Athlete or not, these lifts will help you gain strength, improve your power, and increase your explosiveness.
“Speed Kills, Strength Punishes…but Power turns heads."
Yeah, “what the hell does that even mean?!” Well, when coaches are watching recruiting film, they are looking for a DYNAMIC athlete that’s not one-dimensional. Speed and strength are both individual dimensions. Therefore if you focus entirely on one of these aspects, you’ll be just that… one dimensional. Power however is the “formula” that combines these two components, creating a dynamic, multi-dimensional athlete.
So how do you develop power? Olympic-style lifting is a great place to start. I’m not saying to only do Olympic lifts, but these exercises can literally help you run faster, jump higher, and push your performance to the next level. How? Funny you should ask, as you’ll find the top reasons to incorporate Olympic lifts like cleans and snatches in your training program below.
1. Total Body Movements That Matter
Last time I checked, no sport is played sitting on your butt pressing your feet into the ground like a leg press, or lying on your back pressing someone (or something) off of you. Athletes have to be more dynamic in their movements, and Olympic lifts do a better job of mirroring those movements than even compound lifts such as squats and deadlifts (gasp, I know!).
These lifts are unique because they create a transfer of weight from the ground, through your feet up into your hips/glutes, and all the way up to your upper body muscles. This is very similar to what happens when you take off from the blocks during a sprint, leap to make a diving catch, or plant and explode to change directions. Of course, training your body as a cohesive unit is just one of the benefits these lifts have to offer as you'll run faster, jump higher, and generally become more athletic.
2. Strength & Power in One Lift to Save Time
Far too often we’re scrambling for extra time in the gym. The great thing about Olympic lifts is that they develop strength and power in the upper and lower body simultaneously. They are complete exercises that strengthen multiple muscle groups and burn more calories at the same time. Need an example? Check out the exercise below:
RDL-Hang Clean-Front Squat:
Grab the bar with an overhand grip, complete one RDL, then rebend the knees and complete a hang clean. Once the bar is up on your shoulders, reset your feet and complete a full front squat. This is an explosive multi-joint movement that strengthens the hamstrings, quads, glutes, hips, low back and traps.
3. Better Motor Skill Development
Before you can throw a ball with velocity, or transition off the net into a hard-hitting spike, you must train explosively. Olympic lifts are the best way to develop the motor skills/patterns necessary to accomplish this in the weight room. While the loads should be on the lighter side at first, these movements should always been done quickly in an effort to mimic the speed you’re accustomed to moving at in competition. Listen, there’s a reason why Olympic weight lifters can dunk at 5’5”. That type of motor skill development and explosive power starts with these exercises.
4. A Challenging Way to Mix it Up
I’m in my 9th year as a collegiate strength and conditioning coach, and frequently I’ll actually do the current training program one of my teams is on during my workouts. What I’ve seen is that I get bored with certain training phases, just as my athletes do. But guess what?! Olympic lifts, and variations of Olympic lifts, are great for mixing things up because even after you’ve learned the exercise(s), your technique and execution continually needs to be evaluated for flaws. There are a lot of “phases” to the Olympic lifts, but when you find a flaw, you can do an assistance lift to help correct that flaw (i.e. high hang pulls, rack pulls, which gives you a new exercise to learn & challenge yourself with.
Look, more power, more strength, more explosiveness… and more calories burned in a shorter period of time to boot. If becoming more powerful and improving your athletic performance is something you’re interested in, then start doing Olympic lifts and go easy on the calf raises.
To maximize your gains when doing Olympic lifts, 1R would recommend the following supplements: