Image: Harriet McGuffie PT ending her session with Back Squat Jumps
Speed and acceleration is a fundamental part of weightlifting success. The faster you can pull the bar from the ground, or the quicker you can recover out of the squat, the more weight you will lift successfully.
Some lifters may be faster than others. Genetic factors including limb length and muscle fibre type can play a large roll, but speed is 100% coachable.
For the most part, you can learn how to become faster simply by applying the right intent and mindset around your classic lifts.
Putting it simply, if you want to stand up quickly from your cleans, you have to actually try to stand up quickly from your cleans. Your legs will not magically drive your lazy arse up out of the squat automatically, even at comfortable loads!
If you want to pull from the floor quickly, you guessed it - you have to actually try to pull quickly.
You may have heard a coach ask their lifter to slow their pull... this may be because the lifter is losing proper posture and body position as a result of tearing the bar from the floor. In this case, correct posture and back position trumps speed, however it is important to understand that one must move the bar as fast as physically possible from the floor provided that such speed does not affect correct weight distribution, balance, shoulder position and posture.
Every single time you lift, you need to be both physically and mentally prepared for the proper posture, speed, timing and rhythm of the lift and then accelerate upwards maximally out of the squat until you’re standing. Many times a lifter will try to move quickly initially, but then let off the accelerator partway up and suddenly have to grind through the rest of the squat or get stuck entirely and fail. Accelerate all the way up.
If you train alone, its easy to forget about 'the need for speed'. Don't! Develop a routine of moving as fast as physically possible each and every time you're working with the bar. This should be the case whether your performing the competitive lifts themselves but also accessory movements like squats, presses and pulls too! If you find it hard to focus on moving with speed, come and train alongside other lifters with us here at Cheshire Barbell. Lifting next to someone who is faster and stronger than you are is a guaranteed way of developing your own ability!
Failing that, get youtube on in the background and find some training hall videos on Hook Grip or All Things Gym and aspire to lift with as much intent and aggression as the elites do.
Training for it
Aside from improving intent in your clean technique, training aggression in all of your cleans and front squats, making sure to stabilize your trunk when you clean, doing your back and ab work, and having the proper aggressive mindset, you can also try the following to help improve your speed from the floor and out of the lift:
Box jumps, tuck jumps or broad jumps from the bottom of a squat with and without a pause in the bottom
Back squat jumps with and without pause at bottom
Pause squats with maximal concentric acceleration
Performing all squats with the bounce and maximal concentric acceleration
Pulls from a deficit
Get your squat stronger!
If your back squat is less than 135% of your best clean it's no wonder you're struggling to move quickly!
Jumps can be performed at bodyweight, but it is probably best to load up in order to improve neuromuscular efficiency. Loads as heavy as 60% 1RM can be used for jumps, but loads as light as 20% 1RM can still be very effective, particularly if you are also wanting to limit fatigue ahead of heavier sessions later on in the week.