The Olympic style lifts, the snatch, clean and jerk and their variations have become the basis of the strength and power programs for many sports. The primary reason for including these exercises in a program is to train the nervous system to maximally activate the muscles, resulting in greater speed and power while under load. Additionally some coaches feel that the movements used in the clean are similar to those used when the body starts to open during jumps and accelerating out of the athletic ready position. Athletes throughout the world use the Olympic style lifts yet there are many misconceptions and concerns about including them in a training program.
Many athletes and coaches worry about being injured while doing a clean or snatch. When done properly the Olympic style lifts are among the safest lifts. Back injuries in sports like golf, baseball, and football occur about twice as frequently as they do in Olympic lifting. The odds of developing a shoulder injury during the bench press are much greater than injuring your back during a clean, provided they are done properly.
Sets and Reps
The Olympic style lifts need to be explosive; power is the key to successfully using these exercises in your program. It is possible to muscle the weight up but it defeats the purpose of the exercise and increases the chance of injury. In order to keep these movements explosive and powerful sets need to be short. The anaerobic alactic energy system, which uses the ATP-CP stored in the muscles, is the only energy system that provides energy quickly enough to maintain the power output needed to make the Olympic style lifts effective. The anaerobic alactic system can provide energy for 10-12s of all out work, which is about four reps for a power clean or power snatch. There is no need to take these exercises to a failure point, so you should have a little left at the end of a set.
Choosing the Right Lifts
Table 1 shows a list of the Olympic style lifts and some of their variations. There are plenty to choose from, providing the opportunity for lots of variation in your program. The exercises that are chosen will be dependant on equipment and space available and the body structure of the athlete.
|Power clean||Power snatch||Push Press|
|Hang clean||Hang snatch||Push Jerk|
|Clean pull from the floor||Snatch pull form the floor||Power Jerk|
|Clean pull from blocks||Snatch pull from blocks|
During the explosive second pull of the clean or snatch the weight is brought in against the legs high on the thighs, near the hips. This brings the bar close to the athlete’s center of gravity and allows the greatest power production. It also keep the bar moving close to the body, eliminating a swinging action away from the body that could potentially cause injury when the athlete tries to dip under the bar. To effectively perform the technique of either the snatch or clean the athlete must be able to get the bar into the right position. While this will not be a problem for the majority of athletes those with very long arms and short torsos may have difficulty performing the exercise properly. To test whether an athletes should be performing clean movements or snatch movements have the athlete assume the hang clean starting position demonstrated on the video, holding a broom stick in front of their body with an overhand grip. If the broom stick is sitting above the middle of their thigh they can safely perform clean and snatch exercises. If the broom stick is sitting below mid thigh ask the student to move their hands out to a snatch width grip and reexamine the bar placement. If sliding the hands out has moved the bar above mid thigh the student can perform snatch movements but not clean movements. If the bar is still not above mid thigh and the body position is correct the athlete should not be doing either clean movements or snatch movements.
The Jerk and variations can be safely performed by almost all athletes provided they have adequate flexibility through the wrists, shoulders and elbows to get into the correct body positions. Very tall athletes with long limbs may feel unstable during Jerk variations because the bar is so far above their center of gravity. These athletes should spend some time focusing on developing rotator cuff and shoulder strength before attempting these exercises.
If an athlete has physical limitations that prevent them from using the Olympic style lifts in their training this does not mean they cannot train for power development. Various plyometric jumps and jump throw combinations with medicine balls can be used instead.