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Training Technique or Strength? Train both.

Deciding to spend time training only technique or only strength is a dangerous game to play. There's an old saying "if you're not progressing, you're regressing" and it couldn't be more true in both technique and strength development in Olympic Weightlifting. Athletes as a whole need to consciously focus on developing technique and strength together. What does this look like? It looks like building strength through the proper positions and forever focusing on building better technique by attacking the weakest point.

An interesting paradigm occurs when athletes get stronger. Previously learned technique is slightly altered with new changes in strength & power through the same technical positions. This can be mitigated by emphasizing specific positions and progressively increasing intensity, while keeping a focus on treating the weakest point of the competition movement which is ultimately athlete dependent.

The greatest approach to preventing loss of technique (and improving technique in already strong athletes) looks like breaking movements down into parts where you can focus on building strength and comfort in those new positions while also retaining and enhancing absolute strength. Athletes with an extensive background in muscle and strength development like Powerlifters or other strength athletes may appear to need a very focused technical approach to training - but sometimes it remains forgotten to use a strength approach to emphasize proper positioning in the movements. Often, these athletes end up spinning their wheels in the mud through too rapid of progression or lack of progression yielding very little growth. Isometric pause squats, positional pause work, eccentric loading through proper positioning, etc. can drastically improve technique (especially with >90% intensity in the competition lifts). Moving <50% intensity weights can never replicate or improve long term ability with maximal weight. This would be like picking up 50lb dumbbells and claiming that because you can pick them up it means that come time to pick up a 100lb dumbbell, you can lift it in the same way. Hopefully you see how the crossover will remain very small to nonexistent - its unspecific to the goal. Developing technique with heavy weight can be accomplished with maximal or near-maximal (>75%) effort for 3's, 2's, and 1's of the competition lift. There is some credibility of using a daily RPE system, but this is unrealistic for the typical Weightlifter. Daily changes in ability can be difficult to feel that technique is improving - especially due to the need for lift-specific volume. However, alternating intensity and volume systematically should lead to improved technique across an athlete's full spectrum of ability. Potentially, varying pull speed (starting slow and increasing speed of the 1st and 2nd pull) could lead to greater comfort in the 1st and 2nd pull at heavier intensities when the lifter may not be able to achieve greater velocity prior to the triple extension - but, this is questionable because a lifter is achieving a full effort contraction when lifting at maximal weights (which gives greater credibility to working under fatigue through isometric contraction and/or high repetition).

Using variations to isolate portions of each lift is very helpful in building sport-specific strength at the weakest points of the specific competition movement.

When first learning the movements, it wouldn't make sense for a lifter to begin with near-maximal weight.... BUT what if near-maximal weight is deemed as what a lifter can do with adequate technique versus an expected strength ability in the lift. In other words, a beginning novice lifter may find that an open 20kg barbell is beyond their maximal ability, so building technique with a PVC pipe would be appropriate followed by gradually building them up to the 20kg bar. As technique is improved with that 20kg bar, weight may slowly be added as technique improves at each level. Replicating at intensities that yield no adaptable stimulus (to the quality of improved technique at maximal weight) is redundant. It's the SAID principle - Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. So, it should make sense that an athlete lifting 145/180 would gain little adaptable stimulus from technique work with approximately less than 70/90. You may very well build slightly better technique with a PVC pipe but when you go back to attempt 145/180 - you have now only improved technique with the weight of the PVC pipe but not with your 145/180.

In other words, unless you're a beginner (which many are) improved technique on a PVC pipe does not transfer to improved technique on a 145/180 total (and if you were a beginner, you would not be lifting 145/180). You have to do it another way. And that way does not look like neglecting strength. I would suggest training at the point just before technique breaks down and teetering on that edge. Combining this idea with varying intensities and volume through 3's, 2's, and 1's should drive technical ability up within a short time span and bridge the gap between technique & strength.

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