As you all know, the Olympic lifts are the greatest exercises in the history of humankind. They require strength, power, speed, flexibility, coordination, and just about anything else you could ever want to develop as an athlete. The Olympic lifts also require performance from virtually every muscle in your body.
Preparing those muscles for performing the Olympic lifts well is essential. I don’t want you wasting an hour trying to prepare every muscle group though, so let’s hone in on a few important areas that every lifter should incorporate into their pre-lifting routine.
Most lifters should have a few good solutions to prepare their hips, hamstrings, ankles and shoulders before every lifting session. There is no need to reinvent the wheel with these drills. Kelly Starrett’s MobilityWOD is a phenomenal resource for anyone who is interested in maintaining their body and performing at their best – that should be just about everyone. In the video below Kelly shares some techniques to help athletes open up their hips, and thereby improve their overhead squat and snatch receiving position.
A lifter’s hamstrings are vital in helping them to create as much power as possible in the second pull of the snatch and clean. We spend a lot of time helping our lifters learn how to engage their hamstrings to generate speed through the middle of the lift, so it’s important that those tissues are taken care of and healthy. There are a lot of great ways to care for and mobilize your hamstrings, so pick a few from these options and incorporate one or two each day before you train.
The one area that doesn’t seem to get enough attention is the ankle. The Olympic lifts demand a vertical torso in the receiving position, so good ankle mobility is essential for lifters. Below is a great video from K-Star with a few great (and slightly painful) techniques for improving ankle mobility.
Finally, you should spend some time ensuring that your thoracic spine and shoulders are ready to go. In the CrossFit community, we see a lot of athletes who have trouble keeping their elbows up in a clean and front squat, or they have trouble externally rotating the shoulder in an overhead squat. Here are three of my favorite drills from Mobility WOD to help lifters prepare to put heavy weights overhead – T-Spine, Internal Rotation and First Rib.
Finally, don’t forget that you’re not done once you’ve finished mobilizing. You still have to get your body warm and your central nervous system primed to move quickly. I won’t go into that too much, but don’t forget that the Junkyard Dog, Burgener Warm-Up, and skill transfer exercises are MANDATORY before you perform the Olympic lifts. If I catch you skipping these, I will offer you up a warm-up full of that little exercise that everybody loves . . . burpees.