Move your feet to Lift Big Weights

September 21, 2016



Footwork in weightlifting is vital. If you’re unsure of your footwork, I’m going to break it down in this article, so you’ll have a game plan for your next training session. If you want to see visuals than please check out the video below. Also, know there is a special section below (footwork during touch and go) that isn’t in the video, but I feel is very appropriate for the WOD Nation audience. 

What Does Footwork in Weightlifting Accomplish?

When we have good footwork in weightlifting we gain a ton of stability. Imagine receiving a big weight without it pushing you around. Footwork sets that up!

Two Big Components of Footwork

  1. Spacing – Your feet spacing should provide room for your body in the receiving position. This means your hips should be able to sit between your heels. Not behind them! Receiving the bar in the snatch or the clean happens in a millisecond. If you’re out of position in that moment you’ll have to work much more to make the lift. (PS. Mobility is also a KEY factor here. If you feel your mobility needs to be improved check out my free mobility guide for weightlifting”)

  2. Solid Landing – When your feet make contact with the floor as you turn the bar over they should land FLAT and SOLID! In this moment you’ll have added stability as your whole core tightens up to receive the weight. If you land “toe to heel” when receiving the bar it will add horizontal movement. This will create instability and make you work much more for the lift.

Footwork for Touch and Go

Moving your feet in touch and go can slow you down. But, wait! Before you just say, “Ha! I knew it Drew… I’m not moving my feet.” Please let me explain more.

Having the ability to move your feet at heavy weight or as you fatigue is important. If you never train to move your feet than being able to move them when you need to can be very difficult. Lets look at two situations…

Situation 1:  You’re in a workout that involves power snatch. There are 5 rounds. On round 1 and 2 you are able to power snatch without moving your feet. You’re still getting your legs involved and you’re cycling well. But, by round 3 you’re beginning to fatigue.

The movement is getting more muscled, and your shoulders and lower back begin to pay for it. At this moment… could you move your feet? If you could, you’d be able to change direction a little faster under the bar. You’d also be able to hold better position while receiving the weight. As the other athletes slow and put themselves at risk... you’re still rolling.

Situation 2:  Clean Ladder!! – Unfortunately, you’ve never put some time into footwork... The weight sneaks up… lift after lift.

Finally, as the weight gets heavier it starts to push you around. In a way you kind of look like a noodle trying to move under the bar. Moving your feet just doesn’t feel natural and the weight is starting to make you nervous. It finally gets to the point where you can’t power it, and when you try to go under it just pushes you back and your miss forward.

You’re strong enough for it. You just haven’t trained the pattern. If you could move your feet than it would help you turn the bar over and have more control. You’d land solid and be able to tighten up on that big weight.

All I ask is to just consider it!

Drills to Practice Footwork

Extension to Receiving (No Bar) – This takes the movement down to the core of “changing direction.” You’re pushed through your foot and extended. Then you move your feet to let your butt drop as you land flat footed. A cue here I always tell my athletes, “Imagine a dodge ball coming at your face when you’re extended up… how would you get down? You can’t jump up to go down or you’d get hit in the face.” (See this drill on the video above at minute - 2:42 )

The Pop-Pop Drill – This is all about rhythm and timing. When you’re new to this drill do it with no weight. You start in the power position (knees and hips unlocked) as you’d be with the bar at your hip. From here you drive through your legs as your hands slap your thigh… then jump down. You should land flat-footed mimicking receiving the bar. (See this drill on the video above at minute – 3:23 )

Added Bonus – Here is a video of me teaching the pop-pop drill during an interview with Uncharted Performance. Even though you can see the drill in the video above, I feel listening to someone get walked through the drill is very helpful if you’d like to try it.

Final Thoughts

When an athlete has good footwork they have control of the bar. To learn footwork sometimes we have to do goofy drills that make us feel silly. Get over it!

If you can learn the rhythm and timing of the movement you’ll be much happier with your Olympic lifts. As always I hope it helps and good luck to you all!


This is a guest post from Drew Dillon, head coach and co-founder of Project Lift during his lifting career as an athlete Drew placed as high as 4th at a USA Weightlifting Nationals and is now a personal coach to 2012 Olympian Holley Mangold. He is also know as a weber grill snob and will routinely ask you "what is for dinner" during training. You can follow Drew on Instagram and YouTube.

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