Warming Up for Weightlifting

JB: I move efficiently at submaximal loads in order to hit those HUGE PRs in the future. #TrustTheProcess

DJ had a great post yesterday about warming up for a good workout, today I want to dive a little bit more in taking extra time and putting in a little more effort into those barbell drills and lighter weights before hitting those EMOMs. In this case, I’m talking about our warm up drills for the Clean & Jerk or Snatch. To be completely honest, it’s perfectly normal to want to rush through the empty bar drills or light weight warm up sets in order to hurry up and get to the heavy stuff. I get it, the heavy weight is where all the fun is! Unfortunately, constantly hitting numbers above your 80% isn’t ideal for sustainable progress. Sure it’s a good idea to test it every once in awhile, but if you’re constantly struggling to hit that PR maybe there needs to be more time spent at those lighter weights. One thing I’ve been consciously trying to improve upon is the time I spend executing my empty bar warm up drills and handling weight that is under or right around my 80%.

Let’s quickly talk about those empty bar drills we perform in the beginning of classes. Believe it or not, our bodies tend to pick up habits even with little to no weight on the bar. Too often I see people, and I’m guilty of this myself sometimes, rush through these drills or half-a$$ them just to start getting weight on there. For example, are you jumping forward when you perform a clean with an empty bar? Are you swinging that barbell out in front like a kettlebell swing? Or are your feet not sliding out when pulling yourself down into the bottom of the clean or snatch? Have no clue? Well this is the perfect/ideal time to take awareness of how you’re moving before throwing some weight on there. Simply saying that your movement improves or you’ll start to try harder with the more weight on the bar is the wrong mindset to have. Which leads me into how we approach those warmup sets or lighter sets.

Around 70% – 80% is where the most motor learning (when our brains are learning movement) takes place. When we reach weights above 80% there is usually a significant decrease in motor learning. So working on things like “keeping your lats tight”, “not jumping forward”, “faster elbows”, and “finishing your pull” are not going to stick very well. Simply, the weight may be too heavy to work on or dial in any sort of technique. This is the importance of those initial warmup sets and lighter weights. At this point we can efficiently work on better technique, dial in movement patterns, and properly prime the body for heavier weights.

Like I mentioned before, there is a time and place to hit those numbers above 80% and go for those 1rm attempts. When at those weights, usually the less thinking the better. Why? Because we have to trust that we used our warm up sets efficiently and that are body is primed for the big weights.

In the end, if you take anything away from this post I’m hoping that it’s to take more care during your warmups for the clean & jerk or snatch. Meaning being more aware of how you’re moving, building good habits that will take you to successful heavy lifts, and learning the motor patterns. Have fun!

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