What you Need to know to Make Weightlifting Easier

April 22, 2016 1 Comment

“If you can’t reach the end position comfortably, than moving there dynamically will be ugly!”

When I started coaching weightlifting I came to a quick conclusion. I could talk all day about the positions of the lifts, bar path and the overall technique of weightlifting. However, if I was unable to help an athlete reach the positions they need for a good lift, due to mobility restrictions, than I wasn’t going to be very successful.

I’ve heard stories of training back in the 70’s. An athlete would walk into a gym to learn the Olympic lifts and the coach would ask them to take a dowel rod and perform an overhead squat. If they were unable than they would be told the sport wasn’t for them and asked to leave!!

Luckily, today we know there is a ton we can do to improve our mobility. The most difficult part is knowing when and what to do. My hope is to help you with this burden. I’ve created a quick mobility schedule that will have you moving much better when it comes to the Olympic Lifts.

You can find the Mobility for Weightlifting Schedule here.

The Dilemma

So you want to perform the Olympic lifts. However, when you take a bar with no weight and put it over your head, you feel very uncomfortable. As you attempt to squat down the discomfort increases and there are even some dull pains.

This will prevent you from moving well – No Matter How Tough You Are!

The nervous system will detect the discomfort from immobility as danger. Without a conscious thought your body will push away from the bar.

So to move as we need to for the Olympic Lifts we must help increase our range of motion. I’ve broken this post into 5 sections. Each section has a video and specific sets of exercises.

  • The Primaries – Do these only and you’ll still be better off than 80% of athletes out there.
  • Overhead Focus – Many athletes jump at this section. It will help, but know that some of our overhead issues can be caused by the hips and ankles
  • Hip Focus – If our butt isn’t able to sit between our heels than weightlifting is going to be frustrating.
  • Ankle Focus – Twist your ankle in the past? Wear high heels? Just haven’t squatted much before in your life?... there is probably some work to do here.
  • Common Trouble Areas – Ah… the forearms and calves are a great example. We’ll give them some love here.


**Note** - Mobility isn’t about “more pain more gain”… these movements can be painful and uncomfortable. Your number 1 goal is to relax. Focus on your breathing. If you’re not breathing you’re not relaxing. Relaxation first, movement and pressure second! Always.

The Lat Roll – There is much more going on here than just the Lats. We are able to attack a big area that has huge implications on our overhead positions.

The Quad Roll – You’ll be amazed by the increase in depth of squat with this exercise.

The Adductor Roll – Oh goodness. You’re knees will be able to push out (externally rotate in dork talk) like never before. Yes, this is needed in weightlifting.

The Corpse Lay – This is by far my favorite because you have NO excuses not to do it (you can play on your phone while doing it). Hip flexor glory. Sit a lot during the day? You need this.

*All videos for the primaries can be seen in the video above

Timing of Mobility

Timing of mobility exercise is important. We’re going to break this down into 3 times.

  • Pre-Workout
  • Immediately Workout
  • Anytime during the Day (Up to 2 hours before the would)

The timing allows us to get more from the mobility work and from our workout. I discuss this in detail in the video below.

Overhead Focus

Ah the snatch and the jerk. We need to have that overhead mobility to get it locked in. Here are some great exercises to try out.  

Wall Angels – Hello shoulders! If you have poor control of your scapula this will wake them up.

Med Ball T-Spine Stretch – Opening up the thoracic spine is a goal of many weightlifters. The challenge here is to NOT compensate with the lumbar spine.

Shoulder Compression – Compression/voodoo straps help. These areas when done right can leave some light bruises so don’t be surprised.

Lacrosse Ball Scap Focus – Weightlifters need this at least once a week during normal training. You’ll be amazed.

Lacrosse Ball Pec Focus – Feeling a bit of pain in the front of your shoulder? Opening up the pec can help.

*All videos for the overhead can be seen in the video above

Hip Focus

Again, if we can’t sit our butt between our heels life will be rough when it comes to the Olympic lifts. Here are some great exercises to try out.

High Hip Compression – Compression/voodoo straps help. In this area we’re close to the femoral artery so about a minute should do the trick. If your leg goes numb take it off.

Three-way Hip Opener – This is vital after a long drive in the car or sitting too long at a desk.

Plate Hip Opener – Save this for right after the workout. Just relax and let the legs sink.

Frog Stretch – Popular in wrestling and martial arts this exercise is great for after training to work on extending your range of motion.

*All videos for the hip can be seen in the video above

Ankle Focus

Have you twisted your ankles in the past? Do you wear high heels? Have you just not squatted deep in a while? If you said yes to any of these lets check out the ankles!

Compression Ankle Warm up – Compression/voodoo straps help. You’ll be amazing how much your ankle will open up in just a couple minutes.

Bar on Knee Ankle Rock – This classic movement will be seen across any big competition. Just using the bar and some dynamic movement we can open up the ankles.

Banded Ankle Sit – Our body weight is a huge aid to grinding the ankles and breaking up old scar tissue and lack of use. This is my favorite ankle exercise.

Banded Ankle Static Stretch – Great for after the workout. Simple.

Banded Ankle Grind – This is similar to the banded ankle sit, but allows us to do the same thing just from a different position. I like to cycle the exercise throughout the week.

*All videos for the ankle can be seen in the video above

Common Trouble Areas

Finally, lets look at some common trouble areas. The Forearms and Calves! These areas become locked up through the process of training. The Olympic lifts depend on these areas so lets give them some love.

Forearm Smash with Roller – Forearms are difficult to get pressure on when using mobility instruments. This position solves that problem.

Compression with Beastie – Be careful! If you try this and it feels worse than you’ve used too much pressure. This can be a great way to dig into trouble areas but it is aggressive.

Calf Roll –
Do this often as a weightlifter. Often!

Shin Roll – Always forgotten. You’ll love the result.

*All videos for the trouble areas can be seen in the video above

Time to take Action

This can be overwhelming.

Again, I’ve created this Mobility for Weightlifting Schedule to help you make it throughout it.  

Even if you only do the primaries you’ll be so much more successful when it comes to the Olympic lifts!

-Drew Dillon

This is a guest post from Drew Dillon, a coach and gym owner who is a personal coach to 2012 Olympian Holley Mangold. Drew is the creator of Olyeye - a teaching tool that has helped coaches and athletes understand "causes" vs "symptoms" when it comes to weightlifting technique. You can follow Drew on Instagram and YouTube.

Lift Weights Like a CrossFit Pro #crossfit

1 Response

Ginny Wood
Ginny Wood

April 29, 2016

The videos were great. I can’t wait to try out the recommended stretches. I would like to receive other emails.

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