Touch-and-go has brought a new dimension to Olympic lifting. Many times the weight is light enough for the athlete to control easily and the focus is on speed. The three factors we will look at while addressing this issue are efficiency, speed and technique.
While competing or training these exercises, speed is the major factor. Sometimes technique will suffer in order to increase speed. Being a strict Olympic lifting technique coach, it kills me to say that there can be some small technique breakdown in order to decrease the time of the activity.
The only technique elements that can suffer are those that are crucial for maximal force and not necessarily needed for efficiency. One example is an athlete performing Isabel (30 snatches for time). While performing this WOD, it may not be crucial to shift your feet and receive the weight in a full bottom position. These elements of the movement are crucial when lifting maximal weight, but not necessarily beneficial for speed.
On the other hand, efficiency plays a major role in performing these fast types of exercises. The athlete must have a proper starting position and must keep the bar extremely close to his/her body while completing the reps. If the athlete allows the bar to travel too far from the body, the athlete becomes much less efficient and must rely on muscles not usually needed to complete the lift. If one muscle group is overused, this will automatically result in early muscle endurance fatigue. For example, if an athlete stiff-legged deadlifts the snatch off the ground, this will put an added emphasis on the lower back, causing quicker muscle fatigue in that specific area.
Let’s take a look at 2 different videos of Rich Froning. The first video shows Froning completing Isabel with the standard weight of 135lbs. If you scan to 11:45, you will see the start of his heat. In looking at this video, you will notice that his technique stays very consistent. He keeps the bar extremely close to his body and doesn’t just “muscle” the weight up. He is lifting the most efficient way possible, while still holding on to great technique.
The next video shows Rich Froning peforming Isabel with 225lbs. Now that the weight has increased significantly, Rich must rely on technique for heavy lifting. He is now squat snatching the weight and shifting his feet. These small technical changes allow him to lift the heavier weight more efficiently, even though it may take him some more time.
One thing I want you to take into consideration is that a 135lb Isabel is about 44% of his max, while a 225lb Isabel is about 73% of his max. He obviously has an extremely strong snatch max (310lbs); however,even though he is so strong, he still uses great technique while performing 135lb snatches. He understands that some technique can suffer in order to have a faster time, but that the flow of the lift needs to stay the same in order to increase efficiency.
In conclusion, if time is of the essence and the weight is significantly lighter than your max, technique can suffer slightly–but only in one domain. Technique can only suffer in positions and movements that are needed for maximal effort lifts, but may require significantly more time (i.e. performing a squat clean on a touch-and-go clean). The aspect that must always be maintained is efficiency. This is key to allowing an athlete to complete multiple reps in the quickest possible time. Using too much of one muscle group can greatly hinder the muscle endurance of a continuous lift. Olympic weightlifting relies on the kinetic chain working together as an efficient machine, which requires all the muscle groups acting cohesively as a single unit.