“But those who seek only reassurance from life will never be more than tourists—seeing everything and trying to possess what can only be felt.
Beauty is the shadow of imperfection.” – Simon Van Booy, Everything Beautiful Began After
Your catch is so wide. Your heels are off the ground. Your right elbow has a crazy bend. Your foot movement is too much.
Those are just a few of the many critiques that I hear all of the time. I love this sport, but sometimes the athletes that partake in it are the worst for it. We are hyper critical of human movement. We will spend hours watching the professionals in YouTube videos, comparing ourselves and others to the top 1% of Olympic Lifters in the world. Some of these athletes move almost flawlessly; picturesque in their catch as if they were made for it. Others have something crazy to them, some strange movement or quirk that sets them apart from the norm. All of them are amazing. I could go on to name the names of the lifters that I am speaking of, but that would ultimately go against what this post is about.
There are many imperfections to my lifts. I used to grind on them all of the time, especially when you start out. Over time your body begins to adapt. You get stronger, faster, more accurate. Your timing becomes more precise, you learn which cues work for you. I video a lot of my lifts. In this sport it is valuable in order to watch your technique and make corrections. They also serve as cool pictures for this blog.
As you become better you will start to create little nuances in your style. This style bleeds into everything, from your flow to your actual lifting technique. It will adapt to what is necessary to get that weight over head. Your body knows your body best. It’s your mind that tries to fight it. I’m old for an athlete. I have been an athlete or active my entire life… decades before I ever decided to pursue Olympic Lifting as a sport. My body has learned countless types of movement and adapted in numerous ways for the challenges it was experiencing. I have accrued many injuries over time. One of the major ones is a broken right leg at a young age. Couple this with your general build and you have a unique storm for some funky stuff.
Criticism 1) My right foot angles out more than my left.
As if squatting from the pins isn’t awkward enough. When I was 7 years old my Tibia and Fibula bones in my leg wrapped around each other like the lines on a candy cane. I was in a full cast up to my pelvis for 6 months, and then a walking cast for 3. When my leg was finally released from the cast you could literally see the skeletal structure in my leg. I lost that much muscle and fat. To a degree this has effected my leg, hip, and ankle structure. No matter how much mobility I do, this will always be something.
Criticism 2) I have a wide catch.
Yes, I know. It used to really effect my structure because it was so wide, due to mobility issues, that my knees would cave. I have long legs for my torso (something Weightlifters don’t want). Some mobility and technical critiques and I have brought it in. It is still wide, but my knees don’t cave. And so what if they did or do? A wide catch, for me, is more stable. I’m not you. You are not me, our bodies are not the same. My feet fall where they intend or need to to provide stability… and it works, I snatch well over body weight. There are a number of world class lifters with crazy catch styles… it works for them, just as mine work for me. It doesn’t look ideal… but it is ideal for me. I will land this weight the way I need to. End of story.
Criticism 3) I don’t rest on my ankles (or poor ankle mobility).
I have played, competitively, many sports (soccer, basketball, Muay Thai, MMA), just as well other things (Tough Mudders, Obstacle courses in the Marine Corps, fucking Frisbee golf for God’s sake). None of these things ever had an emphasis in the heels being the primary use of balance. I am strongest on my mid-foot. My body wants to be on mid-foot, that’s where I am most stable. The only time I’m thinking about putting weight directly on my heels is when I’m driving out of a squat (any variation of).
Criticism 4) I start behind the bar.
Yes. This is due to mobility as well. I have always had notoriously tight hamstrings… often the brunt of jokes. They are also very strong hamstrings. I stretch them, mobilize them… but I still need to warm-up to touch my toes. Just the way shit is. As a result, the starting position for the snatch is difficult for me. I start behind the bar. Just as I begin to pull I’ll bring my knees back and lean over the bar. This is how I have adapted, timing it just as any other 1st-2nd pull transition would. The only difference is I start just behind the bar, in a frog position, before the lift. As the pulls commence, I make sure my back angle is on target.
What I am getting at here is that we all have our own style. If you are starting out: listen to your coach and do your best to adopt standard technique. As you progress, and your ability grows, it’ll be time to understand and experiment with what works for you. I recently have commented to more than one person about how I don’t give a shit about super stars anymore, or who follows who on Instagram. None of that fucking matters. none of it affects my life. None of it helps me. It’s unnatural and unfair to compare myself to the technique of Lu Xiaojun. I won’t compare myself to the training program of the Bulgarians… because I’m not even close to their level. I don’t give a shit about what weightlifter likes what weightlifter, or what team does what, or wears what. I don’t care that you, or anyone else got followed by so and so. I care about MY goals. I care about MY training. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the IWF and drinking beer, or Nationals. Who wouldn’t? But it stops there.
There is such a profound strength to be found, both in your lifts and in your confidence, to understand what works for you. Be comfortable with your own quirks, your own movement, and what allows you to smash that weight. If you have to scream? Scream. If you have a wide catch? Do that. If you need to spin 3 times and scratch your ass before you commence a lift… then fucking do that. Own your style. Find out what suits you best. Some of the best in the world, at anything, anywhere… became that way because they left the pack. Because they focused on their ideas and their beliefs. It is only you on that bar. No one else is going to lift it for you. Focus on yourself, and the rest will follow.