How to incorporate Olympic Lifting into your daily training

By on July 11, 2014

“How should I incorporate Olympic weightlifting into my daily training?”   This is a question I receive all the time from the athletes I coach. Most of the athletes I coach have a job, family commitments, social commitments, etc. so the little time they do have is a very valuable commodity and due to that limited free time they need to maximize their time in the gym. I regularly talk with people about their goals and why they need to invest time in the training room working on their Olympic weightlifting technique and developing their skill as a weightlifter! If you too are struggling with decision let’s see if we can put some of the concerns to bed!

First Things First!!

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Olympic weightlifting is a tradition and is a sport that is passed from one generation to the next. The sports best athletes have spent years committing themselves to training, learning from the best, and focusing on developing their mind and body to be at the top of their game. As with all sports that is the extreme end. The important thing to remember is that Olympic weightlifting isn’t just a training tool but it is a sport and a lifestyle for many of us. As you learn about the sport and debate whether or not to try it here are a few of the basic items to consider before jumping into the deep end of the Olympic weightlifting pool:

1.)   Seek out a QUALIFIED coach! I don’t mean someone who has done a few lifts somewhere 10 years ago. Find someone that has successfully completed the USAW coaching certification! Find someone that has decided that coaching and teaching the Olympic lifts is their life’s passion! Find someone that has years of experience and has seen 100’s of lifters lift. Find someone that has taught everyone from the most experienced athlete to the 50 year old who just decided to lift weights for the first time. Find that coach that is going to assess your body’s movement capacity and determine if it is safe for you to learn these lifts. A qualified coach will help develop your basic motor skills, correct mobility issues, and will instill basic proper bar movements over heavy weights and lots of reps!

2.)   Check your ego! The saying goes “somewhere in the world there is a 48kg woman warming up with your 1 rep max!” and it is true. Check your ego because it will be the first thing that will stunt your ability to grow and learn in this sport. Show up in the training room ready to learn and be willing to start with a broom handle or PVC pipe. If your coach is worth his/her weight they will make sure to have you spending a lot of time with this training tool to help develop the proper positions of the lift and help you learn how to move your body through the different phases of the lifts. Be a blank slate, throw you ego away, and absorb all that you can. I have seen more people get farther in the sport by using lighter weights, establishing better movement patterns, and flawless speed of movement relative to the bar than I have ever seen just going heavy and doing the lifts poorly

3.)   Invest In Your Training! This goes with #1 seek out a QUALIFIED coach, seek out a United States Of America Weightlifting (USAW) sanctioned/affiliate club with proper barbells, bumpers, squat racks, jerk blocks, and plenty of platforms with a safe lifting environment, get a pair of weightlifting shoes and pulling straps, make smart lifestyle choices (sleep enough and eat healthy and enough), and invest time in yourself through patience, perseverance, and commitment to training.

4.)   Have Fun! Learn and have fun! Be the best you can be everyday but remember that not all training days are going to be your best, you won’t always hit a PR, and you may get frustrated…that’s part of it. Life or training without obstacles isn’t as much fun and the end result isn’t as rewarding if the path that you must fight was easy and free of challenge!! Get out there and make the most of every training opportunity!!

With that being said let’s look at why we train Olympic weightlifting and why we should spend the time working on the platform.

What are the benefits of training the Olympic lifts?

The Olympic lifts are one of the single greatest tools an athlete can use to train the entire body. Athletes of all levels from school age children to professional athletes to Olympians use these lifts as a part of their training. The physiological requirements of the Olympic lifts, snatch and clean and jerk, and their variants, help increase not only muscular/skeletal strength but increase reflex time as well as neuromuscular connectivity. These lifts will help your body develop an increased proprioceptive sense, which means the body’s ability to sense the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being used to perform any given movement. There are almost no other exercises out there can and will develop all aspects of human movement, aggression, strength, and speed quite like the Olympic lifts! It is an amazing trainer to help increase explosive potential, vertical and broad jump distances, reaction time, and raw explosive potential. I mean why wouldn’t you train these lifts???

The Movements Seem To Advanced For Me.

The snatch and clean and jerk are considered by most to the most advanced movements used in exercise and sport. This is where your experienced qualified coach in a USAW club will help you. In my club I first have people perform a set of movements to help me determine range of motion issues, squat potential, and muscular tension or joint immobility issues. This helps me to make appropriate choices for how to teach them the basics of weightlifting. Using a PVC pipe or broom pole the athlete is then coached through a warm-up progression to help reinforce proper body positions, barbell positions relative to the body, and is slowly introduced to the lifts from there over the course of weeks/months. These movements are advanced but with patience, ego checked, and under the close eye of a great coach you too can learn to perform these lifts with safety and grace!!

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How Do I fit Training Olympic Weightlifting Into My Training Schedule?

I get this question a couple times a week…every week. I coach and run a weightlifting club inside a functional fitness facility and have a lot of the athletes trying to maximize their experience in their limited amount of time. My first suggestion to them is to look at their personal schedule and determine the realistic amount of time they have to commit to training. Based on their schedule we look at the class times that are available and set up their schedule from there. Fortunately at the training facility where I coach we have 4 evening classes a week, 2 midday classes, 2 early morning classes and a Saturday class so there are lots of opportunities for our athletes to take full advantage of the class. The third thing I tell them is that if they plan on training the Olympic lifts they are not to do any other conditioning or high rep style class before the weightlifting class. Doing that high exertion level class prior to the weightlifting class does not allow that athlete to mentally and physically be fresh and their nervous system is shot. All of those systems need to be fresh and ready to go in order to learn the intricacies of the Olympic lifts and to be strong and safe when perfomring these movements. Once we have established which days they train the lifts and what sessions they will attend I have them make a commitment to that schedule and I expect to see them minimally 2 times per week but ideally 3 times per week for 2 to 3 months. Some athletes will train the Olympic lifts early in the day (before work) and then come back in the evening and do the high intensity training/conditioning. It really boils down to how your body responds and recovers. You should allow a good bit of recovery time after training sessions to help your body build muscle and create new neural pathways. Commit to yourself, commit to your training, and be patient!!

How Will Training The Lifts Help Me With My Functional Fitness Training & Competitions?

A few years ago I read a statement that had been floating around on the internet that 40% of all workouts in competitions from the local to the Fittest in the World are programmed with Olympic lifts or some version of a snatch and/or clean and jerk. That is almost half of the movements you will see in competition! If you are a competitive athlete in the world of fitness that should be reason enough to train them! They are a requirement of the world of competitive fitness and failing to train them puts you at an immediate disadvantage. Competitors get out there, invest in a coach, add the lifts to your programming, and become very familiar with them…you will only see them more and more!!! Now if you aren’t interested in the competitive side of fitness and you are training for health and wellness the lifts are still perfect for you. They challenge you in all capacities and will lend to an increased sense of balance, flexibility, strength, stability, increased metabolic rates and build self confidence! You will be stronger, faster, and more reactive than you have ever been! You will be a superhero version of yourself….I mean who doesn’t want that!! In addition you will enter into a tradition of sport and training that goes back well over 100 years! Training the Olympic lifts has taught me to fight the inner battles, be strong in the face of adversity, and how sweet the taste of victory can be. Remember it’s about you and the barbell, the struggle, the epic dance, and the beautiful movement of your body through space performing the most elegant and aggressive physical movement the human body can produce. It is beautiful and one of the greatest things as a coach is to see that person move through flawless precision and the confidence that is exuded as they conquer the fears and doubts!

Patrick Curtis

Patrick Curtis

About Patrick Curtis

Patrick Curtis, or "PC" is an USAW Level 1 Olympic Lifting coach at Titan Barbell Club in Baltimore, MD. His passion is to teach the Olympic Lifts and help his athletes reach their maximum potential.

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