Biomechanics, Exercise, Motor Control, Programming, Strength & Conditioning, Technique, The Training Geek, Weightlifting

Stop Making These Lifting Mistakes This New Year.

A New Year, A New You.

Many of you have New Year’s resolutions which you want to keep this year and some of them may be lifting related. Save yourself the disappointment of not being able to achieve them by preventing yourself from making these simple mistakes as you look towards the new year of training and practising your lifts.

Stop Ripping and Start Slowing Things Down.

The weightlifting movements are always perceived as movements of explosiveness and speed. Many people think that you need to be as powerful as your human potential allows you to in order for you to perform the lifts well. This leads to many making the rookie mistake of trying to “grip and rip”. Especially when you are in a setting that requires you to perform these lifts faster in order for you to “get a good time”.

560279_365187063536124_94998705_nHe sure doesn’t pull the bar off the ground aggressively even though he gets quite aggressive in his set up. Image Credit: Hookgrip

According to Fitt’s Law, movement speed is inversely proportional to movement accuracy. This also means that if you are going to try to move the barbell fast off the ground, it means that you would have some form of compromise getting into the positions you NEED to get into in order to properly execute the correct movements in the lifts. Instead of thinking of trying to hit it hard and fast from the gecko, you may want to try to generate enough speed to overcome ertia and GRADUALLY increase momentum to the point of extension where you then move with the intent of speed.

Hip Hinge Less, Leg Drive More.

When learning the lifts, as a beginner, you will always hear that you have to bring your hips through in the extension phase of the second pull. This typically results in a more loopy bar path or a swing of the bar around the torso. More importantly, it uses more of the back or torso as a lever instead of the legs as a driving force in the vertical direction. Even when cycling repetitions, it is critical that the intention is to use the legs more than the back. Once the trunk starts fatiguing, things get messy quite quickly.

mg3062The image speaks for itself. Knowing to use your legs doesn’t mean just your hips. Image Credit: Karl Buchholtz Photography

Learning this correctly from the start will help in picking efficiency up as you will be learning to use your biggest prime movers in the body to do the work. Learn to spread the work across the glutes, hamstrings and quads (3 main muscle groups) rather than putting the stress on the erectors which are not meant to be movement generators. This will not only help get you through your training more effectively but also reduce the chance of a major injury or compensatory movements subsequently causing over-use injuries.

A Bigger Squat Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Bigger Lifts.

Being able to execute the lifts well requires a good sense of what the body is going through during the movements. This body awareness is something that takes time in training to build up and gaining it will make alot more of your assistance or accessory exercises more transferrable.


This relates alot to squatting because squatting is a major part of a weightlifter’s program. Yes, squatting well and having a big squat will definitely benefit your lifts. IF you are able to transfer that leg strength into your movement. The ability to use your legs in extension is critical and not just being able to push up a certain load. This ability of having awareness in the use of your legs will allow you to properly execute the leg drive needed for most of the propulsive components of the lifts. The mistake is that many novices embark on a squat program without this awareness and put in countless repetitions of squats and end up banging their bodies up but not achieving their eventual goal of improving their lifts.

Don’t Just Learn Technique. Learn YOUR technique.

Like a golf swing, there is no one technique that is identical to another. It is pretty awesome now that there’s so much more coverage on weightlifting and you can easily gain insight to how the top-level athletes are actually moving through media platforms. However, seeing such movements at surface level and not understanding the complexity of their style in relation to other factors such as anthropometry and training history, the rookie mistake made is to imitate and not to apply.

keep-pulling-female-webMay look like the same point of the movement but all the positions are different. Image Credit: Hookgrip.

Learning the concepts behind movement, the reasoning behind certain positions or cues and subsequently applying it to your own lifting allows you to then make an INFORMED decision (not just a blind decision) on how you should be moving in the snatch or clean and jerk. Knowing the characteristics of your body such as your lever lengths, and even your strengths and weaknesses or physical limitations will help you make a better decision on how to move and give you a smooth path towards improvements in your lifting.

Accessorize to Maximize Your Training.

I completely understand that if you are executing most of your training in a class setting, you are basically following whatever programming is given on that day and it’s completely up to your box’s programming if you are getting what you NEED in terms of developing your movement and even body for lifting. When you first get hooked on the weightlifting movements, you will fall into the trap of just doing the main lifts and thinking that the more you practise them, the better you will get with them.

ba63d301baa60f0706ad0be99550549eHow do you think they build bodies like that? Probably not just from the full lifts. Image Credit: Hookgrip.

Sadly, you are WRONG! Not really wrong but you are not building yourself up to maximize your success in performing the lifts well. As a beginner, it is critical to understand that you need a variety of exercises related to the lifts to create as much practice and motor development opportunities within your motor control. Think of it like building up that memory bank. This helps develop that awareness for the movements as mentioned earlier. Secondly, even if you are doing some variations of the lifts in your training, you may not be prepping your body up physically to handle the physical demands of the lifts. So not only variety, but also the mundane work like mobility, stability and even hypertrophy. In simple terms and in the words of a famous strength coach with his own training system, if you want to build a massive pyramid, you need to build a big base. If you want a bigger pyramid, the base has to be bigger meaning you have to be covering more exercises first before you can begin specialising in the main lifts for the most part of your program.


It’s great to see that you have understood that the weightlifting movements are pretty awesome and they benefit you in many ways than just explosiveness and power. Done with the right mentality, you will be on a path of discovery, learning about yourself and what your body is capable of. Too many people look for the easy way out only to find that they have hit a dead-end. Set things right from the start and you will see yourself growing easily into the lifts with ease as you work towards your New Year resolution of being great at them this year.

Biomechanics, Exercise, Strength & Conditioning, Technique, The Training Geek, Weightlifting

5 Ways Your Grip is Killing Your Lifts

Grip is one of the things many fail to pay attention to when lifting. Issues can arise from the grip and go down the chain to the proximal joint of the shoulder.

Here are 5 things to consider regarding your grip which you may not even be thinking about.

1. You are using the hook grip but not really making use of it.

The hook grip is a grip that should allow you to hold onto the bar with too much effort. But despite knowing that, you still grip the bar really tight as though you are at a sale and you are afraid of someone stealing your goods.

IMG_7648.JPG Properly employing the hook grip will allow the weight to sit in the hands instead of having to grab the bar too hard.

Learn to let the weight sit in your hook grip. That way, you will be able to take up the slack and have the feeling of the weight of the barbell combined with your centre of mass.

2. Squeezing the bar from the start engages the arms early in the lift.

Related to the first point, by gripping the bar hard, you may fail to take up the slack on the bar and transfer the tension into your trunk. This would then result in the arms being engaged from the start to move the weight or “pull” the weight off the ground.

IMG_7650.JPGHaving the arms bend early can result in depending on them to perform the second pull rather than transfer force from the legs to the bar.

One way to establish the awareness to have the weight loaded within your trunk and properly engage the legs to initiate the movement rather than the arms is to gently lift the bar off the ground. As you initiate movement, feel that your shoulders are being pulled down by the weight of the barbell. Once you can establish that, then focus on holding tension in the shoulder blades to get the bar moving off the ground. This will help build the awareness of properly engaging the legs than using the arms early.

3. You are not aware of the angle of your wrists when you set up.

When picking up the lifts, there are already so many key points to keep to that sometimes you feel like it’s impossible to even perform the lift without spending 10 minutes thinking of what you have to do before the lift. How the wrist sits with the bar is something that can determine the proximity of the bar to your body as well as improve the rhythm and tempo of the lifts.

You don’t have to flex your wrists but keeping them flat and maintaining that angle until you have to turn the bar over will definitely help in keeping the bar close and having the bar at the hips when looking to perform the second pull. See this as my explanation for the concept of having the knuckles down from the start.

4. Not releasing the hook grip when receiving the bar COULD (and I repeat COULD) be detrimental to your lockout.

When turning over the bar, there are two approaches to how your grip should be when receiving the bar. One is to release the hook grip and the other is to keep the hook grip. My approach is to release the hook grip as it allows you to have a quicker lockout and it eases off on the wrists when not pulling on the thumbs.

IMG_7651.JPGReleasing the hook grip allows the arms to lock out faster and better after the turnover and when receiving the bar. Image credit to Catalyst Athletics

Most of the time, because there are already so many other points to think about, releasing the hook grip is not one of them. What happens then is active pulling of the bar during the “loop” or turnover. That causes more momentum added to that phase of the movement and increases the requirement for stability in the receiving position. Secondly, it makes the movement of the wrists more of a flick than a rotation around the bar to adopt the receiving position. Of course, if you are mobile enough in your wrists, whether you release the hook grip or not doesn’t really matter if you are not too active in the wrists during that turnover.

5. Trying to pull yourself under the bar doesn’t come from being active in the arms and pulling onto the bar.

Everyone wants to move under the bar fast. And yes, it is important to move under fast. However, transitioning under the bar comes from moving into lower limb joint flexion fast in order to move the body under the bar. Thinking of using the arms to pull under the bar results in unknowingly pulling up continuously on the bar.

Related to the previous point, if you are holding into your hook grip, this will force you to end up using your arms to pull yourself under the bar instead of physically moving your hips down under the bar into the receiving position.


So here are five things regarding your grip which I think could actually hinder movement in your lifting. And most of the time, we seldom focus on the finer points of our grip. I don’t blame you. There are already 99 problems and you think the grip ain’t one.

Biomechanics, Programming, Strength & Conditioning, Technique, The Training Geek, Weightlifting

5 Lessons to Unlearn in Weightlifting.

As weightlifting is a skill that needs to be learnt, sometimes there are some mis-information going around as to what learning the lifts should be. I won’t say I have the best qualifications or experience but there are a few things I can definitely tell you for sure regarding some concepts in weightlifting that are commonly misinterpreted. Here are just five of them:

1. It’s fast from the get-go.

You are told you need to move fast. You are told it’s an explosive movement so explosive means fast. But we all know that pulling fast from the ground contributes nothing but poor positions later in the lift and you will probably struggle to make the lift.

IMG_5512.JPGCredit to Ironmind for the image.

Instead, it is usually a controlled movement off the ground, involving tension in the back and drive through the legs in order to be accurate with the positions you want to achieve. Only until you transition into a good position to develop force, that’s where you can be as fast as you want and in fact you need to be fast. More importantly fast in that transition from an upward direction to a downward direction of your body. This concept is simple. It’s one of tempo. Think of moving controlled then fast. Slow-fast.

2. I need to get under the bar faster.

So you go on to do all your high-hang work, your block work from the hips. Then you realise you still can’t receive the bar fast enough. You always end up having the bar coming down on you and you are still on your way down to meet the bar.

IMG_5315.PNGAt this point, you are heading down. But is the bar following you down? If it is, then you wouldn’t be ready to receive it.

Why so? The concept here is simple. You lost all the momentum of the bar which you tried so hard to develop in your pull. No momentum? What happens next? Bar starts coming down then. It’s not that you are not fast getting down into the bottom of a squat position. You just lack that timing. That transition which I mentioned in the earlier point. You need to let the bar do its work (many call it the weightlessness feeling) and travel up while you take that opportunity to travel down. If you constantly pull pull and pull and even try to pull yourself under, you are not developing momentum on the bar, you are placing it. Of course then, you will be too slow to get under.

3. Hip drive/hip contact.

This is even developed into a cue. Hip bump, bar need to bounce off the hips, the bar needs to be brought into the hips etc. Upon hearing this, you think you just need to feel the contact and everything should fall into place. Or you try really hard to “sweep” that bar into place and end up pulling with your arms. Or worse still, you attempt to hump the bar and end up getting a bruised hip.

IMG_5271.PNGHow the hip and the bar moves following this point is critical to how easily you will receive the bar.

Instead, you should be looking at hip contact as a result of you and the bar moving upwards and meeting (rather than colliding). Also, hip drive should be seen as part of the whole action of using the legs and not just hip extension. Stand up straight and keep your legs straight. Now open and close your hips; it doesn’t go up in any way. It goes back and forth. My point exactly. You want the bar to go up, not back and forth. The hips and the bar are two moving points and should be seen as two moving objects. If they move in the same direction, their speed increases due to momentum but if they collide, speed is lost.

4. I need to feel my weight being distributed in the different areas of my feet.

You are told you need to start with the weight in your mid foot, then you feel it move back probably to the middle of your heels then back forward into your forefoot (some say balls of the feet). All these when pulling. Tough task isn’t it? Try walking and feeling that you are trying to land heel to lateral side of your foot to the medial portion of the ball of your foot everytime you take a step.

IMG_5516.JPGWeight distribution taken too far to the limits not only force you to lose balance but also cause you to work harder than you should to bring your balance back to the centre.

Weight distribution is indicative of how the centre of mass moves over the bass of support which are your feet in this instance. It is not something you actively control by forcing yourself to get weight distributed that way but it’s a result of the actions of keeping yourself centred. More importantly, think of trying to drive force from your toes or only balls of your feet to perform a vertical jump. I do this in my seminars and workshops all the time to introduce the concept of base of support and the number of eyes that you see realising that being flat-footed when jumping makes things a lot easier to get the legs going. Why not the same for your lifts. Forget your feet when pulling. Think of your legs.

5. This is the ‘s way and they have many world champions so I should learn their technique.

You see the Russians, the Chinese, the Armenians lifting a certain way. You see a certain weightlifter lifting that way and getting big numbers overhead. You watch them lift and think I need to do what they do to hit my 100kg snatch. I need to do their program or do whatever exercises they do and I’ll lift like them.

IMG_5517-2.JPGKnow not only what they do but why they do.

I’m sorry but no. The Russians lift loke the Russians because they are Russian. The Chinese lift like the Chinese because they are Chinese. Rather than following the exact technique or learning the exact technique, you need to understand the concept of their lifting. Not the “how they do it” but the “why they do it”. You understand the why and you will understand what works and what doesn’t work for you. Blindly following a certain style may not be the best thing for you. Having a style that suits you allows you to move better. All styles or methods follow the same concepts and should lead to the same point: lifting more weight.


Learning is something that is very important in weightlifting. The desire to expand one’s knowledge is key to getting you understanding the lifts better, building better awareness of the movements and subsequently lifting better. However, there are always going to be sources of information which have been taken out of context. Hopefully, these lessons I have mentioned will help you clarify just the basic concepts related to the weightlifting movements and give you a clearer picture to make a more informed decision to what you should or should not be doing in the lifts.