Oversimplification Versus Unnecessary Complexity
A third major controversy with respect to technique stems from the tendency of those who analyze and teach it either to oversimplify, or to add artificially to the complexity of the sport of weightlifting.
The oversimplifiers revel in offering some simple fact as justification for a given technique while appearing to be shocked that no one else sees how simple it all is. An example would be the person who says that you should always lift a bar straight up because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.“ While no one can argue with the accuracy of this statement, its application to the sport of weightlifting is not as straightforward as the advocate of such a point would have you believe.
For instance, in order to perform the snatch, the first lift in weightlifting competitions, the bar needs to be raised from the floor past the shins and knees (which are in the way of the vertical path of the bar when the lifter bends down to in the bar from the floor). The bar’s motion must be accelerated so that it picks up enough speed to carry it to a sufficient height for the lifter to “catch” the bar overhead, and this must take place while the lifter’s center of gravity is shifting first in a rearward and then in a forward direction as the bar is being lifted. In addition, although the bar begins the lift at a point in front of the lifter, it must reach a point above and to the rear the lifter’s head. This kind of relative motion on the part of the bar and the athlete suggests that a straight line, while undoubtedly the shortest distance for the bar to travel, will not necessarily be the best path to meet all of the requirements of performing an efficient lift.
While it is clear that oversimplification is a mistake, so is making lifting unnecessarily complex. Teaching and analysis only need to be complex enough to impart understanding. Unfortunately some coaches seem to think that pointing out each of the manifold elements that po into the lifting process demonstrates their level of expertise. This may be true, but it also can hinder the learning process if the complexity is introduced before it is appropriate.
For example, one popular book on weightlifting devotes an entire section to the concept of the combined center of gravity of the lifter and bar. The first problem with the way the writer handles the issue is that the concept of the center of gravity is not well explained before the concept of the combined center of gravity of the lifter and bar is introduced. As a result, the subject becomes quite confusing. Nevertheless, the concept of combined center of is presented, and an example of its application to the lifting process is given (an example which does not offer any illumination regarding the importance of the concept). After the reader has struggled to grasp the concept (probably with only limited success), the writer goes on to explain weightlifting technique at length across several short chapters. During that explanation, the concept of the combined center of gravity is mentioned only twice, and both of those times the author only repeats the initial example, No further use of the concept is ever made. Why did the writ bother to explain the concept if no important application of it is ever used thereafter? This is unnecessary complexity at its worst. (In this chapter we will explain the concept of a center of gravity, but then we will use it as well.)