Watch Your Step -


Watch Your Step

No…this post isn’t about tripping hazards.  Even though we want you to be careful and prevent injury at all times so that you can keep coming to CFSB to train hard, we’re actually going to talk a little bit about footwork.  More specifically, foot placement in relation to Olympic Weightlifting.  Proper foot placement is essential to successful lifts (especially at heavy weight) and as Coach Burgener repeatedly states, “90% of all missed lifts can be attributed to footwork.” Ok, that quote might not be verbatim, but you get the point…

No…this post isn’t about Evan’s handstand push-up footwork either.  But if you think about it, Olympic Weightlifting consists of only three different movements (the snatch, the clean, and the jerk), all of which are essentially a jump and a land.  I know what you’re thinking…that’s probably an oversimplification. And you’re right, a lot of different “stuff” happens in between the jumping and landing portions for each of those movements but in terms of footwork, we’re only worried about two things: the jumping/pulling position and the landing/receiving position.

You probably get tired of us, coaches, telling you to start with your feet under your hips, then shoulder width apart, then back to under your hips.  Which one is it already?!  Basically, any time we squat (front, back, overhead, partial) we want our feet about shoulder width apart.  In general, that is going to be the most stable position in terms of strength, flexibility, and balance.  However, when we clean, snatch, or jerk, we generally start with our feet under our hips.  For these lifts, we are trying to create a large amount of force through hip extension to drive the bar up.  With our feet directly under our hips, we are able to transfer as much force as possible from the ground to the barbell through hip extension.  In a much simpler sense, this is also the stance that most people will naturally assume when preparing to jump.

So when we perform the olympic lifts, we generally start with our feet under our hips and finish with our feet shoulder width apart, which makes sense considering we finish the snatch, the clean, and the jerk with some version of a squat.  That’s not to say we can’t successfully perform the oly lifts with  different stance widths; every athlete is different but for the most part, the landing/receiving foot position will fall somewhere between 1 and 3 inches outside the jumping/pulling position.  The split jerk is a whole different story as far as footwork is concerned, so check out Mariessa’s informative post here.  Moving on…

The movement of the feet from the jumping/pulling position to the landing/receiving position should be fast and aggressive, and the feet should only be lifted just enough to slide the feet out.  Think about jumping hard, not high and making the feet fast, not loud.  In other words, try to avoid donkey kicking or deliberately lifting your feet off the ground and stomping back down.  In contrast, try to keep your feet in contact with the ground as long as possible because it’s your feet pushing against the ground that are producing the force to drive the bar up.  Only after you are finished with the jump/drive do you push/pull yourself under the bar and slide your feet out to receive the bar.  We’ll talk about pushing and pulling ourselves under the bar in future posts…stay tuned.

We already addressed foot placement from left to right, but what about foot placement front to back.  Long story short, your feet shouldn’t travel forwards or backwards.  If they do, chances are you will miss the lift, especially at heavy weights (starting to see a trend?).  Think about jumping straight up, and landing with your feet slightly wider.

Finally, practicing footwork for olympic weightlifting is easy.  You can do snatch or clean drops, which basically involve dropping from the finished position to the catch position, while moving the feet from the jumping to the landing position.  You can also do snatch balances which involve both footwork and upper body components of the snatch.  Try any combination of these at different squat depths, aiming to start and land with your feet in the same position every time.  If it helps, you can mark your jumping and landing positions on the ground (see photo above) and check your feet each time. Be consistent.  Practice makes perfect but in this case, repetition breeds retention.  Sooner or later, the muscle memory will take over.


There will be a competitor’s meeting at the gym tonight at 8pm.  This includes current competitors or anyone interested in competing in the future, especially those planning on participating in the CrossFit Games Open next month or on the CFSB Affiliate Team.

Workout of the Day 1/26/12

A. Overhead Squat 3-3-3

(If you do not have the mobility for OHS, do back squats with mobility in between sets)

B. 30-20-10
10 Overhead Squats (95/65) between each round

*Advanced: C2B


A. Thruster technique

B. 2 Rounds (untimed):
10 Front Squats
10 Push Press
10 Thrusters

C. 5 rounds
Sprint 100m
10x Burpees