T Nation

Olympic Lifting

I’ve been interning with a strength coach here at school (Cal Poly), and some of the stuff we’ve gone over has raised questions. I asked the coach why exactly he does olympic lifting with athletes, and he gave me a couple of reasons.

One, the olympic lifts teach the body to move explosively. Two, it teaches the athlete to be able to sustain a load while in a low and awkward position. Three, it also develops body awareness and coordination. I question some of these reasons.

Moving explosively:

How much power is produced in a non-elite OLY lifter? If power output is not optimal, then what is the point?

Is the same (or greater) amount of power produced in a similar movement to the Clean or Snatch, such as tireflipping, speed pulls, DE Squats, etc? These lifts appear to be easier to learn, and time would be better served in improving strength/explosiveness rather than the ability to do the olympic lifts if power output is similar.

Catching the Load:

How important is it to be able to handle a load in a low position (this is esp. regarding football players). I can’t think of how this would carry over to sport. If this is something that is important, is it a skill better learned on the field than in the weight room?

Body Awareness/Coordination:

Once again, is this something that is better learned on the field? If not, how is OLY lifting superior to squats/deadlifts for example, in learning bodily control and coordination?

If you guys could give me some ideas/answers, I’d be much obliged.

i have no answers for you but ask you to also consider that olympic lifts teach the lifter to not only create force but absorb it (the catch). sports aren’t just about generating force but also about absorbing impact (managing impulse in mechanical terms).

Check out either Supertraining or Science and Practice of Strength Training for data on power output of olympic lifts, variations, squats, etc. In the Olympic lifts, the higher percent of 1rm you use the greater the power output as well, whereas with deadlifts, bench, squats, etc. You have to use less than 70% to produce max power output.

I believe that shot putters are the most “powerful” athletes in terms of actual power production in a given movement, so I guess throws are good for power production too.

As for catching the load in a low, awkward position, I’d say it’s as valuable as a Turkish Getup for athletes: good to do sometimes, but not really specific. However, if doing the squat versions allows the athletes to use more weight then they are producing more power in the explosion phase during the lift, which provides a benefit in and of itself; it’s just not necessarily the intended benefit.

[quote]georgeb wrote:
I’ve been interning with a strength coach here at school (Cal Poly), and some of the stuff we’ve gone over has raised questions. I asked the coach why exactly he does olympic lifting with athletes, and he gave me a couple of reasons. [/quote]

It’s good that you’re asking questions. However, the questions you’re asking go to “first principles.” What you’re asking is almost this: Why do athletes lift weights at all? Or: Why is protein good for athletes?

There are, of course, a lot of good reasons. But that you’re even asking this question indicates that you are lacking a lot of basic knowledge.

What does your training library look like? What is the last book you read on strength and conditioning? How many books on S&C have you read this year? How many did you read last year?

you can’t prove any of this of course but there’s significant benefits to be gained in the focus, heart and commitment departments. you know when you’re competing and you’re back is to the wall and you’ve got to dig deep, not only for yourself but to bring up those around you who are looking to quit or have already. complete oly lifts are a great way to experience the focus needed for do or die situations. it’s no joke when you’re 100% committed to dropping under a maximal load or putting it up over your head.

Your S&C coach that you work for is pretty much a moron. There are benefits to Olylift, but they’re not the reasons that he’s giving you.

The first thing that needs to be addressed is that the Olylifts aren’t for everyone, especially the lower level athletes. They also tend to be lever specific, but there still are benefits to training this way even if your athlete doesn’t have the ideal body type. With that said, your rational of more of a “get stronger,” Powerlifting appraoch is a good one.

There are some undeniable benefits from training with the Olylifts though.

They do require the highest power output of the traditional lifts, so that’s always reason enough to train them in a collegiate environment because of time restraints and whatnot.

The lifts are actual “movements” so it forces the body to coordinate much more than it would if the feet are fixed for any given lift. Training movements tend to make an athlete more athletic, but it still dependant on whether or not the athlete is an “athlete” to start out.

Olylifting tends to promote propper flexibility an athlete needs to have to be able to play that sport. If you want to run fast and not worry as much about getting hurt, you need to be flexible, just as you need to be flexible to Olylift. This is often the most overlooked quality when deciding if a team is qualified to do the lifts. Most S&C coaches believe it’s a right to train the Olylifts, and that’s why the profession is as bad as it is.

I can go on and on because they are more reasons, but I really don’t want to be too long-winded about this topic. It’s clear your coach knows enough to be dangerous. Your approach seems to be a better way to go about it, especially with less qualified athletes, which in that scenario, getting in shape and training Conjugate makes more sense.

By the way, if you’re interested in learning more about the Olylifts, being in SLO, you should contact the Head Coach at St. Mary’s…he has coached a few lifters to Nationals and runs a pretty solid program over there.

then don’t do them!!!

you can’t argue with results, olympic weightlifters are among the best all-round athletes in the world.

I’m tired of people knocking the oly lifts b/c they’re too hard to perform. If you can’t learn to clean with proper coaching then give up sports period!

A few general points:

I’ve heard it said that, in most sporting events, equally important to how much power you can apply in any given movement is also how quickly your body can relax to full flexibility for speed of movement to re-apply that power. For example, in sprinting, your leg has to go from maximum power output in the drive phase of your stride, to complete speed and flexibility to cycle the leg through for the next stride.

Olympics train this kind of recoil. You go from having to apply as much power as possible in the upward explosion, to having to move your body as fast as possible to get under the bar for the catch.

Another point is about the flexibility. An Olympic catch at the bottom trains the kind of hip flexibility and back strength that carries over greatly to any sport.

[quote]Dominator wrote:
Your S&C coach that you work for is pretty much a moron. There are benefits to Olylift, but they’re not the reasons that he’s giving you.[/quote]

So, according to you, olympic lifts DO NOT:

  • teach the body to move explosively;
  • teach the athlete to to sustain a load while in a low and awkward position; and
  • help develop body awareness and coordination.

Are you serious?

[quote]CaliforniaLaw wrote:

It’s good that you’re asking questions. However, the questions you’re asking go to “first principles.” What you’re asking is almost this: Why do athletes lift weights at all? Or: Why is protein good for athletes?

There are, of course, a lot of good reasons. But that you’re even asking this question indicates that you are lacking a lot of basic knowledge.

What does your training library look like? What is the last book you read on strength and conditioning? How many books on S&C have you read this year? How many did you read last year?[/quote]

Dude, you can help me out without insulting me. I appreciate your input, but there’s no need to tell me how much you think I know or don’t know.

The reason I’m asking about this is because I want to determine if time could be better spent than training the olympic lifts. The C&J and Snatch are very time-consuming to learn and become proficient at. This extra time is considered well spent because of the numerous benefits OLY lifts are said to give athletes. I’m trying to determine if those said benefits of OLY lifting are really worth the extra time spent, especially because athletes are limited by the NCAA as to how many hours they are allowed in the weight room.

[quote]LittleBigMuscles wrote:
then don’t do them!!!

you can’t argue with results, olympic weightlifters are among the best all-round athletes in the world.

I’m tired of people knocking the oly lifts b/c they’re too hard to perform. If you can’t learn to clean with proper coaching then give up sports period![/quote]

Agreed. Hows training going?

[quote]CaliforniaLaw wrote:
Dominator wrote:
Your S&C coach that you work for is pretty much a moron. There are benefits to Olylift, but they’re not the reasons that he’s giving you.

So, according to you, olympic lifts DO NOT:

  • teach the body to move explosively;
  • teach the athlete to to sustain a load while in a low and awkward position; and
  • help develop body awareness and coordination.

Are you serious?[/quote]

WORD UP.
I wonder what Dan John would say to this thread!?!?

[quote]CaliforniaLaw wrote:
Dominator wrote:
Your S&C coach that you work for is pretty much a moron. There are benefits to Olylift, but they’re not the reasons that he’s giving you.

So, according to you, olympic lifts DO NOT:

  • teach the body to move explosively;
  • teach the athlete to to sustain a load while in a low and awkward position; and
  • help develop body awareness and coordination.

Are you serious?[/quote]

The Olylifts will accomplish those points, but those aren’t reasons to have an entire athletic department perform the exercises. If you read into my post you’d understand, but I’ll explain it again.

The lifts aren’t for everyone for the reasons I stated. You can train those attributes doing plyometrics, agility training, and squatting, all which take less time and less time coaching. This is especially true with less athletic individuals.

Second, the Olylifts do not train you to be fast if you are not fast to begin with. This is a big misconception. I’ve seen plenty of “slow” athletes train the Olylifts and still stay slow (much of which is genetic). If you can’t contract fast, you can’t contract fast…it’s not a learned response, although it can improve, but not only doing the Olylifts. You can however get stronger and then displace your body further or faster. You can also train foot speed to be more responsive by simply doing simple drills without ever involving the Olylift. Again, I’m not saying the Olylifts will not yields this response, but they are more likely to show results with higher qualified athletes.

Bottom line is that training the Olylifts is a poor economization of time if you don’t have athletes that are fairly athletic from the start. They are great for teams that demonstrate high athletic ability, and I’d prefer to train those sports almost exclusively with those lifts, but if the team has low athletic ability, the amount of time that it takes to teach the lifts will never pay any athletic dividends. This is key when you are dealing with teams that can only train 4-8 hours a week both with lifting and running.

[quote]Dominator wrote:
Bottom line is that training the Olylifts is a poor economization of time if you don’t have athletes that are fairly athletic from the start. They are great for teams that demonstrate high athletic ability, and I’d prefer to train those sports almost exclusively with those lifts, but if the team has low athletic ability, the amount of time that it takes to teach the lifts will never pay any athletic dividends. This is key when you are dealing with teams that can only train 4-8 hours a week both with lifting and running.[/quote]

I could not agree more.

This is a valid concern regarding Olylifts and Collegiate training. The amount of hours teaching reps it takes to learn the lifts correctly will put quite a demand on your limitted time with each team.

Most coaches do not know how to teach themselves out of a wet paper bag when it comes to the Olylifts. Attending the USAW Club Coach Course isn’t enough. You pretty much have to have been associated with a lifting club or team to get the appropriate instruction, and there aren’t many of those guys around. The lifts are highly technical and require thousands of reps to master each phase of the lifts. Then once you have a good handle on them, it takes many hours watching film of the Elite level lifters so that you can hone your biomechanical analysis of the lifts so that you know what you’re coaching.

Regardless of whether anybody convinces you that learning the Olympic lifts is a good thing, you should consider that this is your once in a lifetime opportunity to get coached in these while you are still at a good age for learning them.

Even if you decide these lifts are not the right thing to do, you may change your mind in ten or twenty years, and then it will probably be too late.

Isn’t everything in college like that? After all, why do you need Calculus, Biology, Ancient Greek History, Russian History, Theory of Encounter Groups (a course I actually took), etc…

[quote]Dominator wrote:
CaliforniaLaw wrote:
Dominator wrote:
Your S&C coach that you work for is pretty much a moron. There are benefits to Olylift, but they’re not the reasons that he’s giving you.

So, according to you, olympic lifts DO NOT:

  • teach the body to move explosively;
  • teach the athlete to to sustain a load while in a low and awkward position; and
  • help develop body awareness and coordination.

Are you serious?

The Olylifts will accomplish those points, but those aren’t reasons to have an entire athletic department perform the exercises. If you read into my post you’d understand, but I’ll explain it again.

The lifts aren’t for everyone for the reasons I stated. You can train those attributes doing plyometrics, agility training, and squatting, all which take less time and less time coaching. This is especially true with less athletic individuals.

Second, the Olylifts do not train you to be fast if you are not fast to begin with. This is a big misconception. I’ve seen plenty of “slow” athletes train the Olylifts and still stay slow (much of which is genetic). If you can’t contract fast, you can’t contract fast…it’s not a learned response, although it can improve, but not only doing the Olylifts. You can however get stronger and then displace your body further or faster. You can also train foot speed to be more responsive by simply doing simple drills without ever involving the Olylift. Again, I’m not saying the Olylifts will not yields this response, but they are more likely to show results with higher qualified athletes.

Bottom line is that training the Olylifts is a poor economization of time if you don’t have athletes that are fairly athletic from the start. They are great for teams that demonstrate high athletic ability, and I’d prefer to train those sports almost exclusively with those lifts, but if the team has low athletic ability, the amount of time that it takes to teach the lifts will never pay any athletic dividends. This is key when you are dealing with teams that can only train 4-8 hours a week both with lifting and running.

[/quote]

Dominator, GeorgeB,

  1. Learning the Classic Lifts does not take hours and hours. It takes hours and hours to perfect your technique. But why would you want to spend hours and hours optimizing your technique unless you want to compete in Weightlifting? Is someone forcing you to spend hours and hours on it?

  2. You can derive similar benefits in terms of power output, receiving a load, etc, by performing the variations of the classic lifts. Many of the Strength Coaches on this site incorporate the Power variations for their athletes. So there is no need to learn the classic lifts to gain the benefits anyways. Plus the variations do not take very long to learn.

  3. Dominator, let’s be clear, this is a quote from you:

“Your S&C coach that you work for is pretty much a moron. There are benefits to Olylift, but they’re not the reasons that he’s giving you.”

How did you expect us to interpret that? You clearly stated that the benefits GeorgeB’s coach outlined are not benefits to Olympic lifting. Then you went on to say:

“The Olylifts will accomplish those points, but those aren’t reasons to have an entire athletic department perform the exercises. If you read into my post you’d understand, but I’ll explain it again.”

Perhaps you need to explain it again. When did GeorgeB say that his athletic department is forcing all athletes to become proficient in the Classic Lifts?

neilbudge-

There’s only one way to learn how to train the Olympic lifts, and that’s the right way. It’s a progression from explosion phase, above knee, knee, below knee (all in power fashion), from the floor catching high (Power), and finally in the hole (Classic).

That’s the progression of learning. It takes a long time to learn correctly so that you ensure safety, and that is a fact. Sure, you can throw an athlete into the fire and risk injury by not teaching correct form if that’s what you’re after.

Also, the second point that the coach states is “sustain a load in a low and awkward position,” and maybe I read too much into that, but that to me seems like catching in the hole which would classify as “Classic.”

You can have some benefits by performing the variations of the classics lifts, ie Power, from the Hang, etc, but again, it needs to follow a progression if you are to learn correctly, and that takes time.

Also, to relate this back to the original statement, catching in “low and awkward positions” to me, if I read correctly, isn’t catching in the Power position (although it could be depending on one’s definition of low).

To clarify my stance once more, I’m all for the Olympic lifts, but there are way too many coaches out there, both High School and College that think they are required to include the Olylifts and their variations into every lifting program for their teams.

I’m all for having high level athletes train with them, but the original question was whether it was worth the time doing them at Cal Poly (I’m guessing SLO), and I answered the question accordingly. Let’s not confuse things here, SLO isn’t a Pac-10, SEC, or ACC type program. They get decent athletes, but it’s certainly not the hot-bed for athleticism.

So, for the last time, the Olympic lifts are great as long as you’re fairly athletic, but if you’re not, they’re a poor economization of time and there are better approaches out there to train a team for those desired attributes as I stated.

During Olympic lifts and pulls a phenomenom occurs known as the double knee bend, during this period the athlete applies no concentric vertical force to the bar (it contiues to rise under momentum applied in the first part of the pull).

When double knee bend is completed vertical force is reapplied to to the bar again very quickly - through the second pull. This means athletes apply maximum force again very, very quickly,in a sport specific position (jumping, tackling, sprint start etc) and in the time frames that again are specific to sports movements (0.15secs or so). This gives the Olympic lifts an advantage over any other type of lifting.

Apart from this - all lifts can be explosive - Olympic lifts have to be!
Power output is very high - higher than any box squat or fast deadlift. This is not to say Olympic lifts are the be all of a program but are an esential part for able athletes.

The negativity from people who do not want to teach lifts is either due to the fact that they can’t teach them, or teach them without double knee bend - so never see the real advantage.

As for teaching - in my experience should be taught early into program - younger the better (loading is another matter) - young trainers have no ego and desire to utilise upper body musculature at the detriment of form and technique.

I have attempted to attach a force profile showing unloading of force and reapplication in vertical plane - hope it helps explain. Any one wanting more info check out some of Mike Stones research