Naked Bar Lifting
By Jim Schmitz
U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team Coach 1980, 1988 & 1992
Author of Olympic-style Weightlifting for Beginner & Intermediate Weightlifters Manual and DVD
Naked Bar Lifting
This article doesn't have anything to do with liting without your clothes on, but rather lifting just the empty bar of 15 or 20 kg. The term "naked bar" came from one of my female lifters, Julia Ames-Jung. For years when coaching lifters, after they had lifted their top weight I would say, "Strip the bar down to empty, no weights on the bar." About 10 years ago when she was learning to lift, Julia said, "You mean naked?" I've been using the term "naked" ever since. Now on to some naked bar lifting.
When I first joined Alex's Gym in November 1964, you had to be able to begin your lifting with 61 kg (135 lb.), as that was what was normally left on the bar for benches, squats and Olympic lifting. That was the 20.5-kg (45-lb.) bar with a 20.5-kg (45-lb.) steel plate on each side. This setup was also referred to as base weight. You had to be strong enough to begin your lifts with base weight or you would get teased—or worse, told to come back when you were strong enough to train at Alex's.
Many years later we not only begin our lifts with the empty bar, but we don't even do that until we've completed 15 to 30 minutes of general warm-ups and stretching with no weights. Below is my naked bar lifting or warm-up routine.
1. Military press alternating in front of head and behind: 10 reps (5 in front, 5 behind)
2. Back squat: 5 reps
3. Good morning: 5 reps
4. Front squat: 5 reps
5. Stiff-legged deadlift: 5 reps
6. Snatch high pull to chest from thighs, knees and shins: 6 reps (2 from each position)
7. Muscle snatch: 5 reps
8. Overhead squat: 5 reps
That's my basic routine. You can do just about anything with the empty bar for your warm-ups, or even for a really light workout just to keep the joints limber. I recommend that you do exercises 1 through 5 without rest, rest a minute or so and do exercise 6, pause a few moments, and then do exercises 7 and 8. Do however many reps and sets you need to limber up and get your heart rate up and maybe even get a good sweat going. Here are some other great exercises that can be done with just the naked bar.
1. Overhead lunges
2. Lunges with bar on traps
3. Lunges with bar on clavicles or deltoids
4. Power snatch
5. Squat snatch
6. Split snatch alternating feet
7. Power clean and/or military press and/or push press and/or push jerk
8. Squat clean and/or push press and/or push jerk and/or jerk
9. Split cleans alternating feet and/or push jerk and/or split jerk
Some additional empty bar exercises are:
1. Side bends
2. Trunk twists
3. Squat position with bar resting on your thighs, hold for 30+ seconds
You can't do all the exercises I've mentioned here in one workout, but if you did the first eight that would certainly cover everything. Take some time to experiment to find out which exercises get you thoroughly warmed up for the big lifts to follow.
When I attend the World Championships or the Olympics, I always make it to the training hall and warm-up room to watch some training and competition warm-ups. It's pretty much universal that everyone does a fair amount of naked bar lifting before they begin lifting their weights. At the 2002 World Championships in Warsaw, Poland I got to watch Hossein Rezazedah train. He started with a massage and then did about 10 minutes with the empty bar. He then proceeded to put a pair of 25-kg plates on the bar and continued to go up in 50-, 40-, 30-, and 10-kg jumps until he reached 200 kg in the snatch. Then he backed off to 120 and did some cleans and jerks and back squats—pretty big weights, but I don't remember what they were exactly, I think a 240 clean and jerk and 300 front squat, taking 50- and 40-kg jumps.
Also working out that day was a young unknown Austrian lifter, Matthias Steiner (2008 Olympic super heavyweight champion for Germany). He also did his share of naked bar warm-ups and lifts before he started his serious lifting. I always tell my lifters if the strongest man in the world starts his workout with the naked bar, so can you!
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Jim Schmitz’s gold-medal articles on weightlifting and weight training are regularly featured in MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength Athletes.
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