Are you paralyzing yourself by thinking?
I read this good article from First Pull a while ago and it inspired me to write about my biggest challenge when teaching technique these days. Around 500 people participate my classes yearly and their technical problems are usually pretty easy to fix. Or they would be, without my biggest problem, which is of psychological sort. My biggest problem is people over analysing and my most common cue is starting to be “don’t think, just do”. I have started to open the technique workshop with “forget everything you ever have heard of snatching, even if it was something I told you, and just focus on ONE THING at a time”. So, less thinking.
From the article above: “However, no great lifter need to think about a long list of details before they lift. It ruins the lifting sequence and slows everything down as well as introducing compensation. I have noticed a trend in which newer adult lifters know more than they can realistically put in practice. It’s great that people are knowledgeable about weightlifting. However, there is a time to learn and think about weightlifting stuff and that time is not the platform itself … Focus on one thing and make it better.
Moreover, since weightlifting is a skill that takes a lot of time to develop, your knowledge can be higher than your skill level.”
In my experience, there are two reasons for this problem: one is fear and the other is coaching (or learning on your own) that focuses too much on technical details. Fear comes from lack of experience and it is the fear of injury, looking silly etc. Coaching that focuses mostly on technical details usually also comes from lack of experience. Now I am not saying that technique is not important but that is just one important aspect when you want to move large loads on that bar. Other aspects are generating power and the ability to read the bar (= to move your body according to its speed, height and to maintain balance). To some, these come naturally and you might say these people have talent for this sport. But for the vast majority, these only come through years of practise – and moving large enough loads. You cannot learn these by reading about them or watching videos.
As weightlifting has become more popular, more people are teaching others how to perform the lifts or want to learn about them on their own. If one does not have much experience on the lifts, it is very natural to seek information by reading articles and watching videos. Seeking information is a good thing, but one has to also understand the nature of weightlifting; which is to lift as much as possible. And to do that, just polishing 50 technical details, will not bring success.
A coach needs to have a good understanding of biomechanics. That will allow him to find the right technique for different lifters. One of the problems with too many details is not being able to tell what is relevant and what suits each lifter individually. The technique that allows you to lift the largest loads and follows the technical rules, is the best technique.
For example: the start up position. A good start up position allows you to lift the bar in good balance with efficient inter- and intramuscular rhythm. That is just biomechanics. The actual position might look different on different lifters. Even the vertical line of the bar moving up might look a little different. And that is OK. If you try to follow a long list of cues for your start up position, you will a) kill the speed and rhythm before you even start b) lose focus on power c) possibly be in a position that does not suit you. There is no one right position that suits everyone and that is why I dislike these technical lists for positions. We have different body proportions and strengths so one technique cannot suit all. A while ago, a lot of people were asking me how the chin should be in the start up position – I don’t mind if you point it to the left if it makes you lift more (even though looking straight forward and to your own eye level is the best way to go for most ;) ).
There are also various lists of technical details out there – so how do you know that you are using a suitable one for you? And while thinking about that list, did you concentrate at all on power, rhythm, balance? Which is more important when moving large loads – where you chin is pointing at the start or applying enough power? Quite often I might make a beginner lifter literally jump up 10cm off the platform while lifting (and to ONLY THINK ABOUT DOING THAT, no matter what it looks like), just to get them to put enough power and momentum into the lift. Usually they don’t get any air time at all anyway, but focusing on jumping makes the lift lighter – because there was no thinking about 50 different things to slow you down and no fear of how it looks. So, instead of thinking about extending “the right way” they actually FELT a more powerful extension. Which is what we want; an efficient lift, not one that looks perfect according to some long list but where you can only move around 30% of your max while trying to LOOK perfect.
Also, trying to copy the technique of elite lifters usually does not work. This comes back down to biomechanics and thus differences in body proportions and strengths. And to the difference in looking like something and feeling something.
So, less thinking and more feeling! That is my point here. If the lift feels lighter, faster and more balanced than the previous one, you were doing it right on the latter one. Regardless of where you chin was pointing at, if it felt good, it was pointing at the right direction.