For the last year to year and a half I have developed a small obsession with perfecting my ability to perform the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. I don't plan on competing in any olympic lifting and I sure as hell don't consider myself an expert at it. I really don't even use the lifts much in my own professional practice as most of the people I train are older than 30 and really don't have anything in the way of an athletic career.
I don't mean to insinuate that I think the lifts couldn't be beneficial for them, but I just think the risk vs. reward ratio for those lifts in that population is good enough to warrant their use. Not to mention you can get a lot of the same benefits using exercises that are a bit less demanding from a technique perspective such as heavy med ball slams and various plyometric drills.
You might be wondering then why in the heck have I locked in on them.
Honestly it's just for shear and utter pleasure and enjoyment.
I like detail.
Actually let me rephrase that I love details and I obsess over them. I've learned to calm this down a bit especially when working with people who are just starting out in their journey to a better them, but some times I just can't help myself. The minutia of stuff draws me in, but not in a paralysis of analysis negative kind of way.
And as some of you may be aware the olympic lifts are by far some of the most technically demanding exercises there are. This makes them highly detail oriented and in order to get really good at them and move large loads you have to refine the technique and this comes only through repetitive practice and focusing on the details.
As a side note if any coach or athlete ever tells you that they have perfected their olympic lifting technique and no ever single detail of it I'd highly recommend reconsidering working with either that is unless they can show you their olympic gold medal or their driver's license says "Bob Takano."
This makes olympic lifting a perfect hobby for me.
Thus I typically devote my Tuesday training sessions to working on the Clean and Jerk and my Thursday training sessions to working on the Snatch.
As yesterday was Thursday lots of overhead work was planned including lots of Overhead Squats done as singles, Snatch Push Pressing, and Hang Power Snatches.
This all being said I have spent a lot of time and worked really hard at getting more overhead position and squat position nailed down. And when I say a lot of time I mean a lot of time. This means I spent time understanding the relationship between my breathing and posture, teaching my shoulder and hip joints to articulate properly, and preparing the tissues for load using mobilization techniques.
However what I have found is few people devote much time to establishing the prerequisites for a given movement and rather are just more interested in learning the exercise and loading it up whether that be a Snatch or an Overhead Press.
This my friends is ultimately a recipe for disaster.
I can't tell you how many times I have seen people perform an Overhead Press that looked more like forward reach with a back bend or a Snatch that looked more like a request for a dislocated shoulder.
I believe that going overhead with weight is something that has to be earned and something that for most average everyday person takes a bit of time to work up too.
If you are thinking you don't fall into this category then let me share with you my clearing test for whether or not someone is ready to start putting weight over their head.
It's called a Wall Overhead Mobilization. I use it both as a clearing drill for getting overhead and as a mobility drill to work on establishing better overhead position.
If you can't perform that drill getting your fists to touch the wall above your head with your elbows straight, upper and lower back against the wall, and your head not jutting forward then you need to spend time working on some things.
Here a few drills you might be able to start with if you fall into this category:
However if you are someone who does past the Wall Overhead Mobilization test then the next step is to make sure that you being to reinforce this good overhead position and the range of motion you have by placing it under load and making it work.
In order to this we must first prepare the tissues and joint with some movement prep to get them warmed up and activated for the impending load they are about to experience when we start overhead pressing and snatching.
Which is ultimately the purpose of today's post.
I want to share with you a really great movement prep routine you can use prior to performing a lot of overhead work.
The routine consists of the following five exercises:
Banded Overhead Olympic Squat Mobilization
Banded Internal Rotation Shoulder Mobilization
Banded Overhead Distraction with External Rotation Bias
KB Arm Bar with Shoulder Flexion
Bottoms Up Kettlebell One Arm Overhead Press with External Rotation
These may all be new drills for you and that is cool because you and simply watch the video then stop, start, and rewind until you get them all down.
The number of reps or time you spend on each drill might be different than what I did in the video, but a good rule of thumb in my opinion is mobilize until you feel a change then move on to the next drill. I also usually do the first three drills for a certain number of breaths being sure to breathe deeply in through my nose and exhale out of my mouth forcefully. This helps sync up proper spine, shoulder, and pelvic position with proper breathing mechanics.
I hope you find the routine helpful and the next time you consider going overhead make sure that first you have the adequate ranges of motion to do so and that second your joints and tissues are prepared to handle the loads you are about to expose them to.
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training