The Quickest Way to Improve Your Weightlifting
By Joe Black (USAW-L1SP, CF-L1)
Weightlifting is one of the coolest parts of CrossFit. Watching someone effortlessly pick up a loaded barbell and throw it overhead fascinates me. The Olympic lifts (Snatch, Clean, and Jerk) are dynamic and make me feel like an athlete, even at 33 years old!
I started CrossFit in 2011 and I wasn’t too far into my new obsession that I became extremely interested in the lifts. I gradually shifted from CrossFit workouts to weightlifting over the course of the next few years until I made the jump completely in 2015. For the last two years, I have worked remotely with a weightlifting fitness coach, improving my technique, strength, and understanding of the lifts and have competed locally in weightlifting meets. I also work as a fitness coach two female weightlifting athletes at CrossFit Prototype.
Coaching, competing, and training weightlifting is awesome!

What is the Quickest Way to Improve Your Weightlifting?

Over these years, I have recognized some themes regarding weightlifting in a fitness gym.
We are trying to accomplish the following when weightlifting:

  1. Stay balanced throughout the lift. Your balance changes throughout the lift, so understanding where you need to be at each point of the lift and developing awareness of your body in space helps make you that much better.
  2. Keep the bar close to the body. This keeps the weight closer to your center of gravity which in turn makes completing the lift successfully with the desired technique more likely.
  3. Move the weight quickly under control. Controlled speed is your friend as you navigate the lift from the floor to the receiving position.
  4. Maintain focus and mental toughness. Concentrate on limiting distractions and visualize making the lift. You should train your body AND your mind.  

It takes a lot of time, patience, practice, and consistent lifting in a fitness gym like Prototype in order to do all of these things correctly and succinctly so that you can continue to improve your weightlifting.
Yet, when you focus on these areas, you will PR!
So what is the trick?
While there is no magic bullet that will help you lift serious weight overnight there is a trick that will help you get better, faster:
This is the quickest way to improve your weightlifting.
When we are warming up in class on a day with an Olympic lift, go through the warm-up with intention. Focus on how you are moving the barbell.
If you take the weightlifting classes, don’t rush to put weight on the bar. Take 3-5 minutes per exercise to warm-up your movement patterns with an empty barbell.
I have heard folks say (and I definitely used to believe) that by adding weight to a barbell it helps them “feel” the movement better. I no longer believe this to be the case. If you cannot move an empty barbell with correct technique, you will not magically be able to do it under load.

Example of a Snatch Warm-Up

I organize my warm-ups by movement prep and technique prep. Here is an example of my snatch warm-up with video demonstrations:


  1. Head Throughs: stretch out your chest, shoulders and back.
  2. Snatch Press: groove your overhead and lock-out.
  3. Overhead Squat: work the foundation of the snatch from top to bottom.
  4. Dip + Muscle Snatch: feel your power position and reinforce the bar’s movement through your upper body.
  5. Snatch Balance: practice speed under the bar and stability in the receiving position.


  1. Hit + Hi-Pull: helps you find your hips (your power) to drive the bar up and learn to actively pull your elbows towards the ceiling, keeping the bar close.
  2. Hit + Muscle Snatch: helps you find your hips (your power) to drive the bar up and reinforce the bar’s movement through your upper body and overhead position.
  3. Hit + Snatch: helps you find your hips (your power) to drive the bar up while putting together all of the previous prep movements to finish in a full snatch.
  4. Tall Snatch: work your pull under the bar as well as your speed, confidence and aggressiveness in the turnover.
  5. 3-Position Snatch: put everything together and work the full snatch from above the knee, below the knee and mid-shin (where the bar would be when you start your lift from the ground).

I took technical areas of the snatch that I needed work on and added them into my warm-up, allowing me to get the time I need with an empty barbell while at the same time warming up my body for my Snatch exercises that day.
It is a win-win!

Start Getting Better Now

Weightlifting differs from CrossFit in that we are only concerned with three movements: snatch, clean and jerk. These are the movements that are tested in competition.
Through the work done in a CrossFit class, CrossFitters typically start out weightlifting with a lot of strength and mental toughness but lack the technique needed to take their lifting to the next level.
If you want to improve your weightlifting, the solution is easy: SPEND MORE TIME WITH THE BARBELL!
If you need any help or are interested in persoanl training, reach out to me with the contact form below!

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