The Technique Of The Snatch And The Clean And Jerk
Why begin a book about weightlifting with a chapter on weightlifting technique? After all, weightlifting is first and foremost a sport designed to test strength and power. Why not begin, then, with a discussion of those subjects? The reason is that you cannot participate in an activity until you understand how it is performed, and you cannot properly measure your strength or train to increase it until you know how to execute the basic movements of weightlifting. Only when you understand what good technique is (i.e., the correct means of executing the two competitive lifts) can you begin to fully appreciate the sport of weightlifting.
In this chapter we will focus on understanding weightlifting technique, first on a very basic and then on a more advanced level. In the next chapter we will focus on how to learn and teach weightlifting technique. We will begin our discussion of technique by examining three major controversies that surround the subject. In the process of that examination, we will develop a framework within which it will be easier to understand various principles of sound weightlifting technique.
Some Controversies And Concepts Of Modern Weightlifting Technique
The Technique Versus Strength Controversy
Whenever weightlifters and their coaches get together, there is bound to be a discussion about the importance of technique. Some coaches see technique as virtually all important. Members of this school judge a weightlifter almost completely on his or her technical ability. They view technique as not only very necessary to be a good weightlifter but also as sufficient. To these coaches and athletes, the amount lifted is secondary to how beautifully and efficiently a lift is performed. These extremists show little respect for the champion who has serious technical flaws in his or her lifting performance. Top athletes who make errors in technique are seen by the technique purists as reprehensible "freaks" who were blessed with strength but never took the time to learn how to lift properly and therefore are wasting their gift. These purists overlook several obvious facts.
First, the sport of weightlifting was devised as a test of strength. Techniques for performing the snatch and C&J have evolved over the years as part of the constant effort to improve performance It is certainly true that the lifter who fails to master technique will perform at a lower level, in a less consistent way and at greater risk of injury than the athlete who has excellent technique. Nevertheless, the athlete who exhibits great strength is to be admired for that single capacity that weightlifting is fundamentally about.
Second, the athlete who fails to develop good technique should not be any loss well regarded than an athlete who fails to put in the hard and consistent training that is necessary in order to develop his or her enormous strength potential Developing strength is at least as hard as developing technique, and even harder in certain ways. The strong lifter should be given his or her due for all of the hard work that was required to develop that strength. I have met many people who have told me that it's easy to get strong, but none of these individuals has actually achieved the strength of a top international weightlifter. Anyone who has acquired truly great strength understands the enormous effort required too well to take his or her strength for granted.
Third, the athlete with poor technique may have lacked the proper coaching at the outset. He or she may have worked very diligently on technique during his or her formative years. However, for a variety of reasons, the requisite skills may not have been developed. One should not immediately assume that the poor technician is guilty of sheer sloth or stupidity. Rather, one should at least consider the possibility (unless it is proven otherwise) that the athlete in question is trying just as hard as any technique specialist to fulfill his or her potential.
Unfortunately, the technique fanatics sometimes use their technical skills to protect their delicate egos. They have mastered technique. Of their mastery there can be no doubt. It is easy enough to claim a genetic deficiency with respect to the ability to develop strength and then to say: "If I had Jack's strength, I'd lift twice as much as him." Such lifters ignore the fact that the challenge of developing strength is as least as great as that of developing technique and is more fundamentally linked to the reason behind the sport of weightlifting. For such people the frustration caused by failing to develop strength is like that felt by the strong lifter who is unsuccessful in developing technique. It is no more or less painful.
At the other extreme are the advocates of pure strength. They seem to hate technique, almost to wish it had never been invented. They view good technique as an intrusion into the purity of a sport that was devised to test strength. They long for the "old days" when technique was a secondary consideration in lifting big weights. There is nothing that pleases these lifters more than to be told: "You are so strong, you are not using even half of your great strength. If you would just develop proper technique, you would lift twice as much." What could be more gratifying? In reality, if that lifter were to develop perfect technique, he or she would not lift twice as much, probably not fifty percent more, and perhaps not even twenty-five percent more. Why then would a person with unrealistically "optimistic" appraisals of his or her strength develop proper technique, only to discover that the accolades that were once received are no longer as grand?
Today many strength purists gravitate toward powerlifting, a wonderful sport. I think, however, that many of the powerlifters of today would prefer the sport of weightlifting if they could just see how to do it. I have yet to meet one powerlifter who has mastered Olympic-style lifting, and whose body can withstand the rigors of training on the Olympic lifts, who does not prefer it. A great deal of satisfaction comes from being amazingly strong and at the same time capable of producing extremely powerful and efficient motion. There is a unique thrill that comes from controlling the motion of a very heavy object and in the end holding it aloft in celebration of a "victory over gravity.
In conclusion, strength may be more fundamental to the sport of weightlifting than technique, but in order for an athlete to fulfill his or her maximum potential, it is absolutely
essential to develop both qualities to their high potential. Obviously, maximum efficiency is needed to maximize performance. But there are two me subtle and perhaps more important reasons for perfecting technique. One reason is that correct technique is generally safer. An athlete who lifts correctly greatly reduces the risk of injury. A second reason to master technique (perhaps the most important of all) is to minimize frustration All weightlifters miss lifts from time to time, and beginners will miss fairly often, but unskilled lifters and those who have serious flaws in technique will miss again and again unnecessarily They will miss in training and in competition far more than is necessary, and their joy in lifting will suffer greatly as a result. More careers in weightlifting have ended due to frustration than any other cause. Don't let technique flaws frustrate you; learn to lift properly from the outset, no matter how long it takes.
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