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Teaching Olympic Lifts to a Large Group

We recently had Wil Fleming do an inservice for all of our trainers and I have to say it was amazing.  Wil knows his stuff when it comes to Olympic lifts for sure.  I was pumped when Wil said the he would share an post with us on the Smart Group Training Blog.

Olympic LIft In Service
Wil Fleming Olympic Lift In-Service

Teaching Olympic Lifts is hard enough, so teaching it groups make it one of the biggest coaching challenges we can think of.  Wil has offered up some great advice on how to teach Olympic Lifts to groups much easier.  So that being said, check out Wil’s blog post below.


Teaching Olympic Lifts to a Large Group


If I presented most people with the following list, the likely response would be “Psssshhhht, impossible”

-Actually finding a real live bigfoot.

-Water skiing with no boat.

-Climbing Mt. Everest with no ropes.

-Developing a cold fusion machine.

-Teaching Olympic lifts the right way to large groups of athletes.

Like the guys on Monster Hunters, the mythbusters, and Bear Grylls I beg to differ (at least on the last point). No, like a mad scientist hard at work on a world changing project, I am here to present to you the way that you can teach Olympic lifts to large groups with no problems.

1)   Have a way to determine if someone is ready

Just putting any John or Jane Doe on the platform is a bad idea. Actually, it is worse than a bad idea, it’s a horrible idea. Aside from the technical know how that is required (which we will cover in a moment) there are so many physical requirements that putting a newbie on the platform without knowledge of their ability is absolute craziness.

To really teach large groups how to Olympic lift it is important to determine their readiness through your assessment process. The FMS gives us some important information about the movement patterns that new trainees posses but there are a couple OL specific ideas that are important to wrap your head around as well.

Expanding on the FMS and the deep squat test, I find that having an individual perform a full front squat with a barbell is perfect to determine their physical ability to achieve and maintain the racked position of the clean and its variations.

Standing tall have the potential Olympic lifter rack a barbell at the shoulder level with their upper arm parallel to the floor. This position itself requires great thoracic extension, and shoulder external rotation, and those that do not posses the right amount will find this position uncomfortable and difficult to achieve. Descending into the full squat position will give you back up data to support conclusions you make in the deep squat about thoracic extension, hip and ankle mobility.

With that information and the appropriate corrective exercises in place, 3 sets of movements should be practiced in a group setting to prepare individuals for the platform.

The hinge

The squat


The hinge will form the basis for the starting position in terms of weight distribution, and foot placement, and the movement pattern will be used to accelerate the bar in the hang position, or above the knee in the traditional clean or snatch.

The squat will then form the basis of the receiving position, and the pattern of knees out will be mechanically identical to what happens at the catch. Have your group prepare by practicing both goblet squats, and overhead squats.

Finally, plyometrics are an important class of movements to prepare for Olympic lifting. The take off position teaches individuals how to produce force, while the landing position informs the group on how to receive the bar with proper patterns.

2)   Have a ready made set of progressions

Technical knowledge in the Olympic lifts is one of the biggest problems that most coaches see with implementing the movements in a large group setting.

While there is no doubt that technique makes the lifts successful or not, a simple set of progressions to take a newbie to a seasoned lifter is not a pipe dream.

The key in teaching the Olympic lifts is to teach from a position that allows for early success, doesn’t require extreme mobility, and is easily relatable for most individuals. I am talking about using the “hang” start position for the Olympic lifts.

The hang start position for the clean and the snatch will be a much easier task for most clients than using the floor start position.  The floor start, in the traditional power clean or power snatch, is one that requires mobility and technical knowledge that most do not posses early on.

Instead we use the following progressions of movements, each with their own individual teaching progression to use Olympic lifts effectively with new lifters.

Hang Clean à Power Jerk à Power Clean à Split Jerk à Hang Snatch à Power Snatch à Full Clean à Full Snatch

Your clients can get great benefits of the Olympic lifts by just performing the first 2 movements. Progressing to the latter stages of these movements is not necessary unless you have great confidence in the abilities of the individuals you are coaching.

3)   Know the corrections to make for common mistakes.

As technical lifts there are many things that can occur during the completion of the movements that can make the lift go wrong. If your qualification process and progressions are together there are not many mistakes that are outright dangerous, but rather are just impediments to maximizing the benefits of using the Olympic lifts.

Knowing common corrections to common mistakes will allow your clients to unlock the full potential of the Olympic lifts.

One common mistake that has an easy correction is jumping forward when receiving the bar. This is often a result of incomplete hip extension in the second (fast) pull above the knee. In turn the typical reason for this mistake is the athlete being too far forward over their toes in the pulling position.

When on the toes the individual is unable to get their hips to the bar and complete hip extension.  This causes the individual to jump forward when receiving the bar.

While there are many other mistakes that can be made in the lifts, you can have confidence that qualifying the individuals before beginning lifting will remove much of the chance that the movements can be dangerous.


The Olympic lifts can hold a lot of benefit to your clients. Unlike many might suggest there is an easy and effective way to teach the lifts to large groups so that they all can become stronger and more powerful.

Wil Fleming is the Owner of Force Fitness and Performance in Bloomington, IN. He is the author and creator of COMPLETE OLYMPIC LIFTING, detailing his entire system of teaching Olympic lifts to any individual. 

Are You Guys Doing Any Workshops? – Ask Smart Group Training

In this newest section of the Smart Group Training website, we want to include some answers to questions that we often hear.  This section will range anywhere from group training questions to anything that has to do with training or Smart Group Training.

For the first installment of this series we are going to answer a question that we just received on our facebook page.

Q – Are you guys doing any workshops?

Group Training Workshop
Elite Training Workshop


– We are offering SGT Live workshops on a few different dates this year. This is a workshop designed to show you the FMS and how to use it in your group training program.  We will be covering topics like:

*How to Perform a Functional Movement Screen

*How to Screen Large Groups of People

*The SGT Wristband System

*How to Create Program Designs for Small and Large Group Training Based of the Screen

*Corrective Exercises for YOUR Weakest Links

*How to Incorporate Corrective Exercise into Small and Large Group Training

*How to Make Bootcamp More Like Personal Training

*How to Conduct a Large Group Personal Training Session

*All Your Group Training and Corrective Exercises Questions Answered!      

Smart Group Training Workshop
Smart Group Training Workshop  

The workshop is not for sale yet, but will be very soon. Please sign up for our newsletter to make sure you find out when we launch registration. We will be at the following locations and dates:

Napa Valley California – March 24

Frisco TX – April 14th

St. Louis MO – April 18th

Canton CT – Oct 20th

All of these Smart Group Training Live dates are following Elite Training Workshops, which we will also have more info on soon. We are still putting together details, but we I can promise the price is right.

We also recommend attending FMS certifications for more info on the system that we use for screening. You can find out more about the FMS at

Steve Long

Boot Camps to Rise or Fall?

If you listen to some of the top fitness marketing and business education guru’s, they say there will be a dramatic fall in boot camps in 2016.  Basing your business solely on boot camp will make it tough to continue growing your business and the amount of people training with you on a regular basis.  In order to survive and continue growing your training business, you should be doing several things proactively over the course of 2016.  Creating training and screening systems that separate your gym from the rest should be a top priority.  After that is in place, something as simple as a class name change may help keep your training program separate from some of the trash boot camp training programs out there.
So why do some of the top fitness business pros feel that boot camps are dying?

IMG_0073With the quick rise in bootcamps over the past few years, competition has become very saturated for “boot camp” training.  Two years ago, there were far less boot camps around.  However, since then…boot camp programs have been popping up left and right.  I’m sure you have several boot camps within your own community.  I personally live in a town with 25,000 people and we have a minimum of 6 different boot camp programs to choose from within a 2-3 mile radius.  Honestly, that’s probably less than what many of you reading this are dealing with on a daily basis.

It really makes a lot of sense to run boot camps or large group training.  This form of training allows the coach to maximize their time, help more people, and make more money per hour worked.  Those are all good things, so it’s no surprise that group training has been taking off recently.  We’re all about working smarter, not harder…so group training allows a favorable environment for both the coach and person participating in the training.  The coach gets to help more people and make more money, and the client gets to pay less for quality training.

Since there was such a huge rise in bootcamps, the top pros are predicting a big fall in the upcoming years.  This too makes lots of sense.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but….”All good things must come to an end.”  We’re not saying that your group training classes or boot camps are going to suffer.  However, this prediction should not be ignored.  Your clients have a saturated market filled with several low cost providers to choose from.  Why should they choose you?

The answer I hear all the time is….because my program is better.  Why?  Do your clients know why?  Is it painstakingly obvious that you are different?  It should be, otherwise you will to fall victim to your clients leaving to save a few bucks by switching to a lower cost provider in your area.  We make it painstakingly obvious by using our Smart Group Training methods.  We screen on day one.  We rescreen again in 45 days.  After that, we will continue to rescreen every 45 days. This method not only allows us to keep a constant eye on movement efficiency, it also helps keep our program separated from the rest of the crowd.  By the time they may forget that we’re different, we’re rescreening them again.  The screen/rescreen method helps keep your clients constantly informed that your program is different, along with over delivering with great programs and service along the way.

SmartGroupTraining_LogoThis is one thing that separates us from the crowd, but we’ve even taken it a step further.  We have both changed our class names from “boot camps” to “large group personal training”.  We’ve banned the word “boot camp” from our facilities.  We’ve updated our online scheduler, we’re updating all of our online offerings to banish the term from the site, and we have even been taking it as far as getting our clients to quit using the term.  If they know we don’t like the term, it helps us create the mindset that we ARE different.

We’re all about being proactive rather than reactive.  We are setting our businesses and training programs different.  The boot camp era will come to an end.  With a huge rise comes a huge fall.  So, don’t take the reactive approach and risk losing your clients to the low cost providers in your area.  Start taking the action steps necessary to set yourself apart.  Remember…when you are thinking of ways to set your program apart, it needs to be blatantly obvious that your program is different.  It’s easy for us, as fitness professionals, to see the difference.  However, it needs to be obvious to the average person that has little to no knowledge of training that you’re different.  Think about what you’re currently doing and what your action plan will be to keep your gym, business, or training program at the top.

Be sure to reply below.  Do you think boot camps will survive and continue to rise in 2016?  Let us know your thoughts

Jared Woolever