Olympic Lifting Coaching Strategies for CrossFit Group Classes

Above is a three-and-a-half minute clip taken from a 20-minute lifting segment we shot. We focused the video on just my talking points to demonstrate how we break down group instruction during Olympic lifting segments in group classes. As discussed in our article "Using Time Stamps to Manage Group Classes," you need to have consistent and effective time management strategies to get large volumes of people through each class in a clear and practical way. That article addressed our time stamps in general, but leading lifting segments for Olympic lifts is a bit more nuanced. You need to take classes through synchronized skill work as a group in order to effectively communicate points of performance.

At CFSBK, we break up Olympic lifting segments into three portions—a short white board review of the movement, warm-ups on the barbell that are lead by the coach, and open lifting time—which totals anywhere from 20-25 minutes. In each segment, the goal is to be efficient and effective in our instruction, and to enable the safe, productive training of our athletes.

White Board Review
During this segment, we talk about what the lifting complex will be for the day and how people should choose whether to follow the Fitness or Performance leveled programming (which we wrote about here). With Olympic lifts, athletes can self-select which level they'd like to do depending on their technical proficiency with the lift. This is also an opportunity to answer questions and make sure everyone is on the same page about the end goal of the day’s training.

Barbell Warm-Ups
This segment makes up the majority of what you see me doing in the video. It lasts around five to eights minutes, and involves progressive barbell drills intended to warm people up to the positions and reinforce good lifting technique. Group coaching during such segments includes both verbal and visual cueing to cater to the different learning styles of your athletes. For each drill, a coach will quickly demo, then walk people through the drill and point out what they should be feeling, focusing especially on where their body should be at both the start and end points. We finished this portion of class with a three position clean, which I discuss at the end of the video.

Here are the actual barbell drills we used to warm people up for the cleans, and below that is the programming for the day.

Barbell Drills
Front Squat x5
Scarecrow Rack Delivery x3
Mid Hang Muscle Clean x5

Mid Hang Power Clean x5
Below the Knee Power Clean x5

Add first set of bumpers
3 Position Power Clean x1x3


Work up to a heavy double of a hang power clean

Work up to a heavy double power clean

Open Lifting
Afterward the progressive barbell drills, athletes will have around 15 minutes to work on the prescribed lifting complex for the day. The coach or coaches will walk around and make individual corrections to people and provide feedback on weight jumps or scaling back.

Within this segment, we see three distinct portions of lifting, which each require a different approach to coaching. You'll notice that the cueing goes from general to specific. Initially, during the white board review, you provide a general context for the intention of the programming. In the barbell warm-ups, you provide cues slightly more specific to the progressions and which reinforce good technique. And finally, during the open lifting segments, you get to work individually with people and troubleshoot specific errors. Coaching these lifts requires telescoping in and out with the nature of your feedback—and requires having a clear handle on what you want your athletes to learn and understand.

How do you warm athletes up for Olympic lifts?

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