Weightlifting for CrossFit – Beginners

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Photo: Jens Koch

In my affiliate, CrossFit Butcher’s Garage, both powerlifting and olympic lifting are often (if not every day) a part of the workouts. I’ve found that more and more CrossFitters are interested in learning the correct lifting technique in Olympic Weightlifting. The purpose of these posts is to provide some inspiration for just that. – Ditte

Disclaimer: It’s difficult to learn movements off the internet – the best plan is allways to have a skilled coach teach you the proper technique.

Getting started

The olympic lifts are very complex and you need to accept that perfecting the movements will take years of practice. Your first program needs to be a learning/technique program. By following this type of program 3 times/week, you will learn decent technique in 6 months or so, depending on your starting point.

Initially, you will have to break the movement into series of isolated sections that will teach you different aspects of the lift. These drills will help the body adjust to the different positions. Once you are proficient in the drills, you can start putting them together and perform the lifts.

Every coach probably has their own opinion and preferred exercises, I have chosen the ones that I find work well. You will start by learning the end-position of the lift and gradually increase the range of movement until you perform the full lift.

Exercises (in the recommended order):


Overhead squat → Snatch Balance → Tall Snatch → Mid-hang Snatch → Snatch from floor


Front squat → Tall Clean → Mid-hang Clean → Clean → Clean and Jerk


The full movement (press and push press can be included to increase upper-body strength)

Videos of the exercises can be found on Catalyst Athletics


You could also include the power versions of the lifts if you want (power snatch/clean), but in my experience people who start this way will have a hard time adjusting to the bottom position of the snatch and the clean, once they decide to learn the full versions. If you are forced to power snatch because of limitations in your mobility – you need to work on your mobility !! Don’t postpone the problem by starting with the power snatch.

Rep scheme:

5-12 reps/set

3-5 sets/exercise

Sample sessions

This should give you a general idea of how to put together a training session. You can mix and match the different exercises mentioned above – start off with the easy ones and gradually progress into the more difficult.

Every session should be different – this is not a program. Some days you will include more snatch work and other days more drills for the clean & jerk.

Sample session (1st month):

Key words: high reps, low difficulty

Warm-up (a good warm-up routine should increase body core temperature and include some mobility work, this will make it easier to hit the right positions later).

Overhead squat 6 reps/3 sets

Tall snatch 6 reps/3 sets

Front squat 10 reps/3 sets

Shoulder press 5 reps/3 sets

Finisher: CrossFit workout or another form of GPP.

Sample session (3rd month):

Key words: fewer reps, increasingly complex drills

Warm-up + Mobility

Snatch Balance 5 reps/ 4 sets

Tall Snatch 5 reps/ 5 sets

Mid-hang clean 5 reps / 4 sets

Split Jerk 5 reps / 5 sets

Finisher: CrossFit workout or another form of GPP.


One technique session should not be more than 30 minutes long, as it is difficult to stay focused. Since you are working with light weights, you could finish the session with a nice intense CrossFit wod with some bodyweight or kettlebell exercises.

When you are a beginner, you will need do a relative high volume and low intensity (lots of reps and low weights). It’s important not to rush this phase: Lifting too heavy, too soon will provoke bad technique and might give you bad habits that are difficult to get rid off later.

Remember that this is about learning the right technique in Olympic Weightlifting – If you want to work on stregth I would recommend a Starting Strength, Stronglifts 5×5 or Wendler 5/3/1 approach.

Weightlifting Camp:

This spring, Sarah and I are hosting a weightlifting and CrossFit camp in Portugal.

More info here:


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