The Burgener Olympic Lifting Warm-up for Shoulder Health

The Burgener Olympic Lifting Warm-up for Shoulder Health

I really like Coach Burgener.

If you haven’t heard of Coach Mike Burgener, he’s the Senior International Weightlifting Coach for the U.S.  Somewhere along the way he got involved with the crossfit community.  As you are all well aware of, crossfit loves the olympic lifts and uses them quite a bit in their programming.  It’s great that he’s lending his expertise for all of us to be better athletes because these lifts are complex and take time and effort to master.

He has an excellent warm-up he teaches that all crossfit athletes use before each session.  I was first introduced to the warm-up from Steve Liberati over at crossfit Tribe.  The main point is to improve technique in order to increase performance but I really believe we can get a lot more from the warm-up.

How do most people get injured from olympic lifting?  You guessed it, poor technique. It’s difficult to keep proper technique in the olympic lifts, especially when fatigue sets in.  Really hammering this warm-up can work wonders for your technique and go a long way in preventing injury.  Check Coach Mike’s  warm-up below.

I wanted to talk a little bit about how the warm-up can be a very effective tool in teaching athletes how to position their shoulder properly during overhead lifts and olympic pulls/deadlifts.  In the past I’ve posted about shoulder packing and it’s importance in shoulder health.  This warm-up is a perfect time to practice this.

We’re all guilty of our techniques falling apart as the weights get heavier.  One of the absolute hardest times to work on technique is during max lifts.  This is because we’re so concerned with moving big weights and creating power to be consumed by subtle technique changes.  that’s why its vital to practice this in the warm-up.  The goal is to create good motor patterns or habits so that when the weights get heavy we have good technique engrained into our nervous system and don’t have to devote as much mental energy to thinking about technique.

The 6 movements in the warm-up are:

  1. Down and up
  2. Elbows high and outside
  3. Muscle snatch
  4. Snatch land
  5. Snatch drop
  6. Hang power snatch

The name of the game is keeping your shoulders in a safe position during these movements.  Here are a couple cues I like to think of while performing this sequence

  • Keep the shoulders back and down during the beginning of the second pull.  This will help keep the bar close to your body, maximize power and put the shoulders into a safe position
  • During the Elbows High and Inside its important to keep your shoulders back.  Kelly Starret often talks about athlete’s lacking internal rotation range of motion in their shoulders and as a result during this portion of the lift you’ll see these athletes compensate by protracting their shoulders into an unhealthy position.  First gain the internal rotation flexibility that you need through soft tissue work/stretching and then start drilling this position with the shoulders back.  For more information about this as well as a collection of Kelly’s videos on the subject check out Greg Winter’s page HERE:
  • During the muscle-snatch coach Mike emphasizes externally rotating the shoulder to put it into a strong and safe position.  As you finish the lift by pressing the weight to a lockout the shoulders should also be down and back.
  • The next portion all focuses on overhead motion.  Here is where you can take the time to think about your shoulder position when the bar/PVC pipe is fully locked out overhead.  Your shoulders should be down and back with the shoulder externally rotated.  You heard coach Mike say armpits showing, that’s the cue for externally rotating your shoulder.  One of the toughest things for me and others learning the snatch and jerk is transitioning from a violent jump and shrug to a position where your shoulders are packed down and back prepared to catch the bar.  The catch part of the snatch and jerk is where injuries occur and we need to learn how to create a stabile shoulder very quickly in order to catch the weight safely.

I would even go a step further with Coach Mike’s warm-up for shoulder health.  I’d add a few pressing exercises in the mix.

  1. Behind the Neck Press
  2. Press
  3. Push Press
  4. Push Jerk

The idea with these exercises is practicing starting and finishing these exercises in a strong and stable position.  Check out Dimitry Klokov doing Behind the Neck Pressing.

He does a great job of externally rotating his shoulders, keeping his elbows directly underneath of the bar, engaging his upper back, keeping his shoulders back and down and finishing the lift in the same strong position.  We should strive for this position during all of our lifts as well.

I recommend adding this into your program a few times per week for everyone looking to improve their olympic lifts, especially athletes that have a history of shoulder pain or impingement.

Corrective exercises are excellent for correcting strength imbalances in the shoulder but the ultimate goal is to achieve normal healthy movement.  The Burgener warm-up is a great tool for athletes to practice correct movement during olympic lifting and all other overhead movements.

Happy Pressing,

Dan Pope

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