June 13, 2011

Consistency

One of the biggest problems facing novice weightlifters is consistency in performing the competition lifts.  Learning the proper technique is an ongoing process for some lifters, but after a few training sessions (at most a few weeks) most lifters generally know what they are supposed to do with the barbell to successfully perform the lifts.  The problem is then being able to perform the lifts with solid technique and under load the same way over and over again. 

This is often the limiting factor in progressing further in the sport and advancing their competition total.  

Most lifters will say they struggle with learning technique, when in reality they struggle with the ability to consistently demonstrate the same technique.

One day everything flows smoothly and the lifts are quick, crisp, and everything feels right.  Then, for whatever reason, everything falls apart.  The bar doesn’t go where it is supposed to, everything is out of place, and nothing is in sync.  We have all been there…even for the best lifters in the country, as I have seen it occur.  The main difference between the advanced lifters and the up and coming novice is usually the time between “those days”.  The advanced lifters maybe has one a month, where the novice has them much more frequently.  Sort of like a golf swing.  Anyone can hit it perfect once or twice a round, but what separates the Pros from the Joes is the ability to do it every round.

The best way to develop consistency is practice…years and years of practice.  One of the major shortcomings of the US lifters at the international level is time in the sport compared to lifters in Europe and Asia.  Catching up is possible, but it will take time. For those who came to the sport late, or those that do not plan on making competing in Olympic Weightlifting a life long pursuit, years of practice may not be an option so here are a couple of basic suggestions:

Choose a program that enables you to perform the competition lifts at a high frequency.  I have written about this is some detail previously (Frequency, Programs), and there are numerous examples of effective programs, but for a new lifter you have to perform the lifts if you want to get better at the lifts…novel concept, I know.  For those who come from a powerlifting background or bodybuilding, it is still not uncommon to only perform an exercise one time per week (i.e. Bench Press of Monday, Chest Day).  To compete in Olympic Weightlifting this is not really an option.  Everyday has to have some form of competition lift, performed with some level of effort.  This does NOT mean that you are neglecting “strength” work by spending more time training the comp lifts; it just means you are practicing your sport, like any good athlete. 
Every set and rep has to be performed as close as possible.  This does not mean just the Snatch and C&J.; but also all similar exercises.  Take an extra second to ensure the placement of the feet, the grip width on the barbell, and the rhythm with which the lift is identical.  When using accessory exercises, this is equally important.  If performing a Hang Snatch, make sure the grip and where the bar contact the hips is the same as when performing a Snatch or Power Snatch.  When performing a RDL, use the same grip and stance as when performing Cleans.  Even on somewhat minor, insignificant movements, strive for consistency.  If you are performing the Press, and the bar is cleaned from the floor to the shoulders, do it as you would an actual Power Clean…even if is “only” 50kg.  The extra practice is good for you. 
I may revisit this topic in a future post as I think there are many little things that can be helpful.  If you have something that you have used to help with your consistency, and you think it will benefit others, drop a comment below.

2 comments:

  1. Nice Post Dr Hartman. I played golf in college and recently started training the olympic lifts 3 months ago. Despite the obvious differences, it's amazing how similar the two sports are. One thing I learned from golf...you need to set the idea firmly in your mind that meticulous consistency is the key and that it will take 5-10 years before you score very well. If you accept that and have full trust in your practice program, that will get you through the short term frustrations (of which there are many). Also, get a coach if you're serious. For golf or lifting, it's crucial to have an unbiased pair of eyes watch your progress over time.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Tom. I am glad I am not the only one who compares lifting to golf. When done right both can look effortless, and I am not sure you can ever fully "finish" learning how to improve...it is a constant journey.

    ReplyDelete