In my opinion… We suck.
There, I said it, as a ‘North American’ (Yes, I’m not just talking about the United States, Canada too.) I see this every four years - we just can’t do it. I’m talking about medalling in Olympic Lifting at the Summer Olympics. Yes, yes, we’ve gotten a few silver/bronze here or there and the occasional gold, but, have we ever been able to ‘dominate’ like eastern-European countries and Asian countries? Of course not. Why? Well, I could blame it on the idea that we are built differently than our Asian/European counterparts. (we have longer limbs, they have short, etc…) But, I think that there is a much more obvious reason that we all seem to ignore.
WE NEED TO GET STRONG!
As an up-and-coming ‘powerlifter’ this may seem bias, but, its the truth. Our Olympic Athletes have been moving towards this whole ‘technique training system’, doing their two main lifts almost daily and essentially and ignoring the posterior chain. For example, look at the ‘successful’ Asian/Eastern-European athletes, they have massive erector muscles, lats, traps, hamstrings, calves, etc. Not just that, but, they are highly explosive, efficient athletes that are focused primarily on rapid force production, high-threshold motor unit recruitment, core stability, flexibility, mobility around all major joints, etc.
No Olympic Lift Training with PVC pipes here…
While I’m all for training for technique, we have been going about it all wrong. I’ve heard stories from athletes about how their coaches took weight off of their main lifts (sometimes up to 90-95%) for 4 or more weeks at a time, in an effort to ‘fix’ their technique to try and make them more of an efficient lifter - nice. The result? Reduced performance, decrease in strength and explosiveness.
These ‘coaches’ make all of their athletes spend their time on technique training, while they should be training for strength! Here’s what I suggest for all up-and-coming Olympic athletes - or even olympic athletes who are in ‘the game’ right now and are looking for some advice.
60% Strength Training (Squats, Deadlifts, Bench, Rows, etc.)
20% Reactive Ability Training - or “Plyos”
15% Olympic Lifts
You may be thinking, “This guy’s crazy, train olympic lifts only 15% of the time?! I’ll never get better!” Slow your boat, internet warrior. Think in the context of a football player; they train, train and train all week for that ONE game. Football is a physically and psychologically straining and demanding sport - just like olympic lifting. In Football, you are constantly being pushed to your physical limits, the same goes with your olympic lifts. The human body is just not designed to withstand the heavy and explosive pounding that comes with O-Lifts. You have to distribute training stress evenly or you won’t see any gains - more likely, you’ll end up hurt and on the re-hab table for months, maybe even years (That’d be worse than ‘training for technique’).
I’m a HUGE advocate for strength training and reactive training for olympic lifters (and especially powerlifters). The ability to lift a large amount of weight very quickly is the name of the game! I’m not talking about going and doing 3 sets of 10 reps in the power rack, curling the bar - and the bar only. (Seriously, don’t get me started…) I’m talking about going in there and lifting heavy things with compound lifts! If you have a good base of strength already (which most of you probably don’t) than you should be lifting heavy triples, singles and doubts with the multiple variations of the Squat, Deadlift and Bench (much, much more emphasis on the Squat and Deadlift). Think Westside; Mex Effort and Dynamic Effort Days. Mix in some Speed work on DE days, reactive training and lots of dynamic and static flexibility - don’t forget to foam roll! Once a week you’ll work your O-Lifts into one of your ME training days (you could even set aside one day per week specifically for O-lifts) or, my personal favorite, work one of your Dynamic effort training sessions in the AM and have a O-Lift session in the PM. Just remember, stress economy is important!
Yes, I’m sure by now your asking yourself “Why the hell should we listen to this guy?”
Well, I’m here to say this - you don’t have to. You can choose to skim through this article and completely ignore it, some of you will choose to ‘troll’ it, (I’m prepared to back up anything I’ve said) but, I hope that some of you will take what I’ve said into consideration and choose to follow my advice.