What is the Best Way to Olympic Lift?
Ah yes, the age old question; what is the best way to snatch or clean and jerk?
With the vast amount of weightlifting knowledge on the internet now, it can be hard to decipher what it all means – and whether it’s going to work for you. At the recent Tokyo Olympics, we had numerous winners from different countries that all displayed variations in the snatch technique.
Which way is best? If the criteria of assessment is which country wins the most gold medals, then you would not be able to look past Asian and European, and recently, South American countries. However, this is a limited view as most of the ‘top’ countries also have better funding and a larger pool of athletes to choose from.
You see, what produces a great weightlifter is multifactorial. Training style and programming is just one aspect of their success. There are numerous other important factors such as financial, social and professional support. There is an entire system in place to consistently produce great weightlifting athletes. I know this doesn’t specifically address your question, so I apologise for this slight digression. I just feel that it is an important point to iterate.
I am going to approach this question from a few paradigms – and I believe it is best you choose which one you resonate with.
The first – competitive.
If your goal is to be as competitive as you can be, then there is no way around it. You must spend time exploring your proportions (torso length, arm length, femur and tibia length) in order to maximise the body that you have been dealt. In this way, there really is no best style because the best lifters that you see at a particular style, suit that style, and not the inverse. If you’re someone who has relative long legs and short arms, you’ll need to experiment with a wider stance and higher hip position in order for you to reach a good starting position. The Russians are a great example of lifters who have a slightly higher hip position.
Conversely, if you’re someone who has short legs and long arms, you’d be able to have a lower hip position. This is typically what you see of the Chinese lifters – who are taught to lift from the mid-to-forefoot, but are still able to maintain a low hip position.
So, if you are in it to win it, I highly suggest you hire a weightlifting coach (if you want to know what makes a good Olympic Weightlifting coach, you might like this article) to figure out what positions work best for you, and to spend time exploring your relationship with the bar.
The second – aesthetic.
Let’s not forget that many people pursue Olympic Weightlifting because ‘it looks cool.’ This is not something that I take lightly – as there is more to reap from weightlifting than just lifting heavy weights. Sometimes, it just feels good to lift moderate weights well. And that involves how technically good it looks.
In this case, perhaps the best way to figure out what you like is simply to watch many lifters. If the snappy, loud foot stomping style is more down your alley, then I suggest you check out the Russian, South American and North American weightlifters. These lifters are known for their ferociousness under the bar and distinct aggression at the point of acceleration.
However, if you prefer an aesthetic that is more elegant and smooth, direct your attention toward the Asian countries. The Chinese, Japanese, and more recently Indonesia are all producing high calibre lifters who have that ‘swan-like’ elegance.
The third and final consideration – purpose.
If your goal is to supplement training for your sport with Olympic Weightlifting, I highly suggest choosing a style that is simplistic. You don’t need to spend months learning the ‘Chinese,’ or ‘European’ way of snatching if your plan is to use it for 3 months in off-season Rugby training. I believe this is where the simplicity of CrossFit ‘type’ techniques are very useful. Then again, if your sport is CrossFit, then I suggest you develop a technique that works well for barbell cycling, and a technique that works well for 1RM attempts.
To summarise, the ‘best’ way to Olympic Lift is linked directly to the the goal of your journey. For those who want to be competitive, spend time working with a coach to explore how best to lift the heaviest weight possible given your body type and proportions. For those who are after the style of weightlifting, watch weightlifters on YouTube and find who resonates best for you. And lastly, always remember that the purpose of your learning should reflect the time investment.