A New Conceptualization of Weightlifting Technique and Training

A New Conceptualization of Weightlifting Technique and Training

Nikolai LI, PhD, Almaty

Olymp:2-3(58): 2016

Translated by Andrew Charniga Jr.


Editor’s comment:

The following two translations were originally published in the Russian Journal Olimp. All of the translations on the Sportivnypress site, the original articles and so forth are intended to be a free access resource to anyone interested in this information. The publishing of these translations  is not intended, nor should be construed as a personal endorsement of the efficacy of the material. That judgement is left to the reader.

That being said, research and ideas of forty to sixty years ago can be perfectly valid today; or, just in need of updating to be relevant to the modern program, technological advances and so forth. However, the training of weightlifters is an art and never has been a science. No amount of reading, hi – tech tracking of barbell and body parts,  watching of videos, seminars and the like can replace time spent in the gym acquiring knowledge through first hand experiences.

It is my hope those who read these articles do so with an open mind. But, nonetheless realize there is not now nor has there ever been a Russian squat program, Bulgarian squats, Romanian deadlifts, Prilepin’s secret table of sets and reps, German volume training; Panda pulls,  or special kettle bell swings, ad infinitum. On the other hand there have been, are now, and, will be good coaches, innovators of training and techniques and of course good athletes. Those things are never out of date.

The intrinsic value of the following article by Nikolai LI (and the one which will follow it) is the idea that a weightlifter’s realization of the maximum squat in results of the competition exercises can be significantly higher than the Soviet data of the 1960s suggest. This of course goes against the grain of current thinking especially in the USA where the weightlifting mindset is stuck in the era of Paul Anderson.

Hopefully, the reader will understand that the concept is the important thing here not some special exercises or special routine. That LI’s concept reinforces the two articles on the “Russian squat routnie” and the “Relative value of the back squat” is no accident. The idea the champion weightlifter does not have to have the biggest squat is not new.

I do not have the precise issue and date; but, I recall an interview with Alexseyev in Soviet Life, circa 1973. He said rivals like Patera and Reding were much stronger. He recalled walking into the training hall, training bag in hand at one European championships for a workout. When he saw Serge Reding doing repetition squats with 350 kg he turned around and left; so the sight of this much stronger man wouldn’t blow his mind.

The myth that Alexseyev could squat 450 kg is just that. Those who choose not to believe  the most weight Alexseyev ever used (according to his own words) training in the squat was 270 kg; have to ask, why lie about such a thing? 


       A New Conceptualization of Weightlifting Technique and Training


It is impossible to create a strict system of technique preparedness without a sufficient understanding of what it is one wants to learn and what you want to perfect. The reader can refer to our dissertation on this subject: “A Method of learning the technique of the weightlifting exercises”. We employed a non – traditional concept of technique of the weightlifting exercises and the method of learning them. {1}

 With the aim of understanding the essence of weightlifting we adopted a new approach to the technique of the classic snatch and the clean and jerk; which were described in the text The technique of the weightlifting exercises. Other resources found in the library in Russia and Kazakhstan were used for devising methods of learning the technique of the snatch, the clean and the jerk. The new concept of technique consists of the view that the competition exercises are comprised of five sequential mechanisms:

The First Mechanism – the preparatory actions prior to ‘throwing’ the barbell up. Called the ‘Start movement’;

The Second Mechanism – throwing the barbell up, in a manner to create conditions sufficient to permit a rapid drop under the barbell and to fix it in the squat position. Called ‘the ‘jump – throw’;

The Third Mechanism – pushing away from the barbell in a manner as to achieve maximum speed of descent under the barbell, up to the instant the barbell begins to drop. It is called the ‘pull – push – off’; which indicates] the first mechanism occurs simultaneously with the second – ‘jumping – throwing’; and, not as it is described in the special literature.

The Fourth Mechanism – this is the motor action performed in a manner to avoid a shock moment between the falling apparatus and the sportsman’s body during the switch from the un – supported squatting to the squat position. This is called the ‘amortized – receiving’; which is an outcome of and follows the third mechanism ‘pull – push – off’;

The Fifth Mechanism – the recovery from the squat, called the ‘recovery & fixation’.

Charniga photo

Any division of the competition exercises is of course conditional. Nevertheless, we can agree that the five mechanisms are present in competition exercises equally; so, one needs to develop these five mechanisms. The way to go about developing these mechanisms have been presented in the texts The Training of the weightlifter’s Technique and Weightlifting which can be found on our site www.know-how.kz.

At the present time the key elements of the weightlifting exercises are the ‘jumping’ ‘throwing’ moments during the lifting. This would be fine if weightlifting consisted of lifting the barbell up. Because of this idea weightlifters employ a number of exercises where the barbell is raised higher than in the competition exercises: muscle snatch and power snatch, push presses and so forth. Research shows this approach to training allows one to realize the strength of the leg extensors in the range of 60 – 62% in the snatch and 80 – 85% in the jerk from the chest. In actuality, this method of training ‘competes’ with that for raising heavy weights overhead in the clean and jerk and the snatch. How? Because of the height and time deficits. The lifter’s technique worsens to a one – sided drawn – out effort with a heavy weight, i.e., lifting – receiving. To this end we altered the composition of the special – preparatory exercises for training. We endeavored to determine if it were necessary to devise new effective exercises.  

Over the period 1978 – 1999 myself, then in collaboration with the GTsOLIFK weightlifting faculty, began to devise a new conceptualization of the technical training of weightlifters; which were distinguished from traditional methods beginning with first lessons with novices: learning to ‘juggle’, i.e., the skill to ‘throw’ and ‘catch’ in the squat position. All of the remaining motor actions were considered preparatory or supplementary. Signs of irrational technique were designated by the bar falling when the athlete receives the barbell in the squat position; which can lead to injury.

It must be pointed out that all of the literature dealing with the motor structure of the snatch and the clean and jerk are poorly connected with the motor actions which occur in the real world. This of course explains the enormous quantity of exercises employed by coaches which in fact are inconsistent with the technique of the competition exercises. In order not to fall into this trap we devised special – assistance exercises which are closest to the mechanisms of the competition exercises and coincide according to the following five qualities:

/ the motor task;

/ the sequential inclusion of the participating muscles;

/ the height of the barbell;

/ the time of performing the mechanism;

/ the external form of the mechanisms.

Recommended Special – Assistance Exercises

For the snatch and the clean:

/ snatch and clean with a thumbless grip in the starting position (mechanisms 4 & 5);

/ classic snatch and clean from pelvis height with the regular grip and from the hang below the knees with a thumbless grip (mechanisms 3, 4 & 5);

/ classic snatch and classic clean without ‘expressing’ (without an accentuated explosion, Ed.) mechanism 2 (mechanisms 1, 3, 4 & 5);

Charniga photo.

/ classic snatch and classic clean from the hang bellow the knee (mechanisms 1 – 5);

/ classic snatch and classic clean (mechanisms 1 – 5);

/ squat with barbell overhead snatch hand spacing and front squat (mechanisms 4 & 5);

/ pull to pelvis region with snatch and clean hand spacing (mechanism 1).

Exercises for the jerk from the chest:

/ Squats and drop jerks with barbell at arms – length in the selected method (mechanisms 4&5);

/ power snatch plus push jerk with clean hand spacing (mechanisms 4& 5);

Charniga photo.

/ push press from the selected method {split or half squat} (mechanisms 3&4);

/ push jerk from the chest from the selected method {split or half squat} (mechanisms 2-3-4);

/ jerk from the chest from the selected method {split or half squat} mechanisms 1-2-3-4);

/ classic jerk from the chest (mechanism 1-2-3-4-5);

/ half squat jerk with barbell on the chest (mechanism 1).

The technique for performing the above described exercises can be found at the site: http://know-how.kz “The technique of training weightlifters”