BOXROX Pro

How to Build Overhead Strength and Balance for Olympic weightlifting

Upgrade your skills.

Learn how to build overhead strength and balance and take you Olympic Weightlifting to the next level.

My coaching experience, observation, and communication with many athletes around the world show that they like the clean, they more or less are okay with the snatch and most of them don’t like or do not understand the jerk movement.

How to Build Overhead Strength and Balance for Olympic weightlifting

The reason for the dislike of the later ones is the need to hold a bar above one’s head and, moreover, do it with your hands straight. This point tends to be a huge challenge while lifting heavy weights in extreme training or competition environment. 

Aleksey Torokhtiy How to Build Overhead Strength and Balance for Olympic weightliftingSource: Aleksey Torokhtiy

In this article, I will walk you through three helpful exercises by implementing which you will get to a new overhead strength and balance level in just a month. 

1. SNATCH OVERHEAD SQUAT “OHS”

It is a basic exercise that is often used by coaches as a test for newbies to check their mobility and balance. When I first came to a weightlifting gym, I failed it because of poor mobility. After years of training, I managed to lift 220 kilos/ 485 pounds in this exercise. 

In this video, my OHS is 205 kilos.

Recommended load:

My advice is to add 1-3 reps of OHS to every set of the snatch during the warmup (up to 60% from 1RM of the SNATCH). It helps prepare your body, establishes balance, and, therefore,  improves stability in the overhead position. 

2. SNATCH PUSH PRESS

It is a strength exercise for adjusting the overhead position. An athlete holds a bar on the shoulders with a wide grip, performs the dip and drive, and after the full leg extension presses the bar out till the lockout and fixes it above the head. Doing the SNATCH PUSH PRESS even once a week, you may increase this exercise result up to 105-110% from 1RM in the snatch and enhance both overhead strength and balance and confidence for working with new snatch weights.

How to Build Overhead Strength and Balance for Olympic weightlifting

Recommended load: 

Option “А”: If you have 3 or fewer training sessions a week, I advise adding 1-3 reps of the SNATCH PUSH PRESS to every snatch set during the warmup (up to 60% from 1RM of SNATCH). It will prepare the body and toughen upper body muscles for a solid overhead position.

Option “В”: If you have 4 or more training sessions a week, I advise adding a separate workout (apart from the option “A”) with a combination of the SNATCH PUSH PRESS and OHS in one set: 

Example:

3 reps * PUSH PRESS + 3 reps * OHS up to 85% from 1RM of SNATCH

3. SNATCH BALANCE

Any athlete, who performs the snatch, knows that they need incredible precision and balance to catch a bar at speed and firmly fix it above the head.

This exercise particularly targets coordination, speed, precision, and balance in the receiving position.

Recommended load:

Option “А”: If you have 3 or fewer training sessions a week, add 1-3 reps of SNATCH BALANCE to every snatch set during the warmup (up to 60% from 1RM of SNATCH).

Option “В”:  If you have 4 or more training sessions a week, add a separate workout (apart from the option “A”) with a combination of the SNATCH PUSH PRESS, SNATCH BALANCE, and OHS in one set. 

Example:

2 reps * PUSH PRESS + 2 reps * SNATCH BALANCE + 2 reps * OHS up to 75% from 1RM of SNATCH.

BONUS:

Find two auxiliary strength jerk exercises below: 

MILITARY PRESS with RUBBER BANDS

The main purpose of this exercise is to involve tiny upper body muscles and strengthen core stabilizers.

You shouldn’t rush for heavy loads but rather work with comfortable ones. The main point is to hold the weight above the head and fix a barbell in that position despite oscillations created by the plates hung on rubber bands. There are two ways of performing this exercise:

  1. A very slow press – this option is perfect for strengthening weak shoulders and post-injury recovery;     
  2. A more aggressive press – at the stage of fixing, plates will give more oscillations so it takes more time to stabilize the position. 

SPLIT PRESS + OHS

It is a great coordination and strength complex for improving the OH position in jerk. Using the split stance, an athlete presses a bar from the chest or from behind the neck (a combination is also possible) and then performs the OH split squats. In order to develop stability, you better choose NOT heavy weights and do more reps. 

Example: 

SPLIT PRESS + OHS: 6+6 reps for RIGHT side + 6+6 reps for LEFT side

You may have noticed that mainly snatch exercises focus on overhead strength and balance. The reason is that the wide (snatch) grip is more effective for balance training and stabilizers enhancement, especially when it comes to beginners. By the way, professional athletes (Asians in particular) also use the JERK OVERHEAD SQUAT and JERK BALANCE. 

Yet, don’t forget to work in other positions and planes. Therefore, you should definitely include in your training plan those exercises from the BONUS part. 

Also I would like to remind to all BOXROX readers the you can find a bunch of awesome training programs on torokhty.com

Crossfitters and competitive fitness athletes might be especially interested in EMOM weightlifting and WL4CF, because completing these 2 programs will definitely increase Olympic weightlifting skills, training capacity and results in snatch and clean & jerk. So go for it now!

Keep in mind that overhead stability demands not only physical strength but also joint mobility, muscle flexibility as well as patience and proper load planning.

Image Sources

Related news