Why Olympic Lifts?
“[The Olympic Lifts] not only require high power production if executed properly, but also involve large muscle mass and multiple joint movements that relate well to everyday work, recreational, and sport activities. Thus, by specificity of training, these lifting exercises result in adaptations that transfer well to improve performance in other common movement activities, as well as sports requiring high power output.” —John Garhammer, Ph.D., CSCS. Professor, Director - Biomechanics Laboratory California State University
“The mere practice of the Olympic lifts teaches an athlete how to apply large amounts of force. Part of the extraordinary abilities of an Olympic lifter arises out of his having learned how to effectively activate more of his muscle fibers more rapidly than others who aren’t trained to do so. This becomes extremely important for athletes who need to remain at lower body weights for athletic purposes but need to learn how to apply greater force.”—Artie Dreschler, Author of “The Weightlifting Encyclopedia: A Guide to World Class Performance”
In most sports athletes must have the ability to apply force, quickly, efficiently, and in a synchronized manner. Olympic lifts prepare athletes to do all three. Programming in the King’s Ridge strength and conditioning program is based on these three reasons.
1- Efficiency of Movement:
There are no better movements and no better way to train intermuscular and intramuscular coordination than the Snatch, the Clean, and the Jerk. These movements require athletes to be agile, balanced, powerful, and the coordinated in order to complete them with efficiency. A Snatch or Clean or Jerk performed with precision, regardless of the weight on the bar, is a massive indication of the athletic ability of the person performing the lift. The high level of technical proficiency necessary to complete these lifts is not something that should be avoided but instead, something that should be pursued. If our goal is to create high-powered, elite athletes then it makes sense to utilize the highest level, complex movement patterns. Since our ultimate goal is to put athletes on their field of play with the greatest amount of potential to be used in competition then it make sense that we would use the lifts that do this most efficiently. A question often asked is, “Can’t the same bio-motor abilities be trained in different ways?’ Absolutely, but not as efficiently and certainly not compounded into one specific movement. One can train explosive power and create rate of force development with a good plyometric program but it is not possible to at the same time train the highest levels of coordination, agility, flexibility, and strength. With the Olympic lifts all of those things can be accomplished in one specific, efficient movement.
The Olympic Lifts are easily scalable and provide a clear pathway for progression. A poorly performed Olympic lift is not to show the uselessness of the tool but rather a prime example of dysfunction, inhibition, or tightness at some point in the kinetic chain. Poorly performed Olympic lifts be used as opportunity to diagnose muscle imbalance and flexibility inhibition then take steps to correct them.
Furthermore, any athlete with a lack of exposure to the Olympic Lifts should not start at high intensity with whole movements. Instead they should be broken down into parts and slowly progressed to whole movement. The snatch is a great example of how this can be done as an athlete develops. An athlete should be able to overhead squat with precision and proper technique while also utilizing the required flexibility and coordination long before they progress to a more complex part of the movement. This is true of every piece and part of all three Olympic lifts. Due to the ease at which the lifts are scaled, it makes perfect sense that the Olympic Lifts would apply to all skill levels across the school. Why? Because it gives the athlete the ability to chase down levels of progression slowly but carefully, under the guided expertise of coaches. Essentially it gives an athlete and obvious progression chart and allows them to see their own development piece by piece.
3- Athletic Development:
There is no greater tool in the world for creating force while at the same time requiring athleticism than the Olympic lifts. Athletes that can produce force on their field of play will have a greater ability to act upon external load, control and maneuver their body in space, and maintain efficiency with higher-repetition sub-maximal endeavors. Everybody loves the squat and the squat has its place but because of the level at which you can load a squat in volume it can become a slower, strength movement. The Olympic lifts do not give the athlete this option. One cannot perform an Olympic lift well without applying a great amount of force while at the same time being extremely precise. The Olympic lifts have the ability to create strong, fast, powerful athletes better than any other movement in the world. Their ability to create athletes who can generate extreme force is unparalleled by any other strength and conditioning tool. Using the Olympic lifts is akin to combining the best plyometric program in the world with the best strength building program in the world. They just cannot be beat for developing powerful, strong, fast athletes.
If all of this is true then why do so many strength and conditioning and coaches not utilize them? The answer is they don't know enough about them and are not experienced enough to be able to utilize them well without creating injury at the same time. Due to the complex nature of the lifts, they require a very experienced eye and a very experienced understanding of the mechanics of the lift in order to prevent injury and create proficient athletes. Therefore, many strength conditioning programs will shy away from using highly advanced Olympic movements because of simple inexperience and misunderstanding of their mechanics. We believe that if the best tools in the world require expertise and trained coaching then this is exactly what our athletes will receive to equip our athletes to be the best athletes on their field of play.