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Is Olympic-Style Weightlifting A Necessity For Athletes?

Over the years (and I’ve been working with athletes for nearly 15 years), I am asked when my son or daughter will start using the “Olympic Lifts” in his or her training. My answer is quite simple…. “perhaps never”.

This usually results in the “blank stare”……. as if my very statement was going to cast me straight to hell.

And for some uncanny reason… athletes, parents and coaches think everything needs complexity and that they are extremely advanced in their training maturation?

I’m curious as to what makes parents, athletes, coaches, lions and tigers….. sorry I was getting off track, believe or think that Olympic lifts are the “be all end all” for athletic development?

Go ahead… I’m waiting… #crickets!

Now I am an advocate of olympic style lifts and their variations for athletic training programs. But also keep in mind, under the appropriate timing and necessity. The pros must outweigh the cons in the scenario. The general population (parents / sport coaches), tend to perceive olympic lifting as the ultimate measuring stick of their son or daughter’s athletic ability.

barbell high-pull

Athlete Sean, performing a barbell, clean-grip, hang high-pull.

I have a lengthy resume of very successful athletes ranging from the NFL to student athletes that fenced at Duke. With some, I have employed olympic lifting variations and with others… they have never utilized a barbell.

As a “professional” coach you must evaluate the wants vs. needs.

So, what can be the positive transference of olympic lifting?
(And note – I mentioned “can be”)

• proper rate of force development
• some kinematic joint similarities to sports
• strength-speed
– just to list a few

So, what’s the problem? Why not just unleash the hounds?


Well, my largest observation is the improper execution of the lifts and their variations by the athletes. Parents typically don’t have the background knowledge to visually decipher what is right from wrong and coaches tend to negate on form / technique in favor of the weight on the bar.

So, what can be problematic?

poor power clean

Absolutely horrific technique and execution of a clean related movement.

• not sufficient strength levels ( and there is no calendar markers for this )
• lack of proper motor control
• inefficient technique ( if not perfected… you are NOT achieving the desired goals )
• biomechanical  restrictions ( what is interrupting the technique? )
– and you simply can not default to “practice makes perfect” in this situation, the math is not that simple

As an athlete… you are training for your sporting event(s)… you are NOT a powerlifter… you are NOT an Olympic lifter.

Saquon Barkley power clean. Poor landing position with feet too wide, too much external rotation at the hips, elbows low and squeezed inside with poor wrist position. NOT WORTH THE RISK!

There are greater alternatives to simulate the actions and training transfer. But the coach must explore the desired relationships that they are trying to achieve.

med ball backwards scoop

Here is an excellent alternative to a clean related movement of a med ball backwards scoop with a weighted vest, executed by the author.. wait that’s me!

The movement displayed directly above, involves the utilization of a 40lb. weighted vest and a 25lb medicine ball. I was capable of creating proper posture, driving my feet through the floor, executing triple extension from toes to finger tips to toss the medicine ball directly behind myself.

As a coach, and as an athlete, you must have a clear understanding of what the end goal is.

As a coach, how do I train my athletes and provide a safe performance environment?

As an athlete, I must make myself aware and recognize that I’m training for my sport. I’m not a powerlifter. I’m not an Olympic lifter. And the weight that is on the bar means nothing in the context of how well I play at my chosen sport.

Poor execution and application of a movement(s) like Olympic-style lifts simply leads to dysfunctional movement patterns that sooner or later are recognizable through injury.

Feel like a debate….?

Reach out… I’m good for a cup of coffee and a discussion.
– Coach Moody

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