T Nation

Olympic Program Critique / Audit



I've been working on writing a program with many of your principles, albeit without the M-T-Th-S schedule, since I work and have night classes throughout the week, except for Wednesdays.

So here's what I've come up with:

Wednesday - Light technique work
Snatch - EMOM x 10-12, 80%
Clean & Jerk - EMOM x 10-12, 80%
Carries - 6 rounds, 60s with 60s rest

Saturday - Heavy work
Snatch - 3/2/1RM*, 2 sets of 5-6 at 90%
Clean & Jerk - 3/2/1RM, 2 sets of 5-6 at 90%
Front Squat - 531 progression
Carries - 6 rounds, 60s with 60s rest

*I know you posted to someone else recently that working up to a RM could be just as taxing as going to a true max, so what this really means is like, a solid but conservative set to build off of.

Sunday - Hypertrophy, weak point training
Power Snatch / 3 position snatch / Snatch Complexes / SGHP / SGDL x 3 sets of 6-8
Power Clean / 3 position clean / Clean Complexes / Clean Pull / DL x 3 sets of 6-8
Strict Press - 50 total reps, 65-75%
Back Squat - 3x10, 50-70%
Curls (+?)

Abs/GHRs every session

So it's sort of like, some of the Bulgarian idea or 915 - practicing the lifts every session, and going through blocks for a few weeks of movements that will help with weak points (Sunday workout.) Your thoughts on EMOM and carries are considered here, as well as hopefully the spirit of your "2 days CNS, 2 days muscle building" philosophy.

Is there anything you would add / remove / change? Sunday for example, I threw curls in, I'm unsure if I need anything else, could I do carries again? I plan on using this as my base program for the rest of the year, perhaps with tweaks as needed, deload weeks as needed, etc. Goal is to just keep training. I don't have any meets planned for now, so I just want to keep solid and modestly trucking away at the O lifts while getting in better shape.

Diet - I'm taking the "Ideas for getting as lean as possible" thread as gospel - baking soda 2x/day, greens at every meal, solid food in lieu of shakes, etc. Workouts will have 2 servings of "Plazma" (cannot have dairy, have concocted similar ratio of HBCD + protein + citrulline, I know you recommend against this, not seeking approval just being forthcoming)

Lifestyle - Like I said, I'm in school and working, though I maintain physical activity daily by commuting only by bicycle, and taking advantage of living right next to river trails, so I can get some good walks in on non-lifting evenings.

Any comments appreciated. Thanks for your time and wisdom!


80% is not light technique work. In olympic lifting training anything at 80% or above is considered high intensity. Depending on how many reps per set you are doing on the snatch and clean & jerk it will become close to a max effort by minute 6-8.

Carries should be done for much shorter lengths. This seems to be a program designed to make you stronger, do not try to kill two birds with one stone and make it into a fat loss program too. 6 sets of 60 seconds is too much work, especially when you have two olympic lifts in there.

I would recommend sticking to sets of 30-50 meters, and doing 3-4 sets.


WAAAAAAAAYYYYYY too much high intensity work. I never recommend two big exercises like the olympic lifts done using 3/2/1 waves in the same workout.

That alone would be too much work.

But on top of that you have sets with 90% ... and doing 5-6 reps in a set, which is impossible (90% you can normally get 3 reps).... unless you are doing 2 cluster sets of 5-6 reps per eercises which would be way too much total lifts above 87.5.

Plus the 5/3/1 which has one all out, to failure set.

This is a REALLY BAD training day. It will KILL your nervous system And THEN you have the excessive volume of carries. Bad idea.


I have no idea what you mean by "Power Snatch / 3 position snatch / Snatch Complexes / SGHP / SGDL x 3 sets of 6-8" ... are you doing a mechanical drop set? Are you doing 4 different in the workout? Are you choosing ONE exercise in the list per workout (which is the only option that is not completely stupid)? And regardless of the answer 6-8 reps is too high on the actual olympic lifts (like the 3 positions option).


I would change pretty much everything. Your nervous system will crash within 3 weeks.

This might be somewhat acceptable for a 3 weeks blitz phase after which you would have 3 weeks of less stressful training, but not as your base program.

The first day is not too bad, except that 80% on the olympic lifts is NOT light work, especially not in EMOM format and the bad use of carries.

Just like everybody designing their own program you do too much demanding work. It's normal to do so because progressing is an emotional thing and we want to progress so much that we put in way more work than we should. We also tend to overestimate our capacity to tolerate high stress volume.

All an all I don't like it. I'm nit sure what I hate the most... the excessive amount of high intensity work on day 2 or the totally erroneous use of carries for your goal and program type.


Yeah it's not really smart, especially since that really will not save you significant money over simply buying PLAZMA and the results will be inferior as the electrolyte balance in the product plays a HUGE role in its effect, not just the protein and carbs.


Which is why it's all the more important to be more careful with the amount of high intensity work.


It's not even remotely close to how I design olympic lifting programs... so seeing that you based this on my principles makes me cringe.

When I design olympic lifting programs the ONLY time we train both competitive lifts on the same day is during the peaking phase prior to a competition. The rest of the year we normally focus on one of the two competitive lifts per workout SOMETIMES doing both on Sunday, but maybe 1 phase out of 3.

And we only go heavy (at or above 90%) 2 phases out of 4. The first two phases we do not go above 85%. And when we go to 90% or more, the workload is drastically decreased.


Curls are the least of your problems


Woof ok wow. Thanks for the wake-up call. Don't cringe, it's obvious I'm out of my league in trying to design my own program, and misunderstanding what I perceive to be your principles.

I would like to clarify a few things - the 3/2/1 thing would be like, one total by week - with the 90% as a cluster, and the same with the Sunday, like you said "choosing one of those would be the only not stupid option." Also for 531 I would only do prescribed reps, to slowly build strength in the front squat. Even with all that, though, it seems that I have got the training equivalent of "eyes are bigger than your stomach." I'll return to the drawing board.

Thanks for the insight, knowledge and realness. I'll try to absorb your writings better!


Ok, not as bad as I originally thought (I thought you were doing 3/2/1 waves) but still not optimal for an olympic lifter.

You can't look at what I do for strength development on the basic lifts and extrapolate what I do for olympic lifters... the snatch and clean & jerk are athletic events, they can't be trained the same way as strength lifts.

Olympic lifting is all about precision and efficiency. This has to be built mostly with work in the 70-85% range. I like sets of 3 reps with 75-80% as the foundation of an olympic lifting program... ONLY GOING TO 90% WHEN TECHNIQUE IS NOT ONLY SOLID BUT REPETITIVE, AUTOMATIC AND STABLE. And going above 90% should be even more infrequent.

I prefer to use more assistance work to build the muscles and strength required in the main lifts. That's why I do not like your plan as your "base"... it will just not build enough of a foundation to improve performance on.

In fact you cannot develop your body as required, maximize technical efficiency and peak lifting strength in one program, which is why you can't have a "base" program in olympic lifting like you do with regular strength work.

I recommend a series of 3 different blocks lasting 3-6 weeks each.

Block 1: Accumulation block where the goal is "specific bodybuilding"... to gain muscle mass in the right places and increase strength in the proper patterns. You would have a ratio of about 3 assistance lifts for 1 olympic lifts. The assistance work is specific to the olympic lifts, not |bodybuilding work"... stuff like pulls (high, low, from blocks, from hang, from floor, etc.), squats (front, back, overhead) and various presses (snatch grip, military, snatch push press, push press, etc.)... that's why I like in this phase to train only one lift per day (snatch focus day, jerk focus day, clean focus day)... each day being structured like:

For snatch/clean
- One pull
- One press (specific to the lift)
- One variation of the olympic lift
- One squat or deadlift (specific to the lift)

For jerk
- One strict press
- One push press
- One jerk corrective exercise
- Jerk

In that order...

Since volume is higher (sets of 3-5 and even 6-8 on the assistance work, 2-3 on the olympic lift, or complexes), the load is kept lighter... I also put the actual olympic lift later in the workout to get the same feeling as a max weight without having to use max weights.

Block 2 - intensification... here the goal is technical efficiency. There is about a 1 to 1 ratio of assistance versus olympic lift and you perform a variation of the two competitive lifts at every workout (and clean & jerk is now trained as one lift).

The sessions should look like this:

  • One snatch variation (full, power, from hang, from blocks, from floor)
  • One clean & jerk variation
  • One pull
  • One squat or deadlift

Intensity is a bit higher and reps lower (2-4 on assistance (80-90%), 1-2 on the olympic lifts (80-85% with a very occasional 90-92% lift))

Block 3 - Realisation. Here the focus is to perform on the actual olympic lifts... you have a minimalist approach of snatch, clean & jerk and front squat at every session (no variation, just these 3 lifts) and trained heavier...

One workout where you go to about 90%
One workout where you stay in the 75-80% range
One workout where you work up to a training max
One (optimal) workout where you stay in the 70-80% range

This phase should only last 2 or 3 weeks.

For non-competitors I like the block 1 to be the longest... 6 weeks, block 2 is 4 weeks and block 3 is 2 weeks.

For competitors or more advanced lifters we go 4 weeks/3 weeks/3 weeks


Thank you so much for the detailed information, especially as it comes to approaching these lifts as opposed to the power lifts. I've seen the accumulation / intensification / realization theme in other things you've written before (The "old" Layers, as well as a Developmental Olympic program you shared with us) so I'll definitely take that into account and build my training around the tips you've given.

Question 1 - Ideal number of sets for each type of exercise - pull/squat/full lift
Question 2 - In choosing the assistance lifts, would it make sense to do each one with increasing intensity by week? For example in Block 1, 3 weeks of high pulls going from blocks, then hang, then floor, then 3 weeks of low pulls in the same manner? Like micro-phases within? Same with Olympic variants like - muscle snatch, power snatch, full snatch?

Thank you


Accumulation: 20-25 total work reps per "strength" exercise (so for example if you use sets of 5 reps, 4-5 sets... better go with 4), 15-20 total work reps for olympic exercises.

Intensification: 15-20 total work reps per strength exercise, 10-14 total work reps per olympic lift

Realization: 10-14 total work reps for front squats, 8-10 snatches, 6-8 clean & jerks


Yes on the position progression. For the high vs. low pulls I would do high pulls for snatch, and low pulls for cleans, no need to change


I like to use the muscle snatch a lot, especially in the accumulation phase BUT you need to practice the full lifts. During the accumulation phase I like complexes... something like:

Week 1. Muscle snatch x 1 / Power snatch x 2 / Overhead squat x 2
Week 2. Muscle snatch x 1 / Power snatch x 1 / Overhead squat x 1 / Full snatch x 1
Week 3. Muscle snatch x 1 / Power snatch x 1 / Full snatch x 2
Week 4. Power snatch x 2 / Full snatch x 1
Week 5. Power snatch x 1 / Full snatch x 2
Week 6. Full snatch x 3

*This is for one set... do 3-5 sets depending on volume


That looks great, thanks!

Do you ever use muscle clean? I really like it in my clean warmups, but never see a lot of writing about it anywhere.


I use them as a warm-up tool or as a problem correction tool for athletes who learned the olympic lifts the wrong way (jumping with the bar and not controlling the bar path... letting the bar move away from them in the clean, almost doing an explosive reverse curl).


Hey CT

I did my first weightlifting competition this past weekend.

I had hit some PR’s in training during the Realization phase, but was red-lighted for pressing out at the meet. So now I know what needs work!

Just wanted to update and say thanks for the tips and advice given here.


Speaking of epic olympic weightlifting, this guy clarence kennedy does some jaw dropping work

Currently a vegan, get most of protein from tofu & soy lol


Super skilled guy. Does (or used to do) tons of tricking… this is a motor genius who decided to train hard. One of a kind human being.

Ilyia Ilyin was also a vegan