Olympic Lifting for Baseball

Olympic Lifting for Baseball

There will always be on an ongoing war regarding whether or not athletes should perform Olympic lifts. Most coaches have a love/hate relationship with the lifts. Unfortunately, there is no middle ground, you either do them or you don’t. Before I get into why I am not a huge fan of Olympic lifts for baseball players, let me start by saying the Olympic lifts are the ultimate test of explosive power.  I think that when they are performed with proper technique, they are one of the best ways to improve rate of force development, however I don’t think they are for everyone, especially not baseball players.

When it comes to baseball players I am not a huge fan of the olympic lifts for a few reasons:

  • Most baseball players don’t know how to  front squat or deadlift properly.  If an athlete cannot deadlift or front squat properly with a barbell they SHOULD NOT EVEN ATTEMPT OLYMPIC LFITS. There needs to be a progression for teaching the lifts and this progression should start with a proper deadlift and front squat.
  • Olympic Weightlifting is a sport within itself and the lifts are very technical. The lifts take a lot of time to learn and this time can be spent elsewhere to development explosive power.
  • The lifts beat up your shoulders, wrists and elbows. Most baseball players already suffer enough stress of the wrists, shoulders and elbows. Why compound this problem in the gym?
  • All Olympic lifts take place on the sagittal plane. The problem with this is there is a good chance that the rest of your training program consists of exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses and pulls-all of witch take place on the sagittal plane. This is a mistake I made early on and it wasn’t until I read Eric Cressey’s  article, What I learned in 2010 that I understood the importance of doing exercises on the transverse and frontal planes.  In order to improve throwing velocity, hitting power and lateral speed, you will need to start performing exercises on the transverse and frontal plane. This is why I highly recommend rotational medicine ball throws and lateral jumps to develop explosive power for baseball players.

I highly recommend you check out Eric Cressey’s YouTube channel to learn more about rotational med ball throws. Here is sample one below:

  • Have you ever watched a high school or ollege weight rooms perform Olympic lifts? Believe me its ugly. The reasons why so many coaches are married to these lifts are because they train triple extension. Unfortunately, unless you are using proper technique (which is rare for most athletes)  triple extension won’t be achieved. The video below is why I don’t like doing Olympic lifts with my baseball players.

What should YOU do?

  • If you feel the need to perform Olympic lifts perform the hang pull versions of the snatch and clean. These variations are easier to teach and won’t tax your wrist, elbows and shoulders because it eliminates the “catch” phase.
  • Olympic lifts are not the only way to increase power and explosiveness. Start incorporating more rotational medicine ball throws and lateral jumps into your program to develop power and explosiveness on the proper planes.

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Leave A Reply (9 comments so far)

  • Scott

    Well said Joe! Just like the video posted, I see that same technique in HS weightrooms and comercial gyms. For some reason these coaches who have no background in strength training @HS think these lifts are a must. Fact is they have kids doing O-lifts and they can not even do 5 chin ups.

    Thanks for the great post

  • joel


    Thanks for your UNBIASED input. Great point on emphasizing the fact that many HS students do what is called ‘football cleans.’ Ugly and extremely dangerous.

    I train athletes at the local gym on full Olympic lifts. (‘Full’ meaning the bar is received low and not the power version.) I have seen many athletes benefit from doing these lifts. I had two basketball players who increased their vertical jump by 1.5 inches in 6 weeks. As you said,they are very effective PROVIDING they are done in a safe manner.

    It’s sad how Weightlifting is dead in the US, considering 80% of athletes at the las Olympics had weightlifting as part of their training regimen.

    Coach – You had also mentioned ‘triple extension.’ Just wanted to point out that there is no triple extension in olmpic weightlifting. Triple extension was popularized by American coaches and it is dead wrong, which is one of the reasons the US ranks 30th in the world in the sport. Mark Rippetoe was big on this, and it is wrong.

    Thanks for your time.

  • Thanks for your comment Joel.

    Keep in touch bruddah!

    Feel free to email me or join my email list!

  • Taylor

    Hey Coach, I’m a high school baseball pitcher and I played football this past fall. My strength coach at school is really pro-football and has me doing olympic lifts, but I do not think I’m going to continue football. I’ve done some research about baseball weightlifting and most of what I have read advises not to do olympic lifts for baseball players. I was just wondering if I could get your take on the subject. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.


  • Chase Kyriacou

    When my teammates on my college team perform cleans, i almost want to puke cause it looks like their wrist and knee joints just want to pop out. Also, i am a voluntary assistant coach at my high school where i played and watching them deadlift, squat and clean is even uglier. I have a lazy strength coach at my college who doesnt let the players progress into these lifts. Its definantly a sign of laziness. When i met Matt Wichlinski, he had me do light DB snatches and clean+presses before i moved onto the barbell by itself. Most people that have little knowledge think lifting massive weights is going to make their players better, but they dont understand the importance of good form. I believe if your going to take the time to teach the lift to the player and let them progress from light KB/DB snatches and cleans to eventually heavier weight on the barbell, then devote the time to it. I really enjoy reading your articles Coach Megz. I would love to come up to Jersey with my partner and do a session at the Underground Strength Gym

  • Chase,

    I agree with you bro. Most coaches just do the lifts because they have awesome benefits WHEN PERFORMED PROPERLY. However, when they aren’t performed with proper technique they are an injury waiting to happen. I have herd some true horror stories of what goes on in high school weigh rooms and I have personally witnessed horror stories in my old college weight room. I agree that KB and DB Olympic lifts are easier to learn for most athletes and are a good progression to the lifts. You make a great point about TECHNIQUE BEFORE WEIGHT. Athletes gotta leave their egos out of the weight room,.

    Thanks for checking in Chase. Keep the comments coming 🙂

    Joe Meglio

  • Benny

    I was wondering about doing olympic lifts, specifically the jerk, for baseball. I have an olympic weightlifting coach who is in the top ten in the country for his weight class so I know my form is correct. In the past years I have never experienced arm pain. I started doing olympic lifts consistently close to the start of this high school season. I experienced discomfort (not really intense pain) in my throwing shoulder. I did start throwing hard quickly this season. I wondered if it is safe for me to continue lifting the way I am and just let my body get used to these exercises.

  • Grayson

    How is triple extension not in olympic lifts Joel? I would love to hear how its not? Is the extension of the ankles knees and hips not what makes the lift explosive and propels the weight up so you can drop under it for the catch? Anyways as mentioned yes it is dangerous if not performed with correct form however I would have to disagree with you saying time would be better spent developing explosive power other ways. The time it takes for the form to be mastered on these lifts is well worth it because you dont get the same gains from anything else like you do from these lifts. Throwing med balls is great but it only helps your speed and power is strength plus speed. olympic lifts develope both power and speed. The hang clean is directly correlated with your vertical which correlates to pitching velocity and linear speed. I believe O lifts have there place in all sports training, but proper form must be taught first. My honest opinion though is that all high schools need to have a speed and strength coach if they are going to lift wieghts for any sport, and I mean a legit speed and strength coach who knows what proper form really is.

  • Randy Rees

    So the reason they are bad is they are done incorrectly. True with most training exercises. An alternative is to do them correctly. Learn how. You DO develop more power with them than any other way THEN do the ball exercises in a manner that trains the body to utilize the triple extension to maximize power in the movement. Done correctly, the power is redirected from the upward direction to the horizontal direction. Rotational throwing cannot result in an athlete gaining as much POWER as Olympic lifting. But you do need it -PROPERLY done, to teach the body how to utilize triple extension in transferring the vector of power. Check out the Top Velocity program.