The sport of weightlifting requires speed, strength, coordination and mobility as well as skill. Anyone can pick something up off the floor, but picking something heavy up and over your head is much more difficult (in this article I define “heavy” as heavier than your body weight). Even the strongest individual can lift a weight only a limited distance, so you need to get under the bar to be successful. And quickly.
This is what weightlifting is all about and what sets it apart from other “strength” sports like powerlifting and powerlifting. Getting under the belt requires mobility: ankles, hips, shoulders, and especially chest. In this article, I’ll go over some ways to become more mobile for weightlifting and how to structure your training accordingly.
What is weightlifting?
Weightlifting consists of two lifts, each of which must lift the barbell off the floor and raise it overhead:
· Grasp: A single move that requires skill and courage.
· Clean and Jerk: Two movements: the clean raises the bar over your shoulders and the jerk raises the bar overhead. Because it is done in two parts, more weight is lifted than when pulling.
Here’s an introduction to the sport with some of our club lifts:
General points of stiffness
Most beginners who come to our club suffer from daily stiffness caused by a sedentary lifestyle or a bodybuilding type program: the bench press is never done by weightlifters because it doesn’t carry over into the overhead lift and causes shoulder compression. The internal rotation of the shoulders caused by bench pressing, sitting at a desk, or driving is the opposite of what is required in the crunch.
Mobility of the shoulders and thoracic spine: instead of working the shoulders separately, we prefer to fix one or two arms and move the body around it. This video shows the bridge with one arm fixed, starting from a squat and then rotating.
When moving in a fixed position, the shoulder must brace and support the weight at different angles and planes. This is difficult to achieve with “static” stretching.
T-Spine Mobility: The thoracic spine is what attaches to your rib cage: it gets very tight when you bend over tables. If the T-spine is stiff, lifting the barbell overhead forces the shoulders to extend more. This hanging sequence again works under the assumption of a “fixed” position, this variation is performed with both arms fixed overhead and the body must perform different movements below it.
Ankle Mobility: The best way to squat is to squat more! But instead of trying to repeat the same action, we try to change what we do. In this sequence, we add a lot of variety from the bottom position. In the video you can see that some children are very good and others are struggling. This is typical of those experiencing a growth spurt. Working in these menial positions also strengthens the children. This is ideal preparation before trying to load them with external weight.
Incorporating mobility into the warm-up
During the warm-up, we do big movements that push the athletes to their limits before picking up the barbell. Big movements require all major muscle groups to work together, which helps raise body temperature.
Once the lifters are competent and mobile enough, I have to find different options to keep their mind and body stimulated.
An example is this hip mobility exercise using obstacles:
Stepping over an obstacle requires full extension of the legs, and squatting under an obstacle requires full flexion at the knees, hips and ankles: just like deadlifts.
Once you’ve developed your core mobility, you can come up with your own mobility development techniques, like here’s one of our lifts:
The most important principle we follow when developing weightlifters is that they have to earn the right to lift more weight. If their technique is solid and they are mobile and strong enough, they can increase the weights. Accidents happen if you focus only on the external load and not on how the lift is moving.