Olympic lifts are the best exercises to improve your strength, power and speed as an athlete. However, they involve complicated movements with a steep learning curve.
Here are five common mistakes athletes make when performing Olympic lifts, followed by instructions on how to fix them.
All Olympic Lifts Performed from the Floor (Power)
The Mistake: Rounding your back
Rounding your back is a common mistake when performing Olympic lifts. It’s dangerous because a rounded back shifts the weight from your hips to your spine, which can lead to a back injury.
The Fix: Arch your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together in the starting position. Also, tighten your abs and take a deep breath to brace your spine before starting the lift.
The Mistake: Starting with the bar too far away from your body
If the bar is too far away from your shins, its path will shift forward. Your upper body is forced to muscle the weight up, limiting how much you can lift. This mistake is especially common with athletes who are learning Olympic lifting technique.
The Fix: Position the bar over your shoelaces and against your shins. If you’re concerned about hitting your knees, perform light Deadlifts from this position to learn the proper pulling technique.
The Power Clean
Mistake: Catching the bar with your elbows too close to your body
Athletes come up with creative ways to catch the bar, and trust me, most of them are wrong.
The Fix: The simplest way to learn to catch the bar across your shoulders during the Power Clean is to perform Front Squats. They will help you get comfortable holding the heavy bar across your shoulders with your elbows forward and your fingertips under the bar.
The Mistake: Swinging the bar away from your body
The bar may shift forward if you fail to bend your arms as it moves overhead. You won’t be able to lift as much weight because you’ll be moving the bar vertically to keep it from falling forward.
The Fix: During the Snatch, bend your arms so your elbows point sideways after finishing the pull so the bar travels directly in front of your face. Finish by rotating under the bar and catching it.
The Jerk and Push Press
The Mistake: Bending your knees instead of your hips
Your glutes are the largest and most powerful muscles in your body. If you bend your knees instead of your hips, you take your glutes out of the movement. You won’t be able to lift as much, and the exercise won’t build glute power, which is one of its primary purposes.
The Fix: Dip your hips 6 inches before driving the bar overhead. If this is difficult, adjust your starting position so your elbows are forward, similar to a front squat position. You’ll have trouble dipping your hips without dropping the bar if they’re pointed downward.