By Jim Schmitz
U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team Coach 1980, 1988 & 1992
Author of Olympic-style Weightlifting for Beginner & Intermediate Weightlifters Manual and DVD
Combos for Form, Fitness and Fun
Another fantastic thing about Olympic-style weightlifting is that you can do so many variations of the snatch and clean and jerk—it’s almost unlimited. When combining the lifts or variations of the lifts, we call these combos, short for combinations, also referred to as complexes by some. The reasons for combining movements are for variety, teaching technique, conditioning, and saving time, and for fun. Here are some basic combos.
1. Military press – push press – push jerk.
This exercise is done from a rack. You do a strict standing military press with the first rep, a push press with the second rep, and then a push jerk with the third rep. That’s 1 set of 3 reps. You start light and stop when you can’t military press the first rep. This combo really works your overhead pushing power and will develop your deltoids and triceps.
2. Push jerk – split jerk (unnatural leg forward) – split jerk (natural leg forward)
This means the first rep is a push jerk (remember, a push jerk and a power jerk are the same thing); the second rep is a split jerk, but you split the leg forward that you would normally split backward; and the third rep is a split jerk, with your usual, natural leg going forward. That’s 1 set. This exercise really helps develop your split-jerking technique, as you really have to concentrate when splitting with your unnatural leg forward and backward. You can work up to around 80% of your best single jerk off the rack.
3. Power snatch – overhead squat
This is a good drill when teaching the squat snatch or warming up for your snatch workout. You do 3 to 5 power snatches followed immediately by 3 to 5 overhead squats. That’s 1 set. You can work up to around 70% for 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps.
4. Power clean – front squat – push jerk
This combo is very similar to 3 above. You do 3 to 5 power cleans, followed by 3 to 5 front squats, followed by 3 to 5 push jerks. Let me tell you, that is a lot of work and will really get you huffing and puffing.
5. Power snatch from floor – squat snatch from thighs (hang) – squat snatch from floor
My favorite combo, this requires concentration—and maybe a coach to remind you what to do when first learning this combo. Power snatch the first rep from the floor, squat snatch the second rep from the middle or upper thighs, and squat snatch the third rep from the floor. That’s 3 reps and 1 set. You never take your hands off the bar and you don’t use straps. This combo will develop grip, consistency and efficiency. It really helps lifters learn how to keep the bar close, brush the thighs, and get under the bar fast. You would work up to about 70% for 3 sets of 3 reps. This combo should also be done for cleans: power clean from floor – squat clean from thighs – squat clean from floor.
6. Snatch high pull – snatch – snatch high pull
Another one of my favorites, in this combo you do a snatch high pull, then a snatch (power or squat), and then another snatch high pull—that’s 1 set of 3. My lifters like to call this combo the snatch sandwich. You can do the same combo for cleans: clean high pull – clean (power or squat) – clean high pull—again that is 1 set of 3. You can also reverse the pulls and lifts: snatch – snatch high pull – snatch; and clean – clean high pull – clean. This combo helps you straighten out your pull. You could work up to around 80% for 3 sets of 3 reps.
7. Power clean – front squat – strict press from the front squat bottom position
One of the most interesting and difficult combos that I’ve ever seen was done by Viktor Sots (Soviet Union), 100-kg world champion in 1981, with lifts of 182.5 and 225, total 407.5 kg; and in 1982 doing 190 and 232.5, total 422.5 kg, beating Yuri Zakharevich’s 195 and 225, total 420 kg.
Viktor would do power cleans, followed by front squats, followed by strict presses from the front squat bottom position. He would do 3 power cleans, 3 front squats and then 3 presses from the bottom front squat position. I saw him do this combo in several training sessions, and in one workout he did 160 kg x3, and 170 and 180 for singles. His shoulder flexibility and strength were incredible. I believe he was the first modern-day push jerker doing 232.5 kg. I tell people about this combo, and when they try it, they all fail the first few times, but with practice some get up to 60 kg, though most just quit. Some think the Sots press is done from the squat position, but with the bar behind the head; that is not correct—it must be power cleaned, lowered to the front squat bottom position, and pressed from there—then you can stand!
I want to emphasize that combos are for improving technique, conditioning, and workout capacity (the ability to do a lot of volume and intensity in a workout). Start very light and only do 5 sets total and 3 to 5 reps tops—and really concentrate on your form.
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