Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Olympic Lifts - do they really improve athletic performance?

By Sabina Skala

First of all - HAPPY VALENTINES, hope all of you will have an amazing day and nigth!.

The topic of today's blog (and the next few coming...) is olympic lifting - hardly a Valentines day subject ;)

Olympic lifts have been quite a controversial topic. Some of the great s&c coaches use them very successfully with their athletes, some on the other hand consider olympic lifts to be overrated in the athletic development (i.e Joe De Franco - for me one of the top coaches out there) and still get excellent results using other tools I personally use oly lifts and their derivatives with my athletes and clients. However, I wouldnt even dream about teaching them oly lifts if they are not proficient in certain exercises already (deadlifts, overhead squats, front squats and push press).

Why would you include olympic lifts and/or derivatives in your program? They are an excellent tool to develop POWER - so essential in most of sports. They key here is the triple extension in the ankle, knee and hip joint - These co-ordinated actions have been empirically shown to produce similar ground reaction force profiles to vertical jumping (Burkhardt et al., 1990), 10 m
sprinting (Tricoli et al., 2005) or kicking. The clean and power clean have been long established as the gold standard exercises for developing great leg and hip power.

The question is - can you improve power of lower extremities without including oly lifts in your training - the answer is YES. Oly lifts are just another tool in trainers hands to use to better the performance. You dont need to use them, however consider this - the more tools you have - the better you can repair what is not working.

What are the olympic lifts:
The 2 competition lifts are:
Clean & Jerk (clean and jerk are classified as 1 lift during olympic weightlifting competitions)

Both lifts are ballistic and explosive in nature therfore we can say that they test explosive strength. Snatch, Clean & Jerk are executed fast - and require greater amounts of mobility and a greater range of motion during their execution - than other lifts. The Snatch and Clean and Jerk are both dynamic and explosive while (believe it or not) appearing quite graceful, especially when viewed from a recording at a slowed speed. If used correctly by a s&c coach they can prove to be a second to none tool in improving flexibility, coordination, explosive and functional strength. Olympic lifts are compound, multi joint exercises. As mentioned before, the muscle firing sequence whilst performing oly lifts highly resembles the the way the muscles fire when sprinting, jumping, kicking, punching, throwing, etc.

It may seem that they are the best tool to improve all those abilities... why is it then that some coaches are reluctant to use them.

Here are the main reasons:

Olympic lifts are complex and it takes time to teach athletes how to perform them correctly (time is what s&c coaches rarely have)

Oly lifts require great amount of flexibility in wrists, back, chest, shoulders, hip flexors, hamstrings, calves etc - lack of flexibility and /or strenght is usually the biggest issue when teaching oly lifts. Clean and Jerk and even more snatch are ruthless in exposing the lack of strength and mobility.

The safety factor is another one, as you cannot spot for oly lifts, they should be preformed in a gym where you can drop the bar if needed, bumper discs should be used. Unfortunately few commercial gyms have the facilities to do so.

I value olympic lifts and strongly believe that they can be very helpful in improving athletes power and coordination. Saying that I use them only with my advanced athletes, who I train reguraly throught the year. One of my favourite derivatives is a power clean. During the next few weeks we are going to look at Power Clean, split the movement into phases and analyze each phase separately.

Till next time



PS. If you want to learn more about olympic lifting, kettlebells, strong man training and hormonal optimisation - me and CJ will be teaching alongside two Legendary US based Coaches - Brooks Kubik and Mike Mahler. For details and registration go here: http://www.mikemahler.com/events/dinosaur-training.html
Trust me - this event is not to be missed!

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