Ask Greg: Issue 122
Greg Everett

Pedro Asks: Hi Greg, I'm a 26-year-old newbie in love with Olympic Weightlifting. My background in sports is mostly recreational. I know I'm probably not in range to compete with quality, but it is my personal (maybe naive) aspiration to reach Level 4 as outlined by Catalyst Athletics with a lot of hard work in the coming years. I would like to ask if you think that's a realistic goal I'm setting, and what other thoughts and advice you would have for others beginning in their mid to late 20s. Thank you.

Greg Says: It’s certainly possible to reach that level starting at age 26, but it will be a lot of hard work and it will also depend on your background, which you haven’t clarified. At 26, you should be healthy and relatively sound orthopedically—if you’ve had any major injuries, that may limit you somewhat, but typically at that age, recovery is complete enough to not be a concern. The two biggest background factors will be mobility and strength base. If your mobility is limited, you’ll have to put in a lot of work and time into improving it, and your training will be slowed while you’re working toward the necessary mobility. The importance of having a good strength base should be obvious—the stronger you are coming into it, the less time you need to spend gaining the strength to be able to reach your goal lifts. You’ll still need time to acquire and improve the skill of the lifts and to learn to properly apply the strength you have into those lifts, but the more general strength you have, the faster this process will be.

Another consideration is lifestyle. Up to about Level 3, you can approach weightlifting somewhat recreationally. That is, you can fit it in around the rest of your life, adjusting your training to fit the circumstances and not entirely prioritizing it. To get past that level, you’ll likely need to completely focus your life on lifting—that is, your training and restoration will have to become your first priority and the rest of your life will need to be adjusted to fit around it. This is the biggest problem for most people as we all have to find ways to support ourselves financially, and the less time you have available to work, the harder this becomes. This is often the major roadblock in the process—lifters get stopped here because they’re unable to make that major change in the structure of their lives.

Finally, you’re going to need a good coach and ideally a good team. You have a limited timeframe to work with as you’re starting late, so it’s even more important that you have good guidance from an experienced coach. A coach will help you maximize your progress in the time you have and help motivate you and keep you accountable as well.

Matt Asks: Greg, I have a question regarding the snatch. When snatching, I am told often that I am not opening my hips and starting my second pull to soon. Now, I have read many articles and watched many videos but something is still not "clicking" which is extremely frustrating because I work really hard at it. I know I need to be patient starting my second pull and I try but I still don’t think I am getting that hip opening explosion I see in so many other lifters. What can I do?

Greg Says: Without seeing you actually lift, I’m going to be guessing, but a few thoughts come to mind. First, most often staying the second pull too soon is the result of, if not of a conceptual misunderstanding like it’s clearly not in this case, being out of balance forward or backward. More common is being forward, but having your weight too far backward will have a similar effect. If you’re out of balance as you reach the knee level or so, your body recognizes the impending problem—if you’re forward and wait to extend, you’ll be falling forward even more as your center of mass is elevated; if you’re backward and wait to extend, you’ll move your center of mass even farther backward with that extension and be falling backward. In response, you’ll open the hips early (and probably partially) to escape the certain doom of falling one way or another.

The solution for that problem is to do exercises like snatch segment deadlifts or pulls and halting snatch deadlifts to practice, strengthen and reinforce the proper position and balance during the pull to the mid- to upper-thigh where the second pull should begin. Of course, you’ll need to focus on being properly balanced while performing these lifts—weight over the front edge of the heel (slightly behind mid-foot). You can also do a complex of halting snatch deadlift at mid- to upper-thigh followed by a snatch to help ingrain that movement, position and timing.

The incomplete hip extension is probably related to the first problem as I alluded to above. If you’re out of balance forward, you’re literally falling over as you lift, and the way to escape is to rush to pull under the bar (likely with a forward jump to get under it) before you actually fall over. This means incomplete hip extension. It may also be incomplete in such a case because you’re simply unable to bring the bar back enough to get the shoulders behind the hips from such a forward position.

Being out of balance backward will also prevent full hip extension because if you did fully extend, your weight would be too far back—likely behind your heels—so your body will cut it short in an act of self-preservation.

To help fix the problem, I would try a complex of snatch pull + snatch, being sure on both lifts to be very patient and not initiate the second pull until mid-thigh. Another exercise to try would be a slow-pull snatch, again the purpose being to time the initiation of the second pull properly and also be able to feel and adjust your balance to that point better.

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