Monday, July 7, 2014

Going Under the Bar: It's Not About Courage by Coach Dan Bell

I’ve had a number of CrossFitters and weightlifters complain to me that they have an almost impossible time going under a snatch, or, less often, the clean or jerk. Someone in their lives may have ascribed this technique flaw to a lack of “guts.” A coach or fellow lifter convinced the athlete that the reason they did not go under the bar was a substantial character flaw: the lifter did not have enough courage to go under the bar. But being brave has nothing to do with it.

Too many coaches who don’t have an answer for the lifter’s lack of success make it the athlete’s fault. Rather than search for a technical or programming weakness they had not spotted, the coach tells the lifter they don’t have the requisite personality characteristics for success. They tell the athlete they lack courage or commitment or the vague and useless feedback that they are short on “toughness.”

I have fixed the problem of going under the bar in dozens, maybe hundreds, of CrossFitters and weightlifters. Not once has it ever been a problem of courage or any character attribute at all. It was purely positional and technical. The lifter’s technique had their balance point in the second pull too far forward in their feet. That made their feet “sticky” and they could not move in the proper timing and balance.

Once I straightened out their pull and got the balance point moved deeper over the base, over the middle of the feet, the lifter began to move under the bar easily, automatically, in the right timing, as a consequence of position and proper balance, as a consequence of well executed technique. It had not a damn thing to do with courage.

Running down a lifter’s character has never been a good coaching practice. I don’t think it was effective even in the old days. Having an athlete succeed in spite of their coaching is actually a sign of strong character, and has happened far more often than we’d like to think.

If someone told you that you don’t go under the bar because you are weak-minded or scared, they are wrong. It is almost certainly not that. You have not learned to do the lift properly. Once well taught, once you feel how the lift is supposed to feel, you’ll never walk into the gym worrying about how brave you are again.

Dan Bell will be instructing the Vulcan Weightlifting Seminar at CrossFit LKN July 26-27th.  For more info or to register:

  • Dan Bell is a USA Weightlifting National Level Coach and Head Coach of Rubber City Weightlifting in Akron, Ohio. He coached Holley Mangold to a USAW Junior World Team, a Pan Am Team, and the 2009 +75kg American Open Championship. He has helped Julie Foucher (2013 CrossFit Games, 2nd place) and Scott Panchik (2012/2013 CrossFit Games 4th place) refine their Olympic lifting technique.

    Coach Bell and Mark Cannella founded the Columbus Weightlifting Club in 1999 and subsequently started the Arnold Weightlifting Championships there. Dan helped run the competitions for 11 years. After leaving Columbus and a break from coaching, Coach Bell founded Rubber City Weightlifting in 2012 and began producing national level weightlifters again.

    “Dan Bell is a great coach, no doubt about it. He is one of the few coaches I would welcome coaching my athletes, in either competition or training.”

    -Glenn Pendlay, Head Coach, Muscle Driver USA Weightlifting Team

    “There are four or five coaches in the U.S. who are working with athletes and doing clinics that know how to teach people how to lift correctly. Dan Bell is one of them. He is an original thinker and an exceptional teacher.”

    -Don McCauley,
    Assistant Coach, MDUSA Weightlifting Team

    "Dan Bell has played a significant role in helping me improve my Olympic Weightlifting. He has a great eye for detail and breaks down the movements with excellent coaching cues that have made me a better athlete. After every session working with Dan, I had a better understanding of the movements and how to improve on each and every one of them."

    -Scott Panchik, 4th place, 2012 & 2013 CrossFit Games

    "Dan Bell's Olympic lifting clinic is a prerequisite for all of our new members to be able to perform the lifts in WODs. His expertise and extensive knowledge are a crucial part of any athlete's development with the CrossFit program, from novice to elite. Dan Bell is an asset to our community, and we can't say enough great things about the work he puts in."

    -Travis Page, Owners/Trainers, CrossFit Distinction, Beachwood, Ohio