T Nation

OL and PL training

Hi CT,

I’m interested in competing in both weightlifting and powerlifting. I have about 8 months of experience with powerlifting and I’ve just started practicing the Olympic lifts. Is it feasible to train for both powerlifting and Olympic lifting simultaneously?

If it helps, here’s a little more information about my training:
Right now I’m running 5/3/1 for squat and deadlift and Smolov jr. for bench. I lift 4 days a week but time is not a limiter for me (I could lift every day); I also do judo 3x a week and run sprints twice a week. A typical week looks like this:
Squat 5/3/1
Oly style back squat
Front squat
Pull ups

Judo practice in the afternoon


Pull ups
Rear delt exercise (inverted rows, RDF, etc.)

Judo practice

Deadlift 5/3/1
Pull ups
Hip thrusts


Pull ups
Rear delt exercise

Judo practice

My experience has been that PL and WL are not very compatible. The issue is the pectoral stretch required to achieve the overhead lifts is in direct conflict with the shortening that occurs with heavy benching. In other words, if you have a mean bench, you are likely going to struggle with your catch position in the snatch. Judo + PL + WL is probably not sustainable, if you get past a basic level at any one of those.

In general, I’d offer the cliche that a jack of all trades is master of none.

Well… you can do both… but you cannot achieve a high level in both (unless you are a freak… well even a freak like Shane Hamman couldn’t bo great in both at the same time). I had a female lifter do both, but when she decided to get serious about olympic lifting she stopped powerlifting.

Here are points to consider… both pros and cons:

  1. Olympic lifting does require a lot of back and leg strength, both of which are also necessary for powerlifting. So in a sense, getting stronger for OL will help your powerlifts.

  2. The squatting and deadlift mechanics in powerlifting and olympic lifting are different. This is especially problematic with the deadlift. In a powerlifting deadlift, in which the goal is to lift as much weight as possible, a higher hip settingémore forward lean is used as well a rounding of the upper (not lower) back. In olympic lifting, the ‘deadlift’ part of the lifts are done so that you will be in an optimal position at the launch point. That is impossible to do with a powerlifting deadlift-like start. So on one hand if you do not train the deadlift with powerlifting form you will never be able to get the most out of that lift BUT if you spend time learning the powerlifting-style deadlift it will likely screw up the motor patterns of your cleans and snatches.

3.Olympic lifting requires a very high level of shoulder mobility. I have rarely seen a big bench presser with optimal shoulder mobility to be efficient in the snatch catch and the jerk. Working the bench will lead to pectoral tightness and decreases shoulder range of motiom which will hurt your olympic lifts.

  1. Very few good olympic lifters do the olympic lifts (or their variations) less than 3 times per week… and that is VERY low. Most do them 4-6 days a week. Not necessarily super heavy, but with enough load and volume to create a training effect and workd on technique. It is hard to fit 4, 5 or 6 days of olympic lifting while also doing the powerlifts. Well, it is possible, but if you do the powerlifts at the end your performance will suffer a lot and if you do the powerlifts before the olympic lifts, the later will suffer.

  2. Reaching a high level of performance requires spending a lot of time working on one exercises and spending even more time correcting weaknesses. If you have 5 lifts to maximize the job is much much more demanding than if you have 2 or 3.

  3. There is no direct relationship between slow-speed strength and the capacity to display strrength in explosive actions. I’ve seen several humongously strong men not be able to do well on the faster olympic lifts… I’ve even seen one guy who could deadlift over 900lbs struggle with 205lbs on the power snatch… and I’ve seen at least 8 guys who could deadlift in the 700s and who couldn’t clean more than 275. YES you need leg strength to stand up from your cleans. YES you need the strength to be able to hold the proper lifting positions in your pulls. BUT being strong will not make you a more explosive puller or a faster lifter under the bar, both of which are needed for top performance.

My recommendation is: you an do both if you want and are simply doing this to have some fun and direction with your training. But if you want to reach a higher level of performance you will have to make a choice, and the longer you wait to make that choice the harder it will be to reach elite performance.

Thanks! That all makes a lot of sense. I will stick with the powerlifting for now.

CT, dont you think that maybe powerlifters should look at oly lifts variations just as useful tools to develop power? I mean olympic lifts are widely used as assistance excercises by many practicing other sports. Although if I recall correctly not even Louis Simmons supports much this approach.

I am considering doing so OL for my training for football… CT’s thoughts only solidified my opinion that it will help me much more…