Ask Greg: Issue 148
Greg Everett

Jonathan Asks: What are your thoughts on how much technique should be emphasized and reinforced to athletes ranging from intermediate to advanced level lifters? Should advanced level athletes be able to make the decisions about technique along side with the coach or should no matter what the level of the lifter the coach is calling the shots with the lifters just following as the coach says and the coach adjusting to what the lifter is telling them about how they feel or what they feel through out the lift. Thank you for your time.
Greg Says: The most crucial time for technique emphasis is in the earliest stages of a new lifter’s development. It will not be perfected in this period of time, but this will be the foundation on which the lifter’s entire career will be built, and doing a poor job at this stage will create problems indefinitely. Often in the US, in which typically timeframes are compressed, this part of development isn’t given adequate emphasis, and this results in more advanced lifters physically capable of relatively big lifts but with limited consistency, more frequent injury, and lingering errors that detract from progress both by limiting the lifts and forcing the athlete to invest time into remediation during a period of his/her career in which this shouldn’t be necessary.
As athletes advance, they should play an increasingly larger role in their training, both in terms of programming and lift technique because they’re gaining more and more experience and insight into what works and doesn’t work for them. However, if there is a qualified coach involved, that coach should still be the ultimate authority because they have far more experience than the athlete, and experience with multiple athletes. This gives them a better perspective divorced of bias or various natural inclinations toward convenience or ease when counterproductive.
The greater role should come as a result of that more experienced athlete putting more effort into communicating with the coach to allow the pair to make the best possible determinations. The combination of what the lifter feels and what the coach sees and knows is what will allow the best possible results.
Sawyer Asks: I recently switched over from a split jerk to a squat jerk. Before this I had always hated split jerks, they just didn't feel right. Then I tried squat jerks and I fell in love. Perhaps this is because I'm naturally very mobile and lower body strength dominant. Is it realistic for me to switch to a far less standard form of the jerk for competition?
Greg Says: It’s a very good sign that you immediately felt comfortable and loved a particular jerk style—that definitely suggests it’s a good idea. The primary concern I have with people wanting to switch to a non-conventional jerk is that they’re doing so purely out of frustration with not being able to master the split jerk for reasons that can be addressed reasonably easily.
The two prerequisites for the squat jerk are great mobility and very strong legs, so you evidently qualify. I would suggest giving yourself a reasonable deadline to determine if the squat jerk is genuinely better for you—maybe 2-3 months or so at the most. If in that time you don’t surpass your best split jerk, you may be fooling yourself. If you immediately surpassed it when you started, then I’d say that’s your green light to stick with it.

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