Practically developing Olympic weightlifting basics for field sport athletes.

I thought a little post would do this topic justice.

Many of my field sport athletes ask me after a few weeks of training “when are we going to start doing power cleans and snatches, the cool stuff you see on the net?”.

I laugh and say “when your ready!”, usually that comes with a few groans and comments.

Lets me explain myself!

Field sport athletes are not Olympic weightlifters so do they need to master the snatch and clean right away?

No, not really!

What do we gain from Olympic weightlifting (OL) movements and their derivatives?

We get an explosive triple extension of the hips, knee’s and ankles that produces force and translates over to sport specific actions like sprinting and jumping (it doesn’t even look explosive with most athletes).

Fact of the matter is, Olympic weightlifting is a sport and some weightlifters spend their whole lives mastering a lift to absolutely perfection.

The field sport athletes we train have a limited number of hours with us per week. How practical is it to be spending copious amounts of time working on OL when we can develop power with other means or simple derivatives?

Along with many other considerations most beginner athletes start by developing a solid basis of strength and once they are at an appropriate level we introduce the basic clean pull variation. A solid choice of exercise because we are still getting the explosive triple extension without having to master the catch of a full clean or power clean. Mastering the catch and dealing with the flexibility and mobility of the wrist, elbow and shoulder is another topic all together.

Basic clean pull teaching progressions:

·      Isometric shrug

·      Dynamic shrug from mid thigh

·      Power shrug from above knee

·      Power shrug jump from just above knee

·      Clean pull

As we can see from the order we are using a top down approach, learning these exercises can be done in minutes or hours and depends on the athlete.

Ingraining a solid motor pattern for these progressions is key to long-term success and can take some time depending on the individual.

How else can we get an explosive triple extension?

Med ball throws, plyo’s and jumps!

Most of our athletes perform some sort med ball throws, plyos and jumps depending on their level, training history and strength. The biggest emphasis whilst performing these exercises is completing them as fast and explosively as possible whilst minimsing contact time respectively. Teaching a jump or throw is easy and just about every athlete can do them.

No brainer.

Some keys to med ball work and plyo’s:

·      Ensuring the exercise is actually a triple extension (sounds like common sense but you would be surprised)

·      Ensuring the ball is the right weight to produce an explosive action.

·      Not over-doing reps and sets, quality over quantity, think about what science says about programming.

·      Ensuring each rep is done in an athletic position and the body is positioned to produce force appropriately.

In summary the highest outputs of power are seen in the full weightlifting exercises and that can’t be replicated with derivatives. In the case when the full exercises can’t be done, the other derivatives and options are very good substitutions.

Let me know what you think!

By Tim Frey