Understanding the why and how behind Olympic Lifting and decoding variations that get the job done.
Olympic lifting has always been a hot topic amongst strength coaches and is wildly used within High School weight rooms. When done properly there are very few things that produce the levels of force and have the amount of transfer to the field as Olympic lifts do.
Key Phrase: WHEN DONE PROPERLY
Here’s the challenge…
In order for Olympic lifts to be effective they have to be performed with such a high level of precision that the majority of athletes do not actually achieve the desired training effect.
The entire purpose behind Olympic lifting for athletes is two-fold:
1: The athlete has to hit triple extension. This is a point where the ankle, knee, and hip are all extended at the same time.
2: The athlete must have forceful hip extension. This forceful hip extension is what builds ‘rate of force development’ and power in the hips.
If an athlete does not hit both of these categories there is no reason to have them perform Olympic lifts.
I believe that the majority of High School aged athletes do not perform Olympic lifting variations with the technique needed for their training to be as effective as possible. Athletes do not understand how to use their hips and they lack the foundational strength needed to express power through complex movements such as the Power Clean or the Snatch.
So, what do I recommend to the programs I work with to fix this issue?
Step 1: Stop programming such a high volume of Olympic lifts and focus on teaching progressions solely for the Power Clean. This begins with dissecting the movement into the Clean Grip Pull, the Hang High Pull, and the Jump Shrug. Once the athletes have reached technical proficiency with these movements we use a top down approach and build towards the Power Clean by using the following progression – Hang Clean (Above the Knee), Hang Clean (Below the Knee), 2 Position Hang Clean (Above the Knee, Below the Knee), and finally the full Power Clean.
Step 2: Replace all other Olympic lifts with jumping or Med Ball throw variations. Jumps and throws in most cases will have a greater amount of force and velocity production than most Olympic lifts and these are much easier for a young athlete to execute with great hip extension. My favorite movements for this are – Barbell Squat Jumps, Dumbbell Rocket Jumps, Box Jumps and Broad Jumps, Med Ball Overhead Throws, and Med Ball Loaded Broad Jumps with Chest Pass.
It is important to remember that Olympic lifting is a sport of its own for a reason. These lifts are very challenging and have such a high technical demand that most of the time even seasoned lifters are doing something wrong. With this in mind, while your athletes may want to Olympic lift it may not be the most effective way for them to improve athletically.
Our job as Strength and Conditioning coaches is to provide our athletes with the tools they need to be successful on the field and if what we do in the weight room does not transfer then we have to reevaluate the way we prepare our athletes.