Opinion: Three Big Takeaways from Attending an Olympic Weightlifting Seminar

October 8, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Eric Castanos (Instagram handle @eric_castanos)
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As a CrossFitter for almost a decade and a CrossFit coach more recently, I decided it was time to tackle one of my many weaknesses— Olympic Weightlifting. And why not dive head first with a weightlifting seminar on the other side of the U.S.? 

Oregon is the home of Catalyst Athletics–a mere 2,800 miles from my home base of New York–but a worthwhile trip to meet and train under two of the most recognized Olympic weightlifting coaches in the sport, Greg and Aimee Everett. 

The camp was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and I want to share my feedback to hopefully encourage other crossfitters to attend a Catalyst Athletics or other weightlifting seminar. 

Remind me: Aimee is the head weightlifting coach for Mat Fraser’s training program HWPO and is the coach to Olympian Mattie Rogers. Greg has coached more than 40 national and international level lifters, and is known for his library of videos showing technical Oly movements. 

The camp was four days total from Thursday afternoon until Sunday morning. In that span of time we were being coached by Greg and Aimee and we had the pleasure of also being coached by a Catalyst athlete Lily Salisbury. 

There was no CrossFit to be had, just lifting. 

I won’t lie…my thumbs still hurt. I went into the seminar knowing I wanted to work on my own technique, but also learn how to be a better weightlifting coach to my athletes. 

Some of the key takeaways I list below can apply to both, and no, this is by no means a complete list, because everyone’s experience will be different. But I think these three can apply to almost everyone:

1) “Legs!” 

From the first session to the last I heard the word “Legs!!” yelled by Greg and Aimee countless times. I think we often tell athletes to use their legs or we’re being told to use our legs, but we’re not doing it for long enough within the lift. The leg drive is the key part of the lift and (no pun intended) the driving force of a successful lift. When I started to actually use my legs in both the snatch and the clean and jerk I could feel the difference of the lift. 

The key is to keep driving with the legs at least 1-2 seconds longer than you might be used to. I found this to be an extremely useful cue and one that we all likely have in our vocabulary, but haven’t been utilizing enough. 

2) “Stay Tight” 

This is another one that might seem simple, but is not at all simple to execute. Staying tight in your lift starts before you approach the bar and doesn’t stop until that bar is dropped. It isn’t just at the bottom of the clean or the start position of the snatch, it’s the entire lift. I know this isn’t mind blowing information, but it’s an aspect of the basic technique work that is often overlooked. 

Greg, Aimee, and Lily all made this point multiple times throughout the seminar and to every single lifter. I think oftentimes we as coaches have to make quick comments during a class and make every adjustment count. Staying tight is one that I’ve brought back with me and am trying to instill in each of the athletes I coach. 

3) “Earn Your Lift” 

This is by far one of my favorite takeaways from the seminar. We all approach the bar with the goal to make the lift. But as it gets heavier, we often just go for broke or try the lift even if our form goes to trash. Something Aimee said on multiple occasions was to earn every lift you do. If you do a snatch at even a very low percentage and it was garbage. Do it again. And do it again. 

You have to earn the right to increase in weight, and you only do that by maintaining good form and focusing on each of your lifts. On the second to last day of the seminar we all had the chance to max out our lifts. Before we started this is something Aimee said and it has and will stick with me probably forever. 

I think everyone comes into the seminar with their own goals and I think the best way to approach it is to have an open mind. You may come in thinking that the snatch is your worst lift, when in reality it may be your jerk that needs the most work. You have to defer to the experts in this situation and be open to change. 

Separately, as a CrossFitter, we’ve been taught to lift quickly and to, at times, think less about form and more about speed. A seminar like this will change that mindset and shift it to make you think more about the bar you’re picking up than the time on the clock. 

I will say that every CrossFitter should take an Olympic weightlifting seminar. It doesn’t have to be Catalyst, although it was amazing, but if you’re able to find a seminar that is local to you or led by one of the weightlifting greats, you should do it. 

The bottom line: Whether you’re attending a seminar soon or considering signing up, the most important thing to remember is to be open to criticism and be ready to learn. These experts are here to help you and to make you better, so take advantage of the fact that you have the privilege of learning from them and just be a sponge.

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