I had the opportunity to attend East Coast Gold Nationals Camp this weekend . After being unable to continue the workouts past the first session , I stayed on to observe and shadow to the coaches to pick up as much information as I could. I got to watch some of the best lifters in the country lift and get coached, cued, and corrected . There were two big technical take aways I got from this. These were the importance of your feet and head position on your lifts . These are not original concepts, my coach Phil Sabatini has talked in length about both of these things with me , but it was awesome to see it in real time with other high level weightlifters.
Lets talk about weight distribution first. Phil explains this in detail here: barbend.com/weight-distribution-lifting/. We talk about this of the time with our athletes , we want to keep full foot pressure into the floor and avoid shifting our weight front to back into our heels. This helps to keep the bar from looping and crashing in the clean and the snatch and stops you from jumping all around the platform to chase your lifts. I spent a considerable amount of time watching our national time lift over the weekend and I would stare at their feet to see this in action . Every single time I could see their weight shift, they would have to chase the barbell forward or lose it behind.
The second , more subtle thing I noticed was how important head control is when we are trying to stay over the bar during our lifts. In my own training I have noticed that when I wasn't conscious about my head positions, my lifts were all over the place. If I was having an "off" training session , this was usually one of the couple things that were the cause. During camp I got to see this in action with a few of our better lifters and it was pretty eye opening.
Two of our stronger lifters , Charles and Jill were both working on similar issues with their weight coming back in their feet and getting their shoulders behind the bar too early in their snatches. As Jill was lifting I watched a series of 3 snatches she took and noticed something that she was doing when the lifts "felt good" and what she hadn't done on her final lift that didn't feel right. On her first two she kept a neutral head up until extension, on the third her head shifted back during the second pull and then her shoulders soon followed.
From my own training, I had suspected this , however after seeing this happen with another lifter , I thought that I may be onto something. ( I am sure this is not a new thought or observation, but its new to me! ) So I decided to continue to watch our National Team all weekend and really focus on their foot and head position for the rest of the weekend and my suspicions were confirmed.
As I watched our folks lift all weekend one lifter really stood out as being the most consistent through out the weekend . Not super surprising it was Phil Sabatini. Every lift he took I paid special attention to his head and feet during the lifts. Every single lift the same thing, full foot pressure and exceptional head control . Below is a video , pay special attention to his head position throughout the lift.
So how can you apply these two tips to your own lifting?
1.) Foot Pressure: Grab the floor with your whole foot. We used the cue "eagle claw" at PFP Barbell. We teach our athletes to put pressure in the floor though our big to little toe and heel to get full foot contact into the floor. We pretend we are grabbing a fish out of the water like a majestic Bald Eagle . Because 'Merica and it really helps visualize grabbing with the whole foot. Then we want to push our shoulders and the bar away from the floor with our whole feet without shifting our weight front to back . I will not go too much into detail on this because Phil's article on barbend.com does a much better job of it and he does a much better job than me in explaining it.
2.) Head Control: This is a small tip that can make a big difference. When we lift we want to keep a neutral head until we open out hips and and soon as the bar clears our face we want to get our head through again. If you want to see a good example of this watch the video above of Phil's Power Snatch. Head control is important for a few reasons. During the first and second pull it helps keep our upper back tight and keeps the bar in a better position . As we drive through the floor that will allow us to get greater force into the bar during the finish. Actively getting our head through during the pull also helps keep us from getting behind the bar too quickly during the lift. Finally in the catch (in the snatch) , it will put us in a more stable position in our overhead rack to use our back to support more of he weight as we come up. We teach our lifters this by giving them the "Spongebob" Cue. We will put a 1.5kg plate about 10 feet in front of the platform and have them keep there eyes on the plate during the lift to remind them where there head is supposed to be . We use Spongebob because the plate we usually use in yellow,it is memorable , and if our lifters don't want to hear me yell "MORE SPONGEBOB" at them during meets they will control their heads while the lift .
To learn more about how to improve your lifts email :Tom@pittsburghfitnessproject.com or stop into PFP Barbell at 5500 Butler Street