Olympic-Style Lifts and You


In my nearly 20 years of conditioning athletes I have virtually “seen it all” in terms of training philosophies, Periodization, using/not using explosive lifts, high Intensity Training (HIT), etc.

I would like to take this opportunity to separate athlete-training myth from reality.

Example of Olympic Lifts

There is a faction of strength coaches who believe that the Olympic-style lifts are dangerous and not applicable to sports in general. This reminds me of something I heard at the first strength and conditioning clinic I ever attended.

Former University of Arizona Strength Coach Meg Ritchie said, “There is no such thing as a dangerous exercise. Only dangerous strength coaches”.

The Olympic-style lifts, if taught correctly and used appropriately, serve as a tremendous tool to prepare our football athletes for competition. Keep in mind that these are technical lifts and it does take time to master them! Using Olympic-style lifts incorporates all four of perhaps the most important aspects of weight training for football (adopted from Tom Cross and Mike Burgener CSCS)

  1. Train on your feet
  2. Use free weights
  3. Train using compound / multi-joint movements
  4. Train Explosively

Think about when it is important for a athlete to demonstrate maximal strength in a supine position supported by a bench…NEVER! Yet the 1RM bench press is still used by many as the basis for categorizing whether an athlete is “strong” or not.

Now think about the application of an athlete performing a power clean. The athlete explosively pulls the weight off the floor, forcefully extending upward to full quadruple extension (ankles, knees, hips, & low back) and athletically catches the weight at shoulder height. “Power” is emphasized rather than slow-strength, the entire body is used rather than just a few muscle groups, and the athlete is on his feet (like he or she is performing their sport). When creating your sport-specific strength programs make sure to use two basic principles: “specificity” and most importantly “common sense”.

Let me leave you with one final thought. I am sure that no one would argue that sports like football, volleybal, basketball and softball are, in fact, “explosive power” sports. Taking this into consideration I would like to illustrate the difference between the above mentioned two lifts.

We will look at the bench Press vs. the Power Clean using the following formula:

Equation for “POWER”

The equation for expressing “Power” can be described like this: POWER = Mass X Distance / Time


1RM 300 Lb Bench Press = 300 Lbs x 2 feet (600) / 2 seconds = 300 ft lbs. power

1RM 300 lb Power Clean = 300 lbs x 5 feet (1500) / 1 second = 1500 ft. lbs. Power

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