The one thing that will improve your lifting

Everyone wants to get that feel-good PR, or at the very least, to feel like they know what the heck they’re doing when they’re cleaning, snatching, or performing any lift. Improving your lifting skills may be one of the many reasons that you come to Alchemy in the first place.

Today, I’m going to give you a piece of advice that will go a long way toward improving your lift technique. That advice: slow down.

Social media makes lifting look easy—effortless even. But social media feeds only reveal the end result. They don’t document the lengthy process by which the lift was perfected. As a coach, I can physically place you in the most optimal starting position for every lift and I can give you valuable cues to help but once the bar is off the ground it’s all up to you. Instead of ripping through the lift at a million miles an hour and skipping a lot of key elements on each lift, you should slow the movement down. That may mean lifting lighter and applying tempo work to your lifts.

Tempo simply refers to the speed at which you move, and tempo work means breaking each phase of the movement down according to specific blocks of time. An example of this would be using a 3-2-3 tempo on a back squat. So, take three seconds to lower into your back squat, hold for two seconds at the bottom of the squat, and take three seconds to come back up.

Tempo work lets you focus on maintaining the appropriate position through the entire lift. It also gives the coach time to cue the lifter through each lift. You may never know that you’re missing a key part of the movement until you go slowly through it, therefore it’s key to understanding your lift and correcting positional errors.  Fix those errors and your weight goes up!

You also develop greater strength by slowing down your movement, i.e, working under tension. If it takes eight-seconds to complete one lift that means your body is working hard to stabilize that weight for that period of time. Tempo work requires working at slightly lower lifting percentages. For example, if I was doing a 5×5 of front squats without tempo I could be up in the 80-85% range of my 1RM.  Under tempo I would be working in the 70-75% range.

If you really want to see your PRs go up and enjoy increased confidence in performing all of the different movements we throw at you every week, slow down and make sure that your movement is perfect before you add speed and more weight. Once you’ve captured the technique you will be able to lift more weight.  So next time we are going through the lift, if you do not feel 100 per cent comfortable with it, try tempo work (I recommend you do this in your warm-up sets).


Broder McNeill is a coach and co-owner of Alchemy CrossFit. 

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