Blog Series: Beginner Lifters and Beginner Coaches


The next five days I’m going to do a series on beginning weightlifters, things beginning coaches should be thinking about when the coach and basic principles to follow when teaching beginning lifters the sport. I know there are a lot of you that have plenty of beginner athletes and Crossfitters who trust you to lead them through the lifts. What I’ve done is collected some of the best coaches advice in the country. I asked for some personal friends to write an article for this series on what they would tell beginning weightlifters and beginning coaches. Coach Harvey Newton, Stan Luttrell, Richard Flemming, and Gayle Hatch combined have more weightlifting and coaching experiencing than any one person could ever have. They literally have close to a hundred years of coaching experience between their minds combined. These guys have all written great articles and blogs on the topic. Over the next five days I’m going to showcase their thoughts.


However to introduce the series I want to give a couple of my thoughts on how to introduce new lifters for the sport, what to focus on, and the importance of patience. When coaching there’s a fine line between focusing on the technical aspects of the lifts and focusing on the strength of the lifter. Obviously strength is important as a weak weightlifter with perfect technique still can’t move very much weight. However, there are a lot of guys are coming to the sport extremely strong with the capacity to do a lot of weight but a lot of bad habits and because of technical faults never reach their potential. When I coach beginners I typically follow two principles. First principle I follow is technique trumps weight every time. To clarify that, if a new weightlifter is trying to learn the snatch and is capable of doing more weight but can’t do 40 kg properly then it actually hurts him to try and do more weight than 40 kg. Developing good habits early will pay dividends later. Technique should always trump the weight on the bar. This is especially true for squats. I see a lot of coaches who allow their lifters to get after heavy squats and load the bar in their strength work after their lifts. Squatting with perfect technique supports snatching and cleaning with perfect technique. Vertical torso, butt to ankles, and speed out of the bottom are vitally important to developing good movement in the lifts. If a coach allows their lifters to squat heavy but squat improperly, as I stated before it actually hurts their lifts despite any strength they might gain. Squats that do not look like a clean or a snatch is a squat that does not help the lifter. I don’t care what you can squat if you’re not able to transfer that strength over to the lifts. Literally, that strength is useless. Technique always trumps the weight on the bar.


The second principle I tend to live by when teaching beginning weightlifters is a heavy emphasis on strength development. A lot of times lifters know what they’re supposed to be doing with the bar, know where the bar is supposed to be at each point being the lifts, they literally just don’t have the strength to ,aintain or even find the positions they are supposed to be in. A lifter with no hamstring strength is going to have an incredibly hard time holding or finding the hang position at the top of the knee. A lifter with poor pulling strength is going to have a hard time completing the correct first pull off the floor. There must always be a heavy emphasis on strength early on in the program. Knowledge and understanding of the lifts means nothing if you can’t put your body in a position to complete the lifts. When I’m developing our beginner weightlifters we put a huge emphasis on partial pulls to develop hamstrings and posterior chain strength and we put a huge emphasis on squatting. This is allows lifters to gradually work on the technical aspects of their lifts but at the same time get stronger in order to complete the lifts well. We spend more than half of our time getting stronger in the first 12 weeks so that a year down the line they’re able to use the lifts to get stronger. I want my lifters to be able to clean heavy and use the heavy cleans as a strength developer but if they’re not able to clean the bar right then cleaning heavy doesn’t help. Strength matters. Especially early on.


Lastly as a coach the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around is patience. Excellent lifters are not created overnight or even over the course of six months. Elite, excellent lifters take years to develop and a whole lot of patience. My last word of encouragement and advice to new coaches who are beginning to train new lifters or Crossfitters is to expect the process to take longer than you wanted but expect the results to be sweeter than you thought possible. Trusting consistency and trusting the process to move at appropriate speeds is part of coaching. Nothing good happens overnight so expect the process of developing lifters to be long, sometimes discouraging, but ultimately trust that satisfaction is soon to come your way. The rest of the week will showcase some of these other coaches and you’ll find a lot of our principles align. Beginning weightlifting is not complicated but it does take competency. Enjoy the articles this week.

Below is a list of the articles coming this weekend and their authors.

Tips For Beginner Lifters: Harvey Newton

Teaching Weightlifting Technique: Gayle Hatch

What convey to new athletes to Olympic Lifting: Richard Flemming

Beginning Olympic Weightlifting: Stan Luttrell


7 responses to “Blog Series: Beginner Lifters and Beginner Coaches

  1. Pingback: Blog Series: Beginner Lifters and Beginner Coaches | Vette City CrossFit·

  2. Really looking forward to reading these write ups. Sounds like some solid advice coming from solid coaches! Spencer…perhaps after this series you can work in some posts breaking down accessory movements and their purpose (what they can help fix). For example, what accessory movements should someone who struggles with a weak punch in their snatch do? Stuff like that. I get asked now and them what the purpose of a muscle snatch is or why somene would want to snatch balance. Your insight would go a long way for many who are unfamilar with these movements.

  3. Great post with some great advices… what is your difinition for a beginner lifter?, as for myself i crossfit for almost two years and recently started an oly lifting program in order to fix my lifts and of course get stronger… so how yiu define a beginner?

    • I would classify a beginner lifter as anyone who has not been coached solely on the Olympic lifts by an Olympic lifting coach and who has not worked through a lifting program. Basically a understanding of the lifts that is reflected in the refinement of their technique.

  4. Pingback: Tuesday 130617 | CrossFit NYC·

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