Team Houston Olympic Weight Lifting

Olympic Weightlifting Simplified Training

There is no absolute scientific basis for the statements presented in this article. It is only an accumulation of ideas we are sharing with you, and is based on years of knowledge attained by gut-wrenching personal training, success and failure in competitive Olympic Weightlifting, reading updated training principles and physiology, and general observation over the years of lifters performing and not performing on the platform and in training gyms.

We were observing a young man train previously when Joe mentioned a national ranked weightlifter had reached elite status and had supplemented repetition deadlifts in his training. For a moment we thought this odd … SQUATS, yes … DEADLIFTS, some, but only performed fast and tweaked-in here and there!  This exercise used to be contrary to our mode of thinking … slow pulls … a big fat no-no, but this particular lifters’ success started our mental wheels to turn. It dawned on us unilaterally and we began to discuss between us long-held concern, and deliberations between us, about the validity of the numerous assistance exercises lifters have universally come to accept (including us in bygone times) and have relied on for years to attain progress and success on the lifting platform, training time spent and perhaps wasted on them, not to mention muscle and joint injuries suffered from both excessive overload and an assortment of dangerous abbreviated movements. We decided it was time we speak up and present an alternate approach to serious training to our fellow athletes in the event they would like to give it a try … a simplistic training principle verses highly specialized traditional training.

The primary reason anyone undertakes this sport is to train and lift heavier weights in the snatch and clean & jerk … in competition – plain and simple! When one focuses on the great champions of the past it becomes clear this is an athletic sport which has produced some of the best athletes in all sports. A majority of these were foreign champions who trained in a highly organized environment, good coaches coupled with cycle training. But most western lifters (many truly great) have trained in seclusion or in same groups in less than the ideal environment and needed all the help they can get from many out-sources. Cycle training came on the scene and has helped, and is important; it being creatively adaptable once incorporated into our proposed scheme.

Our contention is: we Olympic Lifters have unnecessarily come to rely on assistance exercises, many with sound reason and approach, but are time-wasters, and over time are body-pounding partial movements executed in unnatural positions with violent force which precipitate their share of injuries on joints and muscle: high pulls, block work, power rack work, jerks off racks, power snatches & cleans, hang snatches and cleans, drop snatches … gee, the list goes on, all designed and executed by the aspiring lifter for any one of many specialized and philosophical reasons: floor work, segmenting the pull, speed in descent, balance, position, slapping feet to simulate great swiftness, etc. They in fact eat up a lifters time for which he could spend training more compactly four direct aspects: (1) technical predominantly doing singles, (2) basic power incorporating singles and reps, and (3) jerks predominantly doing singles, (4) jerk remedials incorporating singles and reps. We will say more later about training singles and intensity, reps and volume, but for now we would like to clarify that snatching and clean & jerking for platform acclimation, is better performed doing multiple singles with mid to heavy weights, and full squats and deadlifts for basic power can be more varied by doing mid-to-heavy multiple singles … or medium weight for reps. Jerks should be done in singles, their remedials incorporating singles and reps. These movements in time will increase leverage and accuracy, thus better performance, especially where it truly counts … tournaments. Also, volume training will attain smoother transition throughout the movement and lessen incidences of injury under normal and natural conditions. Stating emphatically … the platform is reserved for the Olympic Lifts. What you’ve accomplished in the gym should play out there: lifts executed with solid technique, blazing speed, admirable power, you a picture of confidence with success after success … a bummer for your competitor. Training as close to this condition is essential and closest route to the victor’s podium. One’s performance on the platform mirrors his mode of training, and conscientiousness - whether he is mediocre or a champion. There isn’t a whole lot of variety in this concept, but there doesn’t have to be to attain quality training … and think of the cluttering equipment not needed. You’ve heard the term: ‘cutting the fat’; this is our proposition in this article for training sensible for the Olympic Lifts.

If you give thought to this you might see our viewpoint, or you may not. But the cold hard fact is many fine lifters fail miserably on the platform … novices to great champions. Why? The answer is no mystery; it’s simple; they are not properly trained for the platform environment, and lack the mind-set to challenge competitors or push for personal or other greater records. This adaptation to stress on the competitive level takes thousands of single lifts with mid to near maximum poundage’s, visualizing the platform experience!!! Lifting on the platform should be a continuation of sound training and be instinctive and automatic. But the high percentage of failures in any contest plainly shows it isn’t … we’ve seen it, you’ve seen it, and the record books prove it over time.

Squats are the universal whole-body power builder, working the primary muscles that make the difference in any two opposing lifter’s capabilities. But suddenly we’re inserting regular deadlifts … wow! When you think about it, deadlifts act in a similar fashion as squats working the big muscle groups, except they are more mechanically akin to the lifter beginning his floor pull. Performed in multiple singles with extremely heavy weights (fast if necessary), and reinforced periodically with high reps with moderate weight, this exercise could be the very foundation for the Olympic Lifter to begin his best chosen lifts and be successful in competition. Jerks and jerk remedials should be trained according to the lifter's needs.

It might be argued that all those assistance exercises are absolutely necessary … they do offer variety. But we say perhaps they are not and are extra baggage. If both Olympic lifts are given more emphasis and are performed correctly with discipline and diligence, and the lifter mentally pictures lifting each rep on the competition platform, he will be doing all the speed, balance, and adaptive work he will ever need. Coupled with moderate power work, he should be on his way to improvement. If he seeks supplemental body conditioning, a toning and remedial exercise workout thrown in at random is a good thing, and healthy, especially to rest the central nervous system. Brains over brawn sometimes makes the difference in our sport.

Here are some further thoughts in addition to what we have said thus far. We are not advocating any specific workout program, only want to pass on our viewpoint that lifters need a quality and compact exercise regimen rather than idling their time on numerous wasted movements. Listed below are movements along with the Olympic Lifts we believe should be performed in training. Other remedial exercises can be used periodically with core training, plus stretching to maintain flexibility.

SNATCH and CLEAN & JERK: These two are done mostly in singles, except for warming up. Why?
A high percentage of trainees do too many reps, even when going heavier. Keep in mind these lifts are performed with explosive speed and require near perfect technique. When doing reps with high intensity the lifter has the tendency to slow down with each successive rep, which precipitates fatigue and diminishes the full capacity of the fast-twitch muscle fibers, induces poor position which can lead to injury. This is not a good practice to exploit day-in and day-out, and can be a career-ender! Explosiveness, speed along with good technique, is the main objective on these lifts … for that matter, any other movement closely associated with the particular Olympic lift.

Have you ever seen a lifter go out on the platform and see how many reps he can do with his first attempt? NO! Have you ever seen a discus thrower sling one discus after another without proper preparation or a high jumper bounce back and forth over a 7 foot bar?

By eliminating extra movements – all that clutter of specialization the trainee can redirect his attention and add time to increase volume on the actual Olympic Lifts … and benefit many-fold.

You have the option to train them less often when you increase sufficient volume, which allows extra time to work fundamental strength with the power assist movements we have suggested. But we do suggest doing the snatch and clean & jerk (singularly) at least once per week, preferably twice, reaching desired volume in accumulated efforts with singles that will truly increase athleticism and proficiency.

FULL BACK SQUATS: Performed with the back straight and not bending forward at any time during the movement. They can be performed with singles for power or lower reps with high intensity for strength, reps with lower intensity to build extra stamina. Front squats can be included on occasion, but you get like-benefit from simply cleaning the barbell prior to jerking it.

DEADLIFTS – OLYMPIC STYLE: This movement can be done with either the snatch or clean grip. It is imperative to execute it in the same body position as the actual Olympic lift that it targets. It should be explosive with high intensity with the lifter visualizing himself in competition pulling the bar from the platform. In addition, positive anaerobic benefit can be attained doing reps with lower intensity. With extensive training this movement will build extra strength, and compounded over time will reap tremendous results.

In general keep the reps between 5 and 10, only occasionally doing lower reps with heavier loads. Remember – don’t get in the rut of dragging the barbell … we’re training for s-p-e-e-d – explosiveness, pointblank!
Here’s a suggestion if you seek added top-pull benefit … do a shrug with the weight at the top end of the movement after each pull.

OVERHEAD WORK – JERK REMEDIALS …
MILITARY PRESS: Very good and primary assistance exercise for developing shoulder and arm strength. You can do them explosively and hold weight forcibly in place several seconds at arms length. You and your coach can determine when and how to work the press into your program, but make an effort to include them once a week!

POWER JERKS: Drive the bar after a slight dip coordinating it with a forcible arm-thrust, locking at full arms length (avoid press-out) with a second descending dip of the legs. As with press, hold several seconds before lowering bar. You and your coach should determine when and how to include this valuable exercise in your schedule and get a thorough workout, perhaps every 8 – 10 days.

JERK LOCKOUTS and OVERHEAD SUPPORTS: These power and balance exercises can be done in the split position, recovering from that position and holding the bar 5 or 6 seconds. They should be included in your training regimen every 8 – 10 days.

Please note: these overhead movements are not to be done on the day you do Clean and Jerks, the jerk after cleaning will supply all the overhead work you’ll need in one session.
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Since first presenting this idea publicly coaches and lifters have shown interest and wanted better clarification, a program of sorts. Below is a program we’re calling: Zone of Comfort – No Misses (ZCNM) and based on Contest First Attempt (CFA). The program can be done instinctively disregarding percentages or on a cycling rotation – whichever the lifter/coach deems appropriate for the trainee. We’ll explain as we chart the actual program.

We recognize that no two individuals are alike. We also recognize that much time, money, and effort has been admirably invested by coaches, gyms, schools, training centers, etc., to enhance Olympic Weightlifting, but on the grand scale our sport is suffering from lack of elite performance, and this can be corrected with a different and direct approach. This program is merely a start. It is fat-cut-to-lean and a model for our approach to training the Olympic Lifts … and we must add that it is open to modification to fit any particular lifter’s needs. However, it is straightforward and our well-meaning attempt to present what we believe is the best most compact and comprehensive approach to enhancing a lifter’s training skills, which we feel confident will result in successful platform performance. To accomplish this goal there are certain necessities we have identified and implemented: simplicity, eliminated specialty junk exercises, focused on majority and more volume technical-lift-training, and scheduled quality back-up strength training exercises to be executed in moderation. Presented are ten different workouts that span two weeks: five are technical, three are basic strength, and two are leisure. The ten will be repeated several times with slight progression the intent until contest day arrives.

The technical days are the heart of this program and designed to teach the body to adjust to levers under ever-increasing burden, and hone the nervous system, which greatly controls the weightlifter’s destiny. Envisioning your performance on contest day is very important for each of the reps scheduled.

The basic strength days should not exhaust the trainee but leave him exhilarated. Eye-popping strain, bone-crushing reps are unnecessary. When the tonnage mounts excessive fatigue to the body becomes dangerous when form is broken. The exercises should build some muscle and create a foundation to support the body throughout the fast-moving technicals. They should be done with varying sets and reps, and intensities, and be creative and enjoyable … a welcome break from the nervy technical days.

For lifters with specialty problems in the jerk, there are several exercises previously listed. They can be incorporated in the basic strength days, but don’t overdo them … because much of what can be accomplished to correct problems is done by repeated technicals and having a coach or recording device on hand to catch such flaws.

One very important point to make is: this isn’t a power sport as such, though strength is a factor. So much lies on attitude, mental preparation (envisioning as we term it in the program below), and mental execution. Olympic Weightlifting is athletic, is the gymnastic sport of the iron games. Each platform lift should be explosive. When we lifted many years ago we envisioned a bomb going off as we pulled the bar from the floor … lightning speed throughout. Guys and gals, at this point we got quite crazy!!!
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This is our program outline with added comments for explanation.
For Clarity: ZCNM means Zone of Comfort – No Misses, a guideline point where whatever percentage weights are measured to Contest First Attempt (CFA).

WEEK 1 – DAY 1 (Basic Strength Day)
PRESS (Rack) --- Reps & Sets can vary (3 to 10 range after warm-up) … be creative in arrangement. A great exercise to strengthen arms and shoulders, thus enhance the overhead jerk.
SQUAT --- Reps & Sets can vary (3-10 range after warm-up). Is the fundamental pushing foundation for snatching, cleaning, and jerking.
DEADLIFT-OLYMPIC STYLE SHRUG AT TOP from floor (Keep HIPS DOWN at start!) --- Reps & Sets can vary (3 to 10 range after warm-up). Is the fundamental pulling foundation for snatching and cleaning … remember hips down.
CORE EXERCISES (optional each Basic Strength Day) --- Use discretion for Reps and Sets: hyperextensions, sit-ups, leg raises, other exotics.
 
WEEK 1 – DAY 2 (Technical Day)
1 – SNATCH (Low Intensity) --- After warm-ups (will mention once: elliptical machine is a good warm-up for lower body mobility, then do normal stretching, etc.), do 20 singles each lift envisioning CFA (Contest First Attempt) in upcoming contest. If the lifter is cycling start with 70% CFA and work in successive workouts to 75% CFA – jumping 1% each repeated workout.


WEEK 1 – DAY 3 (Technical Day)
1 – CLEAN & JERK (Low Intensity) --- After warm-ups do 20 singles each lift envisioning CFA in upcoming contest. If the lifter is cycling start with 70% CFA and work in successive workouts to 75% CFA – jumping 1% each repeated workout.

WEEK 1 – DAY 4 (Basic Strength Day)
POWER JERK (Rack) --- After warm-ups, do 10 singles ZCNM. Comfort Zone percentage is optional and what is appropriate to the lifter, but heavy enough to not miss --- no press-outs!!!
LEG EXTENSION/LEG CURL --- Reps & Sets can vary (3 to 10 range after warm-up). Is an isolation exercise to strengthen both the knee joint and thigh stabilizer muscles (thigh biceps).
STIFF-LEG DEADLIFT (feet on blocks and toes just under bar) --- Reps & Sets can vary (3 to 10 range after warm-up). Be aware not to go ultra heavy, or overdo this exercise. Is an excellent spinal erector developer (thigh biceps too) but caution must be adhered to avoid injury.

WEEK 1 – DAY 6 (Leisure Day) Day 5 & 7 are to rest.
    Stretch, perhaps do core exercises, and spend quality time on an elliptical machine to enhance lower trunk mobility, ankles, knees, hips.
Note: This leisure day also applies to each successive 6th day of any week, except contest week.

WEEK 2 – DAY 1 (Technical Day)
2 – SNATCH (Medium Intensity) --- After warm-ups, do 15 singles CFA, each lift envision 2nd attempt in upcoming contest. If the lifter is cycling start with 80% CFA and work in successive workouts to 85% CFA - jumping 1% each repeated workout.

WEEK 2 – DAY 2 (Technical Day)
2 – CLEAN & JERK (Medium Intensity) --- After warm-ups, do 15 singles CFA, but each lift envision 2nd attempt in upcoming contest. If lifter is cycling start with 80% CFA and work in successive workouts to 85% CFA – jumping 1% each repeated workout.

WEEK 2 – DAY 3 (Basic Strength Day)
PUSH PRESS (Push-to-Ceiling at top) --- Reps & Sets can vary (3 to 10 range after warm-up). Done properly is excellent to strengthen jerk lockout.
SQUAT --- After warm-up do 10 singles in ZCNM, (whatever weight that is comfortable to lifter and form isn’t broken, no bouncing in bottom position), then drop back lighter for a set or two of reps.
DEADLIFT-OLYMPIC STYLE SHRUG AT TOP from floor (Keep HIPS DOWN at start!) --- After warm-up do fast 10 singles in ZCNM (whatever weight that is comfortable to lifter and form isn’t broken), then drop back lighter for a set or two of reps. Is the fundamental pulling foundation for snatching and cleaning … remember hips down.

WEEK 2 – DAY 4 (CONTEST SIMULATION DAY)
3 – SNATCH (Heavy Intensity) --- After warm-ups, do 10 singles CFA, each lift envision 3rd attempt in upcoming contest. If the lifter is cycling start with 90% CFA and work in successive workouts to 95% CFA - jumping 1% each repeated workout.
3 – CLEAN & JERK (Heavy Intensity) --- After warm-ups, do 10 singles CFA, each lift envision 3rd attempt in upcoming contest. If the lifter is cycling start with 90% CFA and work in successive workouts to 95% CFA - jumping 1% each repeated workout.

WEEK 2 – DAY 6 (Leisure Day) Day 5 & 7 are to rest.
    Stretch, perhaps do core exercises, and spend quality time on an elliptical machine to enhance lower trunk mobility, ankles, knees, hips.
Note: This leisure day also applies to each successive 6th day of any week, except contest week.

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REPEAT WEEKLY WORKOUTS BY FOLLOWING PROGRESSIVE PERCENTAGES CFA GUIDELINES. THE LIFTER CAN ADJUST HIS PERCENTAGES UPWARD ON THE LATER CONTEST SIMULATION DAYS IF DESIRED AND HE/SHE IS HITTING THE 95% LIFTS EASILY WITH ZERO MISSES.
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We’ve presented our ideas and a program we feel is as about as direct as possible at building solid and successful Olympic Weightlifters.
 
We thank you for your time … and wish you good luck and great lifting, Joe Dube, and Virgil Dube.