With the demands of the sport being such that both maximal (clean/snatch ladder) and sub maximal high-rep olympic lifting (Isabel, Open 14.2) both feature heavily, in this article we take a look at the considerations for training to improve these concurrently.
Firstly, it’s important to differentiate between “classical” Olympic Weightlifting and Weightlifting specifically for Crossfit. Whilst unquestionably many of the well-established training methods from classical weightlifters are also valid for those competing in Crossfit and other mixed modality fitness competitions, there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to high-rep olympic lifting.
Let’s now take a look at two contrasting styles from the same athlete below:
In these stills it’s easy to see the difference in styles that is called for during high-repetition workouts.
Also, have a look at the videos from which the photos are taken from:
136 kg snatch
For high rep workouts such as Isabel (30 Snatches for time) I advocate a higher-hip-hinged style of lifting, as we can see in the first image. This not only assists in conserving energy but aids in avoiding compression of the diaphragm so as not to inhibit regular breathing patterns. This touch’n’go (TnG) method of lifting can be hugely beneficial to those with high lower back strength endurance but weaker legs, as it negates the need to bend/re-bend the knees therefore increasing the cycle speed of the movement.
The competitive Crossfit athlete will need to incorporate training methods from both classical Weightlifting whilst also including training specific to high-rep olympic lifting, such as barbell cycling, TnG repetitions and perhaps alternate lifting technique.
Although these TnG repetitions have been in use within classical weightlifting circles for years in assistance work such as snatch/clean deadlifts, this was to ensure tension is maintained in the body rather than going slack, relaxing, losing optimal position and then picking the weight back up.
It’s important to note however that the TnG method is not appropriate in every case. Especially in those new to the olympic lifts or those with a weak lower back and requires a significant level of posterior chain muscular endurance.
For those looking to implement high-rep olympic lifting skill work, barbell cycling and experimenting with TNG reps, be sure to work on your postural endurance first and foremost. Check out the four exercises below that will help build a solid posterior chain for TnG reps:
Four Essential Assistance Exercises For Building TnG Reps
1. Back Extensions
Focus on a slow controlled movement with static hold at the top of the movement to reinforce isometric spine extension strength, which is how the spinal erectors will function for weightlifting and specifically during your TnG reps.
Suggested tempo: @4242
2. Hard-Style Heavy Kettlebell Swings
Excellent for scapular retraction, glute engagement, spinal erector strength and there’s also been studies to show that they can be more beneficial than squats and sprinting for glute development
Research has also shown that hardstyle kettlebell swings produce around an 80% MVC (Maximum voluntary contraction) from the gluteals with a 16kg kettlebell.
No suggested tempo here, ensure good form with an explosive hip extension and anatomical breathing.
3. Snatch/Clean Grip Tempo Deadlifts
This not only increases time under tension but restricts the weight that can be lifted for beginners whilst providing a near-isometric stimulus to the spinal erectors and posterior chain. Straps can be used here to ensure that grip strength does not limit the load.
Suggested tempo: @21×2
4. Good Mornings
These are excellent for developing isometric strength of the back extensors and hip extension strength of the hamstrings. The relatively large distance between barbell and fulcrum (hip) results in a high level of torque on the hips and back, this bar placement makes it far easier to forcefully extend the spinal erectors. This distance also allows absolute strength and strength endurance work to be done at lighter loads and with a faster recovery time than that of alternatives such as Romanian Deadlifts or Stiff Legged Deadlifts, making it an ideal option during high volume training phases.
Suggested tempo: @31×3
This is by no means an exhaustive list, merely a collection of four of my preferred methods and a couple of variations for you to experiment with. Accessory, assistance and structural balance work should be individual specific to your physiology, abilities, limitations and the requirements of your sport.
In addition to the structural demands on the athlete from TnG repetitions, there are also a number of differing demands placed upon specific energy systems within high repetition olympic weightlifting workouts in order to perform optimally. This is something that I’ll be covering in part two of this article.