How to utilize and implement Olympic Lifting at your gym

Oct 6, 2022

 by Ryan W.

Establishing Protocols: 

The moment a client walks through your door they want to know if this gym, staff, and equipment are going to optimize their fitness levels in which they have been dreaming of for the last decade or aiming for next levels of performance. A scientifically researched and well-thought-out training program can attract more clients that ultimately results in the client exceeding their goals.  Ultimately what every client is looking for is great coaching and building a relationship with their coach knowing how much their coach truly cares about them.  That is how you gain referrals and growth in memberships. Every strength and conditioning program aims to develop qualities such as strength, speed, power, along with reducing injuries and increasing mobility. Whether you're in a team setting, Military, commercial gym, crossfit, or any other setting that allows you as the coach to implement a training plan has these goals in mind. 

First things first, the training plan must fit the needs of the individual or group you are training. Not everyone will be ready for a high-level complex training plan.  Specifically Olympic lifting plus variations.  

Best way to establish this understanding is to implement an assessment for every individual that enters your domain. This should be incorporated into an onboarding process for all new members.  This topic is covered in greater details from another article. (Establishing a Successful Member Onboarding Process).  

Once all data points are collected and each individual is screened through the baseline assessment in conjunction with your preferred movement screen. Next the coach has the choice to create an individual training plan or at least provide more direction in guiding that individual into what specific classes/groups better align with their abilities.  


Once this individual is cleared hot for training and ready to start setting PR’s with you as their coach. Now is the time to educate and teach proper barbell mechanics to set this individual up for success with the Olympic lifts all while establishing buy-in.  Understanding the importance of Olympic lifting is crucial to individual and group success — In life not just sports that require a combination of muscle coordination, balance, mobility, and synchronization in addition to strength, speed, power, and metabolic development.  

The main Olympic lifts — the clean, jerk, and snatch — enhance development to each of these specific areas in addition to motor coordination.  As a result, they are an excellent addition to any training program.

While Olympic lifts have a high learning curve in fine motor control and coordination, once perfected, these movements immensely improve an individual's overall athletic ability. Take, for example, the triple extension, which is the simultaneous, explosive extension of the hip, knee, and ankle joints.  It’s a skillful movement that challenges the athlete’s ability to control, direct, and stabilize resistance.  Once an individual masters the triple extension, they are able to apply the movement to other olympic lifts, improve control while lifting, and increase overall power.

A human’s power output is at its maximum during olympic lifting. [J. Strength Cond. Res. 7(2): 76-89, 199]

images below - Technique of Olympic Lifts…starting with the Clean - starting position (aka: the set up), to 1st initial pull, through the 2nd pull, then entering into the drop finally receiving the bar and finishing into the full catch or bottom of a squat.  Notice the path of the barbell with the highlighted yellow line.  Efficiency is key as stated throughout this article.  

The 2nd image above is the full movement of the snatch.  As we see from this image once again starting off with the set up from the ground, to 1st initial pull, through the 2nd pull, then entering into the drop finally receiving the bar and finishing into the full catch or bottom of a squat.  Notice the path of the barbell with the highlighted yellow and green lines.  Once again, Efficiency is key.  

Lastly, we have the Jerk.  This time movement is slightly different due to the variation of the starting position in the front rack of the bar versus starting on the ground like the Clean and Snatch. The great coaching points from these images and mainly the Jerk in this image above allows us to see the force curve that is generated along with the path of the barbell highlighted in yellow.  Furthermore, the efficiency that is demonstrated from each image allows us as coaches and athletes to take these cues and implement.  

Olympic lifts teach the body how to produce and absorb force in a controlled environment, which is why olympic lifting has moved to the forefront in athletics and strength and conditioning programs.  

The clean, jerk, and snatch use triple extension when moving the bar in a vertical motion thus producing power.  When catching the clean, jerk, and snatch the body must absorb the weight plus the force that is produced in the descending phase by the bar.  The bar path is the main focal point for efficiency.  Thus controlling the bar creates joint stability and redirects force upward as the individual stands up.  

Olympic lifts are inherently explosive and skillful, with excellent transference to athleticism.  The amount of force production required to move weight rapidly with coordination, stabilization, and control is exactly what all sports require to perform at a high level.  

By executing these movements the neuromuscular system is enhanced as the muscular and nervous systems work in conjunction.  This teaches the body to recruit and activate more muscle tissue fibers creating a stronger, faster, more powerful, and more efficient system.  

Besides sets and reps, progressing an individual in Olympic lifting must focus on technique first and efficiency second for each movement.  Take rowing for example if the chain is whipping up and down, the stroke rate is sporadic, and the individuals body is not in sync that individual will have a greater workload and inefficient time for a 2000 meter row compared to an individual who is an extremely efficient rower and will cover more ground in less time with less work.  But I digress…

Key Takeaways: 

Olympic lifting with a plan, proper coaching cues, patience, practice, and execution can and will create a multitude of benefits for each individual.  The individual will notice an increase in performance, with improved strength, greater power output, and improved body coordination.  This individual is primed for competing at a high level in crossfit events, spartan races, lifting competitions, hiking, climbing, playing with their kids, and just life in general.  

The big 3 are all about efficiency and once efficiency is achieved watch out, because now it is time to “slam bars and kill PR’s” as the Jon North catch phrase goes.  


Quote of the Month:

Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t. ~N/a~