One important thing you have to be conscious of when coaching weightlifting is the need for individualization of weightlifting technique. Weightlifting technique depends on an individual’s morphology, preference, strength or weaknesses and, ultimately, on learned behaviors and adaptations (coordination, speed/explosiveness, etc). Sometimes some ”mistakes” or ”pre-lift routine” can also become part of the overall technique. It’s always about having the right amount of individualization and the right amount ”text book” technique. Learning mistakes is never good, of course. Today’s article is not about reviewing scientific papers but just an overall look at some of the most interesting example of individualization of technique among great weightlifters. Videos included.
1. Zlatan Vanev
Vanev lifted for Bulgaria. He has medalled in many weight categories. Although his snatch is amazing, he is mainly known for his out-of this world clean and jerk abilities. He has clean and jerked 195 @ 70kg bodyweight. He has clean and jerked 217.5 weighting a bit heavier too (I think 83kg). Vanev is also known for his intriguing rack position when going in the jerk. When he re-rack the bar, he moves his right hand to the side and basically jerk while holding the bar unevenly. It may look like a mistake to us, but it is individualization of technique for him.
Look at the 2 minutes mark :
2. Dimitry Klokov
This has been stated multiple times recently so I won’t spend much time on this. Dimitry has been posting multiple videos of him lifting heavy weights in the past few months. Many of those videos show him lifting in a very uneven foot position, his left foot being forward. According to some youtube comments, a lifter said it is a bad habit he has gotten into and he still has it (I don’t have a source)
Look at the 1:05 mark.
3. Naim Suleymanoglu
Suleymanoglu, known as pocket hercules, has the best sinclair of all time. He had a long career and won pretty much everything he could win. He has done some crazy big lifts like a 152.5kg snatch and a 190kg clean and jerk while weighting 60 kg. Anyhow, Suleymanoglu is also known for yanking on the bar at the beginning of the first pull. Yanking on the bar is something most coaches don’t like, at all. For Suleymanoglu, it was just part of his own technique.
look at the 40 seconds mark :
4. Pyrros Dimas
One of the best lifter from Greece, Dimas has achieved lots of success in this sport. He has been world champion 3 times, won olympic gold 3 times and also got a bronze at the Olympics. He is known for two things : His jerk and his head bang in the snatch. Not many lifters put so much effort on ”kicking back” with the head, but he did. It’s especially apparent in slow motion.
look at the 4:25 mark :
5. Kianoush Rostami
He is the World Champion in title (85kg) and came in third in London 2012. For some reason, Rostami likes to shake his right arm/shoulder a few times before lifting. Is it because of prior injuries? Is it because this is how he manifests his stress? No idea, but he does it.
Look at the 20 seconds mark :
UPDATE : Videos sent by readers as other examples of technical individualization.
Thanks to Daniel and Felipe Eduardo!
6. David Rigert
Mr. Rigert is supposedly self coached. He was coaching the russian weightlifting until very recently (lost his job). He always jerked forward.
7. Urik Vardanian
Urik had a very uncommon body type for a weightlifter of his time. He was tall and not THAT muscular. He is known for his sprinting and jumping abilities as well. His snatch technique is resumed by Daniel McGoldRick : ”started with the bar way in front of where most coaches cue the setup. He swept the bar in harder than a lot of lifters, and made contact at the high thigh instead of the hip crease, much more similarly to the contact point of a clean (from a lifter with very short arms).”
8. Kendrick Farris
Farris’ jerk have always been interesting to watch. For a while, he was doing a ”splot”.
9. Li Liying
No matter how akward this seems to be, she is still lifting 125kg in competition.
Final thoughts :
This article is not an attempt at looking at technical ”errors” in a relativistic way. I do not suggest you emulate any of the presented points. However, I presented those videos/cases to show that elite lifters do have what we might consider kinks or a special routine/behavior towards the lifts. To us, they could be detrimental, but to these lifters these behaviors an integral part of their technique. There is something about lifting very heavy weights that will make you chose a certain style and develop certain behaviors. Would they lift more without those interesting technical deviations ? May be or may be not. They are used to training the way they train.
Individualization of technique is important and will happens by itself once you become intermediate/elite in this sport. Most of these ”non-common” techniques are probably happening unconsciously too. Beginner should be taught text book technique adapted to their morphology, so that you can build from a base. As a coach, I find that if the athlete is constant with whatever it is he is doing, and that if the lift looks good, I would rather dedicate training time towards something else that could be more relevant at this precise moment. However, if the athlete is missing bars because of his individualized way of doing things, I will try and coach that athlete in a more neutral way (stay as close to text book technique as possible).
Disclaimer : If you use this article (or any other article on this website) for promotion of weightlifting, please credit me. If possible, also mention it to me. I will be more than glad to know about it. I encourage you to do so. Thanks for reading. Jean-Patrick Millette