Why You Don't Need the Olympic Lifts

To preface this post, please do not think “he only doesn’t like the Olympic lifts because he’s never done them!” Quite the opposite my friends *adjusts bowtie*. I attended college in Marquette, MI, home of one the four Olympic training centers in the nation, where I spent my college football career training under the tutelage of the US Olympic Weightlifting coach who also took on the task of being the football team’s strength and conditioning coach.

 After years in the Olympic lifting trenches using what is safe to consider elite Olympic training protocols, I became proficient at these movements and they helped my find success on the football field. But it wasn’t long after that I came to the realization that any performance transfer I had achieved was due to the strength gains from handling heavy loads; these movements had no advantage over any other well-designed training program.

“But Coach K, Olympic lifts will make me explosive!!!”

Well young grasshopper, so will any movement that produces maximal force in minimal time. The difference being that the momentum and technical aspects of cleans, snatches, and jerks make them sub-optimal choices for building explosive strength. We train optimally.

Enter Dynamic Effort training. Explosive strength is developed by using moderate resistance with maximum speed. Here at Pulse two types of training methods are used to develop explosive power:

Method #1: We employ a plyometric program involving depth jumps, box jumps, bounding drills, etc. We may go as far as to include Olympic-type actions as a jumping variation, such as kneeling down with the bar held across you lap and jump into a power clean or power snatch…but that’s about it.

Method #2: We use compound barbell movements (squats, presses) with special attachments, such as bands, chains, or a combination of the two.

We do not prescribe Olympic movements in the second method because they do not have eccentric phases (lowering of the weights) which utilizes kinetic energy and adds to the stretch reflex.  Most lifters can hang clean more than they power clean for the same reason. But, the weight they squat can easily exceed clean weights making it much more beneficial when done with the same speed – moving 300lbs at the same speed as moving 100lbs will yield a greater result.

 I have a great deal of respect for Olympic lifting movements, so much so that I consider it a separate sport in itself, which is why it doesn’t make sense for me to teach an athlete one sport to get better at another sport. After assessing an athlete’s power clean form I can conclude that their technique flaws are due to lack of hamstring, hip, and low back strength. At this point do we program in high volume power cleans to refine form? NO! We economize their training to include things like sumo deadlifts, reverse hyperextensions and glute-ham raises to strengthen those weak hamstrings, hips, and low back. We have goals to reach people, we need the most bang for our buck!

When an athlete comes to Pulse looking to enhance performance, they trust us to put them on the most efficient and direct route possible to achieving their goals, and for us Olympic lifts are not on that route. If you are emotionally attached or you just like doing Olympic lifts, then keep on keepin’ on, but you certainly don’t have to do them.