstrings, and shoulders. Each test is listed with a description and the equipment needed. Norms for these tests related to various age groups will be shown. Athletes should score Above Average to be considered to have good flexibility.

Test Number One

Sit and Reach:

Equipment - 

yardstick, bench or other flat surface for subject to place the feet against. (See Illustration).

Description of Test:

1) Test apparatus - a yardstick is placed to that 9 inches is at the level of the feet and the zero level of the scale is toward the subject.

2) Subject's position - legs together, feet flat against test apparatus, knees down (note: the knees must stay down throughout the test). Shoes must be removed.

3) Arms are extended forward across the yardstick with the palms down and thumbs together.

4) Subject reaches forward along the measuring scale two times as a warmup and holds the position of maximum reach on the third trial. This position must be held for one second by the fingertips of BOTH hands.

5) The tester should record the number (inches) that the subject reaches on the third try.

Test Number Two

Trunk Extension:

Equipment - yardstick to measure; yardstick.

Description of test: 


1) Subject's position: lying prone on a mat or table with hips held stable by assistant; hands locked behind neck.

2) Head and chest are lifted upward and backward as far as possible (Note: legs are held straight and flat throughout the test).

3) The tester should record the distance from floor to chin (inches).

Test Number Three

Shoulder Evaluation:

Equipment - yardstick to measure; yardstick or broomstick for subject to hold. 

Description of test:

1) Subject's position: lying prone on mat or table with chin down; arms locked straight over head; stick held with palms down and shoulder width grip.

2) Raise the stick as high as possible while keeping the arms straight and chin down throughout.

3) The tester should record the distance from the mat to the stick (inches).

4) Precautions: 

a) Keep the measurement in a vertical plane.
b) Be careful not to allow the subject to "dislocate" the shoulders and thus gain additional measure.

Test Number Four

Ankle Extension and Ankle Flexion:

Equipment - pencil; paper ; protractor.

Description of Test: 

1) Test set-up: Tape a large piece of paper to the wall either at floor level or table top level.

2) Subject's position: (to test right ankle) - 
sit with right hip and extended right leg against wall; knee stays down throughout the test; shoes must be removed.

3) The tester traces the TOP of the foot in maximum extended position (toes pointed) with a pencil held perfectly horizontal. Repeat the procedure with the foot in maximum flexed position (toes back).

4) When the paper is removed, a protractor is used to measure the angle (degrees) between the two positions.

5) Repeat steps 2 - 4 for the left ankle.

Click to ENLARGE


Description of Flexibility Exercises

1) Sit on the floor, extend the arms overhead, palms forward. A partner then forces the arms backward. Repeat 5 - 10 times.

2) Stand facing away from a ladder, horizontal bar, or partner holding the warmup stick. Grab the rungs at the top and work your way down making a bridge. If you are working with a horizontal bar or a partner have the bar moved downward as you loosen up. Repeat 5 - 10 times.

3) Stand facing the ladder, bar, or partner. Lean forward and grab the rung or bar. Keeping the arms straight continue to bend over as far as you can go. Repeat 5 - 10 times. 

4) Stand with your legs apart. Place the warmup stick high on your back and hold it in the crook of the elbows. Bend over trying to touch your face to your knees. Don't bend the knees. Repeat 5 - 10 times.

5) Stand with your legs apart and your back close to the ladder, bar or partner. Reach back and grasp the bar at shoulder level. Arch your body by lifting the hips forward and straightening the arms. Repeat 5 times.

6) Lie on your stomach, feet together. Reach back and have your partner help arch your body. Repeat 5 times.

7) Place your toes on small block of wood. Hands on hips. Go up and down on your toes. Repeat 10 times.

8) Place your feet apart, toes pointed outward. Squat down slightly, lean forward and rest your hands on your knees. Make circular motions with your knees to the inside and outside using your hands to apply pressure. Repeat 10 times.

9) The same as exercise 8, but with the feet together.

10) Take an overhand grip on the ends of the warmup bar (the narrower the grip the harder the exercise). Without bending the arms, make an arc by lowering the bar behind the back and returning to the starting position. Repeat 3 - 5 times.

11) Lean forward, legs apart. Bring your arms up behind you and grasp your hands together. With your partner's help bend over farther while he forces your arms back and up. Repeat 5 - 10 times.

12) Bend forward, hands behind the head, elbows pointed to the sides. Rotate the trunk to the right and left. Repeat 5 - 6 times to each side.

13) Stand with the barbell at waist level. Bend over until the barbell touches the ground (don't bend the knees), return to the starting position. Repeat 5 - 6 times.

14) Bend backwards with or without the help of a partner, making a bridge. Repeat 3 times.

15) Lie on your back, legs together, arms to the sides. Lift the legs and touch the toes behind the head, return to the starting position. Repeat 3 - 5 times.

NOTE: All of these exercises should be repeated 2 or 3 times for the reps listed during your warmup.

Improving Muscular Strength

Basic Weight Training Exercises for Preparation

The following group of exercises have been chosen for two reasons. First, they develop the major muscles used in lifting. Second, their performance is a key in the learning of technique. It's recommended that all beginning juniors do these exercises for 6 - 8 weeks before starting full-scale technique training.


Wide Grip Press Behind the Neck

This exercise is an excellent arm/shoulder developer. Also, it's an outstanding way to learn the overhead position of the Power Snatch.

A) The Grip - 
See Snatch grip width methods, page 8.

B) The Starting Position - 
1. Place the bar on the back, using the wide grip just determined.
2. Rotate the elbows downward and cock the wrists back, if possible.
3. Raise the chest.

C) The Exercise - 
Press the bar overhead. Concentrate on rotating the shoulders back. Lock the elbows tight at the finish of the movement. Keep the wrists back.

D) Sets and Reps - 
3 to 5 sets of 6 - 10 reps.

Upright Rowing

This exercise is another arm and shoulder developer. It teaches the correct way to pull the bar with the arms in the Clean and the Snatch.

A) The Starting Position - 
1. Hold he bar with a narrow grip in front of you.
2. This grip can be varied in later workouts to the Snatch width.

B) The Exercise - 
1. Lift the elbows, raising the weight along the body. This closeness to the body is very important in any type of lifting.

C) Sets and Reps - 
3 to 5 sets of 8 - 10 reps.

Bench Press

This popular exercise is also a good upper body developer.

A) The Starting Position - 
1. Grip the bar with at least a shoulder width grip. This grip can be varied in later workouts.
2. Keep back flat on the bench. Feet flat on the floor.

B) The Exercise - 
1. Lower the bar to the chest.
2. Pause at chest or get slight bounce. Press to starting position. Lock arms tight at end of each rep.

C) Sets and Reps - 
3 to 6 sets of 3 - 10 reps.


This is a good arm and back developer. It also works the low back and hip stabilizing muscles used in the Power Clean and Power Snatch.

A) The Starting Position - 
1. Grip the bar. Grip can vary from very close to Snatch width.
2. Stand up with the bar.
3. Bend knees slightly and bend at the hips until the bar is just below the knees.
4. Maintain a rigid torso with the shoulders ahead of the bar.

B) The Exercise-
1. Pull the bar toward the chest using ONLY the arms.
2. DO NOT change the position of the back and legs.
3. Lower the bar to the starting position.

C) Sets and Reps
2 to 4 sets of 6 - 10 reps.

Good Mornings

This exercise develops the muscles of the low back, hips, and hamstrings.

A) The Starting Position - 
1. Place the bar high on the back.
2. Padding may be placed on the bar to make the exercise more comfortable.

B) The Exercise - 
1. Bend over as in touching the toes. The knees should be slightly bent. Round the back as much as possible. Try to put the head between the knees.
2. Start the upward movement by rolling the head up and back. As the head goes up, start tightening the back at the top and gradually work down the spine until the whole back is rigid. At that point continue up to the standing position.

C) Sets and Reps - 
3 to 5 sets of 6 - 10 reps.


This is the standard abdominal development exercise and should be used by all ahtletes.

A) The Starting Position - 
1. Lying down, knees bent, feet secured by a partner or barbell.
2. Hands or weight held behind the head.

B) The Exercise - 
1. Curl the trunk to the seated position.
2. Return to the start.

C. Sets and Reps - 
2 sets of 25 - 50 reps, FREE
2 sets of 10 - 20 reps WEIGHTED

Back Squats

This is the base exercise of any weight training routine.

A) Starting Position - 
1. The bar is placed high on the back.
2. The feet are placed a comfortable distance apart.
3. The chest is up and the back is tight.

B) The Exercise - 
1. Bend the legs, try to place the hips between the heels, and keep the trunk as straight as possible while going down.
2. Recover by raising the hips. As the bar starts moving upward bring the hips forward.

C) Sets and Reps - 
5 to 8 sets of 2 - 10 reps.

Front Squat

This is another excellent lower body exercise and should be substituted for Back Squats one time a week. 

A) The Starting Position - 
1. Place the bar on the chest. Raise the elbows so that the bar rests on the deltoids. If this is done correctly, the arms do not support the weight, the shoulders do.
2. Place the feet in a comfortable position. Keep the chest up and the back tight.

B) The Exercise - 
1. Bend the legs, trying to place the hips between the heels.
2. Don't allow the elbows to vary from their starting position. This will keep the body as straight as possible.
3. Recover by raising the hips. As the bar moves up, the hips will come forward.

C) Sets and Reps -
5 to 8 sets of 2 - 10 reps.

Stiff Legged Deadlift

This is a hip and hamstring developer. It is not a competitive lift like the regular Deadlift. Here, exercise TECHNIQUE is more important for development than the amount of weight lifted. 

A) The Starting Position - 
1. Stand over the bar with the feet together.
2. Lock the knees, straighten and tighten the back, bend over at the waist, and grab the bar with a shoulder width grip.

B) The Exercise - 
1. Try to keep the knees locked and back straight. Stand up by raising the shoulders until fully upright.
2. Lower to the starting position without rounding the back.

C) Sets and Reps - 
2 to 3 sets of 3 - 10 reps.

Improving Explosiveness

This subject will be covered in great depth in a future section of this manual. In general, running, jumping, and other similar activities improve the athlete's explosiveness. Plyometric training is especially valuable.   

Technique Teaching Theory

In the first two sections of this book we've tried to prepare you technically to teach the Olympic lifts. This information is to give you a deeper understanding of how and why the barbell is lifted the way it is. Now it's time to show you how to convert this technical knowledge to useful exercises that the athlete can understand easily. The athlete does not need this technical information. He does need to know how the barbell and his body should feel during the lift. In teaching him, it's important that you allow him to experience those feelings he needs to properly learn the lifts. For that reason, the teaching method that we are giving to you relies heavily on your ability to make sure that the athlete learns everything he can from each teaching exercise. We'll give you tips on key words and suggestions you can give to the athlete to improve his performance. It's also important to get feedback from the athlete, so we suggest you ask him questions like, "How did that feel?" or "Where was the bar on that last rep?" Make him tell you what his body is feeling and when he has the motion down correctly make sure he knows it. Our goal is to have coaches who understand WHY the bar is lifted the way it is, and athletes who know HOW the bar is lifted. For the coach, this means several hours studying this manual and other books. For the athlete, it's hours in the gym getting the feel of the body and bar. The final result is an athlete who does the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk with perfect technique, without thought about the technical aspects, but with the firm idea of how the bar should feel in a perfect lift. 

That being understood, let's move on.


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