I have recently gotten into olympic lifting and am really enjoying it. Unfortunately, I am repeatedly told by the coaches that my shoulders are rounding forward and my back is not straight when I clean, deadlift or snatch.

I try and focus on it each lift, but I don't seem to be able to keep it straight. My standing posture is okay, and I can stay upright just fine doing squats, but when I am in the initial bent-over position, I fold.

Does anyone have suggestions for exercises or training techniques that can help improve my ability to keep my back straight during these lifts? Perhaps strengthening my upper and lower back while improving flexibility?

2 Answers 2

  • Maybe you need to slow down? Or lighten the load?
  • Video yourself so you can see what you're doing wrong. A coach touching the erroneous area as it happens can help too. My proprioception goes through the roof with a little visual or tactile feedback.
  • Perhaps your shoulder strength is poor, in which case Pendlay rows and pull-ups would be called for.
  • Greg Everett's book turned me on to segmented pulls. You pull as if cleaning or snatching, but stop at 1 inch off the floor, the knees, mid-thigh, and at the top you either perform a high-pull or you pause there as well. It reinforces proper positioning throughout the pull.

Are you bending over and straightening your back from the top down (Rippetoe-style), or squatting butt-to-calves and straightening your back as you stand up (Burgener-style)? You might have success trying whichever one you're not doing.


One thing you could try is improving your ability to stay in a "Third-World Squat".

I do not have any experience in how this helps with the specific movements that you are looking to improve. However, I think, many of the muscles and flexibility issues that this type of squat address will certainly address some (many?) of the physiological imbalances that you might be experiencing - which are common for many western people due to lifestyle.

It's quite simple to work on a third world squat. You can start at any time and do it just about anywhere. I started a few weeks ago doing it a couple times a day both at home and at the office. I have seen improvements in my flexibility and mobility and balance.

  • This is a great idea. Trying it out at my desk is indeed hard! I'll give it a shot. Thanks for the tip. Mar 22, 2012 at 17:22
  • I know! I was quite amazed the first time. It shouldn't be hard. I bet it was easy when I was 5. Mar 22, 2012 at 17:37

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