Introducing Olympic Lifting For Athletes: Part II

Introducing Olympic Lifting For Athletes: Part II

This is a guest post from Matt Wichlinski

The first dynamic elements I would add to the strength program would be jumps and hang pulls with a snatch and clean grip, and jerk dip squats. This teaches the athlete acceleration, and creates momentum and elevation on the barbell, all while reinforcing the proper position of the body for optimal performance. These drills teach the athlete to remain rigid through the torso with isometric strength, while moving explosively at the hips with dynamic strength, or power.

After a week or two of incorporating hang pulls, jumps and dip squats into the athletes training prior to their deadlift, squat or pressing movements, I would begin to incorporate additional movements to the program that progressively build off of the previous movement pattern, all while constantly refining the original drills.

After learning how to explode the bar upwards with hang pulls, the athlete needs to learn how to receive the barbell in the rack and overhead position for the clean and jerk and the snatch. This is done with delivery drills like muscle cleans, muscle snatches and push presses. From here, it is simply a matter of gradually adding range of motion and velocity to the given movements, and even adding a second or third movement as a complex to increase agility by transitioning from one movement pattern to another.

The muscle clean will eventually morph into a hang muscle clean, then a hang muscle clean plus a front squat, then a hang power clean, then a hang squat clean, then a low hang clean, then a clean from the floor. Very similar drills can be applied for the snatch, the only difference is where the athlete receives the bar. Instead of front squatting for the clean, the athlete can perform overhead squats to improve stability in the bottom position of the snatch with the barbell overhead. But nothing will help the power of the snatch more than the Olympic style back squat, in my opinion.

Again, these progressions are not introduced over the course of minutes or even days in some cases, but over the course of several weeks or months. It is all a very individual circumstance, depending on the quality of movement from the athlete.  My basic answer for when it is appropriate for an athlete to progress to the next complex exercise is, “when it’s easy”. However, if the athlete is truly “getting it”, a session or two at one progression may be sufficient before moving forward.

The overhead squat is a great mobility drill and also develops good core strength and confidence in beginners by allowing them to feel that position slow and controlled at first. Once the athlete has developed proficiency with over head squatting, they need to learn how to get in to that bottom position with more velocity.  A pressing snatch balance is a great drill to introduce the athlete to pushing under the bar, instead of just pushing the bar up.Following the pressing snatch balance, the athlete learns the heaving snatch balance, which begins as a push press and finishes with the athlete pushing themselves aggressively under the bar. Finally the snatch balance is introduced, which is performed with maximal tenacity and velocity.

The snatch balance is a serious drill the begins with the bar on the athletes back like a back squat, the athlete dips and explodes upwards generating momentum and elevation on the barbell while immediately transitioning from pushing the bar up to pushing the body down. This drill requires, as well as creates, a lot of aggressiveness and agility. It can not be done timid or slow. Each progression is adding range of motion, increasing velocity, or both.

The jerk is the phase of the lift that has always provided me with the most frustration, pain and problems. I pretty much suck at it, yet it looks to be the most simple of all the Olympic lifts. Its the fastest lift, it has the shortest range of motion, and in theory it should be the easiest. But it is not always the case. It may be simple for some, but nearly impossible for others. I, unfortunately, am one of those athletes that never got very good at jerking, but I will do my best to help you anyway.

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