Lower Body Mobility Exercises for the Olympic Lifts

by Gabby Haugh, PT, DPT, CSCS, USAWL1

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Background on the Olympic Lifts

The two Olympic lifts are the snatch and the clean and jerk. As defined by USA Weightlifting, the governing body of the sport of weightlifting in the United States, the snatch is a movement in which “the barbell is lifted from the floor to arm’s length overhead in one motion.” This movement is typically performed in under 2 seconds! 

In the clean and jerk, “the barbell is lifted overhead in two continuous motions – the clean, which brings the bar to the shoulders and the jerk in which the athlete raises the bar overhead.” 

In order to be performed optimally, both of these movements require tremendous mobility of multiple body regions. Impaired mobility in one or more areas, either as a result of injury or normal development, can lead to poor performance of the lifts. As a competitive weightlifter and a physical therapist, my goal is to help you gain and maintain mobility in order to perform at your best!

Who This Is For?

Before diving into specific mobility exercises, it is important to cover who this is relevant for. The Olympic lifts are the movements performed when competing or training in the sport of weightlifting. However, these movements are primary components in the sport of Crossfit as well as generalized strength and conditioning. Even if you are not a competitive weightlifter, these mobility exercises can help you with your snatch and clean and jerk in any setting.

Lower Body Mobility Required for the Olympic Lifts

The three primary joints of the lower body that require mobility for the Olympic lifts are the hips, knees, and ankles. Below are some common mobility issues seen for each of these joints:

  • Hips
    • Limited hip range of motion
    • Tight hip flexors
  • Knees
    • Tight hamstrings
  • Ankles
    • Poor ankle dorsiflexion

Exercises for Hip Mobility

Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Be sure to stay tall during this stretch and avoid arching your back. Hold the stretch for 1 minute on each side and repeat twice, ideally going deeper into the stretch on the second round.

Hip Windshield Wipers

The goal is to get your knees as close to the ground as possible, but it is okay if you do not touch your knee to the ground. Repeat this motion slowly, trying to gain more range each time. Perform 20 windshield wipers, rest, and repeat.

Exercises for Knee Mobility

Half Kneeling Hamstring Stretch

Make sure that you have something to hold on to with your arms so that you can fully relax your legs. Keep your knee straight during the stretch. Hold this stretch for 1 minute on each side and repeat twice, trying to go deeper on the second round.

Exercises for Ankle Mobility

Slant board Calf Stretch

If you do not have a slant board, you can also elevate your toes on a step or against the wall. Be sure to keep your knees straight during this stretch. Hold for 1 minute and then repeat.

Half Kneeling Ankle Dorsiflexion Mobilization

Ensure that your heel stays flat to the ground throughout the movement. Drive your knee over your 2nd toe to avoid your foot arch collapsing in. Perform this movement 20 times on each side and repeat twice.

By performing these exercises as a part of your warm-up or cool-down around your lifting sessions, you can help improve and keep your mobility so that you can perform at your best! If you feel like you need further help with your lifting technique or mobility, book an appointment with us!

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