the joy of strength training


March 24th, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Why Crossfitters benefit from learning the Olympic lifts from an Olympic Weightlifter

Samantha Briggs lifting big weights above her head at the 2012 Crossfit Games

Crossfit has done a lot of good for the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. Awareness of and participation in the sport has rocketed.

As an Olympic lifter and instructor I say ‘thanks Crossfit!’

I know that the demands of Crossfit are different from the demands of competitive weightlifting.

But Crossfitters can really benefit from learning the Olympic lifter’s way of weightlifting, and the best Crossfitters that I know have done just this.

Maximal olympic lifting is becoming more important in Crossfit

Samantha Briggs (pictured above) is a fan of olympic lifting as a sport. She is a force to be reckoned with on the UK weightlifting scene, being 2013 English Champion at 58kg – as well as being one of the world’s top Crossfitters.

It has become common in recent times for Crossfit competitions to include 1 rep max snatch and clean events, not just multiple rep workouts with light weights. All competitive Crossfitters therefore now need to be good at both!

We’ve all seen the video clips and heard the stories of terrible technique in some Crossfit gyms. I know that this isn’t representative of the community as a whole, but who wants to be a laughing stock or give the haters more ammunition?

I’m not gonna lie, I have an agenda here. I have an Olympic lifting beginners course that I am trying to promote.

But as well as myself, there is a growing number of decent Olympic lifting instructors in the UK with a competitive background in the sport, not just those who have done a two-day certification and never stepped on a competitive platform in their life.

If Crossfitters are embracing the challenge of Olympic lifting, they might as well benefit from the available expertise.

And if you have competitive ambitions, it helps to be coached by someone who understands the pressure and the unique demands of lifting in a competition.

So how can we help?

The common issues I see among Crossfitters performing the Olympic lifts are:

  • Finding it difficult to go under the bar – always power snatching or power cleaning
  • Technique limitations which mean they can perform multiple reps with light weights but have trouble pushing up 1 rep maxes
  • Good levels of fitness but strength is lagging behind (this is very common in women, in my experience)
  • Inexperience performing maximal lifts and the mental approach required
  • Insufficient understanding of the double knee-bend mechanism, resulting in poor technique and a limit as to how much weight can be lifted.

Man snatching at the Crossfit Games watched by an officialLearning from a dedicated Olympic lifting instructor can address all of these issues because they are related to technique and mental aspects specific to the sport of Olympic lifting.

Crossfitters can also benefit from the approach that Olympic lifters take to lifting, especially to heavy attempts. If you have been brought up on the AMRAP principle then approaching heavy single attempts can be intimidating or simply tricky; why can’t I just rip it up?

As competitive Crossfitters you want to be building an arsenal of skills and approaches, since this is demanded at all levels of the sport. The best Crossfitters can bring to bear the focus and mental routine needed to execute a heavy single attempt, as well as throwing themselves into a long endurance WOD with all-out effort.

All athletes need to work on their weaknesses, and a period with an olympic lifting coach can be an important part of your yearly preparation. With so many skills required for Crossfit, it can be difficult to fit the necessary practise into a typical Crossfit class.

There are a growing number of Crossfit coaches who are good Olympic lifting instructors themselves. They have participated in the sport for a number of years and understand it. But not every box has access to this expertise, so you may need to look elsewhere.

Your local weightlifting club (see is a great place to start, or you can take a course like mine, which is aimed at beginners and improvers. You can also hire one of the handful of elite British weightlifters such as Giles Greenwood to run a workshop.

So find a good Olympic lifting instructor and watch your Olympic lifts fly up!

Do you agree? Have you benefitted from a weightlifter’s approach? How important is this to you as a Crossfitter?

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  • 1

    I’m a CrossFitter. I’m not ashamed of it. That said, I seriously need to clean up my clean and don’t even get me started on my snatch (or lack thereof). CrossFit has made me pick up weight in a way I never have done before (I love that about it) but even after a year and a bit my Oly lifts simply don’t stack up. Why? Because they’re usually ‘taught’ in a 15 minute window as part of a far longer session. As soon as my diary allows I’ll be booking into one of Sally or Giles Greenwood’s sessions. Both these trainers clearly have Oly lifting technique totally down pat. They can identify issues and walk through technique in a way that would never be possible within the confines of a CrossFit work out. For me, Oly lifts are a lot about confidence. I signed up to this year’s CrossFit Open but pulled out of the first work out because it had a snatch in it. I probably could have done it, but I simply didn’t want to risk injury. I’m determined to learn Oly lifts the right way and very much look forward to having the opportunity of being taught them in an environment that’s far more suited to long term gains that come with awesome technique. Here’s to mine, Giles and Sally’s diaries lining up ASAP! Sally, good luck with your next course.

    Ruth on March 24th, 2013
  • 2

    Ruth, thanks for the input! You are precisely the kind of person I am hoping to help out.
    Why not try my upcoming course in April/May? No time like the present…;-)

    gubernatrix on March 24th, 2013
  • 3

    The one at CrossFit Evolving? I would have loved to. That’s my ‘home’ box. But a move back to my real home next weekend (South Wales) means I can’t make it back to London on consecutive weekends and Giles’ forthcoming April workshop clashes with a Strength Academy nutrition workshop 🙁 We’ll get there, I’m sure…

    Ruth on March 24th, 2013
  • 4

    Yes, that’s the one. Pity you can’t make it, maybe next time.

    gubernatrix on March 24th, 2013
  • 5

    Ruth – if you’re in/near Cardiff, my gym is running a series of courses on lifting technique soon. Squat, deadlift, C&J, snatch. 4 sessions per lift – you can attend individual sessions, I think. Details on their facebook page here:

    (No connection other than as happy trainee).

    Pollly on March 28th, 2013
  • 6

    Thanks for writing this! It was the final kick I needed to get me to a local Olympic weightlifting gym to complement my 3x/weekly Crossfit. I’m definitely aware of several weaknesses with my lifting and since it’s actually the part I enjoy the most, it’s silly _not_ to go train further. (now if only there were adult gymnastics classes for people who can’t even do cartwheels…)

    I wish I was still in the UK and could go to one of your courses!

    Jen on April 16th, 2013
  • 7

    Hi Jen,
    Really pleased about that!
    My local Crossfit affiliate does an adult gymnastics class – maybe there’s a Crossfit near you that does the same?

    gubernatrix on April 18th, 2013
  • 8

    […] Why Crossfitters benefit from learning the Olympic lifts from an Olympic Weightlifter […]

  • 9

    […] 3. Why CrossFitters Benefit From Learning the Olympic Lifts From an Olympic Weightlifter[]An Olympic lifting coach explains common issues she sees in CrossFitters attempting the Olympic lifts. […]

  • 10

    […] 3. Why CrossFitters Benefit From Learning the Olympic Lifts From an Olympic Weightlifter[]An Olympic lifting coach explains common issues she sees in athletes attempting the Olympic lifts. […]

  • 11

    […] Article: Why Crossfitters benefit from learning the olympic lifts from an olympic weightlifter […]

  • 12

    I have learnt from both an Ex Olympic weightlifter and a normal crossfit coach. I have to say that the crossfit coach wasn’t that bad at all but he didn’t fully have reasoning behind every aspect of the lift and to be honest just was able to teach basics, whereas our ex olympic weightlifter coach understood every part of the lift and told us little techniques which would benefit the lift. All in all i recommend training with experienced olympic lifters rather than a normal crossfit coach.

    Tyrone on October 23rd, 2013
  • 13

    proud to be a cross-fitter! feeling really good after reading your post Sally. you’re great, cool. on May 10th, 2014
  • 14

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    sac de voyage longchamp on February 14th, 2015
  • 15


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