How do you become a better weightlifter?
Becoming great at the Olympic lifts is not easy, even for the best athletes.
In the end, the key to making progress is remaining consistent day to day. You have to fight through all of the brutal training sessions that leave you on the verge of breaking down, because the very next day you can smash a personal record and fall in love with the sport all over again.
That challenge is what we love most about this sport. You won’t ever make big lifts by coming to the gym just a few times a week for “practice.” Weightlifting is a constant learning process. It requires dedication and passion, both in and out of the gym.
In all honesty, you have to love it.
We want to share a few tips with you now to make your weightlifting journey a little easier, and improve your chances of success in the sport.
1. Focus on the Olympic lifts
If you want to become a better weightlifter you have to dedicate time to developing your craft.
As a new lifter, there’s no way you’re going to significantly improve your snatch, clean or jerk numbers by practicing just 1-2 times a week with super-light weights. Likewise, you can’t rush progress by attempting max-effort lifts all of the time, especially if your technique is sketchy.
Ultimately, you should be working on improving your weightlifting skills by training progressively at least 3-5 days a week.
Thanks to the current fitness boom, there’s no shortage of gyms offering great training equipment and instruction. There’s also now great online programming that anyone can follow, so there’s really no reason why you can’t commit to the journey now and start making real progress.
Instead of trying to get better at everything, instead focus on drilling proper technique on the lifts and getting strong as strong as possible in all key weightlifting positions. Try scaling your conditioning way down for at least 6 months or avoiding any conditioning workouts with snatches, cleans or jerks. They’ll only reinforce bad habits and hinder your progress towards truly learning how to perform the lifts.
Don’t worry about losing your ability to WOD. If you’re following a dedicated weightlifting program, the improved strength and proficiency with the barbell will only allow you to crush metcons records later down the road.
2. Don’t be in a rush.
Progress in weightlifting takes time.
To our knowledge, there’s never been a lifter capable of picking up a barbell one day and winning national competitions the next. Despite the high expectations that many new athletes take into training, the journey takes years to complete. And the most valuable lessons come slowly, one by one.
It’s always true that athletically gifted folks will always pick up the lifts much faster than others, but we doubt many would say that training is always easy, or that they still didn’t have a very long way to go. That’s the very nature of craft – When you love something and you’re great at it, there’s no such thing as good enough.
You don’t have to make all the gains at once. You don’t have to fix every technique flaw, get stronger and cure all mobility woes right now. The rush only makes you lose sight of what’s best for your long-term development as a lifter, and it further delays any real improvement.
In my case, I made the mistake of not following my prescribed programming and not listening to my coach because I felt like I wasn’t progressing quickly enough. I saw other lifters making huge progress by maxing out their lifts every day and I believed that was the key to success. But in reality it was completely counterproductive to the development of my technique and strength, as well as overall health.
By being greedy and impatient for progress, I pushed too hard too soon and damaged my ability to make gains for months to come. In retrospect, it was a huge waste of valuable training time. There’s no question, you must push yourself and chase big goals over the long-term, but day to day you must focus on taking small progressive steps and winning small victories.
They add up much quicker than you think.
3. Find a good coach.
Every athlete needs a coach. Without one your journey will be more difficult, and it will take much longer.
A coach isn’t just someone that programs for you. They also teach you exactly how to perform the movements, pointing out flawed techniques that should be fixed. They should also share your level of enthusiasm and passion for the sport, and should work tirelessly to get better at their craft every single day, just like you.
Maybe most importantly, a great coach will genuinely care about your well-being and personal development, and they will fight everyday to help you reach your full potential as a weightlifter. You need that.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our series where we discuss how to address some specific struggles people have with the snatch, clean and jerk.
See ya then!
Mike, Doug and Team Barbell Shrugged