How to Get Better at Weightlifting…without Weights

During this quarantine most of us, if not all, are spending time away from our beloved barbell. However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot improve on your mechanics and consistency in barbell movements. The CrossFit charter for movements and workouts in general is exactly that. You must first demonstrate proper mechanics and then you have to be able to repeat those perfect mechanics. Once you have done that it is then, and only then, that you should increase the intensity of a movement. Unfortunately, the majority of us wait until we can do something right just once and then move on to adding intensity. Which in weightlifting means adding more weight. This is a fundamental flaw in being sure that a steady progression continues. So, how can you get better at weightlifting without weights?

Well, again seeing as how most of us have no access to a barbell now is the perfect time to perfect your mechanics and consistency with a broom or pvc pipe. The great benefit of the broom or pvc pipe you have at home is that you can really create neurological adaptations by simply reviewing the positions of these movements over and over and over until you can’t get them wrong. Yes, Mr. Miyagi style. What’s that old saying? The novice practices until he gets it right, the master practices until he can’t get it wrong. 

For either the snatch or the clean this means focusing on driving the pvc pipe or the broom away from the floor with your legs. Do not allow your hips to rise too quickly. Spend time in this position. Feel your quads and hamstrings get hot as you go from mid shin to just above the knee and hold it. Do it over and over and over slowly. Then, without straightening your knees, move the bar up your thigh and towards your center of mass. Focus on extending straight up and down. Then finally, a lightning quick turnover where you receive the bar in the corresponding position. 

In gymnastics, high level skill movements require strength before they can be achieved. This is because the positions required for these demanding movements can only be learned with enough strength. For example, a strict handstand push-up cannot first be done without having enough strength to do normal push-ups. Weightlifting on the other hand must first be learned before going up in weight. This is because proficiency of movement is so tied to speed. You can only gain proper speed in weightlifting with a movement that is light enough to allow you to do so. You cannot get better at weightlifting with maximal loads. As I said earlier, lifting with maximal loads will cause breakdowns in technique and create bad habits. This is why when elite lifters are looking to set a PR often get close to the number they’re looking to hit, go back down in weight to really apply as much force to the bar as possible, by moving with exceptional speed, and then attempt their new PR. 

So, spend time in these positions, a lot of it. Then once you are certain you understand the movement pattern inside and out, do the full movement with as much tension and speed as possible. You will see once you get your hands on a barbell again it will be as though you never left.

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