Recently in Olympic Lifts Category

Mike Burgener continues coaching CrossFitter Pat Barber through an Olympic lifting session. Last month, they worked on the snatch, ending with a new personal- record lift for Pat. This month we see how Coach B gets him up to a PR in the clean and jerk as well.

Coach Burgener teaches the snatch, and the clean and jerk and supplemental lifts, at CrossFit's two-day Olympic lifting certification seminars, where you too can get some of what Pat gets here. Just holler, "Yes, Coach!" Watch the "Upcoming CrossFit Events" list on for dates and locations.

After working on his own for a few months, Pat Barber, the subject of the last two months' video articles on the fundamentals of the snatch, visits Mike Burgener for a coaching session on weighted snatches and tries for a new PR. It's an informative fly-on-the-wall look into an experienced coach's real-life session with a relatively new lifter.

Pat progressively increases weight with each rep, up to a point. Then, when he stops making his lifts and his technique deteriorates some under heavier weights, Coach B takes him all the way back to the empty bar and then back up to work again toward that new PR. Watch and see if he gets it...

Mike Burgener, a.k.a. "Coach B" or simply "Burg," is the owner of Mike's Gym (a CrossFit affiliate and USAW Regional Training Center), a USAW Senior International Coach, former junior World team (1996-2004) and senior World team (2005) coach, and the strength and conditioning coach at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista, California. He teaches CrossFit's two-day Olympic lifting certification seminars.

In Part 1 of "Coach Burgener Teaches the Snatch," last month, Coach B worked with Pat, of CrossFit Virginia Beach, on some basics of footwork and positioning for the snatch. In Part 2, here, they walk through a progression of preparatory skill-transfer exercises and then into the snatch from the high-hang position--all still with just PVC:

Overhead squat: The landing position for the snatch. Pressing snatch balance: A slow pulling of the body down under the bar. The feet begin and end in the landing position and do not leave the ground.

Heaving snatch balance: A faster move, which emphasizes the initial "down and up" and teaches the athlete to actively drive the barbell upward and pull his body down under the bar. The feet begin and end in the landing position and do not leave the ground.

Snatch balance: An even more dynamic move, in which feet begin in the jumping position and move quickly to the landing position during the jump.

Snatch from the high-hang position: Coach B gives his now-classic instructions for any of the Olympic lifts: "Jump the barbell through a range of motion, creating momentum and elevation on the bar, keep the elbows high and outside, and pull yourself down into the overhead squat."

Mike Burgener, a.k.a. "Coach B" or simply "Burg," is the owner of Mike's Gym (a CrossFit affiliate and USAW Regional Training Center), a USAW Senior International Coach, former junior World team (1996-2004) and senior World team (2005) coach, and the strength and conditioning coach at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista, Calif. He teaches CrossFit's two-day Olympic lifting certification seminars.

We pulled Olympic lifting coach Mike Burgener aside during the lunch break at a recent CrossFit certification seminar to teach Pat, of CrossFit Virginia Beach, to snatch. Pat's a very good athlete but has limited exposure to heavy Olympic lifting, especially snatching. Burg started him with PVC, expecting to breeze right through, but Pat made several little errors that needed fixing off the bat and was inconsistent in his movement. Burg rode him hard about them, making several essential coaching points along the way, including that athletes need to be ridden hard to nail technique from the beginning. He gets Pat through some basics on footwork and positioning, plus the Burgener warm-up in this month's video. Next month, Part 2 in the series will continue the lesson.

Mike Burgener, a.k.a. "Coach B" or simply "Burg," is the owner of Mike's Gym (a CrossFit affiliate and USAW Regional Training Center), a USAW Senior International Coach, former junior World team (1996-2004) and senior World team (2005) coach, and the strength and conditioning coach at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista, Calif.

Fixing Loopy Lifts

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Continuing our series on the Olympic lifts, we focus this month on addressing a common problem for many CrossFitters: looping and floating under the bar. All three lifts--the snatch, the clean, and the jerk--must be fast, explosive, aggressive movements. Success in these movements requires the attitude of a junkyard dog. Unfortunately, we see too many CrossFitters pulling aggressively off the ground only to get passive in the pull-under (or drive-under, in the case of the jerk) and when they receive the barbell.

The problem

What is slow, loopy movement? It's movement that at first glance appears correct in its technical execution. It is in fact triple extension. It is in fact a jump, as we have taught. But what it is not is aggressive. It is a slow change of direction. Remember that what we are after is a vicious jump against the ground that creates momentum and elevation on the barbell.

Assistance Sequence for the Snatch

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Over the past twelve months, we've described a complete set of progressions and skill transfer exercises for teaching and developing the snatch and clean and jerk. They can be used in order to learn the movements, or they can be used at any point in an athlete's progress to refine a skill or strengthen a weakness. In this and the following months, we'll talk about specific issues lifters often face and how to use and combine some of the moves we've discussed to help resolve those issues.

This month, we describe a sequence that helps address one of the most vexing issues for many athletes: strength and stability in the receiving position of the full snatch (i.e., squat snatch). Most athletes--and CrossFitters especially--have greater trouble with receiving the barbell in the bottom of the overhead squat than they do with generating the necessary momentum and elevation on the barbell to get it up overhead.

In this article, we'll introduce four skill transfer exercises that develop proficiency in the four main aspects of the jerk. We assume that the basics have been established and that these exercises will be used to refine the movements and introduce the athlete to jerking heavier weight. Once an athlete can jerk proficiently with light loads, we want to develop their capacity at higher and higher loads, regardless of specific goals for Olympic style weightlifting, because it maximizes the stress and adaptation and develops the most proficient movement possible.

The four main aspects of the jerk are
1) executing a powerful vertical dip and drive (or down and up),
2) aggressively driving the body down under the bar with the arms,
3) receiving the barbell overhead in the frontal plane, and
4) stabilizing the load overhead while standing upright.

The following four skill transfer exercises develop capacity in each of those areas.

Teaching the Jerk Part 3: Split Jerk Drills

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In our previous two articles in this series, we covered the two most important aspects of the split jerk separately. All the Olympic lifts consist of merely jumping and landing with the barbell in various positions. In May, we discussed the jump (dip-drive) for the jerk as performed with the barbell on the shoulders behind the neck, as that is the simplest version. In June, we covered the proper landing (receiving) position for the split jerk. In this article, the ninth in our series on teaching the Olympic lifts, we put them together with a progression that develops into a full clean and jerk.

With decent instruction, most people can, without too much difficulty, learn the proper landing position for the split jerk and learn to jump the dowel, PVC pipe, or light bar through a range of motion, receiving the bar overhead with the legs in a partial lunge. Most of these same people will find their mechanics deteriorating as they approach maximal loads (and many long before maximal). For this reason, we have developed a series of drills that can be used with increasing loads while reinforcing or even improving the mechanics of the movement.

Teaching the Jerk

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The last phase of our teaching progression in the Olympic lifts is the jerk. The jerk moves the barbell from the shoulders to a locked-arm position overhead in a single explosive movement. The barbell is driven off the shoulders with a violent dip-drive.

In the split second that the upward drive of the hips and shoulders makes the barbell weightless, the athlete drives the body down with the arms until the bar is locked out solidly overhead. The finished position can be in a split position or in a squat position.

In competition, the jerk is always paired with the clean, and the lifter must complete both together for a successful lift. Our previous articles on the snatch and the clean discussed the concept of creating momentum and elevation on the barbell by jumping and landing. This exact same concept applies to the jerk as well. The athlete begins with the feet in the jumping position and explodes upward to create maximum drive on the barbell. Once maximum upward momentum has been placed on the barbell, the lifter immediately drives the body down into the receiving position. This is the primary difference between the jerk and the clean and snatch: In the jerk, the athlete drives the body down to the receiving position, whereas in the others, the athlete pulls the body into the receiving position.month, we'll cover the proper footwork for receiving the barbell in the split position.

From the Snatch to the Clean

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Over the past few months, we've taken you through a series of exercises designed to teach you the full squat snatch. This month, we're introducing the clean. This ordering was intentional. Anyone who can perform the snatch properly can perform the clean properly within a few quick steps. The opposite is not true. There are many folks who can clean properly who never learned (or can't easily learn) the snatch.

Success in all the Olympic lifts is based primarily on a single simple concept: generate momentum and elevation on the barbell (or whatever object is being moved). This momentum is generated by a violent vertical extension of the legs and hips. The exercises covered in the previous months' articles detail the proper development of this extension. The mechanics of the first and second pulls are identical for the snatch and the clean. There are two main differences between the two lifts: the width of the grip on the barbell and the receiving position of the barbell. The clean grip is noticeably narrower than the snatch (see CrossFit Journal issue 52), and the receiving position is the front rack position instead of overhead.

Pulling Positions for the Snatch

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In January, we took you through a series of exercises designed to teach the high-hang power snatch ("high-hang" means starting the movement in a standing position with the barbell or dowel at hip height; "power" means the barbell is received in a partial squat). In February, we took you through a series of exercises designed to teach how to receive the snatch in the full squat position. The final movement in that progression was the high-hang squat snatch. Now we continue the lesson by learning the various positions the barbell travels when snatching from the floor.

The high-hang power snatch is a relatively simple movement that anyone can learn. The high-hang squat snatch is more complicated because receiving the bar overhead at the bottom of the squat requires a higher degree of flexibility, coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance, even at very light weight. The benefits of learning and training the movement are immense. In our experience, almost everyone who can do an overhead squat can learn to perform the high-hang squat snatch correctly with light weight.

Snatch Assistance Exercises

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Last month, we covered the Burgener warm-up, a sequence of six movements that ends in a high-hang power snatch with a length of PVC pipe or dowel. Whereas the full snatch, which begins with the bar at the ground and involves receiving the weight in a full squat with the bar locked out overhead, can be quite challenging, just about everyone can learn to do a high-hang power snatch with PVC, regardless of strength and flexibility.

This month's article is about teaching the four main skill-transfer exercises: the overhead squat, pressing snatch balance, heaving snatch balance, and snatch balance. All four exercises are part of the full snatch movement. Done with PVC, they train the body in the mechanics of dynamically handling a bar overhead. Performed with progressively heavier barbells, they physically prepare the body for the full squat receiving position in the snatch.

The Burgener Warmup

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Now that we've established the proper grip and set-up stance (CFJ 50 and 51), the next phase in teaching the Olympic lifts is what has become known as the Burgener warm-up. This warm-up consists of six different sequences that are important for learning to perform the Olympic lifts. The Burgener warm-up is performed with a length of PVC pipe or a dowel and specifically trains the second and third pulls of the snatch. Repetition of these six sequences with little or no weight conditions the body to move properly through the power phases of the snatch and the clean and jerk. In subsequent articles, I'll cover skill transfer exercises for the snatch, and the positioning pulls (the first pull off the ground and the scoop) for both lifts.

The essence of the Olympic lifts is creating momentum and elevation on the barbell through a range of motion that begins at the floor and finishes with the bar overhead (in the snatch and the jerk) or racked at the shoulders (in the clean). I recommend incorporating the Burgener warm-up into your daily routine regardless of the workout. It is remarkably effective at teaching and reinforcing the basic concepts of performing the Olympic lifts.

Learning the Olympic Lifts: The Grip

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Last month, we took a detailed look at the jumping and landing stances for the Olympic lifts. This month, we'll discuss proper hand placement on the bar for the snatch and the clean. First off, it must be understood that grip in both the snatch and clean is personal and based on several factors, including flexibility, strength, body size and shape, and what is generally comfortable to the athlete. While there may be a period of experimentation when an athlete tries out various grip widths for each lift, the athlete should settle on one consistent grip width for each lift and approach the bar in an identical manner every single time.

Grip width

There are three main methods for determining the proper grip width for the snatch. All three usually end up giving the same result, and since the visual approach is the quickest and easiest, it is the one I most use.

Learning the Olympic Lifts: The Stance


All of the Olympic lifts (the snatch, the clean, and the jerk) are nothing more than a jump and a land. The jump is a vicious extension of the ankles, knees, and hips that creates momentum and elevation on the barbell. In the brief moment that the barbell becomes weightless from that jump, the lifter aggressively pulls (or pushes, in the jerk) himself under the bar and lands with it in the receiving position.

As simple as this may seem, there are many components to successfully jumping and landing with weight and many common obstacles that make it hard to move and receive heavy weights. This article is the first of a series in which I’ll talk about single aspects of the lifts in detail, along with common faults and effective remedies.

for the Clean and Snatch-Treatments for Common Problems

The snatch and the clean are two of the greatest exercises known. They are unparalleled at developing athleticism in general and power in particular. All CrossFitters should incorporate them into their routines in some form. Yet the movements are complex, and perfecting them can be a lifelong pursuit. This article describes skill-transfer exercises that can be used to break down the movements and drill specific aspects of them, train good technique, and help correct some common problems. For simplicity, I describe the skill-transfer exercises here in terms of the snatch, but they can all be applied to the clean also, with just a change in grip width. Of course, any of the exercises described here can be done with no weight (e.g., with a length of dowel or PVC pipe) to learn and practice technique.

For descriptions and video of variations of the snatch balance, another skill-transfer exercise used to develop the snatch, see CrossFit Journal issue 39.


Problem: Pulling too early with the arms
Treatments: Tall snatch, positioning pulls, dip-shrug into hang snatch

Olympic weightlifters have been found to have higher vertical leaps and quicker 25-meter sprint times than any other athletes, including Olympic high-jumpers and sprinters.

The technical explanation for this is that the weightlifters have better "speed strength" than any other athletes. Speed-strength is defined as a combination of starting strength (ability to fire many muscle units instantaneously) and explosive strength (ability to keep these motor units firing once turned on).

The more useful explanation as to why they can out sprint and out leap all others is, quite simply, because they weightlift. (Weightlifting, remember, is the sport of Olympic lifting: the clean and jerk, and the snatch.)

So, weightlifting is unsurpassed in developing lightning-quick athletic movement and has enormous carryover to all explosive sport.

In our August issue we explored the overhead squat, which we billed as "the ultimate core exercise, the heart of the snatch, and peerless in developing effective athletic movement." This month we introduce three skill-transfer exercises based on the overhead squat and commonly used by weightlifters to develop the snatch.

To learn to perform and coach these exercises correctly, we ventured to Mike's Gym, a CrossFit Affiliate, in Bonsall, California, to learn firsthand from Coach Mike Burgener and his 15-year-old daughter, Sage, how to perform these exercises correctly.

Mike is the current U.S. Pan American Games coach, and Sage is a nationally competing junior champion. The three exercises are known as the pressing snatch balance, the heaving snatch balance, and the snatch balance. Each essentially demands successively greater dynamics and athleticism to reach, hold, and control the catch position of the snatch--which is, in fact, the bottom of the overhead squat.

Each of the three snatch balance exercises begins with the bar in a racked position on the upper back, as for the back squat. Starting with bar on the back, rather than in the front rack position, gives the athlete greater control and easier access to a line of action that is truly upward and not derivative.

I'll admit this: I have never seen a video that made me drive to the cobbler (or "shoe repairman" for you young ones) the next day. Yet, I found myself trying to explain to Kim, the nice young Korean man who added heels to my Olympic Lifting boots a year ago, to remove the extra heel. "I don't need it...I suddenly got more flexible."

Watching a video makes you more flexible? Well, it should sound a lot more complex; actually, it is really quite simple: Greg Glassman asked me to review World Class Coaching LLC's video The Snatch. Coach Glassman had been raving about it at the forum...and I said I would review it. But I just kept putting it off.

What could I learn? I mean, really, I have snatched 314 pounds in competition and I have a gold medal from last year's Masters Nationals. I mean, really, what could I learn?

How about this: I don't know nothing. Throughout the entire production, I scribbled notes, pressed pause and leaped up to try the "right" way to snatch. Steve Miller walks you through everything you need to know about the snatch. Miller's model, his wife, Loreen, has solid form, yet we keep flashing to images of the 1998 World Championships and the road ahead for Loreen and the viewer.


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