How Your Warm Up is Making You Fail at the Olympic Lifts

February 15, 2016 2 Comments

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.

Athletes come to us often frustrated about inconsistent results. I want to share a quick scenario from Sarah, an athlete who came to us recently.

Sarah felt today was the day. She felt good and has been planning on going heavy in the snatch.

Check list:

Her meals – On Point

Her training this week – On Point

Her sleep – On Point

She started with what she felt was a normal beginning weight on the bar.  This made sense to her as she was already warm from another small workout. 

The frustration that day was "things just felt off." Why on some days do things feel good and some days they’re just not clicking!?

When Sarah told me this I asked two questions:

  1. What was the small workout you did first? The response was, “about 10 minutes of rowing and some burpees”...
  2. What weight did you start with on the bar? The response was, “65 lbs”…

This revealed that the poor girl was her own worse enemy! I want to share with you why she set herself up for failure and how not to make the same mistakes.

Sarah's Mistakes Explained:

Sarah fell into a common trap. She used a warm up that raised her heart rate and made her feel like she did some work. Many sports have us do such warm ups, but not in weightlifting! 

This is just too much as we want our muscles to be able to fire in one punch. The more we do, the more we take away from our potential to fire our muscles as we need.

Sarah also started with weight on the bar. This is a big issue I see every new athlete do. We need to start with an empty bar! Go through positions and activate the motor pattern we need to use for big weight. 

Never forget - "Even world champions warm up with the bar!"

If you have violated these rules than check out this video:

What are common warm ups in weightlifting? 

Remember, we’re talking about warm ups to improve weightlifting (Snatch and Clean & Jerk). We’re NOT talking about a warm up for Crossfit, fitness, or another sport.

You’ll want to try this out if your goal is to increase your numbers in the Snatch and Clean & Jerk.

Movements with the Bar: You must warm up with the bar. Yes, just the bar! (Remember, even world champions warm up with just the bar)

When you warm up with just the bar you’ll want to mimic the positions and the technique you’re about to use. So for example you may take an empty bar and move from the hip to above the knee and then back, all in good position. This will warm up the area that so many new athletes miss! Seems simple, but it is so powerful.

What we see is that established lifters have warm ups unique to them. They take the issues that they have a challenge with and use specific movements to help that issue.

An example – I don’t use my arms well off my hip in the snatch. I could add in light muscle snatches to my warm up to feel my arms pull off the hip and get them turned on.

How can we build our own warm up? 

Step 1 - A new athlete needs to do what they find comfortable. Weightlifting has a huge mental component and if we don’t feel warm then it’ll be in our head. But there is a limit. 

You don’t need to run a mile to feel warm. If you think you do, you need to spend some time getting comfortable with barbell movements to warm up.

Step 2– Go through a variety of movements to see what works best for you. Let me give you a few scenarios.

Light Muscle Snatch - If you have issues pulling with your arms off the hip.

Snatch Balance - Warm up the shoulders and the overhead position for the snatch.

Compression strap/Voodoo Floss - Loosen up tight ankles, sore knees or painful forearms.

Three-way hip stretch - Open up tight hips from sitting all day.

Snatch Hip Drill - Turn on rhythm and timing. Then continue with an above the knee hang snatch to tune it all in.

Classic Snatch Grip Deadlift - Open up all positions from the floor to the hip.

* Want a guide on creating your own warm up with dozens of movements to try? I’ve created this free guide to help you through the process – Build Your Weightlifting Warm Up Guide *

The big mistake that keeps weight off the bar:

This is pretty simple – Doing too much!

Remember we want to keep the legs fresh. The legs must be ready for the dynamic fast twitch firing that equals success. So we don’t want to go out and run even if you feel it does not “affect” you.

If your goal is to have a great day with the Olympic lifts than do a warm up specific for the Olympic Lifts!

Go Create the Perfect Warm Up:

Your next step needs to be adding in various elements to your workout to see how you respond. Test them. Take notes. Find what works for you and helps tune yourself in before you get to the big weight.

If you think you might be doing too much, than make the change. If improving in the Snatch and Clean & Jerk is a priority than this is an easy change to make.

Good luck!

-Drew Dillon

2 Responses

Fred Graff
Fred Graff

February 20, 2016

As a doctor of chiropractic, with a diplomate in orthopedics, I am on board with everything Drew has laid out in this video regarding warming up prior to your training and/or attempting your PR. Well done Drew!!!!!! In my professional opinion, I hope many lifters take these strategies and use them routinely as I know they will allow for success and help prevent injury. FG


February 19, 2016

Great video. I am guilty of warming up incorrectly. I’m new into olympic lifting but come from a background of running, cycling, boot camps, crossfit … I’m definitely doing it wrong on my lift days. Thanks again for the info.

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