Ask Greg: Issue 90
Greg Everett

Shane Asks: I took your seminar last July, it was great, thanks again. Since then I have had sort of a change of lifestyle, I'm back in my hometown of Houston and my current career path is making it very challenging for me to follow my training the way I like. I have read many of your postings, and I know that your answer to the basic question of "I can't commit myself fully to your programming should I...?" is that if I can't commit myself to the program, then don't bother. However, I LOVE weightlifting. Because of my work schedule I will only be able to commit week day workouts to be 30ish minute sessions, which will have to consist of short metcons, basic strength training, things that don't require lengthy warm ups, etc.

What I would like to do is commit Sunday, every weekend to mobility and Olympic weightlifting. I know once a week isn't enough to see any real gains. I would just like to stay active with the lifts and try to hang on to most of what I have. I have a fairly active weightlifting background since I started crossfitting nearly 4 years ago. I did a competition a couple months ago that was mock with USAW rules where I snatched 225lbs (had a no lift called at 235lbs due to a small elbow bend) and c&j 275lbs at a bodyweight of 184lbs. The only reason I'm sharing this with you is to give you the idea that I am not a beginner and I already have good lifting practices and techniques in place.

Now, all that to ask this simple question: is there one of your existing training cycles posted on your website that you would recommend I follow with this once a week format? And maybe even cycle through repeatedly?

Sorry for the long read and I do appreciate your time. Keep up the good work. Thanks.

Greg Says:
I wouldn’t say you can’t make any real gains doing the lifts one day per week, you just won’t be able to make as much progress as you would with more frequent training. But of course, you have to work with what you have.

I would suggest since you know the lifts pretty well (I remember you from the seminar—you’re pretty squared away), you should focus on snatching and clean & jerking, and minimize accessory and remedial work as much as possible. A simple approach would be to simple snatch and clean & jerk up to a heavy single each Sunday, possibly alternating which lift you perform first each week. I would suggest making pretty small weight increases to find that heavy single to get more reps in. You can also do some triples and doubles at the lighter weights for this same reason—you want to squeeze as much practice in as possible. If after reaching the heavy single for the day you have some more time and/or feel you need to get some more work in, drop back down for a few more sets of singles or doubles at a weight that allows you to perform technically excellent reps. Never end your workout on a miss or a poorly executed lift—always get at least one good back off set in if you have a miss or bad lift.

Each week, pay attention to what technical problems you’re experiencing and plan to address the most important one the following week. This can be anything from simply focusing on correcting that problem, or picking an exercise to help correct it. This exercise should be done immediately prior to the classic lift with the problem as used as a “technique primer”.

Steven Asks:
I'm teaching myself the snatch, with your videos and book, and have a technique question. With a stick or empty bar I receive the bar in a decent squat, but as I put weight on the bar, or as I get tired, I receive higher and higher. My lift turns into a power snatch unintentionally. I'm lifting half my bodyweight, and can do overhead squats with the weight, or actually snatch a dumbell as just as heavy. Any advice on correcting this? Thanks.

Greg Says: If you can sit into a good overhead squat without weight, it’s clear flexibility is not the problem (although it may very well not be perfect—if not, keep working on that). This kind of thing is nearly always the result of a lack of confidence under the bar; that is, you’re simply not allowing yourself to pull under the bar (probably unconsciously) because you’re not convinced you’ll be able to support it.

The most basic thing you need to do is spend more time in the bottom position. Warm-up with overhead squats and snatch balances. Stop power snatching intentionally and only do snatches. The times when you do power snatch unintentionally, squat it after you receive it. Hold the bottom position for two to three seconds every time. The idea here is not just to prepare you physically for the receiving position, but mentally to make it so routine and comfortable that you never think about it or hesitate to put yourself there.

If and when your overhead squat is sound and comfortable, begin doing more snatch balances. Force yourself to receive them in as deep of a squat as possible. Do this by using a slow, smooth dip and a minimal push with the legs—just barely enough to give you time to get under the bar. Focus on the speed of the punch down under the bar, not on the leg drive. Again, hold the bottom position for two to three seconds every time.

In your case, I would make the goal overhead squatting and snatch balancing at least a few more kilos than what you can presently snatch (or power snatch). For people who don’t have the problem you do, often the snatch is heavier than either of these exercises. But for you, pushing your ability in the exercises should help with your confidence in the snatch.

You can also use some snatch variants to emphasize the pull under the bar such as high-hang snatches, tall snatches or snatches from high blocks (e.g. mid-thigh). Focus on an aggressive pull with the arms, elevating the elbows as much as possible before turning the bar over. This will allow you to really feel the acceleration down under the bar and make it routine rather than something you have to focus on during your snatches.

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