Max Aita has written a few books since he started working with Juggernaut Training Systems. “Weightlifting Technique Triad: Exercise Classification & Selection” was his first and provides an introduction to the basics of weightlifting technique and exercise selection. As with any review, it is useful to provide a quick introduction to help familiarize readers with the author.
Most know Max for the time he spent training under Ivan Abadjiev, Steve Gough, and for a short time, Glenn Pendlay, but within recent years he has become increasingly known for his own coaching successes in both weightlifting and powerlifting. Many of his lifters have won international medals, qualified and competed in both national and international competitions, and further reinforced the idea that Juggernaut Training Systems is just that, a Juggernaut.
Before we start, you can listen to both of Max Aita episodes from The Weightlifting House Podcast below, where we cover much of the content from the book.
‘Weightlifting Technique Triad’ first introduces the three key components of the competition movements and their variants (bar trajectory, height, and time to fixation). It then goes on to address the benefits and appropriate implementation of both primary and secondary weightlifting movements. Exercises are classified, examining how they impact each of the three components of technique, and decided when they are or are not more useful. Secondary exercises are given a very brief introduction and the book is rounded out with a few program examples and a troubleshooting section for technique.
Overall, this is a pretty short read, with 84 information dense pages cover to cover. Initially you may be taken aback by the numerous grammatical errors within the text, but Max has explained elsewhere that this was due to poor proofreading and something he regrets not having the ability to correct. The content itself is useful, but seems to be geared towards lesser experienced weightlifters and coaches, as it mostly aims to differentiate exercises and how they impact your training (i.e. hang snatches from above the knee will help target time to fixation more than trajectory or absolute height).
Part 1: Weightlifting Technique
Max begins the book with a proper discussion of weightlifting technique, breaking the snatch, clean, and jerk, into phases, so that they can be properly understood and discussed by all. He then explains the phases as they relate to different athlete builds, those with shorter limbs and a longer torso, those with the opposite build, and relatively evenly built athletes. There are examples given in the text, conceptualized with former JTS athletes.
After the breakdown of the movements into phases, the technique triad is introduced. The triad includes: bar trajectory, height, and time to fixation. This is the focus of the remainder and bulk of the book, classifying exercises by their influence on these three components. Following this there is a discussion and definition of technical mastery, technical efficiency, and both why and how you should calculate the efficiency of an athlete. These concepts are discussed in order for the coach/athlete to have a better grasp on where they are lacking and how to program to correct the deficiency.
The section of the book solely dedicated to breaking down technique and explaining it in different contexts is relatively short, comprising ~20 pages. The remainder of the book discusses specific exercises used within this framework.
The section on primary exercises lists them and grades their impact on each aspect of the technique triad. Just to clarify, this concept is designed using a Venn diagram, reminding readers that these qualities are always somewhat impacted, but to what degree depends on the movement.
First examined is relative height of the bar. Exercises are listed, most of them having a moderate to large impact on this quality. Next is trajectory, following the same format, using some similar and dissimilar exercises. Last is ‘time to fixation’, including even more exercises with timing as the main focus. A paragraph is dedicated to each exercise, listing the indications and contraindications for each movement. For example, a muscle snatch is useful in coordinating the final extension and arm action after the contact, but can be contraindicated if an athlete already uses their upper body too much and lacks the coordination of properly pulling under.
Next is the list of secondary exercises, explained to have “supportive roles”, but only target general qualities and “do not replicate phases of the classic lifts”. This bit is pretty straightforward. It spans one page and is merely a list of movements.
Max does a nice job of listing out practical examples of program microcycles, which could be used to target each individual quality of the triad. These programs also come with an explanation of who they are for, for example people who power more than they full, or people who have poor bar trajectory and miss forward and behind consistently. The beauty of this section is that it gives the athlete/coach an idea of what fixing a technical deficiency could look like in practice, instead of merely thinking about exercises in an isolated fashion.
Wrapping up the book Max created a short section identifying common errors, their likely causes, and how to correct them. Of course, this is a bit general and each specific case may be different, but this provides a good jumping off point. The book does a nice job feeding each section into the next, ending with common problems and solutions.
In my opinion, this book is a good pick up. Max frames movements, not by tradition or complexity, but by utility and purpose. This provides a framework from which to refine and improve an athlete’s training plan or coaching model. Upon initial reading I was a bit disappointed with the price. The book costs 37.00-42.00, in ebook or paperback, which is similar to the price of Greg Everett’s weightlifting bible, but with much less content. I think the list of secondary exercises could have been more detailed, describing when one is better than another, but it provides a nice list of muscle-specific movements. It is worth knowing that when you buy this book it comes with a description of technique, movements and their impact on technique when performed properly, and with sample programs. Do not expect to learn how to perform or coach a movement or even to program these movements beyond a training week.
You can grab a copy of Weightlifting Technique Triad here!