CrossFit Weightlifting for Beginners (3 Tips!)

Written By Charleh Knighton  |  Weightlifting 

If you're a beginner to CrossFit or a beginner to weightlifting within the scheme of CrossFit, this article will be great for you.

I will be talking about 3 main lessons that I want you to take home, take to the gym, or apply to your training that will ultimately make you a better weightlifter and, thus, become a better CrossFitter. 

Lesson 1: Be a Slow and Steady Student

So the first, and arguably most important, thing you need to realize when it comes to weightlifting for CrossFit is that you must play the role of a slow and steady student. 

What I mean by that is weightlifting is so complex and has many different variables. 

There's always something to improve on. 

It's like learning math. You will be learning the fundamentals if you're in kindergarten or early grade school.

And then, slowly but surely, you build over time to more advanced tactics. 

So you start with addition and subtraction, or counting, for that matter. And then, eventually, you're making your way to calculus and other things that I don't even know about. 

So if you play the role of a slow and steady student in weightlifting, you'll avoid taking shortcuts.

Imagine not knowing much about math and then immediately trying to learn something like calculus; the chances of you being able to grasp it and even apply it or do anything with it are very, very slim. 

Remember, weightlifting is an Olympic sport.

People in the world have dedicated their entire lives to learning to snatch, clean and jerk their whole lives and still don't make it to the top. 

Just let that sink in for a bit. 

You can't just say, 'Ah, this is just like a little thing on the side.' In terms of the whole CrossFit sport. 

It's an entire sport that deserves a lot of respect that's within our sport of functional fitness. 

So that's what's weird and crazy about functional fitness: we have all kinds of sports coming together under one roof. 

And spoiler alert, you'll notice that the best CrossFitters of all time, aka Matt Fraser, and Tia Claire to me, have weightlifting backgrounds, they've competed or trained for Olympic level weightlifting, and there's a reason that they're the best CrossFitters on Earth.

It's because they have the most sound weightlifting technique in CrossFit. 

So for you to play the role of the student, you're already doing a great job. 

There are differences when it comes to CrossFit from weightlifting. We have two different versions, or like many different versions of the snatch; we have hang snatch, power snatch, and squat snatch. We have hang clean, power clean and squat clean plus let's not forget the jerk variations.

So with that, take it for a grain of salt.

The weightlifting community only has the snatch, clean and jerk. 

There are three movements that they practice, and they do a bunch of drills underneath them. 

We must be prepared to be tested on all the different drills the weightlifting community uses. 

So keep that in mind.  

Lesson 2: Hook Grip is a Requirement

For Lesson 2, remember that a hook grip is required. Not a suggestion. 

I know I'm going to get so much pushback from this. 'But Ben, the hook grip hurts my thumbs', or 'I don't want to do the hook grip seems lame,' or 'I don't need to do the hook grip to lift a lot of weight,' 

I can assure you, the hook grip is a safer and more effective proven method for pulling weight. 

Whether you're doing a clean or a snatch from the hang from the ground, whatever it is, a hook grip is required, not suggested. 

So the reason why it's required is that it is safer. 

When you have the hook grip, there is a less likely tendency for the barbell to fall out of your hands.

I've seen people when they go to pull for the clean or the snatch; the barbell completely slips out of their hands. And then you got a free-floating barbell in midair. 

I couldn't think of many more dangerous things that could occur in the gym. And I've seen people get injured by losing their grip, and almost every time, it's because they didn't have the hook grip. 

Weightlifting for Beginners 3 Tips

Then the next thing is that using the hook grip is more powerful, which means you can put more power into that barbell. 

It's why 100% of high-level weightlifters use the hook grip. I doubt you'll be able to find a high-level weightlifter that doesn't use the hook grip when performing the clean or the snatch. 

Anytime they're pulling that barbell, the hook grip is being used. 

And there's a reason for that. Not only is it safer, but it's stronger. 

How can you argue against being safer and stronger? Yes, it takes a little discomfort to get used to. But if you take your thumbs properly and practice it a few times, that annoying pain will go away.  

And for me, the hook grip doesn't bother me one bit, and it shouldn't be for you, either. 

I have an excellent short video showing you how and when to hook grip on YouTube

At some point, I will be releasing more videos on hook grip on my channel on YouTube.

Lesson 3: Prioritize Technique over Loading

The third and final tip I want to share with you today regarding weightlifting for CrossFit is that you need to prioritize technique over weight. 

I can't tell you how often, especially in CrossFit gyms, people immediately add weight to the barbell beyond what their technique can bear.

Imagine building a big mansion, a huge house, and you build it on a weak, crumbling foundation. It doesn't make any sense. 

And that's what, unfortunately, a lot of people do in their weightlifting in the sport of 

CrossFit is we try to blaze through all the technique, we don't treat it like you're a student of the game, here's like, 'Ah, this is just one movement, I need to check off my list.' And they check it off and add too much weight too soon.

And that's when you see a lot of bad habits get developed and then used over time. 

There are people who've been lifting in CrossFit for five years or more, and they still Snatch and clean and jerk ugly. And that's because they were prioritizing weight over technique. 

So I need you to flip the script, be patient and build a solid foundation where your technique is sound before you add more weight. 

If you can focus on building a solid technique by practicing and being coached by great coaches who can look at and analyze your form and then tell you how to tweak it. 

That is how you're going to build a solid foundation. 

You're going to prioritize technique first, and then they'll evolve in the long run, maybe not in a year, but in more than a year, you're going to be lifting more weight than if you just skipped all the learning stuff and jumped straight to adding as much weight as possible. 

I promise you, as someone who's learned the wrong way to start and luckily had to tear it down and build it back up. If you begin with technique first, in the long run, you will lift more weight safely in time. 

If you want to take the first steps of learning the techniques instead of trying to add as much weight as possible, if you're going to build a solid foundation in weightlifting, then I have a free training guide that I would love to share with you. 

It's called Five Snatch Drills That Every CrossFitter Should Know. You will only need to enter your name and email, and I'll send you that completely free. 

Weightlifting is the best course WODprep has ever made. And it covers all the bases of the fundamentals through advanced techniques to learn how to snatch clean and jerk more weight with better technique safely. 

To Summarize

So, here are my 3 simple tips that will help you add more load to the bar - confidently and safely! 

I hope to save you from making the same mistakes when weightlifting.

If you play the long game, you won't have to strip it all back in years to come and fix bad habits (like I did!) Instead, you'll keep improving your snatch, clean, and jerk by focusing on solid foundations. 

Good luck!

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