What CrossFit Athletes and General Fitness Should Be Aware Of

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Lately a lot has been done to revive the popularity of Weightlifting in America. CrossFit is without a doubt leading the charge. The 2013 American Open was the biggest competition in the world that year with over 400 athletes. The 2014 Youth Nationals was the biggest weightlifting event ever with over 530 athletes. The sport is exploding, and I am loving it.

More people than ever are taking interest in a sport that I have loved my whole life. Less and less people are asking me what I bench when I tell them I compete in weightlifting. People of all ages are interested in learning the snatch and clean & jerk. Now as much as I love this, the new interest needs to be handled properly. The snatch and clean & jerk can be rough on the body and downright dangerous. A preparation phase along with proper technique should be the focus of any rookie lifter’s program.

All too often, I see athletes performing the snatch or clean & jerk with terrible technique and/or bodies that are not ready for either. Now before you think that I have lumped CrossFit into one big group of terrible coaches and athletes, I don’t think this at all. I have met some of the best coaches ever in the CrossFit world. I’ve watched athletes like Will Hall snatch over 300 pounds right in front of my eyes with excellent technique. I am not just referring to CrossFit. I am talking about the garage warrior, the strength and conditioning athlete, and even people at globo gyms that happen to offer a weightlifting section. I am talking about any athlete trying to snatch and clean & jerk without a proper foundation.


Athletes like Shane Hamman, arguably the greatest American Heavy Weight of all-time, spent a month with an empty bar practicing technique before one weighted snatch or clean & jerk. He spent time preparing his body with general exercises that world strengthen his body properly for heavy snatches and cleans. Shane’s coach made sure that he had the proper mobility that would be required for the main lifts. When discrepancies were found, they were addressed first before moving forwards. This is the proper way to prepare someone for weightlifting.

Coaching an athlete that is new to weightlifting is a challenging but also rewarding endeavor. There is nothing like seeing an athlete complete his first full depth snatch with a perfectly vertical back. It’s art! Without a solid foundation, instead of art you get the crap that we are all privileged to see on YouTube where you might see someone drop the bar on their head or worse. There are two exercises that I recommend having a new athlete attempt before beginning a program with a new athlete: overhead squat and front squat.

With the overhead squat, I am looking for proper depth, a vertical spine, and the bar directly above or slightly behind the ears. In the front squat, I am looking for solid protraction of the shoulder, the bars ability to sit on the shoulder, proper depth, a vertical spine, and the ability of the elbows to stay up. If an athlete isn’t able to perform these two movements properly, then mobility in these patterns is priority number one. There is no point in beginning to teach the snatch and clean & jerk if the athlete doesn’t have the movement and/or mobility required. If you try to teach them at this point, the body will compensate with faulty movement patterns that could take a lifetime to correct. Spending a little extra time will pay off for the athlete in the long run.

Wes Barnett, two-time Olympian, was my first ever weightlifting coach. He was still an athlete when I met him, but he was a great coach. My athletes can thank him for a lot of the coaching methods that I use today. When I started with him, I spent months performing exercises that would strengthen my body for the upcoming training. For the snatch, I performed sotts press, overhead squats, snatch balances, snatch grip push presses, snatch pulls, and muscle snatches. For the clean, he had me do front squats with as many of my fingers as possible on the bar, back squats, and clean pulls. For the jerk, we did presses from the split, jerks from the split, push presses, and standing presses. We also did some general strengthening with pull-ups, bench press, dips, and bent over rows.

Wes spent the rest of the time teaching me the proper technique of the snatch and clean & jerk. It wasn’t glamorous, but it worked. I moved up quickly in the world of weightlifting after I took some precious time to learn the sport correctly. Coaches all too often rush into teaching weighted snatches and clean & jerks because they don’t want to make the athletes mad. Today’s athletes are impatient, and the coaches don’t want to lose a client. I suggest grabbing your loins up, and remember you are the coach. These athletes have to trust that you have their best interests when you are coaching them. If they can’t trust you, let them hit the road.

When you build a gym full of athletes that are snatching and clean & jerking like bosses, then people will be knocking the doors down to be coached by you. Nothing is more of a sign of good coaching, then walking into a gym full of people lifting with beautiful technique. Nothing says “this coach is a joke” more than a bunch of people attempting snatches, cleans, and even squats with technique that looks more like a seizure or fit than real lifting. Weightlifting should look like art. If it doesn’t in your gym, then change your program.

A beginner’s program could look something like this:

Clean Grip Sotts Press
Snatch Bar Technique
Clean Bar Technique
Front Squats Paused in bottom
Clean Pulls
Push Press

Snatch Grip Sotts Press
Snatch Technique
Clean Technique
Overhead Squats
Snatch Pulls
Snatch Grip BH Neck Press

Muscle Snatch
Split Jerk Position Presses BH Neck
Back Squats
Bent over Rows

There are other ways to group the exercises, but you get the drift. The goal in the foundation stage is to prepare the body by strengthening the shoulder girdle, hips, and entire posterior chain. It is also to program perfect movement patterns that will be used by the athlete forever. Take your time in this phase, and the payoff will be huge!

As far as CrossFit goes, the main reason I used the title “What CrossFit is Messing Up” was to grab your attention. CrossFit as a whole is changing the way the world does fitness. I visit CrossFits monthly to find great coaches and athletes performing snatches and clean & jerks with great technique along with their muscle ups, pull-ups, and handstand pushups. Unacceptable technique happens in all places even some weightlifting only gyms. This article was for anybody that might teach the snatch, clean & jerk, or any variations of either. I am very thankful for what CrossFit has done for fitness!

My friends at Working Against Gravity (Adee and Hayden) and Mash Elite have teamed up to bring you a new program:

Eat What You Want, Lift What You Want

This program includes:

• Strength Program based around your specific goals(General Fitness, At Home Workouts, Weightlifting, Powerlifting, or Athletic Performance)
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• Nutrition Plan teaching you to understand Macros freeing you to eat more freely
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Click on the link below for more information:

Eat What You Want, Lift What You Want!

Eat What You Want

This program includes:

• Nutrition Plan teaching you to understand Macros freeing you to eat more freely
• Catered to your goals: weight loss, body fat loss, athletic performance, or general health
• Recovery suggestions
• Secret Facebook Group to communicate with coaches and teammates

Click on the link below for more information:

Eat What You Want!