All Things Gym

Dmitry Klokov + Ilya Ilyin + Vasiliy Polovnikov Weightlifting Seminars – What did you learn?

(Originally posted on Dec 8, 2013. See Updates)

So the Klokov/ Polovnikov seminars have been going on for a while now. Time for a review.

In December the man himself, Ilya Ilyin joined the crew for the Long Island seminar (video below).

To those of you who attended, How did you like it? What did you learn? Are they good teachers? What didn’t you like? Was the Language barrier a problem? I want to know everything :)

Share your experiences in the comments.

Update 26.05.2014: 20 minutes from Dmitry’s seminar in Denmark

Update: Added more  assistance exercises and explanations from Dmitry Klokov.

Dmitry on the Clean and Shrugging

More on Shrugging: “The 2nd biggest mistake” he sees.

In the next video he emphasizes that you DO NOT jump.

Update 17.05.2014: Here’s some of the coaching from Nikita Durnev during the seminar.

Update: Here is 8 minutes of Vasiliy coaching at Waxman’s Gym

Update 08.01.2014: Yasha Kahn, who organized, coached & translated at the seminars, posted in the comments of this post.

About Ilya benching:

Ilya benches 120kg for a set of 4, wants to build it up to 150kg (set of 4), Dmitry doesn’t bench often anymore because he’s had a shoulder injury which reduced his overhead mobility, and more tightness in his chest wouldn’t help; but he did bench press more often and good weight as he was growing. I’ve seen Vasiliy bench press 200kg, but think he has done more.

About his biggest takeaway from travelling with the guys:

Too many to list. From an athlete’s perspective, I got to train with and be coached by some of the best lifters in the world.

With these seminars, we needed to make sure that all of us (Nikita, Vasiliy, Ilya, Dmitry, Zygmunt, and myself) were on the same page or close enough – to not have disagreements and to teach the same thing. For this, we discussed (argued) all points of the lifts, the variations and nuances, and how to teach them (for hours every day, staying up until 2am with notebooks and pens in hand, and continuing at 6am sometimes). We would discuss/argue every inch of the lift, raising and answering questions to which most of us have never verbalized answers. So… the big takeaway was learning weightlifting – the technique, programming or many of the professional aspects of this sport.

If there are any specific questions i can help to answer, let me know.

Update 22.12.2013: 190kg Snatch by Dmitry. Translation of Dmitry Klokov’s exercises/program HookGrop’s reader Sergiy Turchyn:

Legs (during pulls)

  1. Snatch pull (using legs)
  2. Snatch pull from deficit (using legs). For 1 and 2 use legs more than usually in the snatch
  3. Snatch pull + Snatch 2+1, 3+1, …
  4. Snatch pull + Snatch using back 2+1, 3+1, … (train legs, stay over the bar in the snatch)
  5. !!! When finishing the pull – either at an angle or muscles up (not powerlifting) [not sure what this means]


  1. Snatch deadlift
  2. Snatch deadlift from deficit.For 1 and 2 use back more than usually in the snatch
  3. Snatch deadlift without hook grip
  4. Snatch deadlift + Snatch using back (with straps) (train to have a certain back angle during the pull)
  5. Snatch using back (same as in 4, without deadlift before)
  6. Snatch with pause at the knees (it is important to maintain 90 degree angle and balance, also train the back angle)

Explosion/Triple Extension

  1. Trap (video here) with snatch grip + Tall muscle snatch (no straps – arms work more; straps – height [not sure what height means here] and whole upper body works more)
  2. Full snatch without the explosion/triple extension (with straps or without straps) (works the full extension using muscles)
  3. Barbell jumps (work on explosion with legs)
  4. Pull from the floor to the chin with narrow grip [pretty sure this exercise has a name]


  1. Behind the neck snatch grip press + [overhead?] squat 4+1, …
  2. BTNSG press from the bottom position + standing up 3+1, 4+1, …
  3. Muscle snatch from the bottom position (working on shoulders and the whole body handling the barbell in the bottom position)
  4. Snatch balance
  5. Snatch grip press/push press + [overhead?] squat
  6. Snatch grip jumps

Legs (during standing up) Andrei Rybakou as an example

  1. Thrusters from the bottom position with snatch grip
  2. Squats
  3. Squats with pause at the dip position

The weights are not as important as the proper technique!
(to avoid injuries)

Update 21.12.2013:

Update: Ilya’s opinion on Power Variations:

Update 15.12.2013: More reviews added. Specifically check out Penn’s below.

Update 10.12.2013: Next stop was at CrossFit King of Prussia.

Long Island Seminar

Don’t miss the 165.5kg Power Clean + Strict Press by Dmitry at 21:15.

Your Answers

From Penn:

I was fortunate enough to attend their seminar in Raleigh, NC last Thursday. It’s made me do total 180s on a lot of things that I thought were correct technique and a lot of things I thought were strengths/weaknesses of mine.

(1) A more forward starting position. Ilya demonstrated the most extreme forward starting position to me – so extreme that at first I thought he was demonstrating an error. They wre all in agreement that, from the pull of the floor, the shoulders should be past the knees. Due to starting so forward there’s no extreme pushing back of the knees.

(2) Finish the pull by violently standing straight up. Finishing any pull with that Jon North “Arched Angel” business caused Klokov to grimace.

(3) Like a lot of other people are saying, Shrug and Shrug Hard and Fast. As far as I could tell, they’re shrugging hard for 2 reasons. First, they are shrugging to move the bar – it’s not an artifact of a jump but an intentional movement. Second, they are shrugging to promote the best bar path. When I wouldn’t shrug hard my elbows and wrists would rise at the same rate. A hard shrug ensured my elbows remained directly above my wrists until the turnover. Klokov really pushed to make sure the bar was making contact with me again by brushing my shirt below the sternum right before the turnover. Altogether, it seems that they much prefer controlling the bar bath with the traps instead of sweeping with the lats because, whenever I would intentionally sweep it would cause arm bend that they didn’t like to see. They recommended doing snatch and clean grip upright rows [Trapi] with bodybuilder style sets and reps to drill in the elbow movement for me.

(4) Also to go with shrugging, get up on the toes. For the entire pull of the floor they say to push with the area right in front of the heel (so not QUITE the mid-foot). But in the finish for the Snatch, the Clean, and the Jerk they were very adamant about turning on the calves and getting a full extension.

Their translator Yasha, who is one hell of a lifter himself, explained to us that Americans have been watching youtube videos and paying attention to the most pronounced aspects of the top lifter’s technique. They assume the hips is all that matters because every successful lift involves full hip extension. But what we aren’t seeing is that, while they’re trying to shrug hard and extend the ankles hard, Ilya and Klokov are only going to be able to achieve just a little bit of shrug and ankle extension while they’re being weighted down by 500 pounds. The intent is there even if it’s not obvious in the movement.

(5) Bodybuilding! Klokov likes to do Deadlifts or Squats for a few sets of 5 then finish with a set of 10. While we weren’t give the exact translation, I’m pretty sure he said you have to “fuck with the muscle” to make it grow. He said this as he was pantomiming a curl. They all press and they’re not afraid to Bench Press. Even Ilya – whose training usually ends up being pretty Bulgarian come peaking time – includes some Bench Press and was doing Military Press for sets of 10 at the Seminar. And aside from Squat, Bench, and Deads they’ll also do single joint exercises such as curls and laterals. They’ll evaluate weak points based off were technique breaks down, what exercises are weak compared to others (example – Ilya’s Bench being weak so he’s working on that) and what looks small aesthetically (I was told that my traps were big enough but that my arms needed to be bigger – definitely not what I expected to hear at a weightlifting seminar).

(6) No training dogma. Anything that makes you better is fair game: dumbbells, kettle-bells, machines, running, swimming, whatever. I was pretty surprised when Klokov busted out a set of 9 on Power Snatch with 125kg before he worked up to his single. That’s probably not a staple in his preparation when he’s close to a contest but he’s not afraid to do a set of 9 or 10. Every American Coach says that European and Asian Lifters never, ever do Overhead Squats but Polovnikov’s workout was Overhead Squat – Hang Snatch – Squat.

(7) Planning of training. Ilya said his training is planned out a year in advance with his coach and he sticks to that plan 95% of the time. In this plan he’ll know what he’ll lift a year away. He described his training as a Kazakh/Bulgarian blend. 7 months his training is very general: Dumbbells, Barbells, Cross-Training, Playing other Sports. Around 7 months out he starts to get more and more specific. At this point he will start maxing out every friday and he’ll base the next weeks training off his results from that friday. So, to him, a “Bulgarian” blend is not maxing out every other day or 3 times a week but only once a week. The Russian’s intensity levels are less intense that Ilya’s training – so they’re maxing out less than once a week. At the peak of Ilya’s training he is Snatching everyday, Clean & Jerking everyday, Squatting 2X a day, and doing Abs everyday.

(8) Flexibility – pretty much all of these guys could do full splits.

(9) Diet – eat a lot when you train. On days you don’t train, eat a lot of salads.

(10) Their workouts that day: Ilya and Nikita (coach at Norwood) trained together, Squat, Snatch, Clean & Jerk, Military Press, Toes to Bar, and Back extensions. Ilya is build perfectly for weightlifting. He was reasonably lean and had some abs showing but must have had a 38 or 48″ waist – build like a refrigerator. He didn’t go very heavy (for him).

Klokov Power Snatched 275lbs x 9, warmed up more, Put on ACDC’s Thunderstrock, Power Snatched 345 x 1, Warmed up in Clean & Thruster, Clean & Thrustered 395lbs then caught it and did 2 Push Presses. He finished there. Polovnikov Overhead Squatted 315 for a few triples, Missed 405, Hang Snatched up to the Mid 300s, Squatted 585 for 4, then missed 675. Yasha may have done more but I mostly remember him doing several sets of 2 Power Cleans + 2 Push Presses @ 315.

From Sheldon:

I did the KOP seminar yesterday and some of my main takeaways were as follows…

1) Staying over the bar longer. I think someone else said this, but Americans tend to get too vertical too quickly in the pull to recruit more legs and less back/hamstring. They said this is a result of a weak back, which makes a ton of sense in the CF world because you always see over-developed quads.

2) Timing. I had serious difficulty with the timing of the contact between the hips and the bar, especially in the snatch. I think this is a result of number 1 – not staying over the bar long enough.

3) Shoulder/Trap recruitment. This has been discussed at length in this comment section so I don’t want to go crazy here. I understood it as two-fold. First, to keep the bar close. They said that a lack of trap/shoulder strength will cause the bar to swing out and result in lifts being missed forward. Second, to use every fiber of your being to get upward momentum on that bar before you dive under. Klokov told me personally to do his high pull drill “every day, bigger traps”.

4) A wider landing position with the feet. Certainly wider than I am accustomed to. Wide enough that it made my hips hurt in new ways. At one point I was in the bottom of an overhead squat and Klokov started pushing down on the bar with what felt like everything he had and telling me “deeper”.

5) They actually said NOT to put your shoulders in the externally-rotated, elbows-down position in the overhead squat like they instruct at the CF Level 1 seminar. I’m pretty sure they even said “elbows face back”, and keep the wrist neutral.

Overall, absolutely worth the price of admission. Language barrier rarely came into play.

From reader Seth:

I thought it was amazing. I learned that everything I was taught under USAW is completely different from the way they do it. They even said that we rely too much on our hips to bounce the bar up instead of using our shoulders to pull the weight up.

Vasily is a great teacher and was very hands on when he showed us what we were doing wrong. Klokov was just as great, he manually put you into the right positions and made sure you understood how it should feel.

The language barrier was fine because if either one of them could not express what they were saying they would get Nikita or Yasha to translate what they were saying. The biggest thing I learned is that I know nothing and I am no where near as strong as I thought I was.

Once the seminars are over I will be making trips to Norwood Weightlifting every six to eight weeks to learn from Nikita and learn the Russian version of these lifts.

From Mark:

I attended the seminar at CrossFit RDU last week. It was worth every penny and I’ve been thinking about and practicing a lot of what was taught since then. All the coaches were amazing.

I worked primarily with Ilya, who was outstanding, but Dmitry and Vasily were very hands on as well. It has completely changed the way I think about the lifts. Here are my notes on the snatch, cleaned up from what I typed into my phone during the class:

Start position – Feet slightly narrower than shoulder width, toes very slightly out, and knees turned slightly out. Shoulders are forward in front of the bar, body over the bar, shins are nearly vertical, weight in mid-foot, always head looking forward, chest is up, back arched, lats tight. This results in a narrow angle between the body and thighs.

Hips and body rise together with a constant angle and the body stays over the bar then hips drive into the bar–contact should be audible–and then from the heels to calves, shoulders, then elbows pull the bar vertically.

The pull is very long and shoulders stay forward, forearms are vertical, wrists are relaxed. The bar path is about 1/2 inch in front of the body. The upper pull is from traps, to rear delts, then biceps. At the peak of the pull, the bar should be face height and you should be balanced on your toes, use the height from your toes to slide the feet out and drop, then…”Catch the bar and look forward like you’re the king.” -Ilya Ilyin.

What I have found since then, is that what I struggled with and was mostly frustrated by–the drop–comes so naturally, that I am zipping under the bar effortlessly and without any thought.

From George (admire his bicep flex at 18:09):

The seminar was superb. You had plenty of time interacting with each of them. There was one point during the jerk practice portion of the seminar where I had Vasiliy actually hitting me in the abs with a PVC pipe yelling for me to stay tight. He is very dynamic and will let you know very clearly if he is disappointed with your performance.

Vasily spoke the most English out of the three, but language barrier was never really a problem due to having russian speakers at hand. Klokov had a little bit less of this aggressive approach, but helped manually put you into correct positions. Ilya was the biggest surprise though. He is very humble, a little quiet, but moves so effortlessly through his movements. He would help show the way he does the lifts and guide you through his actions into correct positions.

Biggest thing I learned is that Americans tend to shift the knees forward too much when initiating the second pull. This was a big thing for Vasiliy especially as he said with that technique you will always punch the bar too far forward especially if you are relying on your hips for all the power.

They highly stressed the importance of strong shoulders for the snatch and traps for the clean. During the clean practice Vasiliy really emphasized bringing your shoulders to your ears and continuing the pull after hip contact.

Also proper shoulder starting position was huge. Many people tend to pinch the shoulders at the start, but they said that this shortens the range of motion you have to pull with the shoulders and traps which decreases the potential to get the bar as high, and will commonly cause you to hit the bar forward. It was a great seminar, definitely worth the price, and we even had time to take pictures and sign a couple things at the end.

From Oscar:

They are hands on, especially Vasiliy. Nikita has perfect technique. They know what is the best way to improve you personally on your weaknesses.

They say to not really [bring] in the hip so much and maintain a straight bar path of course and to always jump out not back or front to keep your head straight and finish pulling, which is a huge thing that many of us Americans have not done. We need to use our legs, hip, shoulder, then arms in one fluid moment.

There are videos of older Russian technique where the Russians have similar or same exact technique. I did not meet Ilya yet.

Tania said:

Absolutely worth the price (I was skeptical going in since it was so high). No issues with communication. We essentially did four hours of technique work with an empty bar and I was sweating like crazy and sore the next day.

From SuperCleary_

I was the photographer at the CrossFit LIC stop – I was blown away by the seminar. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be just a “look at us lift” seminar or if it would be informative. The “look at us lift” was but a minor part of it (and incredible). They spent hours working with every athlete and offering clear, concise cues and techniques. Couldn’t recommend more. Check out a few shots from it @supercleary on instagram – and that strict press was 365lbs (165.5 kg)

From Seth:

These guys are amazing , I have been to a lot of these seminars before , and there understanding and ability to teach and transfer knowledge is amazing. I would highly recommend this seminar to anyone who is interested in improving their lifts.

Watching them train is worth the price of the seminar alone. They really stayed focused on making sure you learned all of the subtle elements of the lifts. They where extremely helpful , and would answer all of your questions until you where satisfied.

They would also stay with you until they could see that you understood the material that was being discussed. It was very inspiring and really motivating. I am sure you will lift better after this seminar, I know I did. If it comes around my area again, I would take it again.

DONT MISS THE CHANCE! Seeing athletes of this caliber training up close is a once in a lifetime chance for most. Once you see it in person , you will truly understand what I am talking about.

Dmitry Klokov + Ilya Ilyin + Vasiliy Polovnikov Weightlifting Seminars – What did you learn? is a post by Gregor Winter from All Things Gym.

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