Keep Your Friends Close and The Bar Closer

As a coach, I tend to be a chronic cue-er. Athletes either love it or they hate it…I don’t really care either way (kidding) (but seriously).

Finding cues that help my athletes have that “a-ha” moment is fun for me! There are so many different ways to explain each part of the lift, and it’s a coach’s job to figure out what cue is going to be understood and received by each individual athlete in each specific moment.

I recently received an email from a fellow CrossFit Weightlifting program follower, Lucilla (hi Lucilla!!) who asked what some of my cues were for keeping the bar close to her body in the snatch. I get this question a lot, so it inspired me to write this blog post in hopes that I’ll never have to explain this ever again (#sarcasm).

There are a FEW things I like to think about when trying to keep the bar close:

#1. Engaging the lats. Not just off the ground, but through the WHOLE entire lift (the lift off, the drive, the pull under, the receive). Engaging the lats helps to place all the tension and power in our body and our legs… which helps us keep the weight OFF our arms. Tension and weight in the arms results in an early arm bend (in an attempt to pull the bar back into our body), OR it causes us to be pulled forward by the barbell.. which is, ultimately, DEATH.

#2. Allow the hips to LIFT the bar up. The closer you can keep that bar to your belly button, the more control you will have over it. We NEVER want the hips to HIT the bar out. The hips should LIFT the bar up vertically in more of a BRUSHING motion, and less of a banging motion. If your hips move vertically, the bar moves vertically. And if the bar moves vertically, you’re basically ready for the olympics.

#3. Knuckles down as you’re pulling under. If our arms (more specifically lats) are too loose on the pull under, the bar tends to drift out in front of us. Don’t misinterpret this as me saying to keep your arms tight and pull up on the bar. Think about keeping your knuckles down as you’re pulling yourself DOWN and AROUND the bar. Knuckles down will flex your forearms a bit, and this will kind of trick your lats into staying engaged (see cue #1). This will help you keep the bar close to your body, which will help you keep control of the bar as you’re pulling yourself down.

There are roughly forty-seven more cues that can help us to keep the bar close, but we’ll save that for another blog post.



When coaching the jerk, I find myself continuously saying, “the #1 MOST IMPORTANT thing on the jerk is…..”. I say it about the rack position. I say it about the dip. I say it about the drive!

By the end of the session, my athletes come to the conclusion that I’m a technique nazi and I basically want every single part of the jerk, from start to finish, to be perfect. Which is true, actually.

However, if on this day, October 14th, 2017, I HAD to pick what I believe to be the most important part of the jerk, I would have to say FOOTWORK.

Here are the 5 points of performance we look for when receiving that jerk in the split position:

#1. Weight on the heel of the front foot
#2. Front knee stacked directly over or even slightly behind the ankle.
#3. Torso straight up and down with the strongest midline you’ve ever had.
#4. Back knee SLIGHTLY bent
#5. Back heel off the ground with weight on the ball of foot and heel slightly turned out (to keep hips facing straight).

These points of performance allow for that barbell to be stacked directly over our hips, allowing us to stabilize heavy weight overhead.

What we TEND to see:

#1. Weight on the toe of the front foot
#2. Front knee in front of the ankle.
#3. Torso leaning forward
#4. Back leg straight..creating a pelvic tilt
#5. Back heel on the ground with the heel turned in (creating the hips to turn out)

These mistakes result in athletes chasing the bar forward because they are off balance with the weight sitting heavy on their front quad as opposed to sitting stacked over the hips.

In conclusion, the next time you practice jerks, write out these 5 points on a whiteboard and place it in front of you. Make sure to have a perfect rack position, a perfect dip and an even more perfect drive (because I may decide tomorrow that those are the most important part of the lift), and drive yourself down into your split position.

Take a look at your white board and mentally check off each of the 5 points of performance. Did you hit every single one of them? If not, you’re still a good person, but MAKE THE CORRECTIONS BEFORE YOU RECOVER. Sit in that adjusted position for a few seconds and check in with your body to make sure it REALLY feels where it’s SUPPOSED to be. Then you can recover (with your front foot stepping back first, of course!!!).

By: Sage Burgener


I think if I were forced to name my single most favorite aspect of olympic weightlifting, it would be the element of speed that is required for obtaining a heavy snatch and clean and jerk.

Generally, when people think about lifting heavy weight, they think of squatting and deadlifting. Squatting and deadlifting are amazing!! I LOVE them! They’re two beautiful movements that require some technique and a ton of strength. However, they don’t require much speed.

Our sport is unique and special in that strength is amazing and useful and great to have, but can be overlooked and overshadowed by mindblowingly fast, explosive movement.

So, where does all that speed come from?!

It comes from our legs! It comes from JUMPING HARD against the ground…putting a ton of force straight down into the platform.

BUT, herein lies the issue: when people think about jumping, their body wants to jump HIGH off the ground. Jumping hard through the floor, but only allowing yourself to leave the ground JUST enough to move the feet out, is a REALLY hard theory to grasp and an even harder sensation to feel.

So, what we generally see is people jumping high and long resulting in a movement that is slow and loose and sloppy. OR we see people who TRY to jump hard and fast, but their heels end up lifting towards their butt (donkey kick). Expert coaching advice: don’t do that.

WHAT WE WANT is to have whatever force we put into the ground DIRECTLY transfer over into that barbell moving UP as much as possible. That way, we have LOADS of time (about .03 seconds) to pull ourselves down and around the bar.


Snatch Balance without a dip

Snatch Balance with a dip

Snatch Lands

All of these movements require quick feet in order to receive the bar in a tight position overhead. Ideally, you will drill these movements before you snatch. Use them as a warm up and focus on your legs driving hard against the ground and your feet getting back onto the ground as quick as possible!


Sage Burgener

Do You Even Know What You’re Doing?

When performing a specific olympic lifting exercise, it’s natural to want to zone out and just go through the motions. We’re human! Life gets exhausting and we have days where our focus is on just surviving the 10 sets of 3 back squats Sage is obsessed with programming, and/or just getting the volume in…rather than focusing in on EVERY single lift of EVERY single set. To be THAT focused in for 2-3 hours is hard work!

However, if you want to be a champion, those days should be few and far between. The majority of the time, we should not only be focused in on our movements and how they feel during a set, but we should also be able to understand WHY these specific movements are programmed for the day.

Every movement in olympic lifting has a purpose. Your job as an athlete is to tune in and figure out what that purpose is and how to apply it to your lift.

Let’s use 3 position snatches as an example. A 3 position snatch can contain all different positions, but for this example, we will use a very common 3 position complex: high hang snatch, snatch from above the knee, snatch from the floor.

High hang snatches are used to reinforce strong leg drive, or a strong jump. We don’t have momentum built up from our pull off the floor. All we have is a dip and drive to generate all the power we need on that bar. So, understanding that, our dip and drive has to be the most tight, most fierce dip and drive of our whole entire life.

The above the knee position helps to remind us of the MOST important position that we need to hit when pulling from the floor. In this position, we need to feel balanced on our feet, our shoulders need to be over the bar and our lats and midline need to be extremely engaged… almost to the point where you feel like you’re going to shart or pop one of your 8 abs. If we can get to this position confidently and consistently, we will have a much better chance of being successful with our lift.

And, last, as we finish the complex with a lift from the floor, we’re focusing on bringing all those positions together.

We have felt how balanced and tight we’re supposed to feel in our above the knee position. We know how hard we have to drive with our legs from our repetition with the high hang snatch. Now, we need to piece it all together with our lift off the floor (all while we’re slightly fatigued mentally and physically)!

This is not as easy task! BUT it’s a great way of increasing our technical accuracy and mental focus.

So, the next time you’re training, test your ability to understand the movements and their purpose, rather than just going through the motions. More than likely, you’ll begin to notice positive changes in your progress because the more we understand about the lifts, the more we can CONFIDENTLY execute them.

-Sage Burgener


fred by Fred Lowe, 3x Olympian

It doesn’t matter who we are; we all have similar (often identical) problems and challenges in life. If we are trying to snatch or clean a barbell, the movements themselves dictate the universal challenges associated with these lifts. When we execute the snatch or clean from the floor, the bar has to travel WAY further for us to finish the lift than any other two-hands barbell movement. Because of this, SPEED has to be generated for the bar to travel the required vertical distance for success. Inadequate speed = failed lift. When properly executed, the speed peaks right in the MIDDLE of the movement for the snatch or clean.

Our next problem is that we have to hold onto the bar bilaterally as the snatch and clean are two-hand lifts. As a result, our grip is at greatest risk of slippage during this speed-spike (middle) phase of the pull. Bad grip = failed lift. So, we’ll need specialized means to keep our grip secure for snatching or cleaning. Voila! The hook grip!

I first saw an article about this in a lifting mag early in 1967, but I never tried it as I was doing pretty well and making gains. By fall of 1967, I had snatched 265 lbs (120.5 kg) once but was only consistent with 245-255 lbs (111-116 kg). At this point, my coach introduced me to the hook grip. I didn’t like it much, but after only three workouts I got used to it. Within eight weeks of him showing me the hook grip, I snatched 273 lbs (124 kg) and got 279 lbs.(126 kg) to arm’s length. Within five months of my introduction to the hook grip, I snatched 286 lbs (130 kg). In addition, I became much more consistent with weights that were 85-92% of my 1RM. My eventual 1RM for the snatch was 297 lbs (135 kg) which I did 6 times in official competition. This would not have happened without a hook grip.

So, why hook? Because our problem (and its solution) is universal and the our circumstances vary only by degree. Not all of us are elite specialists in weightlifting or games-level athletes in CrossFit. But if we’re all going to maximize our potential for the snatch and clean, it will never happen with an insecure grip. We’re all one big family with the same family problem. The hook grip is the most secure grip, regardless of how much we might be lifting.

You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “try it, you’ll like it!” In the case of the hook grip I can probably say, “try it, you won’t like it.” But, you’ll get over it, and pretty quickly as I did. Try it with lighter weights to get used to the pressure on your thumb and get your hands in condition for heavier efforts. Wrap one layer of adhesive tape around your thumbs and that will help.

Then, when the time comes for a snatch ladder, clean ladder, or other extended Oly effort you’ll be happy you took the time. There may be other discomforts and challenges but the loss of your grip won’t be one of them. Here’s wishing all of you your best efforts yet!

Why The CrossFit Weightlifting Trainers Course?

Josh Everett by Josh Everett

Over the last decade, CrossFit has created an explosion in participation in weightlifting, and thus a large market for weightlifting courses and seminars. For the consumer, there is a wide variety in choice of weightlifting courses in terms of content, instructor background, and brand. My goal is to give you three reasons for choosing to attend a CrossFit Weightlifting Training Course.

1. The goals of the Course
You will leave the CrossFit Weightlifting Trainers Course with a crystal clear understanding of how to progress someone from the nine foundational movements taught in depth at the CF L1 Course and be able to safely, efficiently, and effectively teach the snatch, clean, and jerk. Coach Mike Burgener has developed a systematic approach to teaching these lifts. Coach B has taken arguably the most complex movements you can do with a barbell and made them simple to teach and learn. Once you have an understanding of the fundamentals of teaching, you also will walk away with an arsenal of drills to fix your intermediate and advanced athletes.

2. The Community
The CrossFit Weightlifting Course has been developed by CrossFitters for CrossFitters. Everyone on our staff has a CF L1 and understands and your goals as a CrossFit athlete and coach. We understand how and why you want to implement these movements in the CrossFit setting, and we have extensive experience in weightlifting specifically. The course also accounts for and assumes a background and competence that CrossFitters have in regards to what has been learned at the CF L1, and we build from that base.

3. The Brand:
As a CrossFit trainer or affiliate owner, you continue to strengthen and reinforce the CrossFit brand as the world leader in fitness related education and training when you choose to come to a CrossFit course. By making CrossFit the authority in fitness, you strengthen the brand under which you fly your flag.

For more information on CrossFit Weightlifting Trainer Courses, click here!

Simple and Effective Progression for Drilling Proper Jerk Footwork


by Cody Looney

Athlete starts in the “Jump” Stance with the footwork template properly marked on the floor.
(Toes marked at Jump and Land Stances, front foot is marked a half of a foot length in front at the Land Stance width, back foot is marked a full foot length behind at the Land Stance width)

General Points of Performance:
-Front foot is straight or slightly turned in (pushing back off of the front foot)
-Front shin is vertical or slightly back towards the athlete
-Back heel is off the ground (pushing forward off of the back foot)
-Back knee is slightly bent

1- STATIC: Walk the feet out in to position
Check the points of performance and make any needed adjustments, have the athlete raise their hands overhead, have the athlete recover properly (front foot back then back foot forward)
2- Dip+Drive+FOOTWORK: Jump feet into position (arms at the sides)
Check the points of performance and make any needed adjustments, have the athlete raise their hands overhead, have the athlete recover properly (front foot back then back foot forward)
3- Dip+Drive+FOOTWORK: Jump the feet into position (simulated Front Rack)
Check the points of performance and make any needed adjustments, have the athlete raise their hands overhead, have the athlete recover properly (front foot back then back foot forward)
4- Dip+Drive+Punch+Footwork: Full Movement
Check the points of performance and make any needed adjustments, have the athlete recover properly (front foot back then back foot forward)

If the athlete is successful through all 4 steps of this progression the next step is to add PVC, then a barbell, then additional load.

Never “too old”

Kris Stanton grew up in Hawaii, semi-sort of active in her youth, but never considered herself an athlete. By the time she was in her 30’s, Kris says, “I was a complete couch potato who loved food, and every few years would join a gym or by late night TV workout videos to get healthy. That would last a month or two and I fell back into old habits.”


When she was 38, she knew she really needed to do something about her weight (she was over 210 lbs on her 5’3″ body), so she started run/walking (more walking than running). Setting a distance goal as opposed to “losing weight” goal was the key. She completed a half marathon in 3:15 and the full in 7 hours. Not fast, but she finished and lost about 60 lbs in the process without really changing her diet.

In 2010, Kris found CrossFit.

“When I was on vacation in 2010, a friend of mine introduced me to CrossFit. I loved it so much! So when I came back to Germany, I immediately signed up at a local box. I quickly became addicted and especially loved the weightlifting! My grandfather was a weightlifter, and quite good too, but I wasn’t ever exposed to it growing up. I always thought he did “fitness” weightlifting, like bicep curls at a gym. It’s only when I found his pictures and records a couple of years ago did I discover it was real oly lifting!”

Kris attended the CrossFit Weightlifting course in 2012 in Parma, Italy with Sage Mertz. It was a life changer! “I never knew that something that looks so easy could be so technical and complicated. John Belton, who was also a coach at the seminar, mentioned that I should lift in competitions. And my reply was ‘but I’m not very good, and I’m old’. He said ‘of course you can, there are masters competitions!'”

At age 41, Kris signed up with a local weightlifting club and started weightlifting. Because she lives in Germany, she had to learn everything in German – the terminology, the team system, the competitions, how it all works. The hardest part about weightlifting for her was having to undress in front of people (sometimes men!), get weighed in and wear a singlet. “But I loved it so much, I did it. It helped so much with my confidence and body issues!”

13245997_10154806524998056_2029446020_nSo now it’s my passion in life.” Kris has been lifting on her team for 4 years, and they have become her second family. This year, Kris set some Bavarian lifting records for her age/weight class!

Germany also has special competitions for kids, and Kris’ kids have been competing since they were 7. “I got my Bavarian C-Trainer license last year, and am now a kids coach at our sport club. And now that Sage is in Hawaii (and I hope she stays there forever), my kids and I get some coaching whenever we’re home.”
Kris is a baby geezer and proof you are never “too old” to do anything!! She qualified for and will compete this year’s World Masters in Germany.


Part two of the Burgener Warm Up is ELBOWS HIGH AND OUTSIDE, and it teaches you to keep the bar close.

This is what it looks like in a lift: From the ground, the athlete is generating upward momentum on the barbell, FINISH, and elbows will follow into this position. There’s a change of direction point where the barbell will float for split second, and the athlete’s job is to aggressively pull their body DOWN to receive the barbell. This athlete: he’s pulling his body DOWN.

A snatch is nothing more than a jump and a land. Weightlifting is a sport of positions and physics, actions and reactions. The Burgener Warm Up is fundamental in focusing on and reinforcing proper positions. Do it EVERY SINGLE DAY, and your lifts will improve. GUARANTEED.

CLICK HERE to download your free PDF of the Burgener Warm Up

Go Home Happy!

Josh Everett Go Home Happy!
by Josh Everett

There are certain rules adhered to at Mike’s Gym in Bonsal, CA. Coach Burgener was always adamant that when you hit a PR you were done for the day on that lift. He absolutely would not allow his athletes to hit a PR, add weight and go for another record, no matter how good the lift looked or felt.

There are some very good physiological reasons to heed this advice, but Coach B’s was more psychological. Go home happy. If you put on more weight and miss, no matter how good you felt about yourself after the PR, you go home thinking about the miss. Digging a little deeper, think about the law of averages: that PR probably came on a lift where you put it all together. Most likely your next lift will not be as good at the heavier weight.

Some pulls are perfect, some terrible, most of your pulls are somewhere in the middle, and the chances of two perfect pulls in a row are minimal. How then do you push your average pull closer to being just like your perfect pull? Threshold training as described in the CrossFit Level 1 course. For the Snatch, Clean, Jerk that generally occurs in the 80-85% range, maybe singles at 90%ish. Spend most of your time training in these percentile ranges.

If you are following Coach B’s programming, you know you’ll get plenty of chances to set new PR’s in the near future. Hit your PR, get some high fives, a shout of “OUTSTANDING!” from Coach B and go home happy!