Technique plays a very important part in weightlifting performance so it’s important to get your technical practice right. Bad practice can not only make training unproductive but also spoil the enjoyment which can be found when practicing the classical lifts. I’ve seen lots of people doing technical work over the years and think that the more successful ones tend to have these in common.
1. Have a clear idea of what you’re trying to change and why.
It’s surprising how many people try technical changes just because one of their favourite lifters does it like that or because their lifts aren’t feeling right at the moment.These are fine as a starting point but you need to be clear about the change you’re making and what you expect the result to be. For example, you might be trying to stay over the bar so you can be in a position to move it back during the transition and, as a result, get a better bar trajectory so you don’t miss your lifts out in front. You might get the idea from how you fail lifts or from watching your favourite lifter but you’ve then thought about the process you’re affecting and what you expect the result to be. You can then check this to see if it’s a success.
2. Keep a neutral mind set while practicing technical changes – or don’t get upset!
It can be frustrating trying to change your technique, especially if you’ve been lifting for a while and have got used to doing it a particular way. Don’t put pressure on yourself to get it right straight away. Play around with the movement. Try alternating between concentrating hard on making the change one rep then relaxing a bit on the next to see if the change sticks without too much effort. After a bad rep think about what you need to do next time to get it right. When you do a good rep reflect on what was good about it and try to repeat what you did to make it a habit. I’ve found it’s much better to focus on what you’ve done right or what you need to do to get it right next time than to keep your attention on what not to do next time. Thinking about the mistakes you made on the last rep can make them happen again next rep so keep it positive when approaching the next attempt. Obviously you need to identify errors but translate them to positive instruction (“chest up, tight back” instead of “don’t round your back” for example) for the next rep. If it’s not going well don’t stress. It’s not the end of the world. Mess about with an empty bar or a broom handle to see if you can identify what’s causing the problem or move on to something different and try again next session. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is great technique. Staying mentally relaxed but focused is less tiring than getting frustrated so if you find yourself beating your head against the wall it’s time for a break.
3. Avoid putting pressure on a new movement too soon.
Keep the weights light at first and allow the new movement pattern time to become the norm. By using a technique practice session as either active rest or as a warm up for strength work (pulls, squats etc) you take the pressure off trying to get it right with heavy weights immediately. It’s common to see someone trying a change to their technique and as soon as they do a good one they increase the weight until it goes wrong again. They’ll then typically stay on the too-heavy weight and start repeating poor reps again. Immediately increasing the weight every time one decent rep is performed ensures that the new movement doesn’t have time to be reinforced. Missing over and over again is practicing to miss. Not so much of a problem if you’ve got stable, good, technique and are trying to get over the mental barrier of a new PB, although even then my preferred method is to lower the weight to get some good practice in before increasing again, but definitely a problem when you’re trying to change something technically. If you go up in weight and find your technique deteriorates take the weight back down and do loads of good reps. This is how to reinforce a new movement pattern. When it’s stable, if it’s a good change, you’ll see the results but you need patience to get it right first then sneak up on the big attempts with small weight increases.
4. Time your technique change to fit your training programme.
When you make a change to your technique it will often feel worse than the technique you’re used to. Sometimes this means it doesn’t suit you but new positions and movements can just feel alien and take a bit of getting used to even if they’re a good idea in the long run. If you’ve got an important competition coming up it’s probably best to stick with what you’re doing. When you’re into a general preparation phase for your next competition you can build technical work into your warm ups and cool downs and you can feel more relaxed about losing a bit off your 1RM in the short term in order to make greater gains in the long term.
These are some factors I think are important to take into account when thinking of working on a change in technique. Hopefully this leads to better and more productive practice and greater satisfaction and better results in the long term.