Written by Surry Hills PT Jose Da Rocha.
As a young man I still remember the first time I saw an athlete perform an Olympic lift. No, it wasn’t a Bulgarian in spandex, but 9 time Gold medalist sprinter and long jumper Carl Lewis. As I grew into my profession I started to be influenced by the training of the most explosive and dominant athletes in the world.
The O lifts when done correctly have a beautiful rhythm to them. The bumper plates leave the floor, past your knees and up towards your hips. At this point there is no return, as you hit the fast pull and drop under the bar, you for the first time feel the full force of the weight attempting to crush you towards the floor, your front squats are solid so you spring straight to the top. Now to thrust the weight to the sky then slam it down while scaring everyone within a 10 metre radius. If William Shakespeare was a lifter he would 100% have been an O Lifter.
A study by Dr Mike Stone (September 1993) published in the Canadian journal of applied sports science showed that after eight weeks the average body fat of subjects decreased by 6%. Subjects also lowered heart rates and blood pressure. A structured lifting program pushes both strength and cardio thresholds.
The mere practice of the Olympic lifts teaches an athlete how to apply large amounts of force.
All sports require different amounts of muscle stimulation, balance, flexibility, and coordination as well as strength, speed, power, and metabolic development. Olympic weightlifting provides development in all these areas. While training for maximal strength can have a positive effect on performance, it also can have a “negative effect on movement speed and the ability of a muscle to display explosive effort”. However, this does not mean that strength gains do not happen through training at high speeds.
Weightlifting often requires extraordinary flexibility in the quest to reach technical mastery and move the biggest weights. Good ankle mobility allows the lifter to get into a deeper squat position (required to catch heavy weights) while supple hip flexors help the athlete achieve a better starting position and to generate power in the second pull. Flexible wrists assist the athlete in catching heavy cleans and being able to jerk more comfortably, while shoulder mobility is crucial for getting the bar into the correct position and keeping it locked out overhead.
Before you start your quest, I encourage you to hire a good lifting coach to evaluate your movements. You don’t want to be wasting energy off the floor or in the second pull – a good coach can quickly identify this and help correct it.
That said, the Olympic lifts aren’t difficult to learn – I have taught lifters how to Olympic lift in just a couple sessions. What I’m talking about is becoming good at the Olympic lifts, as opposed to that muscle head in the gym who reverse curls the weight to his chest and then muscles it overhead.
Your typical reverse curler may have the muscle mass and strength to Olympic lift, but it takes more than 3 sets of 3 once a week to be good at the lifts. The Olympic lifts respond to efficient patterns just as well as they respond to big ass traps and huge quads.
Days Per Week: 3
Cycle Duration: 1 week (repeating)
Core Exercises: Snatch, Clean & Jerk, Front Squat, Press
Dan John’s beginner program is about as simple at they come, reflecting John’s reductive approach to training. Dan describes his methodology as essentially ‘Bulgarian’ meaning that the lifter focuses on the competition lifts and squatting to max. First the back squat is mastered at which point the clean is introduced, followed by the snatch. Once the lifts are learned, the athlete performs the snatch, clean & jerk, military press and front squat every day three days a week. It’s as straightforward as that.
The rep scheme is equally non-complicated – eight sets of doubles for the snatch and 8 sets of doubles for the clean & jerk. Weights used should be as much as the lifter can handle and maintain good technique, with small increases each session so long as form remains consistently good.
Watch the videos below to see the core exercises.
2. FRONT SQUAT
3. OVERHEAD SQUAT
Improvement with the Olympic lifts isn’t simply about strength – if it were, then every man wearing string ASN gym singlets would’ve just returned from a triumphant performance at the Olympics in Rio
These movements are also about being efficient in the movements – meaning you first need to learn them well, and then focus on improving how well you perform them through lots and lots of repetitions.
Get a coach to critique your lifts, try this program, and dominate.