The Soviet Model For Teaching Technique (Excerpted from Chapter 2 - Teaching and Learning Weightlifting Technique)

Coaches in the former USSR extensively studied the best methods for teaching technique, and while, as was noted above, different coaches and writers promote different methods, the general direction of their thinking in this area is as follows. First, they argue that it is useful to teach the lift in parts before having the lifter attempt to perform the entire movement. Second, they believe in teaching the snatch before the clean and jerk.

The idea of teaching parts of the lift instead of the entire lift at once is grounded in motor learning theory that says: a) learning parts is easier for the mind to handle than attempting to learn all aspects of a movement at once; and b) once one or more parts are learned, it is easy either to add another stage to the sequence or to add the separate parts together. The Soviet approach is essentially a modified version of the "backward chaining" method of motor skill development that was referred to earlier in this chapter (i.e., learning the last sequence in a movement and then adding each previous segment, segment by segment).

The notion that the snatch should be learned before the clean is supported by several arguments. First, some theorists feel that faster movements place less of a strain on the body than do slower ones and therefore attacking faster movements first is more natural and gentler on the body's adaptive mechanisms. Another argument is that the timing of the snatch is more delicate than that of the C&J; as a consequence, learning the clean first might inhibit learning of the snatch.

One influential Soviet author, former World Champion and national team coach A. Medvedyev, recommends the following sequence of learning: power snatch (a version of the snatch in which the lifter bends his or her legs to a limited degree to catch the bar overhead instead of lowering the body into a full squat position);, snatch; jerk from rack (an apparatus which supports the barbell at chest height and from which the barbell is removed in order to perform the exercise—see the section of Chapter 4 which refers to "Squat Racks" for a further description); power clean (a lift in which the body is only lowered into a partial squat); and clean. When teaching each exercise, he recommends that the lift be broken into sub-categories. The athlete first learns the power snatch by starting with the bar in a position similar to the one reached at the end of the third stage of the snatch. Then a power snatch in which the bar begins from a position just below the knees is mastered. The athlete then practices properly lifting the bar from the floor to the knees. Then a full snatch pull from the floor is learned. Next the athlete learns the power snatch from the floor and then adds an overhead squat after the power snatch (i.e., the athlete lowers his or her body into a full squat position while holding the bar overhead on straight arms). Finally, the athlete learns the full squat snatch from the floor. A similar sequence is followed for learning the clean.

Medvedyev thinks the jerk should be learned between the snatch and the clean, and the sequence he recommends is: the front squat, the power jerk and the split jerk. The sequence used to learn the clean is similar to the sequence used to learn the snatch (i.e., power clean from the hang above the knees, power clean from just below the knees, etc.—exercises explained in Chapter 5).

Copyright 1998 A is A Communications. All rights reserved.
Revised: February 15, 1998