It is a commonality in the strength and conditioning field to program Olympic weightlifting. Places such as collegiate weight rooms, athletic strength and conditioning facilities, CrossFit gyms, barbell clubs, all the way to Olympic weightlifting facilities, and other fitness and strength and conditioning niches utilize the Snatch, Clean & Jerk, and many variations of those lifts. Facilities, a coaching staff, and individual coaches may incorporate Olympic weightlifting for a variety of reasons.
At Bullett Performance Training (BPT), we use our progression of the Clean to train power development, enhance athletic development, and improve eccentric strength and force absorption. Our overall goal as a coaching staff is to use our Clean progression with full safety to maximize the potential to improve the previously mentioned qualities. Olympic weightlifting is highly technical, and when performed incorrectly can result in negative impacts for an athlete or client. For this reason, our coaching staff continues to study and practice these lifts to achieve our overall goal when using our Clean progressions within programming.
Olympic weightlifting is one of the many tools we utilize to develop power. Our Clean progressions enable our athletes and clients to start with basic technique and mechanics before building into heavyweights.
Athletes must train power to be well rounded regardless of the sport or position they play. Athletes must be able to produce extreme force during competition; therefore, they must train power routinely. Power is the combination of producing both explosive force and velocity (speed). This means that the goal of power development is to move a specific or varied weight at a quick or determined speed. The Clean allows us as coaches to adjust sets, reps, and load to program for the desired training outcome for each individual.
We encourage our general population clients to train power to maintain the functional capabilities necessary in their pursuits of life. For example, we have clients that enjoy playing recreational golf, where they are required to produce rotational power in the swing. Therefore, training power in the weight room will prevent injury and increase recreational performance.
Olympic weightlifting is also useful to enhance overall athleticism and coordination. Our Clean progressions provide our athletes and clients the unique training opportunity of properly moving, controlling, and catching a heavy load with high velocity; a quality many other exercises do not provide. The ability to move heavy loads at high velocities will result in increased coordination, improving overall motor control and athleticism. In addition to receiving heavy loads at high velocity, these lifts also require the ability to proficiently perform multiple movements. An athlete or client must perform an explosive pull, requiring significant force production of the lower body and triple extension (extension of the ankles, knees, and hips) while also extending the thoracic spine and squeezing the shoulder blades together, to then catch in an effective position all while controlling the weight. Mike Boyle documents in his book New Functional Training for Sports that the number one reason for implementing Olympic lifting into his athlete’s programs is to improve athleticism and coordination (Boyle, 2016).
Eccentric Strength/ Force Absorption
The Olympic lifts also provide distinctive eccentric strength training. The Clean requires our athletes and clients to decelerate the explosive concentric contraction of the pull when catching the weight. After creating extreme force, catching the weight becomes increasingly difficult, but also incredibly beneficial. This is a distinctive aspect of the Clean that cannot be simulated using another exercise.
Additionally, this movement necessitates the ability to absorb force; another added benefit, particularly for athletes playing contact sports. Boyle also highlights that the ability to absorb force in conjunction with producing force is one of the most beneficial aspects an athlete can learn in the weight room (Boyle, 2016). He also reinforces the importance for athletes playing contact sports to implement force production and absorption to bolster the skill of absorbing force (Boyle, 2016). This is also an important aspect of injury prevention for athletes. The greater the ability for an athlete to absorb force, the less likely injury occurs during competition.
Ultimately, the goal of strength and conditioning training for our athletes and clients is to prevent injury and improve performance. Olympic lifts are just another tool we use at BPT to maximize our athletes’ and clients’ training experience.
Boyle, M. (2016). Olympic Lifting. In New Functional Training for Sports (Second ed., p. 192).Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.