Mentzer HD Olympic Lifting?

Is it possible to adapt the 1 set to failure HD program to Olympic lifting? Most Olympic lifting programs I that I’ve looked at tend to have a bunch of volume because of the lack of time under tension. I understand that I’m not going to become a bodybuilding with Olympic lifting but I want to improve my strength with these lifts while keeping the volume as low as possible.

Any thoughts are much appreciated.

In short - No. Olympic lifting is as technical as driving a golf ball or returning Roger Federer’s serve. It’s closer to those activities than to bodybuilding (I’m exaggerating, but not by much).

It takes practice, practice, practice,


I get that aspect but wouldn’t increasing the size and strength of the muscles involved in that lift improve performance? Sprinters lift heavy weights to increase strength and power which improves speed.

Yep - you could perform High Intensity Strength training workouts in one or two of your weekly workouts which will help you get bigger and stronger (not always the correlation people think there is) and then practise your Olympic lifting in your other workouts. It would challenging if you wanted to combine the 2 types of training in the same workout.

There is more to being successful with HIT than you’ve implied in your opening post (i.e. one set to failure). A good book to give you some idea of how to manage it is Ellington’s High Intensity Strength Training (you can get fairly easily get ex-library copies from second hand sellers).

Hope that helps.


If you are doing these specific lifts for competition, then i would not follow an HIT or HD program

i would follow a program that will maximize the skill of those lifts

i would not compare olympic lifts to other sport specific type training, i.e. football, baseball or golf where you can employ HIT or HD as a strength training program

just my worthless 2cents


I agree with all responses so far. The Oly lifts have to be given their proper due, with regards to warm-ups and progression. They will need either their own day OR in conjunction with very limited HIT moves (i.e. 1) done afterward. I’m sure there are relatively low volume Oly programs out there
Obviously, HIT moves for involved Oly muscles — quads, delts, traps, back – will have to be limited. (I’m spit balling here. It’s been eons since I did any Oly stuff.)…

One Take:
Mon - Snatch, SLDLs*
Tue - (Hams?) Calves, Lats, Rear Delt, Biceps (Forearms)
Thu - Clean&Jerk, 1 set Squat or Leg Press*
Fri - (Quads?) Chest, Front & Side Delts (avoid heavy overhead presses), Tris

2nd Take:
Mon - Push
Wed - Snatch, Clean&Jerk (alt order), NTF Leg Press (this could go on Mon too)
Fri - NTF SLDLs, then rest of Pull

Note(*): I’m torn on what to recommend for SLDLs and Squat/Leg Press. If your Oly stuff is in the higher rep phase, I’d say 2 sets of 5 NTF, with an eye on small progression (5 lbs/wk). If you’re doing a bunch of Oly singles, then I’d think one good NTF set of 15 would do.

I did a bit of Olympic lifting as a kid (Ohio Jr. Olympic’s champ) and now as a Senior (68) I am a Track and Field sprinter/Long Jumper (National champ in the Long Jump). So my experience may be helpful to you…

In the Track community, we ALL do weight training. Especially at the National level…Everyone. Probably almost the same time is spent in the gym with weights/explosiveness/skill training as spent actually at the track.

What seems to work for me is to separate these two themes by a few days. I do 1 or 2 sets (to failure HD training) per body part, whole body each session. I pound it pretty hard. Then I rest a couple of days before hitting the track for a tough sprinting/jumping session. Then rest a few more days before starting over.

As I age, the rest days seem to be even more important. I first tried training every-other-day, but that quickly became too much (overtraining!). So I eventually settled into weights one day, then 2-4 days off (just living normal life, lawn care, chores, etc.). Then the track work, followed by 2-4 more day off. That proved successful and I won the Gold medal at Nationals in my age bracket by almost a foot.

So I don’t see why doing something similar couldn’t work for Oly lifting. Just don’t forget the rest. That seems to be an underappreciated training factor…Hit it hard, then get the heck out of the gym!

Hope that helps and please report back in a few months.


This is all great information. Thank you all for keeping the conversation going!

“I get that aspect but wouldn’t increasing the size and strength of the muscles involved in that lift improve performance? Sprinters lift heavy weights to increase strength and power which improves speed.”

Speed is fast twitch muscle…genetics. A slow or mixed twitch person could lift all day and never become a decent sprinter whereas a fast twitch athlete would never have a chance in a race at the mile or further. Top sprinters, globally, are also on PEDs – have been since at least the 1960s. So when you see those jacked individuals from the US, Jamaica, etc., lining up check their doping history. Nesta Carter, Steve Mullings, Randolph Ross and on and on. Look at sprinters in the 1950s, very early 1960s and their physiques. Nothing like the sprinters who look like a football linebacker these days.

But the worst dopers per recent articles are the Russians and then the Kenyans believe it or not. Their world class 10k and marathon athletes have been caught using EPO and other banned substances. Which brings into question their marathon champ who is nearly 40 and breaking world records.

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Heavy Duty would be the WORST thing to do for Olympic training. Training to failure burns out the CNS (making one reduce freq and volume too much) and multiple sets are needed to optimize performance and skill. One set to failure every week or two on a movement guarantees “failure”. There is a reason why no competitor trains that way.


HH32 is correct!

The OL’s predominately use fast twitch fibers for high speed heavy weight lifting.

HiT recruits the fast twitch fibers moreso at failure along with the slow twitch fibers during preceding reps.

No one’s trying to compete. Read the OP. Your points are valid, but have already been addressed. Even Oly lifters do other training than their lifts.

I read it, but it’s still a bad idea. I used competitors as an example - no one serious would consider using Heavy Duty for Olympic training (or even bodybuilding for that matter).


And all fibers are recruited before failure unless using high reps.

Nwlifter can chime in perhaps.


“Any thoughts”

That is not known completely, which is why I used the word moreso

ATP- It’s known for sure, and they have analyzed many various muscles. On average, smaller muscles fully recruit around 40% of max effort, larger muscles from 60-80% of full effort. Only the quads are more recruitment based (vs rate coding based) and fully recruit at 90+% of max effort. The only reasons to train to failure is if a person wants to get good at training to failure.

With everything but a very few muscles, if a person uses their 8RM, every fiber is used even during the first rep. Rate coding compensates for fatigue during the set, not additional recruitment.

“The relative contribution of motor unit recruitment to muscle force varies between muscles. In some hand muscles for example, all motor units are recruited at around 50% of maximum. In other muscles, such as the bicep brachii, deltoid, and tiblias anterior, motor unit recuitment continues upto 85% of the maximum force (Deluca, LeFever, McCue & Xenakis, 1982a; Kukulka & Clamann, 1981; Van Cutsem et al,. 1997)”

From p290, Neuromechanics of Human Movement 3rd Edition. Roger M. Enoka
Also, more info. on this.

FDI having the lowest at 67% MVC,
the TA at 90% MVC,
and the VL at 95% MVC.
In general, firing rates of f.d.i. motor units increased steadily with increasing force (up to 80%m.v.o.)
soleus motor units are recruited progressively from rest to contraction
strengths close to 95% of MVC


no, the OP said, HD for oly lifting , not for accessory ‘with an oly program’. Oly is technical, the last thing they want to do is practice the lifts with high fatigue levels.


That’s the way I read his question as well. I took it to mean he wanted a “consolidated” Oly routine adapting 1 set to failure, not a way to mix it in his week on top of HD training.

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Thanks NWL

I like your post
It was thought provoking

Several may disagree somewhat.

I feel the complexity of muscle fatigue to failure has some untold aspects to be revealed as regards hormonal activity , myokines, and ATP utilization. Someday the complete picture of muscular exertion may be revealed.