Olympic lifts in-depth

The sport-specific nature of Olympic lifts

The Olympic lifts highly transfer to athletic performance in two ways. There is biomechanical similarity between the Olympic lifts and athletic performance. The same leg and hip action can be seen in the power snatch and power clean as is used in many sport actions. In order to achieve full extension the hips and legs have to get under the body. To exert maximum power the hip and leg action have to carry through to full extension. In a vertical jump the athlete pushes the hips forward and up to achieve full extension. The athlete lowers the body by bending at the knees and hips to get into the power position. The power position is characterized by the athlete standing with slightly flexed hips and knees, and the hips pushed back. The upward movement is initiated by driving the hips forward and up. This hip action is referred to as the rotary action of the hips. This rotary action places a pre-stretch on the thighs, enabling the muscles to react more explosively. In a properly executed power clean and power snatch the same rotary hip action is seen as in jumping and many other sport actions.

Competitive weight lifters have a tremendous jumping ability. The Olympic lifts are sport-specific for any sport that requires combined explosive hip and knee drive.

The power equation (Power = force x velocity)

Success in most sports depends on the level of power and speed the athlete attained. There has been a vast improvement in the overall speed and power displayed in all sports over the last 10 years.

With beginners resistance training can improve both strength and power as a result of hypertrophy and neural adaptations. An improvement in strength results in an increase of power. With advanced athletes however resistance training does not result in simultaneous improvement in strength and power. Resistance training is only half of the equation (Power = force x velocity). The combination of both maximal resistance training and explosive power training are needed to further enhance the explosive power performance.

The SAID principle: train explosive to compete explosive

The SAID principle (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands) also applies to speed. In order that the athlete can compete explosive he also has to lift explosive. Many studies have shown that with Olympic lifting exercises the highest amount of power can be produced of all human movement. The Olympic lifts have power outputs far greater than those of the squat or any other exercise. The Olympic lifts have to be integrated in the training to bring power performance to a peak. Research shows that combining high force resistance training and high power training elicits the best results in power development. High force training includes the Olympic lifts, but also Jump squats, explosive push-ups and pull-ups, etc…

Improved athletic performance through Olympic lifts

The Olympic lifts also require great balance, coordination (inter- and intramuscular), core stability and flexibility. The Olympic lifts improve athletic performance through an increased strength and power an improved balance, coordination, joint and core stability and a facilitation of the neuromuscular transmission (enhanced speed of contraction).

Training variation

The high and low hang versions are not only a means to get to lifting from the floor, but they can make up a big part of the training program, even when the power clean and power snatch from the floor are mastered. Till the athlete has not developed the necessary hip and low back flexibility to lift from the floor, only high hang and low hang versions are used.

To add more variety to training, dumbbell Olympic lifts can be integrated into the training program. The dumbbell Olympic lifts require even more balance, joint stability and coordination compared to barbell lifts, and the possibility exist to lift unilaterally.