Accessorise

Do not attempt any of what you are about to read without asking your coach for correct technique. This is an explanation of how movements can be broken down only.

BOOM!! What the hell just happened there!? That big heavy lump of kilograms was on the floor and now it's above that dudes head! (Dude can mean male or female) Crazy! Now, I have the pleasure of meeting lots of different people and because of that I get to hear lots of opposing first time thoughts on weightlifting or any exercise for that matter. The main one is "I'll never be able to do that!!" and our response is always "yes you will! Let's find out where you're at now and get to work!!" The other (I love this one) "Sure that's EASY! You just grab it and WHOOSH!" This usually lasts until the first attempt at an overhead squat with an empty bar, you see that face as if they've just been told three very important pieces of information at the same time whilst having a number two.

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I love going back to the time when I first started training, EVERY DAY WAS PR DAY! "What's that guy doing?? Strict press??" You go grab the empty bar and boom! "PR!!! YAAAAY!!!" But it only lasts so long, then like I mentioned earlier, that's where you find out "where you're at". This is the point where it is CRUCIAL to write stuff down! You can't write a program without having data to design it around and you can't track progress without having a starting figure.

What happens when we hit this roadblock? Turn around and go home? Or look for a way through? I'm convinced that if we had a fitness magazine no one would buy it, how appealing does it sound opening it up and reading "It's going to take a lot of hard work, dedication, time, effort and you may even fall short of your goal but even if you do get there you still won't be happy because you'll want even more". Personally I still turn my head when I read "bigger guns in four minutes!"

I'm a simple guy, I like the simple things, so let's approach a lift in a "simple" manner. Clean & split jerk, what does it have in it?
You've to get the bar from the ground past your knees, fully extend your hips, pull yourself under the bar, front squat, stand up, dip, violently pop your hips, drop down with one foot forward and one foot back with your arms fully locked out, stabilise yourself then stand with your feet together... Easy!
I can't stress enough how important it is to watch Olympic lifts in slow motion, paying attention to the lifters movement, you will see all that and more.

SO! Accessory lifts, supplementary exercises or whatever you want to call them is "parts training" basically breaking stuff down to build stuff up.

Let's take the first movement "bar from the ground past your knees" well golly gosh, there's your first exercise! SIMPLE! This can be referred to as "the First Pull" or a "clean lift off" concentrating on slow and controlled movement, maintaining your posture. You'll notice a lot of people letting the weight tip them forward and letting their butt rise up in what we refer to as a "sexy stripper squat" which has the effect of turning your lower back into a catapult which will cause you to either miss the lift or have great difficulty in your receiving position. Position is the number 1 skill, if your first pull is messed up don't be expecting to catch it up with a good second and third pull, anyone that knows me will have probably heard me saying "Do it fast! And don't rush it!". Hit every part of the lift with precision and control, if you move onto the next part without fully completing the previous you're cheating your potential, NEVER PRACTICE BAD HABITS!

Ok what else did we have there? "Fully extend your hips" well we finished off just past our knees so we can just go from there and... Fully extend our hips..... That on its own can be described as practicing your Second Pull.

Now here's another one adding the First and Second pull together keeping the arms straight can now be named as your full "clean deadlift", again an exercise you can add more weight to than you can actually clean.


"Pull yourself under the bar". Adding on the arms here there's two exercises you can make outta this one. First is doing your hip extension adding on a shrug/pull then resetting which will help with fully reaching triple extension (ankles, knees, hips, Google if you want to know more) same on this one you can have more weight. The next is Pop and Drop", where you stand in a fully locked out standing position and just shrug and pull yourself down to the bottom position of your squat with your elbows up high! This really helps with speed, fast turnover and footwork, practice with a medicine ball first then empty bar, not an exercise you can go heavy with but is a FANTASTIC warm up drill.

So we've pulled ourselves under the bar and we're in the bottom of a squat... How could we practice that? If you said "Pause Squats" give yourself a high five! A pause squat is when you literally pause in the bottom position before coming back up to standing and is an exercise you can go moderately heavy with; they can be done with back, front or even overhead squats. The front squat is the biggest one you should be concentrating on for the clean, the heavier you can go the more confidence you'll have in your clean because you know you can handle the weight.

Next: "Stand Up". Ahem... NAILED IT! I can do that one all day, depending on how many drinks I've had.

Ah yes the pre-jerk "Dip". So you dip down with an upright torso then pop the hips to throw the bar up off your shoulders to give you time to jump underneath it. Yeah we could pause that one too with a "Pause Jerk" even selecting a heavier weight and just practicing throwing the weight up a little off your shoulders. I've even seen ones doing rack holds with stupidly heavy weights just to try and trick the nervous system.

We've practiced throwing it up there now we've got to get under it with "one foot forward and one foot back" well? If you're thinking "Lunge" you're right! If you're thinking "Pizza" you're hungry! Again, I can't stress how important lunges are, from a mobility point of view they should always be there in your warm ups. How many exercises can we draw out of this one? We need speed so just like the pop and drop earlier, why not go from a fully standing position to the receiving position of your jerk? BANG! (That's what you should hear) don't do ninja kitten drops, if I can coach it then it wasn't fast enough, you should already be there!

This one is another really good warm up: stabilising was mentioned earlier for the jerk I do believe, let's throw some Overhead Lunges at you! See if we can get some wobbles, try going heavyish with that one but it is a hateful exercise in my opinion... Just cus I suck at it, doesn't mean it's not a good exercise... It's just a big stupid face with a stupid head.

Standing there with the weight above your head, with that sense of accomplishment, I hope you've remembered that your arms are holding that up there? Train them and train them hard! Strict press, push press, handstand push ups, kettle bell press, Turkish get ups, just holding a handstand will help to develop your "straight arm strength" NEVER neglect strict work especially when it comes to gymnastic skills, it's very easy to throw yourself around with momentum but moving like a ninja in slow motion is infinitely more impressive.

There is no limitations with movement, as long as it is safe and it works for you then how can it be wrong? Complexes are a good thing to work with, in the snatch if you keep messing up a part of the lift try designing a complex with the broken down part in it you're struggling with, for example if you're not fully extending your hips why not try: snatch deadlift, hang position second pull x2, then hang snatch see if it helps, try the full movement afterwards too to see if you notice a difference. Get creative!

Have separate clean days and jerk days where you go from a rack for the jerk, doing that clean does take energy so you may have a higher one rep max jerk than you know.

For warm ups, the best warm up you can do is one that replicates the movements you're about to train in a dynamic manner (e.g. clean & jerk could have squats, lunges, PVC then on to empty bar for pop and drop, front squats, strict press, jerks then start your warm up sets before that days program).

For mobility I would mainly focus on getting your ankles, hips and thoracic spine moving before a session but don't spend forty five minutes sitting on a lacrosse ball then spend fifteen minutes lifting, you are where you are with your mobility, get a morning routine, a before bed routine and if it's so bad it's holding you back get seen to by a professional! Don't waste gym training time doing something you can do more of at home, by all means if it's rest day but don't be expecting your lifts to go up if you're not lifting. Just like don't be expecting your fat gut to disappear if you're eating a cheese and ham toastie while reading this.

All supplementary work helps to make you stronger but just as important it helps to give you confidence! If you can pull more than it, squat more than it, jerk more than it you IN THEORY should be able to clean & jerk it! So don't forget to break stuff down and accessorise to be fabulous! GOOD LUCK!