Olympic Lifts – Exercises That Help You Get Big and Strong


When developing strength and conditioning programs, several obvious factors must be considered. What is the predominant energy system(s) of that sport? What are the basic biomechanical movements of that sport? What are the most common injury sites? The selection of exercises is another major consideration which this article will focus upon.

It has been popular for strength and conditioning coaches to incorporate Olympic lifts into their training regimens. They are considered the most overall effective exercises an athlete can perform to develop strength, power, speed and explosiveness. The Olympic lifts are compound exercises meaning they involve the use of many muscles to perform the exercise.

With all the possibilities of exercises to choose from, I feel the Olympic lifts are not the most practical choice. The major support for my reasoning are the administrative variables which includes both the time and total number of athletes to train.

  • Many athletes enter the college ranks without prior training knowledge and require a lot of individual attention to learn proper technique so they do not injure themselves and get the most out of the exercise. To get the best results from the Olympic lifts, it requires one-to-one coaching which is hard to do when working with large groups.
  • olympic-liftsThere are also assistance exercises that need to be incorporated as well as proper progressions to make sure each lift is performed with the correct technique and without close supervision.
  • The time slots usually allotted to a team in the weight room isn’t very long, so exercises that are basic and effective should be your choice.
  • Olympic lifting is a sport in itself. We as strength coaches, aren’t developing Olympic weightlifters, we are developing athletes.
  • Each athlete that steps into the weight room is different genetically, physically and emotionally and might not be able to adapt and perform Olympic lifts properly.
  • Olympic lifting also requires basic equipment that will help to perform the lifts properly and reduce the risk of injury (shoes, wraps, etc.).
  • According to a survey of Division I-A strength coaches in the November/December 1993 NSCA journal, Olympic lifts were not a top priority exercise for their winter workouts.

The K.I.S.S. Principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) to coaching is what you should consider when designing your programs and selecting the exercises. By using lifts like the power clean, power pull, push press and hang clean, you will get the same or even more benefit than using Olympic lifts. These exercises are important because:

  • These lifts allow an athlete to use more weight and perform these exercises in less time.
  • These lifts also require less time to teach and can easily be taught in group instruction.
  • These exercises are compound movements, allowing more than one muscle group to be trained.
  • In the Division I-A strength coaches survey, the power clean was listed as the most important exercise of choice.
  • The power clean, power pull and hang clean are very similar biomechanically, keeping lifting movements basic and constant.
  • These lifts allow you to train the energy systems more effectively because they can be performed short or long-term anaerobically on the energy continuum.
  • These lifts require less flexibility than the Olympic lifts.

My reasoning for the use of these lifts is not because I do not believe in the Olympic lifts and their proven benefits. However, I do believe in a “back to basics” approach. By keeping exercises simple but effective, the strength coach will be able to minimize time which could be directed towards motivating and pushing their athletes to improve their physical abilities so they can perform better and with reduced risk for injury in their particular sport.

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About Author

Dusty DeStefano

Dusty DeStefano has over 20 years experience as a personal trainer and sports performance coach. He has combined his expertise with his personal dedication and philosophy of strength and conditioning, speed and agility development into a company concerned with getting results. See my profile page for more information!

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