Most Common Olympic Weightlifting Mistakes & How to Fix

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Junior Lifters

I notice a lot of common mistakes in today’s world of Olympic weightlifting. Three of which, I notice more than others. Today I will attempt to point them out, and give a few suggestions to correct the issues. Weightlifting is a game of millimeters. The cool thing about that statement is that a 1 millimeter shift in technique might be exactly what you need to push through a barrier.

The most common mistake that I notice while traveling around to competitions and seminars is “leaving the bar out in front and reaching the hips for the bar”. The key is to guide the bar towards the hips with the arms in a sweeping type motion. Some people actually use a slight elbow bend back(not up) like a small row. The elbow bend is more of an advanced movement that I wouldn’t teach new Weightlifters, but I have watched people like Donnie Shankle and Jon North use this technique with massive success. Three other ways to correct “hip reaching” are: Position Pulls, partner banded position pulls, and the infamous “hit and catch”.

Position Pulls can be used with the snatch or clean. The first key is a tight set up/dynamic start. Most people miss max attempts right from the start. Messing your start up is a total mental let down because that is the one aspect that we have total control over. Here are a few tips on the start: set the back tight(full extension), feel the bar shift back into the shin, eyes are out and slightly up, and start sweeping the bar back right off the floor.

Next pause the bar at position 2 which is right at the knees. The key here is to not let the butt shoot straight up with the knees back too soon. With a proper start, this shouldn’t happen. The knees go back just enough to let the bar pass by. A major mistake is moving the bar around the knee. Try to look at weightlifting like a gymnast. A gymnast moves around the bar or apparatus. A weightlifter should move around the bar.


Position 1 is the power position. In position 1, your back should be completely vertical, your knees bent 3-5 inches, and the bar should be pulled tightly into the power position. If one ends up in this position, the hips should then make an upper cut on the bar propelling it up and slightly back. The key is teaching the body exactly what needs to happen during the entire pull to end up in this position.

Here is a video showing position pulls:

Partner banded pulls can also be used with a snatch or clean grip. Banded pulls are performed with a mini band attached directly in the middle of the bar. A partner stands out in front of the bar applying gentle and even pressure while the lifter performs the position pulls. This is a great drill teaching the athlete exactly what muscles to engage to perform the perfect sweep back during the lift. Here is a video demonstrating Partner Banded Pulls:

Hit and Catch is a great drill made famous by Jon North. My coach Wes Barnett actually used it way back when to teach me bar to body contact. The Hit and Catch drill begins at Position 1. Then the athlete allows the bar to drift in front while the butt drifts back. Then the bar and hips are brought together violently causing the bar to fly upwards into the catch position. Once again this drill can be used for the snatch or clean. This is a great way to teach bringing the bar to the hips, and to teach bar oscillation. Here is a video teaching exactly how to perform:

I’ll go over “the bar crashing” and “missing jerks in front” next time.

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