Information on Olympic Lifting in English is not available in large amounts and what is available can run the gamut from excellent to absolute trash. The movements are technically complicated, there is little information (again, especially in English) on them and many who teach them, frankly, have no clue what they are doing.
Mind you, this isn’t different for other movements in the weight room but the OL’s are pretty technical movements and a lot is going on in a very short period of time.
A lot of strength coaches seem to think they know what’s happening/what they are doing but, when you watch their videos (cough cough, Mike Boyle and Dos Remedios) it’s clear that they do not. You see gross technical errors which said coaches then make chronic excuses for.
I’ve even seen DVD and other teaching products that, flatly, taught stuff incorrectly. And not just on the Youtubes; I mean professionally produced and priced stuff. But I’m getting off topic.
The state of Olympic Lifting in the United States has made learning the movements or learning to teach the movements somewhat problematic. Certification is a first step but not everyone has access or time; and the afforementioned DVD products can run the gamut from quite good to absolutely worthless/detrimental.
In the past, I’ve reviewed at least two Olympic lifting resources including Greg Everetts Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes (now in it’s Second Edition, which I will review eventually) along with Greg Everett’s Olympic Lifting Seminar DVD. Both are excellent resources that I highly recommend but, today, I want to talk about a brand new product that I can’t too highly recommend for people interested in the topic.
Glenn Pendlay is a name that should be familiar to most on the Internet although more for his programming than anything else. He was originally associated, so far as I can tell, with Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore in Wichita Falls, Texas and got at least a tertiary credit on the highly recommended book Practical Programming.
Now Glenn is located in California and training Olymipc Lifters at his California Strength Gym. More relevant to today’s post, recently he did a seminar where he did both a technique and programming seminar. The programming DVD is coming later I’m told) and today I want to look at the Olympic technique seminar.
The technique DVD is divided into two discs, the first is dedicated to the snatch, the second to the clean and jerk. The quality is about what you’d expect from a shot on camera seminar. It’s not fancy but it doesn’t need to be. The video and audio are extremely clear and it does exactly what it’s supposed to do.
There are no exciting bells and whistles on the video either, they didn’t go for style over substance with it. The controls are basic and functional and there are some basic bullet point text bits between the video to summarize the information that was just presented; beyond that it’s just Glenn and one of his lifters giving a seminar. But that’s all it needs to be. Technically, it’s a good product and I needn’t say much more about it other than I have seen ‘professional’ products that looked much worse. Poor audio, video problems, etc. This disk has none of them.
A Quick Tangent: Learning the OL’s
Getting a bit off topic, over the years the OL’s have been taught in a handful of fashions, all are discussed in obsessive detail in Arthur Dreschler’s Encyclopedia of Weightlfting.
Typically the OL’s are taught in a segmented top-down kind of format. This is especially true of the USWF program, at least it was years ago when I took the certification. Most approaches tend to break the lifts down into segments and teach them in some sort of progressive manner.
So first you learn overhead bar position, then overhead squat, then power snatch from the hip, then from the knee, then below the knee, then the floor, then you start squatting it under, etc….It may take 6-10 movements to learn the full movement. Cleans and jerks are taught in the same segmented fashion.
While this tends to simplify the movements, especially for adult learners, it can lead to not only some weird technical issues but also lead to lifters lifting in a bad rhythm. Basically, by breaking the movement into too many small parts, lifters start to think in small parts and their lifts often lack smoothness or rhythm. This is especially true if you don’t do adequate work on the full lifts to smooth out the breaks between segments. Lifters start thinking that the lift is a series of disconnected parts instead of one combined whole.
At the other extreme is the approach used by many Eastern European countries which is to basically teach the full lift from the get go, correcting issues as they go. This works great when you start around age 5-8 and have a decade to learn the lifts as you go. Older individuals don’t seem to do well with this. There’s too much going on and they just can’t get it; nor do they have the time nor focus to spend.
And I’m only describing the above in detail to give you an idea of the two extremes of teaching the technique; please don’t get the idea that they are the only ones out there. Mainly it’s just background for the real review. Because, for the most part, there hasn’t been much ‘new’ in the world of teaching OL technique in a while.
Back to the Review
And yet in Glenn’s video, a compromise approach to teaching the lifts, somewhere between the two above extremes was presented. Glenn has broken the lifts down into 3-4 segments, less than the typical Western teaching model but more than the ‘learn it in one movement as you go’ approach. And it made sense. A lot of sense.
I won’t detail his approach, mind you, go buy the DVD. But I can highly recommend this disk if for no other reason than it will give you a new way of looking at teaching the movements. It did me and I’ve been playing with the Ol’s for nearly a decade now.
As well, Glenn solved a problem that many run into, how to teach folks to do the full squat movements of the lifts. Most teaching progressions teach the power versions of the lifts and then try to get the lifter to learn how to squat it down or catch it lower.
It can work (usually you get the lifter squatting every rep down after catching high and hope that they learn to squat under as the weight gets heavier) but as often as not teaching it this way teaches the lifter to pull the bar up instead of themselves down/under. Getting lifters to completely re-conceptualize the lifts after teaching them one thing is often a problem.
Alternately, when you start teaching the squat movement, you end up with the lifter not finishing the pull; rather than throwing the bar and going under, they start rushing to get under the bar. Getting them to think about finishing up to full extension (or near it; I won’t go into that debate here) before going down becomes another real problem that can be nearly impossible to solve once they’ve learned it a certain way.
And Glenn’s approach to teaching the movement found a quick and dirty solution to both problems.
And over the course of about a 2 hour seminar, Glenn had what were more or less beginners going into the squat versions of both the snatch and clean (which was taught identically to the snatch). His approach to teaching the jerk was novel as well; as a completely different lift it was taught differently from the first two.
Each segment of his teaching progression is first described, before having one of his top lifters demonstrate it several times. As I noted above, each segment is bulletpointed in text between the video sections. The the lifters at the seminar are shown doing the drills as Glenn does error correction. It’s a basic ‘tell me, show me, involve me’ approach to teaching; I’ve used the same for about 15 years and it works. Tell the person what they are going to do, show them what they are going to do and then make them do it themselves.
And make no mistake, the error correction is a very worthwhile part of the disk. As complicated as they are, there are a handful of very common mistakes shown by beginners that crop up again and again. Watching Glenn observe and correct them (quite often with simple descriptors and cues) is a worthwhile learning experience for anyone teaching the lifts. You’ll run into the same problems and knowing how to correct them quickly is a key part of the experience.
I would note that this is about learning basic OL’ing technique. Advanced topics and corrections are not covered; the DVD was simply about getting beginners to reasonable proficiency as quickly as possible and, as such, it excels. Ol’ing is a sport where you can spend years perfecting the tiniest of details; that is not what this DVD was about and you shouldn’t purchase it expecting it to be something it isn’t. Even there I would suspect that advanced lifters might get something out of watching this; it never hurts the revisit the fundamentals and Glenn has come up with an interesting way of teaching the lifts.
A Minor Nitpick
Overall, I had no faults with this disk on any level save a very, very minor one that doesn’t even really matter. Somewhere on disk 1, Glenn asserted that teaching the power clean or power snatch teaches lifters to arm pull. I disagree in that, properly taught, I don’t think this is the case (and has never been my experience). Certainly the way most strength coaches teach the power movements, this is true. Properly taught, I don’t think it’s true. Basically I’m being nitpicky about the statement being put in absolute rather than qualified terms.
Of less relevance is this: my personal opinion is that teaching the power versions first often teaches lifters to conceptualize the lifts wrong; they think about pulling the bar up instead of themselves down. Getting them to pull under the bar is difficult if they learn the power versions first while teaching the power versions after they know the squat versions is far easier. In that sense, Glenn’s approach, getting them to squat under sooner rather than later still makes sense. Just not for the asserted reason.
But this is ultimately one of those minor criticisms of absolutely no importance; it’s neither here nor there and the end result, teaching lifters to go under the bar still makes more sense. I’m just bringing it up because that’s the kind of guy that I am. And you wouldn’t trust a review from me if I didn’t nitpick something or another.
If you have an interest in the Ol’s either as a lifter or a coach, you must have this on your shelf. It’s an excellent resource and one of the first ‘new’ things I’ve seen in the field in years. Do not hesitate, do not dither, do not consider another product. Get this DVD set now.
At 44.50 it’s an absolute bargain and I can almost guarantee you that you will learn something about OL’ing from watching it whether you’re a coach, an athlete, beginner or advanced. I can’t personally wait for the programming seminar and will review it in full when it’s available.
Bottom line: you can and should purchase Glenn Pendlay Olympic Lifting Techniques DVD from Dave Draper’s website.