T Nation



Not sure if this forum has the right population for this question but I will go on and throw this out.

Olympic style (exposive) lifts....are benefical, safe, or necessary for training high school athletes? We are not talking about elite caliber athletes, but a wide variety of body types, experience, and fitness levels.

I look for both pros and cons. I am a Certified Athletic Trainer with my bachelors degree in Sports Medicine and a CSCS cert. I contract out to a public high school for Athletic Training services, but not S&C. The strength coach at this school uses the BFS "bigger faster stronger" program, that includes explosive and olympic lifts. The entire athletic staff of coaches is constantly debating over this issue. I have always treated my athletes and clients on a case by case basis and avoided a one sided approach to training. I was just looking to see if others have the same concerns or praise for olympic lifts for HS athletes.


Everything works for a while. Bottom line.

I think that IF you have the time to teach and REinforce proper technique on the oly lifts they can be great for explosive power. However, that being said, I think that the majority of athletes would do well to learn the real form of the squat/dead/bench first. That seems technical enough for someone to learn at a young training age. You can build a good amount of speed if you train the lifts at the 50-60% range one day and build limit strength on other days.

But I do like the explosive lifts. If you were going to teach them, I think the best way to approach it is to teach the clean high pull because it is much easier to learn at first, and then go for the catch later (if teaching the power clean) or other lifts. I'm sure you probably already thought about that. My 2 cents--I think it helps to break it down for impatient young athletes.

Basic problem is it takes so much time to teach HS coaches and athletes how to do oly lifts correctly that costs can easily outweigh benefits.

Bottom line is I think that focusing on the basic power lifts, and later adding in high pull and maybe power clean are more than sufficient for most HS athletes. But there are always exceptions.

Hope it helps.


The high school athletes i am around can barely walk and chew gum at the same time how in the hell am i going ot get them doing the snatch and clean.....most of them are compeltely out of shape have no base of muscle mass and have so many bones poking out of there body you would think there dead.....as much as bigger faster stronger is a piece of shit cookie cut program its beneifits are it teaches basic lifts and uses reps during most training periods i think 3 weeks of 12, 3 weeks of 8 and then 6-4-2 at least thats what we used in high school and we used bfs.......the problem is that the coaches do this over and over again so the athletes only set pr's the first max period on week 8 and spend the rest of the school year in a damn rut...to be honest i would rather kill my slef than have your job...having to work with dum fuck high school football coaches who are fat and weak and our living out there glory days and guess what every fucking high school assitant football coach in america thinks he is also a fucking strength coach....its a sick state of affairs.......bm


I'd agree with aragorn. I useta-was an olympic lifter, before powerlifting was an organized sport. So was Bill Star, who wrote the book, Bigger/Faster/Stronger that so many high school and college strength coaches consider sacred. I find "clean-grip high pulls and low pulls" to be very useful in my strength training, although I can't consistently teach good technique via email. (Use straps, and train the grip separately.) Beyond "pulls," the olympic lifts require a HELL of a lot of flexibility and technique work that is very specific to olympic lifting and only marginally useful to other athletes. Most trainees who are not olympic lifters can put that time and energy to better use, doing the powerlifts and windsprints.

Even though olympic lifting involves less weight than powerlifting, I feel that it's harder on the joints and tendons. Some powerlifters, who have been lifting for decades, hit their peak strength as late as age 45. I'm not aware of that happening in olympic lifting. With a momentary technique lapse, each rep in the olymic lifts is a potential trainwreck. (Any coach who must teach olympic lifting to large groups of high school kids really should drink a lot.)


Here's the thing. 95% of HS coaches could not perform an Olympic lift with even reasonable form. Yet they are teaching them in schools? It really is pretty pathetic.

Yesterday I was talking to a HS girl who knows a few of our PL's. She is a track athlete. Her dumbass coach has them max out every other week. Guess they have one week training cycles.

Anyway, she came by to watch a squat workout and stated, "We could never go down that low b/c we use too much weight." I was speechless. In the meantime, she told one of my kids her bar position is too low.

About a week ago I had a kid tell me he sucks at benching. I said, Oh really? Why? He then explained to me that his arms are too long. I looked right at him and said you suck at benching because you are skinny and have no muscle on your frame. He looked a little stunned but I think he got the point.

My point is I am overall appalled at the lack of thought, or even reason, that goes into the development of the typical HS athlete training program. BFS is ridiculous. It is an impetus to hand athletes a slop ass program and go sit in your office diddly oscillating your weiner.

Olympic lifts are only valuable if proper form and rep schemes are taught. If you think the powerlifts cannot be trained for explosivity, let us know where you live and one of us will PM you to come train speed with us. Your opinion will change. I would argue they are much easier to coach, too.

90% of the time Olympic lifts are a bust in HS athletics. Kids need basic compound movements and someone to spend a little time with them teaching them form and determining appropriate accesory movements. Sled pulling, strongman stuff, etc. should all be utilized. One last rant. Most HS's have glute ham benches. However, nobody even knows what they are for. Our kids use them at their schools and kids make fun of them. It's freakin ridiculous. In the meantime they are over doing sets of 15 on hang cleans....what a joke.


I am no trainer, and i do not have that much experience, being only 22. but when I was sixteen, I had 220 pounds of weights and a barbell in my basement and a few logs in my back yard. I spent the summer doing power cleans and pushpress and throwing logs. And honestly my program was not that good, and my form was technically not that good, and every now and then I would tweak my shoulder a little, but I got strong as all hell on this program and kicked fucking ass next football season. (I only weighed 180, and was not penciled in as a starter on the line during summer practice, until the first day we went full contact and I threw a lot of fat boy's on their asses). In retrospect, I might do a lot differently (eat more protein, lift more often with better form, and train a little more endurance), but I would definitely keep using the olympic style lifts.

It seems moronic to me to suggest that they do not work or that one needs to use perfect form--if you ever watch pro-football players work out, a lot of times their form is terrible, and yet they get results. If you are training a bunch of athletes, show them the moves, and then tell the really incompetent ones, who mostly will suck at sports anyway, just to go back to doing girl exercises, and practice with a broomstick.

By the way, as far as I know, turning the power clean into something more like a power curl is the most common mistake, but the power curl is itself a good exercise that will build strong arms, delts, back, hips, traps, legs, etc.


Good post apw. So many coaches think olympic lifts are the holy grail of exercises. Any lift can be done explosively. Cleans have their purpose but is a general movement and only specific to olympic weightlifting. You can get the same results from high pulls and make it safer for the athlete.


Coach, Bigger Faster Stronger is a program developed by Greg Shephard.


Most high school kids would be much better off with a basic Bill Starr program than with anything else. This includes Bigger-Faster-Stronger, Westside, or anything else.


I think we should be clear here whether we are talking about true olympic lifts - squat-cleans and squat-snatches - or olympic movements - like powercleans and powersnatches, hangcleans and hang snatches.

Seems like there's a big difference in the amount of technique required.

What are we talking about in this thread?


Olympic lifts are very effective IF THE ATHLET HAS AN APPOPRET STRENGTH FOUNDATION. Create a strength foundation first then use more advance exercises and methods. Strength is the foundation on which you build off of.


Thanks for the insite fellas. Sounds like most of you are in agreance with my philosophys.

"having to work with dum fuck high school football coaches who are fat and weak and our living out there glory days and guess what every fucking high school assitant football coach in america thinks he is also a fucking strength coach....its a sick state of affairs" --bm

Classic statement BM...It's like your are living my daily pains with me. Most of these coaches live and die by Olympic and Explosive lifts. In my observation it has been all kinds of variations of cleans, DL + power shrugs, and jerk presses. The idea that moving a large amount of weight wildly out of control with wreckless abandon carries over to expolsive strenght on the field is their die hard motto. I am all for a solid foundation of BP, Squat, and DL. It is near imposible to teach olympic lifts "properly and safely" to a large group of student athletes. Most Joe 12Pack HS coaches don't want to put the time into designing and implimenting speed training, plyos, agilities, sled drags, or variable incline training; and when they do it is half assed out of a video or handmedown workout. Thanks for the comments and letting me vent.