A Guide for Olympic Weightlifting Accessory Work
Written by Holden Rethwill

Everybody loves a little Oly in their life…they can be some of the most frustrating and exciting movements, but have no fear, I’m here to help you get a little better at it! We’re going to break down some different portions of the movements, discuss the importance behind them, and then go over some accessory work to help with that. For the purpose of this discussion, when breaking down specific aspects of the movement, assume they apply to both the clean & jerk and the snatch. Following that, we will discuss lift specific accessories to consider throwing in from time to time.

The Olympic Weightlifting Pull

This one is pretty straight forward…It’s hard to Olympic lift if you can’t pull things off the floor. The pull is what starts the movement – I know, the set-up comes first but this isn’t an Oly class, it’s a breakdown of movements to make you better when you go to class. A proper pull will accelerate the barbell in the proper position in order to propel it upwards to the intended destination. To have a strong pull you need a couple things – low back strength, hamstring strength, and lat strength.

Low Back Strength

First thing to round and look like someone is a dog taking a dump and pulling their chest out of it’s properly positioned alignment is a weak back. Strengthening it will keep your posture where it is supposed to be, your chest raising at the proper angel, and the barbell moving in the proper linear pattern.

Hamstring Strength 

This is what keeps you back in that midfoot range. Weak hamstrings and the inability to keep your butt and chest rising at the same angle will result in the barbell being forward, you being up on your toes, you jumping forward to receive the bar, and your lift looking like poop.

Lat Strength

Put your arm straight out in front of you. Now put your hand underneath it. Press your straight arm down while resisting with the other hand. Feel that muscle working? It’s on the upper portion of your back, on the side, kind of behind the armpit? Yeah we need that working when you Oly lift too. Lats are what keep the bar close to you. Inactive lats = inactive lifts. Active lats = PR’s.

  • Lat Pull-Downs, banded or weighted
  • Wide Grip Strict Pull-Ups
  • Chest Supported Rows
  • Seated Upright Rows (guess what.. you can use the REVERSE HYPER for this…see the theme here?)
  • Snatch Grip Bent Over Rows…woof

Extension in Olympic Weightlifting

Ok now we’re starting to get a little dynamic…this is the portion of the lift that you need to GO! You know, like “POW” from Emeril. You’ve probably heard it said, speed through the middle? This is the part where you want to try and hit your head on the ceiling. Well let’s work on doing that…

Plyometrics

  • Med Ball Vertical Tosses
  • Single-Leg Bounds
  • Broad Jumps (do them with a band too, it’s fun)
  • Box jumps (the 1 rep max kind not reps for time kind) – add some weight if you’re feeling funky just don’t jack up your shins
  • Depth Drops
  • Depth Jumps (drop off an object then spring as high as you can)
  • Uphill Jumps in soft sand
  • Band ASSISTED Vertical Leaps (want to feel like you’re flying?)
  • Basically anything and everything that will teach your body to fully extend and open up those hips

Resistance Training

The Squat in Olympic Weightlifting

Self explanatory here…we don’t need to go super into detail about this but bottom line, you gotta be able to squat what you’re trying to pull. But there are some fun ways to train these and make your squat stronger.

The Lockout in Olympic Weightlifting

How many of you have been hitting a rep…basically perfect in the first three portions of the movement, only to let your glass shoulders fail you when the bar is over your head? I just raised my hand. A weak lockout is one of the most frustrating ways to end a lift so we’re going to work on some ways to make it stronger!

The Jerk Lockout

  • Jerk Dips (being strong with the bar on your chest makes it easier to properly propel it upwards when completing the lift… ain’t nobody got time for a soft ass core ruining your lift!)
  • Jerk Recoveries
  • Banded Strict Press
  • Bamboo Press – both power position and split position
  • Pause Jerks
  • Jerks with a pause at the top – hold the world up over your head!
  • See my post on the shoulders, lats, and triceps, because without those, your wet noodle of an arm isn’t holding sh*t overhead.

Snatch Receiving Position

  • Snatch Balance
  • Snatch Push Press
  • Snatch Grip Bamboo Press
  • Sotts Press
  • Check your overhead position in the bottom of your overhead squat… if you look like poop here, maybe fix that before you try to snatch the world…
  • Also see above with regards to shoulders, lats, and triceps…

NO WEAK LOCKOUTS!

So…now that we’ve got those down and you’ve got some positional specific accessory work to mix in, here’s some full movement specific accessories to add to your repertoire.

Accessory Lifts for the Clean

Accessory Lifts for the Snatch

First and foremost, fix your overhead position…then we’ll talk.

Accessory Lifts for the Jerk

The list goes on and on and on, but again, these are just some of my favorite ideas you can incorporate into your training. By no means is this a comprehensive list of all the movements and positions that you can train, but it’s a starting point to get you on the road to some new PR’s!

Accessories = Successories.

If you have any drills that you don’t see here, hit me up and tell me what they are!

Also Check Out…

The Power Clean

Barbell Cycling Strategies – Ground to Overhead

The Invictus Olympic Weightlifting Program & Benefits

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