Tag Archives: snatch


In any athletic event, winning is at least partially determined by how much discomfort you can tolerate. Some sports are well known for producing discomfort.  Everyone can imagine how the athlete must feel at the end of an endurance event like a marathon.  But shorter events can be miserable too.  Many consider wrestling to be the toughest sport.  I certainly remember my high school wrestling days and the how bad I hurt at the end of a match or a particularly tough practice.

But weightlifting has its own special brand of misery.  There is truly nothing quite like it.  The lifts don’t take that long, and they usually aren’t, or shouldn’t be, painful.  Misery in the sport of weightlifting isn’t in the competitive event, it is in the training and it is all about fatigue.  It is not the sharp pain of a pulled muscle, but the dull ache, the bone crusing ache, of fatigue.  To become good at this sport you have to learn to live with that ache, and continue to train and push yourself anyways.  You have to get to the point where you actually like it.

In the end, this is what is going to determine your success.  Whether you can shoulder yet another set of squats and start to descend on the first rep even though you know the misery that has to happen before you can rack the bar.  Whether you can jump under a clean or snatch with absolutely NO hesitation even though you are scared to death.  The mental challenges of weightlifting are at least as great as the physical ones.  And when you reach your goals you will find that although your physical changes are huge, your mental changes are even greater.


Dealing with Imperfections.

This is one question that never goes away.  We all want to improve, most of us are willing to work our ass off the improve, but most are plagued with doubt about which program to use, and why.  Every aspiring champion has doubts about the program they are using, and whether or not it is the right one.  And who can blame them?  The Bulgarians maxed out constantly, and they did pretty well.  The Russians and others did a more varied program, with lots of different exercises and rep schemes, seemingly a whole different style of training.  So what should WE do?  Who should we copy?


I for one don’t think we should COPY anyone, but we can certainly learn from everyone.  America is a unique country, and we will need to come up with unique methods.  We are one of the only countries in the world with a large population of recreational weightlifters, or lifters for whom winning is not part of their livelihood.  Some think of this as a disadvantage, I disagree.  It simply makes the genetic pool we draw from bigger.  This pool is where we will eventually find the people who will move us back to the top of the sport.  I am biased towards the Bulgarian way of doing things, and always approach training with the mindset of wanting to go as heavy as possible, as often as possible.  I am impatient, I want to move that max clean and jerk up as fast as I can.  But although my default position is always to max out, I know there are a lot of reasons why a constant diet of nothing but maximal lifts often doesn’t work out for American lifters.


For one thing, we are not all perfectly suited to the weightlifting movements.   None of us were selected at age 9 for perfect limb lengths or other factors that make superior lifters.  Some of us are just built wrong!  Whether the problem is a spine that is too short or two long in comparison to our legs, or elbows that don’t completely lock out, these physical imperfections mean that we are not lifting machines designed solely for weightlifting!  This does not mean we will never snatch or clean big weights, it does mean we might have to resort to extraordinary means to do so.  Whether this means that you have to do way more push presses than jerks to build the necessary strength in your shoulders and triceps, or whether like Jared Fleming you have to resort to isometrics to build the necessary pulling strength to break an American record reaching your best total is likely to mean more than just maximum snatches and clean and jerks.  In fact you might have to resort to completely different methods of training, like Jared did.


Most lifters who do not quickly become national champions or world team members are lacking strength in at least one particular motion.  Fleming lacked pulling strength, others might lack strength in the squat or lockout strength on the jerk.  If you have lifted for a year, and you have not yet qualified for nationals or aren’t yet high on the ranking list for the world team, don’t fool yourself.   A lack of strength in some movement is the problem.   The Pendlay WOD uses lots of back squats and push presses, and even deadlifts for part of every 8 week cycle as the fastest ways to increase pulling, squatting, and lockout strength.  These strength exercises are programmed twice per week with one higher volume and session and one higher intensity session every week. They are pushed HARD.  If you are allergic to grinding our heavy sets of squats, this training program is not for you.  On the other hand, if you believe gaining muscle and getting strong are necessary parts of the sport of weightlifting, come on over.  We will get along just fine.     

The Life of a Samurai.

Louie Simmons said something to me several years ago that resonated with me.  He said “Glenn, I have lived the life of a samurai”.  What I believe he meant by that is that he had devoted his life to one thing.  Louie’s one thing is strength, and the development of strength.  He became a master in the development of strength, his one thing.   I do not pretend to compare myself to Louie, but I have pursued one thing in a similar fashion.  My one thing is weightlifting, the snatch and clean and jerk.  I have given up a lot in pursuit of my “one thing”.  A marriage, a successful business, and many of my friends.  Even my relationship with my son has been strained almost to the breaking point.  I have walked away from everything that didn’t fit in with my pursuit of producing a bigger total in an American weightlifter.


From time to time I question if it has been worth it, or if it will ever be worth it.  I have one friend who I believe is as obsessed as I am with weightlifting.  Donny Shankle and I have never spoken about the subject in these terms but even without speaking about it I know he would understand perfectly.  He would understand because he is as obsessed as I am.  Just the fact that a like-minded person is out there makes life easier somehow.


I continue to believe that if you succeed at doing one thing really, really well everything will work out.  Your life will have been worthwhile.  Your life will have been a success.

Tour of England


I flew into Bristol Friday April 14th and I have been doing seminars in the UK for the last two weeks. The first one was at AFS CrossFit inAndover which was a pretty big seminar with 31 people attending. AFS is a nice gym and quite a few good lifters were in attendance. Chris Murray was probably the best, he is moving to 77 from 69 and was weighing about 74 on the day of the seminar. Very quick lifter who was also very consistent with his movements the whole day. He was able to snatch 125kg and tried 133kg for an all time PR but missed. He still had a hell of a day.  Quite a few people also attempted the Pendlay certification with several passing.  Overall a great introduction to the UK!

Specificity vs Adaptation



Everyone knows how to make the body adapt.  Simply do an exercise that you have not done before.  Or do several sets in a rep range that is outside the norm.  You will get sore, but over the next few days the soreness will go away, and when you repeat the exercise again and again, you will have less soreness each time.  Eventually you will have none.  The body has adapted.

But as weightlifters, we do the same exercises over and over gain.  Not exactly ideal for adaptation.  But if all you do is snatch and clean and jerk with near maximal weights, it is ideal for SPECIFICITY.   Every adaptation that your body makes will be perfectly suited to the task of heavy snatches and clean and jerks.

If you add heavy squats to the mix, it will surely help make your legs strong.  But, the increased leg strength will not be perfectly suited to the snatch and clean and jerk.  Squats do not occur at the same speed as the snatch, the force curve you need to apply with your legs is not the same as the force curve in a snatch, and the range of motion in the squat is not the same as in a snatch.  It is the same with every assistance exercise that we do.  Doing things other than heavy singles in the competition lifts allows us to greatly increase the adaptations in our bodies, but those assistance exercises also cause the adaptations to be less than perfectly suited to the of maximal lifts in the snatch and clean and jerk.  So there is a trade off between adaptation and specificity.  What is great for one, is bad for the other.
Abajiev was a proponent of training with a short list of exercises.  He pared down the 50 or 60 exercises used by the Russians until he was left with only the competition lifts, front squats, and the power versions of the competitive lifts.  But even that was not as far as he wanted to go.  He theorized that the PERFECT training system sould be maximal singles in the snatch and clean and jerk, and nothing else.  No squats, no front squats, no pulls.  He wanted to try this but he said the people who were paying him were paying for a proven system and he was not sure that a system without squats would work.  His system WITH squats definitely worked, so to make sure he kept producing he continued with the proven system.

My next blog will cover the REAL reasons we do assistance exercises!

Where Does it Hurt?

A few years ago I heard something that really made sense to me.  I did not know it at the time, but it would eventually really change the way I coached the lifts, and thought about programing.  I did not hear it straight from the source, only 2nd hand, actually it might have been third hand now that I think of it.  I did not know Joe Mills at all.  Never even met the man.  But every time I hear someone talk about the things he used to say, I pay attention because it seems like so many of those things really, really make sense.

I believe it was Joe Dube that told me Mills told him that after a training session you can often tell if your technique was correct by where you are sore, and what muscles are fatigued.  Actually it might have been another lifter from that era telling Dube that Mills used to say that, I forget.  But however Dube heard it, the principle  remains the same.

Mills believed that after a hard training session, the body as a unit should feel fatigued, but there should be no one area that feels especially tired.  If the fatigue is centered around your legs, or centered around your lower back, it means you are doing something wrong and overusing that particular part of your body.
That simple statement has huge ramifications.  Think about it for a while.  Think about how you feel halfway through, or after a training session.  What does that tell you about how you are doing the lifts? This is a typical Mills quote, seemingly very simple but only after months or even years the importance of it finally sink in.

Jared Fleming


Jared Fleming did what every weightlifter wishes they could go back in time and accomplish, he started at age 10.  And he did not start in a haphazard way, his dad took him to Jim Storch for coaching.  Storch became his first coach, and continued with him until he was12 years old.  Jared still has a ton of respect for Storch, and mentions him frequenttly even today.  At age 12 Jared’s dad took over coaching duties, and continued to coach Jared until he graduated high school.

Starting early and getting great coaching early certainly paid off for Jared as he won Schoolage Naionals that first year at age 12.  He took second the next year, then reeled off a long string of first place finishes that lasted till he ended his school age career.  He also broke the school age record in the snatch and the total.  During this time Jared also played soccer with a Elite traveling squad and wrestled for a year. One interesting thing is throughout this time Jared never trained more than 3 times a week!  Hard to believe in an age where every crossfitter with 6 months experience is training twice per day, but Jared managed to win 5 Schoolage National titles, 3 Junior National Titles, and an American Open title, and was on 2 Junior World teams training only 3 days per week.

Jared attended LSUS right out of high school, training in Louisiana under Kyle Pierce, Jared continued to win.  He racked up a few more victories and accolades while at LSUS.  He made another Junior World team, won another Junior National title, another American Open title, won 3 University National titles, made the senior World Team 2 times (the first time as a junior lifter) and won his first National title, and broke 2 Junior and 1 university national record.  While at LSUS Jared upped his training to 5 times per week, and got a TON stronger.

Currently Jared trains at MDUSA coached by Glenn Pendlay, with his dad still offering advice and helping out at competitions.  Training at MDUSA seems to agree with him, as he has upped his total 16 kilos within his first year in South Carolina.   Since being at MDUSA he has upped his training to 9 sessions per week. During his stay at MDUSA he has won yet another American open and National title, qualified for another world team and broke his first senior american record with a 170kg anatch. Everything seems to be in order for a great World Championships showing.

Here is a look at Jareds workout log.  This is about 4 weeks prior to the 2015 World Champioships in Houston.


1. Snatch sotts press – 50-2×3

2. Snatch – 110-2×1, 130-2×1, 140-2x1x, 150-1, 160-1 (94%), 150-1

3. CJ – 170-1, 180-1, 190-1 (96.4%)

4. Clean Pull – 200-3, 210-3, 215-3

Typically do 2 training sessions on monday with snatch and snatch accessories in the morning and Cj and cj accessories in the afternoon. Just arrived in Houston for a training camp and we only have gym access for 1 training session.

Accessories for back health

1. 1 leg RDL – 30kg – 2×8 per side

2. Suitcase deadlift – 60-2×8 per side


1. Snatch Balance + OHS – 150-1/1, 160-1/1, 170-1/1 (100% of Snatch)

2. Front Squat – 200-3, 215-3

3. RDL – 150-3, 170-3, 190-3

Accessories for back health

1. Lunges (opposite leg then I jerk with) – 70-5, 90-5, 100-5

2. 1 arm walking deads – 20lbs – 2×13 steps per side


1. Snatch – 130-1, 140-1, 150-3×1

2. Snatch Pull – 160-3, 170-2×3

Normally have 2 sessions on Wednesday but I was still in Houston for part of the world training camp so we only had 1 session then had to rush to the airport. Typically I snatch and snatch pull in the morning and do Cj and clean pull in the afternoon.


1. Back Squat – 210-3, 230-3, 240-3* 

*240 is the heaviest Ive squatted since injuring my back in 2013.

2. Jerk Recoveries – 200-1, 220-1

3. Good Morning – 80-3×5

Accessories for back health

1. Lunges (opposite leg then on jerk) – 80-5, 100-5, 110-5

2. Long stretch session in sports medicine


Morning Training

1. Snatch Sotts Press – 50-2×3

2. No hook snatch – 120-1, 130-1, 135-1, 141-1x, 142-1 PR no hook snatch

Afternoon training

1. Snatch – 124-1, 134-1, 144-1, 154-1, 164-1x, 167-1x, 160-1

Normally would do Cj and Clean pull after Snatching but tweaked my wrist on final snatch at 160.


1. Front Squat – 190-3, 200-3, 210-3, 220-3 PR

2. RDL – 170-3, 185-3, 200-3

3. Stretch