What Are The Main Lifts? How To Do Them Properly?
What Are The Main Lifts? How To Do Them Properly?

Your main lifts will be the focus of each day. There are six major lifts for the throws that will develop overall strength as well as power. They are not magic or revolutionary. Throughout my career, I’ve experimented with various lifts and exercises and always come back to the basics because they work. The following section is a simple breakdown for each of the six main lifts. There is no reason to be intimidated by them. The lifts do not have to be technically perfect because you are not training for a Powerlifting or weightlifting competition. When in doubt, keep it simple. With repetition, your form for each of these lifts will improve.

Squat

These are standard back squats. If you can bend your legs and not shit on your calves or feet, you can squat. This is the single most important lift you can do. It uses all the major muscle groups in the body. By using a standard High-Bar Back Squat and descending with knees over toes and hips back, you will use the body’s natural motor patterns. Squat like a toddler: toes
out, chest up, and ass to ankles. The squat isn’t something we learn as athletes. It’s something we unlearn as adults.

  1. Hands should be as narrow as you are comfortable
  • The closer you can get them the tighter you back will stay
  • This forces the shoulders back and together
  • Elbows should be down and under the bar
  1. Feet should be just over shoulder width apart
  • If you jump in the air and land, your position will be just about perfect
  • Toes should be pointed slightly out
  1. Head should be in a neutral position with eyes straight ahead
  • Keep the focus on something even with the horizon
  1. Get a big air in and push out through your gut
  • This air and tension will help everything stay tight
  • Breathe out and back in every rep
  1. Beginning the lift push your ass back, arching your lower back
  • Pushing back will engage your glutes and hamstrings
  1. Knees should come forward over toes a bit
  • This will engage your quads
  1. Standing back up
  • Drive through your heels
  • And keep your chest up and elbows down

Deadlift

The conventional Deadlift is the most beneficial lift for throwers. There is no athletic movement that the sumo Deadlift mimics, so in simplest terms, bend down and pick it up. This strengthens your posterior chain (a group of muscles that involves the upper and lower back, glutes, and hamstrings). These muscles are primarily used for height events.

  1. Feet should be a bit narrower than your squat
  • Start with feet shoulder-width apart
  • Toes slightly pointed out
  • ( This will allow the bar to stay as close to your center of gravity as possible, creating better leverage)
  1. Hands should be just outside the knees
  • Hook grip or opposite grip (over/ under grip)
  • Leave arms as loose as possible while maintaining grip
  1. Head up
  1. Chest up
  • Having your chest up will help drive your shoulders back as you start to stand
  1. Stand up in one motion
  • Your goal is to extend your legs fully at the same time your hips come through and shoulders get back
  1. Return weight to the ground

Overhead Press

Overhead presses build all-around strength. Serious strength is needed to press big weights overhead. I do mine as a Push Press, which is a little dip and leg drive followed by the shoulders engaging and driving the weight up. This is unlike a jerk press in which you drop a second time to catch the weight. A Push Press, which requires your whole body to work together, emulates the throws. Similar to the front position on all distance throws, you need to establish leg drive that eventually reaches the upper body and is used to drive the implement out. The more improvement you can make at transferring power from your legs through your upper body, the farther you will throw.

  1. Start with hands on the bar
  • Hands should be just wider than shoulder width
  1. Lift bar out of the rack
  • Hold weight as much on delts as possible
  • Elbows should be pulled into and supported by the lats
  1. Breathe in big air to gut
  • Keep everything tight though low back and abs
  1. Start lift with legs
  • Use a little dip while keeping weight on heels
  • Drive-up hard through the heels
  1. Finish with arms
  • Drive the bar up timing the leg drive so that the arms finish the press
  • Heels should be firmly planted on the ground to keep pressing through the top
  • After the bar clears the head, push head underbar
  • ( This keeps everything in a better line of power to provide better leverage )
  1. Return bar to chest
  • Catch the bar with a little leg dip

Bench

Benching, again, is something I’m sure you have done. Doing it correctly is another thing. Many people think that a bench is not a full-body lift. This is incorrect. You should time your leg drive through your hands just like the Overhead Press.

  1. Hands on the bar
  • Should be a bit wider than shoulder-width, same as Overhead Press
  1. Pull shoulders back and together
  • This protects your shoulders and gives a more solid base from which to push
  1. Arch back
  • Your ass and traps should be on the bench
  • Keep lower back off the bench
  1. Feet back and under you
  • Stretch through the quad
  1. Take the bar out of the rack
  • Make sure to keep back and shoulders in tight as you un-rack weight
  1. Keep elbows in and to your side to help reduce stress on shoulders
  • Support the weight as it descends with your lats
  • Barbell sits over the elbows. Keep wrists and forearms vertical
  1. Weight should come down around the point of your sternum. Keeping elbows in and forearms vertical results in a lower bar path
  1. Drive weight up and back over the shoulders
  • Drive through feet, pushing through heels, keeping ass on the bench
  • Finish the drive with arms and finally triceps

Clean

Cleans can be overwhelming for a novice. I recommend simply picking the weight off the floor and catch the weight atop the shoulders. There are a lot of technical aspects that come with perfecting this lift, but they are not necessary for the novice. Cleans are beneficial because they teach your body to fire muscles in the correct order. With repetition, the technical aspects will improve.

  1. Feet shoulder width apart
  • Toes slightly out
  1. Grip bar with hands slightly outside of shoulder-width
  • Same as Bench and Over Head
  • Double overhand grip, hook grip or using straps
  1. Arms straight and loose
  1. Start head up
  1. Chest up
  1. Hips down
  1. Stand up driving through the heels
  • The bar should stay close to the body
  1. Accelerate top of lift by extending the hips
  • Once the bar clears the knees, accelerate the bar by extending hips violently toward the bar
  1. Finish pull on the bar
  • Extend through the toes and shrug the weight up
  • ( There is talk about triple extension or not for Olympic lifting and if you know this much about how to do it, you don’t need my help )
  1. Catch weight on hands on the shoulders
  • Throw elbows under the bar and try to get them as high as possible so that the bar is caught on the delts
  • Finish lift by standing up

Snatch

The snatch is much like the clean. It is the same move, except your hands, are wider and you catch weight over your head. Grab the bar wide, pick it off the ground, pull it as high as you can, and catch it over your head while arms stay straight. Remember that this is not a weightlifting competition, so technical perfection isn’t necessary. You just want the athletic benefits these lifts provide.

  1. Feet shoulder width apart, toes slightly out
  1. Hands should grip the bar as wide as you can comfortably handle
  • For most people, this is somewhere on the rings toward the outside of the bar
  • Double overhand grip, hook grip or use straps
  1. Arms straight and loose
  1. Start with head up, chest up, and hips down
  1. Stand up driving through heels
  • The bar should stay close to the body
  1. Accelerate top of lift by extending the hips
  • Once the bar clears the knees, accelerate the bar by extending hips violently toward the bar
  1. Finish pull on the bar
  • Extend through the toes and shrug the weight up
  • ( There is talk about triple extension or not for Olympic lifting and if you know this much about how to do it, you don’t need my help )
  1. Catch weight over your head with arms straight
  • Throw yourself under the bar catching it over the shoulders and head forward and through
  • Finish lift by standing up

Do you know?

** The two goals of the Olympic lift are to hit the triple extension phase of the lift and to learn to explosively fire your body in order. If you have flexibility issues that do not allow you to perform the catch phase of these lifts, just do the pulls. You will be using both the Snatch Grip and Clean Grip and pull the bar as high as you can in an explosive movement.

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