The Best "Drill" for Weightlifting

It’s not actually a drill.

I am horrible at blog titles, so excuse me if I led you on, but the best “drill” for weightlifting is not a drill at all, it is perfect practice of the movements with little to no weight at first, and then more weight as you can do it perfectly with no weight.

First let’s talk about drills for weightlifting. Invariably they have catchy names, and so as to not call out any drill in particular I won’t list the particular drills. Safe to say they usually have a word like pop or drop or “pop and drop.” While definitely catchy, most of these drills do not have use in weightlifting, as popping has as much to do with a lift as locking does (B-boys unite).

Catchy drills miss the point. A lift is like a jump shot, or a really heavy golf swing. While I am certain there are drills to be done with those, true practice comes from, you know, practicing the movement. In basketball this means getting up shots, perfectly 100’s of times. In golf, it is 100’s of balls on the range. It isn’t playing a round of golf, or playing some 3 on 3, it is dedicated practice to the craft.

Intuitively we know this, heck we have been told this countless times. We have been told by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell that we need to practice 10,000 hours to reach expert status. Although that claim was knocked down a notch in the book The Sports Gene, the truth is that only perfect practice, no matter the number of hours, is what it takes to get to expert status. Weightlifting is certainly included.

Perfect Weightlifting Practice
So what does that perfect weightlifting practice look like?

1.Gain an understanding of the global positions required for weightlifting. For me this is the overhead and racked position, this is the hip position, the knee position, and the start position. You can do this from the top down or the bottom up, just do it.
2.Gain an understanding of the transitions from one position to the next, generally the first pull, the second pull, and the third pull. Then learn to link the positions together with the right transition.

If you haven’t done steps one or 2, do not pass go, do not proceed to anything. Go find a coach, a good one and learn. You must start with an understanding of the positions of weightlifting.

Then it’s time for your practice, start with the bar. See below for more info.

I know you are stronger than the bar, and I know that some would say using more just the bar for prolonged periods of time will drive athletes away from the sport, or inhibit our gainz but seriously, no one is above using the bar. I do drill sets or “bar work” every week and I have been lifting for 18 years.

Bar work is supplemental work for the advanced lifter, and the main course for beginning lifters. We will still get a training effect from squatting, and even doing the lifts to a heavier degree, but bar work should remain.

Below is the bar work that we typically do. It’s not just snatches or cleans with the bar, it is directed practice at each position and each transition with the bar. It works.

Try going through sets of 5 at each position, floor to knee, knee to hip, and hip to overhead. We do something similar with the clean. Throw 3-4 sets at the beginning of a training session to prime the positions.

Originally Published 6/6/15
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