Olympic Lifts And Their Place In Your Training Program

When I was in High School in the early 1990’s weight lifting was not part of my athletic training on a regular basis. About the only sports that had any emphasis on weight lifting was Football and Wrestling. Basketball and Track athletes just didn’t spend much time in the weight room during that time. That was a real shame because every athlete should be spending a lot of time developing strength and speed. It wasn’t until my freshmen year at Indiana University that I got introduced to weight lifting on a much larger scale. I was recruited to run track and field by Sam Bell and the staff he had in place at IU took a very different stance on power and strength and the importance of it in a sport.

I was first introduced to Olympic lifting by now former head of USA Weightlifting Coach Frank Ecksten. He would always watch me Olympic lift and say “Stien, being strong and slow isn’t going to help you much in sports”. Frank would always tell me that I had to use my God given speed the correct way in the Olympic lifts. Then he would say watch those guys over there move. He was referring to the massive human beings across the weight room from me. They were the following individuals: Coach Randy Heisler (Former Olympic Discus Thrower and eventual men’s Head Track coach at IU), Gregg Hart (Multiple Big Ten Championships in the discus and school record holder), Brett Sullivan (Shot Put 62’ and Discus Thrower), and Zach Fleming (Big Ten Outdoor Shot Champion 60+ feet). This squad was the epitome of power and strength. I remember watching them lift and thinking how it could be possible to snatch and clean the weights that they were moving? Most of them weighed in around 125 to 140 kilos and pretty much all of them could power snatch upwards of 125 kilos. I think that was the point Frank was trying to make to me. I had to learn to move efficiently and with a lot of speed to produce that much force on the bar.

What is the importance of the Olympic Lifts and why should we include them in our strength and conditioning programs? First, nothing produces more power output than the snatch and the clean and jerk. When you take into consideration the weight moved, the distance it travels and how it must accelerate nothing even comes close. That is why weightlifters are so athletic. Those guys listed above with the exception of one also had 35 plus inch vertical jumps as well. Athleticism is determined by how well one moves when it matters most (Strictly opinion here). If you have a big athletic guy or girl who can’t move on the field or floor, then they are really not going to help you much when the game is on the line. There is an overall awareness of the body in sport. In fact, if one is aware of their body in space that is a behavior that is hard to improve upon. If you can snatch a heavy weight of over 125 kilos, then you have incredible body awareness (This is also known as kinesthetic awareness).

Dan Brown owner of Lift Lab Co. gives another reason athletes should add Olympic Lifts to their training regiments. “At the end of the day, I like to tell people this. Weightlifting is not a strength sport. It is a change of direction sport. The sport is about how fast you can get up and get down. Weightlifting is about producing, absorbing, and transferring force. Are these not the characteristics you want of your athletes? Don’t we want to increase the speed at which they change direction? Don’t we want them to be able to produce large amounts of force when a ball is snapped (Produce force). Don’t we want them to stand their ground when someone hits them? (Absorb force) Don’t we want them to be able to redirect an athlete that runs into them? (Transfer force)”.

Perhaps one of the greatest examples I have heard to illustrate the importance of weightlifting. There are also other benefits from Olympic lifts that include balance, speed, accuracy, agility, timing, core stabilization to name a few.

The key to adding these lifts to your training programs is being able to teach them effectively, and that is our goal at Notch 8 Barbell. We want to educate everybody on how to perform the lifts safely and successfully. I like to teach using the ARM method. ARM stands for Accountability, Repetition, and Mechanics. Think of this like a three legged stool, if you are missing one leg of the stool then you will fall over! If you have no experience with the quick lifts, that is okay, we can help you learn! Whether your goal is to become a competitive lifter or a better teacher of the lifts yourself, Notch 8 Barbell is here to help! Contact us today to schedule your first free trial session with our coaching staff!

JD Stien
Notch 8 Barbell Head Coach
USAW-1 Sports Performance Coach