Nick and I left the gym the other night, and we were talking about my lifting. He said, “You never go 100%. You always go 89%. That’s a B+.” He told me that I’ve gone 100% on a snatch precisely ONE time. One. It happened about two weeks ago. He had me doing a new snatch drill, and I only had 35 kg on the bar. It flew up so amazingly fast that I had to let go at the top because I had no choice. It hit my hip, and it was gone and flying through the air behind me before I knew what happened.
“Holy shit. What just happened?”
I haven’t replicated it again yet, but I know that I will. Still, that was my ONE snatch at 100% in how many thousands of reps?
Let me tell you something important, though.
I never could have done that if I didn’t know how to miss. If for one second, my brain was thinking, “Oh no!” as that bar sailed behind me, it would have been over. And, there is a very good chance that I would have gotten hurt.
We had a visiting lifter in here last month, and as I was watching him snatch, I saw the look in his eyes. Snatch, snatch, snatch… and then a fleeting look of terror as he gave up on a snatch that he had clearly pulled high enough to make. I asked him, “How many times have you missed a snatch behind you?”
Never. It is the most popular answer I get, and I ask that question a lot when we do seminars. You can tell when someone has never missed a snatch behind them.
You should be able to miss a snatch behind you without blinking. It should such a natural feeling that it doesn’t even phase you. A habit.
You absolutely cannot go 100% if you are afraid of missing.
It’s easy for me to notice this on snatches, but I see it just as often on squats. How can you attempt a max squat if you don’t know how to miss? You can’t.
YOU MUST PRACTICE MISSING.
We require this of everyone. Sometimes, a lifter will spend an entire session having to hit snatches or squats and then miss the last rep on purpose. Again and again and again. We have a fairly new lifter who had never squatted with bumpers before, and on his first night squatting, Nick told him to go down into the hole with 70 kg and miss behind on purpose.
He went down in the hole and looked like he’d be willing to crap his pants before he’d throw a measley 70 kg off of his back. He sat down there and said, “I don’t think I can do it.”
I coach little kids. I mean, little bitty 3 and 4 and 5 year old kids. I always tell them, “I can buy a new barbell at the barbell store, but I cannot buy you a new head at the head store.” If you don’t know how to miss a snatch, if you haven’t practiced, if missing doesn’t feel totally natural, then you will get hurt. Sorry, not sorry, but there isn’t actually such a thing as a head store. It’s called the Emergency Room.
When you miss, you have to miss aggressively. Lift aggressively and miss aggressively. That’s the key to being safe, but it is also the key to lifting big and setting PRs.
One word of caution: Don’t practice missing cleans. Practice missing front squats to ingrain the patterns required to dump from a front rack position correctly. When a lift just isn’t going to happen, miss and miss right away. This is IMPERATIVE with cleans. Don’t try to rack an ugly fucking clean. JUST DON’T. Let it go and come back to lift another day. See Dear CrossFitters, Hitting Yourself In The Head Means No Rep, Part III for more information on this.
Weightlifting requires that you miss, so practice missing until it just doesn’t phase you. I promise you’ll be rewarded with more weight on the bar.