One big questions that never seems to be put completely to be is whether coaches and personal trainers should use Olympic lifts in their clients training programmes or not. Olympic weightlifting, specifically the Clean and Jerk (CJ) and Snatch (S) have only relatively recently been used as tool by coaches for development physical attributes such as power.
Weightlifting (one word) should not be confused with weight lifting (2 words) or weight training (Stone et al, 2006). Most sports involve running and jumping in some capacity and weightlifting puts a strong emphasis on ‘triple extension’. Triple extension occurs every time we run and jump with maximum intent, where the hips, knees and ankles are all fully extended at once.
As well developing rate of force development and power coaches, trainers and athletes have often underestimated the energy cost of resistance training, particularly weightlifting. It is a great tool for some metabolic conditioning – fat burning.
There are other exercises, that many say are just a rewarding, but with much less (perceived) risk. Let’s delve a little deeper into the discussion.
For Olympic Weightlifting
- Lots of different deviations. Its is not just solely the CJ and S that coaches can use to develop client athletic qualities. Different variations can be easier to perform than others and subsequently provoke different adaptations. For more speed-strength a Snatch High-pull maybe be programmed, whether for more strength-speed a High Hang Power Clean may be used.
- Injury risk is lower than you would think. One crucial factor that gets hypothesised is that Weightlifting is dangerous and has a high injury risk. Ballistic movements, particularly those associated with weightlifting, have been criticized as producing excessive injuries; however, there is little objective evidence substantiating this claim (Stone et al, 2006).
- Learning the movement pattern is a critical skill. Co-ordinating complex movement at multi joints at once has massive cross-over to skills likely to be used in a sporting context. Although the learning process may take longer than other exercises, this time is still beneficial for the athlete/client.
- Do not have to be used solely as a power tool. Weightlifting complex’s or primers are great metabolic conditioning tools or even extended warm-ups for your clients. It will get a little ‘sweat on the brow’ while not taking away from the focus of your session.
Against Olympic weightlifting
- Alternative exercises: Jump Squats, Pause Squats, Band resisted compound movements, plyometric exercises etc. (and many more)
- Time efficient? As mentioned above learning the skill of a CJ or Snatch can take time, and in both sporting or non-sporting context time is something that we don’t all have the luxury of having. A pause squat or jump squat is a movement the majority of clients will have mastered and will be an easy progression for your athletes and still get a rate of force development adaptation.
- Individual restrictions. For some athletes it is just not possible, or at least extremely challenging to get into some key positions for the CJ (such as the front rack position) or in the S (such as an overhead squat). For this reason, it essentially a waste of time coaching the movement. Like any exercise, if the athlete can’t do it efficiently and to a high quality – you will not get the full benefits.
Like anything and everything in the world of Sport Science, Strength and Conditioning, exercise, fitness and health – it is down to the individual you have in front of you. If this client/athlete cannot move efficiently enough to back squat or front squat you are not going to programme any weightlifting movements. BUT, I do think weightlifting and deviations of the CJ and S are applicable for a lot of people. Personally, the rewards stated above comfortably outweigh the risks.