The 3 Phases of Coaching Weightlifting Technique

The Eventual Goal of Weightlifting and Technique Coaching

The real eventual goal of coaching weightlifting and its techniques is more than just teaching an athlete to be a proficient weightlifter.  It’s actually about teaching the athlete to become aware of and to control the entire skeletomuscular body.  This mastery will not only allow the athlete to lift maximal weights effectively but also to make adjustments during the course of the movement in question and to avoid potentially dangerous situations. 

The function of the coach is to take an athlete through this developmental pathway.  So many beginners have very little body awareness but they can greatly improve by practicing snatches and cleans and jerks until mastery is achieved. 


The Beginning Phase

The job of the coach here is more focused on technique than on other aspects.  In today’s weightlifting world, so many of the occupants are showing up with the very minimal motor skills.  The coach needs to focus on such basic movement patterns as knee, hip and elbow extension, overhead support alignment and jumping dynamics (A good pre-adolescent physical education program should have already done this). 

Then the coach needs to figure out a priority list of deficiencies and determine which specialized exercises are needed to remediate them.  Overhead squats, snatch balances, squat snatch presses, muscle snatches, jerk balances, snatches and cleans on toes and front squats are just part of the list.  How often and the degree of resistance must be worked out for each individual.  There is also some attention that should be devoted as to when to jettison them from the training.

After the athlete gets to the point where there are no serious technical errors it would be time to treat them as an intermediate athlete.


The Intermediate Phase

In this phase the athlete may have only one or two technical deficiencies and should be practicing the classic movements and or power snatches, cleans and jerks at every supervised training session.  The job of the coach here is less about technique, but the coach still must be correcting for errors as the athlete is performing the movements.  Some care must be given to insure that new errors do not creep into the technique as well.  This phase may go on for several months until the athlete can perform flawless lifts with some regularity.


The Advanced Phase

While many coaches (and lifters) might be satisfied with periodically performing flawless lifts, the hallmark of the accomplished lifter is that flawless lifts are performed with great regularlity, and the ones that are less than perfect can be corrected mid-lift.  This level is achieved my performing thousands of lifts at 80% and above, all while maintaining and heightening awareness of each bodypart during the course of the movement.  This phase of improvement is auto-didactic, i.e. the athlete must be teaching him or herself how to feel flaws, however small.  When completed the athlete is in possession of a highly developed nervous system that can instantly detect the very smallest of technical flaws and respond accordingly. 

I hope this brief narrative is helpful to coaches who are in need of some guidance for improving their athletes’ technique over an extended period.