Archive for olympic lifting

Why Olympic Weightlifting Is Worth It!

Posted in Performance with tags , , , on October 27, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

This is a debate I’ve seen going for a while now between strength coaches and personal trainers. Some believe that Olympic Weightlifting (Clean and Jerk and Snatch) is a fantastic tool for developing explosive power in athletes and others believe they’re unnecessary or too complicated to teach to any athletes who are not competing in Olympic lifting. If you’ve read this blog at all then you’ll know that my brother and I are huge fans of Olympic lifting. Not only do I think they have a huge upside and benefit for athletes but I think it would be great to see more individuals get involved in the sport itself, whether it be kids or adults.

First off, I’m only describing the benefits to using Olympic lifts with athletes as long as you’re with them for a decent amount of time and if you have the facility for it. You’d be surprised how well they can learn within only a few sessions so it’s not like you need to be with these athletes for years. I’m also not saying that you definitely HAVE to do Olympic lifting, just that you’d be smart to include them in your programming with most athletes – assuming you’re qualified to coach/teach them.

Amazing Snatch Photo Reel

One of the biggest (and worst) excuses as to why people don’t use the Olympic lifts is that they don’t have the positioning or mobility for it. I can’t stand that one. This should be a gift as a strength coach; it should be an opportunity to identify a weakness and correct it. If you’ve identified poor shoulder range of motion, the inability to hold the bar in the rack position, or God forbid, the inability to get to the bottom of a deep squat position then these athletes would benefit from addressing these things immediately. These things aren’t just benefits for Olympic lifters, these things are weaknesses if you knowingly allow them to plague your athletes. Using the Olympic lifts not only builds explosive power, but also reinforce good mobility and helps build shoulder stability. It’s also a great tool for building up the nervous system and developing coordination, in Olympic lifting you need to turn on that explosive burst at just the right time, not unlike many other sports.

Another common reason to avoid using Olympic lifts is that you don’t “Need” to do them to develop power in athletes. This is true, I can’t argue against that. One could include lots of Plyometrics in their programming and still develop power. The question is more about efficiency, why would you knowingly avoid an exercise when you know that it is one of the BEST ways to develop power. It’s also true that you don’t NEED to squat to develop leg strength, but you won’t see me take them out of my programs anytime soon. If you’ve ever lifted weights then you’ll know how much more work you do just by trying to lift the weights a little faster. Now think of the clean and jerk – I’m going to over simplify it here – you rip the weight off the floor and throw it as high as you can so you can catch it and then accelerate it over your head. How would that NOT develop explosiveness? Here’s a quotation from famous Olympic lifting coach Bob Takano, “Any Athlete or Coach interested in developing optimal power must look to the methods of the weightlifters for the most effective strategies in the training of explosive athleticism” (Takano, Bob, coaching optimal technique in the snatch and clean and jerk Part 1). In fact, many elite athletes do focus on the Olympic lifts for their power development. One of the most pure expressions of power in sport is bobsleigh, 4 (or 2) athletes push a sled as hard and as fast as they can for an extremely short distance. In their training, they incorporate the Olympic lifts quite a bit, just like skiers and sprinters to name a few more (eg., Cody Sorensen below).

You see, just because something is difficult to learn, doesn’t mean it’s not worth teaching. The whole point of teaching athletes the techniques and skills early is so they can progress and use large weights with these lifts. This is where the real benefit comes, moving high weights at high speeds. Any athlete can power clean or power snatch with tens on each side, but true power development comes with large weights – relative to your body mass. If you’ve done physics in high school then you’ll recognize the equation: F=MA (“Force equals Mass times Acceleration”). Let’s do a simple calculation, if you give the mass and acceleration an arbitrary number of 1, F=1×1=1 . If we double the mass and the speed, F=2×2=4, we can see that the force is 4 times higher. Thus, if we can have our athletes comfortable enough with the olympic lifts to really start to progress to heavier weights, we can have our athletes generating incredible forces during training which will then increase their output in competitions.

Let’s be smart coaches and start to utilize the athletic potential with our athletes. If we only do slow strength movements, our strength will increase but it wont necessarily give us more power output, utilizing the olympic lifts will increase power production and teach athletes to generate high forces.

Graham Pitfield 132kg Clean

Candace Crawford 77kg Clean

(Graham and Candace ARE NOT Razor’s Edge Performance supported athletes, but their performances are none the less impressive. They both train at FITS.)

Now let’s get on a platform and go hit some new PRs!


Olympic Lifting for a Bigger Vertical

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , on August 27, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

If you don’t know how important a great vertical jump is, you’re either living under a rock, or I’m failing you as a coach/writer. An explosive vertical jump has carry over to nearly every sport; A vertical jump is an expression of power. The better the vertical, the better you are at putting force into the ground in an instant. There’s no such thing as a high vertical that happens slowly, its impossible. This is why it’s a test that most coaches/organizations use as an assessment and performance marker.  Let’s take sprinting for example, since this carries over to an incredible number of sports; during ground contact in the acceleration phase, you have a mixture of vertical and horizontal forces, these are the basis for how fast you move. Mastering how much of each is another part of the equation, but the first step is maximizing how much force you put into the ground in the first place. Plain and simple, a good vert is important. So how do you build one?

Many people think if you just get bigger/stronger legs you’ll automatically get a better vert. This COULD be true, and you’d have to test and retest to find out, but that’s like playing the lottery for your income instead of getting a job; you MAY get rich with the lottery, but a job will definitely bring in cash. In this case, the money maker is olympic lifting (and other explosive movements). While performing a heavy squat, it’s very easy to move the weight slowly and take your time to move through the movement. With an olympic lift, that is not an option. You need to explosively apply force to the ground in order to accelerate the bar up to the rack or catch position. One way to think of olympic lifting simply (perhaps overly simlpified) is to try to do a vertical jump with a loaded bar in your hands. Although this only applies to one part of the lift, its an easy way to express how closely the vertical jump and olympic lifting are related. This is not shared with traditional weight lifting exercises to the same extent.

As I stated before, building a strong squat, deadlift or lunge CAN carry over to your vertical but that is not necessarily the case. A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that an olympic liting program improves jump performance as compared to a traditional weight training program: “The OL program improves jump performance via a constant CI, whereas the TW training caused an increased CI, probably to enhance joint stability”. To clarify, CI is the knee muscle coactivation index, this is obtained by taking the EMG of the antagonist muscle and dividing it by the agonist muscle. Essentially what they are saying is that when olympic lifting, the different muscles around the knee are always activated in the correct ratio (which stays the same with continued training), whereas traditional weight lifting will change the ratio of knee muscle activators. No matter how hard you try to stay balanced, if you’re doing a number of different exercises it will almost be impossible to keep them at an constant ratio. For this reason, olympic lifting will have a greater effect on your vertical jump.

Now, that being said, I don’t work with any athletes whose only goal is a greater vertical jump. By no means am I going to program ONLY olympic lifts and by no means is it the only way to increase your vertical jump. Ballistic movements including plyometrics are also a great way to increase explosiveness and power. This article is meant to share with athletes and coaches how valuable olympic lifting can be for athleticism. If you haven’t learned how to properly do them, then now would be a good time to hire a trainer/coach or find a good website to teach you (HERE is one that I really like or a VIDEO here). If you’d like to get started right away, here is a very easy progression plan to start doing power work.

– Do “explosive” shrugs. This means bend at the waist and extend the hips (squeeze glutes) into a shrug.

– Do Jump Shrugs. Beginning in a hang position (mid thigh bar, bent at the hips), explosively extend hips, knees and ankles (triple extension) and shrug as the bar begins to rise.

– Do High Pulls. This is nearly identical to the jump shrug except we’re keeping our arms loose and allowing them to bend so that the bar can travel up to rack height (shoulders).

– Do Hang Power Cleans. This is a high pull but we rotate our elbows up and catch in the power position.

If you’re a beginner, you don’t necessarily have to progress further than this, but if you’re enjoying the results or the exercises themselves then continue on to floor cleans, clean and jerk and snatches.

As a bonus, here’s callum crawford of the minnesota swarm doing 225lbs for his first time!


It’s About Getting Better!

Reference article from JSCR -> ( Olympic Weightlifting Training Causes Different Knee Muscle–Coactivation Adaptations Compared with Traditional Weight Training by Arabatzi, Fotini; Kellis, Eleftherios) [ August 2012 – Volume 26 – Issue 8 – p 2192–2201 ]

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