Executing the Fundamentals
From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.
"If you do not learn to execute the fundamentals flawlessly, you will never be a champion on or off the field...I can't push a noodle. I can't make you do these things... I'm simply your coach. You are the ones who must have the desire to execute the fundamentals, day in and day out."1
One of the lifting fundamentals I stress early and often is using a focal point. Using a spot, usually eye level or slightly higher, to focus on during the execution of the pull and recovery phases of the lift makes an enormous difference in visual/vestibular integration and stability. I see lots of lifters at local meets who are technically pretty sound on the pull but lose lifts receiving the bar overhead or recovering simply because they move their heads inappropriately or do not have a fixed gaze on a static point out front. In practice with my own lifters, reminding them to use their focal point more often than not fixes any wobbliness and extra steps on recovery.
I got to watch Rio Olympian Jenny Arthur warm up clean and jerks for her session this weekend at the Rocky Mountain State Games in Colorado. I took some video of her towards the end of her warm ups. Notice how assiduously she maintains her gaze on her focal point. (First video 85kg, second video 105kg)
If you have trouble with balance or body awareness on your lifts (and pretty much any lift will improve: presses, squats, snatches, overhead squats, clean and jerks) make sure you are using a focal point. Some lifters find a lower focal point is helpful on the first pull and another, higher point at the finish of the explosion. You will "lose contact with reality" during the pull under phase (if you are moving correctly and fast enough) so having a visual reference to return to as you receive the bar is key. At meets, either at introductions or in between sessions, get on the competition platform and scope out the view. Note where the judges will be, the audience and any fixed features in front of you to use. You don't want your opening attempt to be a totally new experience!