How do I Coach Olympic Weightlifting?
Tough question, right? Unlike Powerlifting, the close cousin of Olympic Weightlifting, Olympic Weightlifting requires a higher level of technical skill, and therefore, a higher barrier of entry.
A high barrier of entry then, is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because not many will dare summit the mountain that is Olympic Weightlifting coaching. If you are to do so, you stand amongst a rare collective. However, it is also a curse because the journey is riddled with thorns and will take an unforgiving amount of time.
So, where do you begin if you want to coach your clients in Olympic Weightlifting? It is of my humble opinion that most of you must begin by being able to demonstrate the movements at a competent level. No, I do not expect you to be able to lift copious amounts of weight to justify your reason for coaching. That is a fallacy that needs to be eradicated within our industry – just because you are good at doing it, does not mean you are good at teaching it. Contrary to my previous statement, one of the most successful coaches I know was never a lifter himself, but he is a rare exception.
At the very least – you should be able to demonstrate movements with the bar, and as a bonus, experienced the mental anguish that accompanies lifting a heavy weight. That is just the start. If you are able to perform the movements, your clients will immediately benefit from real-time visual feedback that will be powerful to their learning.
Picture this, if you were to teach your client how to perform a snatch balance, the best way to do so would be perform it for them, as opposed to rely on words you read on a textbook. Furthermore, if you can demonstrate both their error AND the correct movement, you are able to create movement polarity that shows the magnitude of their error.
However, if you want to maximise the efficacy of your coaching, you must develop a system of coaching. This system should be robust enough that it allows for varying clientele – but still produce similar results. If it does not, then the system will need refining (which is a good thing). Within your coaching system, you must have clear rationale behind why each movement exists in a particular order.
Because these rationales must be articulated to the learner consistently. Demonstrating a movement is one thing. Understanding the movement is another. By articulating the rationale behind your demonstration, you are providing a reference to your client. Not only are they now performing a movement, but they understand what they are trying to achieve by doing so.
This is a very powerful learning tool and is supported by a body of scientific evidence. Those who are able to demonstrate AND explain their actions have a higher understanding of the task.
For example, in the M3 Barbell Curriculum – Olympic Weightlifting Online Course Level 1, I begin teaching the snatch by identifying whether the client has any overhead squat limitations. Being a trained physiotherapist, I place injury mitigation at the top of my coaching hierarchy. Using this screen, I assess for any compromise at the shoulder joint and thoracic spine.
Not every Olympic Weightlifting coach will start their coaching process like this because it is governed by their own training and value hierarchy. Rarely is it wrong, so long as a sound rationale is provided.
If you’re unsure where to start, I suggest performing background research on your favourite Olympic Weightlifters to judge whether their systems are available to you. The most important characteristic is that it matches your value hierarchy. Alternatively, if you prefer a systematic method using scientific coaching principles, then you might like the M3 Barbell Curriculum – Olympic Weightlifting Online Level 1.
Apart from the technical element of coaching, becoming an exceptional coach also involves factors outside of movement domain. You can read about those qualities here.
Whatever you decide to do, just know that coaching Olympic Weightlifting is one of the most challenging things you will ever do – but also one of the most rewarding.