The other day an experienced CrossFit athlete asked me an interestingly odd question: “When you go heavy, your technique has to fall apart, right?” Slightly taken aback, I looked around waiting for the Twilight Zone music to come on or for the Candid Camera crew to jump out from a well-concealed hiding place. When none of this happened, I realized that my colleague was actually serious. He’d gotten the whole concept of weight lifting backwards. In his world, the light ones looked good; the heavy ones – well, not so much. Getting crushed every now and then was just part of the program. In my world, you stress technique so that you can go heavy. Your heaviest lift should look no different than your warm-ups. Well-trained lifters make it look effortless.
Time for a quick, personal story: back in the late 70s and early 80s, I was an aspiring weight lifter. I had competed, trained hard and was having some success with it. I had the opportunity to attend a “Record Makers” event as a spectator in which some of the world’s best lifters were invited to put on a demonstration for us mere mortals. And quite the impressive show it was! Even though it was an “off” year as far as the Olympics were concerned – and, even though the competitors were not in tip-top shape, these guys were other-worldly. I remember one of the Russian lifters, Yurik Vardanyan, weighing only about 185, easily tossing up 352, 363, and 374 in the snatch and clean & jerking 462 – and doing a push-jerk no less!! All done so incredibly effortlessly that it made me think that even I could do that! I couldn’t, of course, but the point is that the well-trained athlete gives us that “that doesn’t look so hard” reaction.
I train a couple of young ladies in the sport of Olympic lifting, and throughout our sessions, I stress that they perform perfect reps every time and that they should never, ever “mail it in.“ Think about it: there’s no reason to focus on anything else. Our workouts take a little longer but it’s well worth it. This focus helps them progress further and faster than they would if they simply went out there and “hoped for the best.” That’s how you should train too!