Adequate Technique in the Olympic Lifts


Perhaps the most common question about the olympic lifts are the technical abilities being good enough to be a positive influence in training. What is enough technique in some sort of ballistic action with the bar, ball, or dumbbell to carryover to sport? What type of carryover is possible? When we look at the olympic lifts I have seen some impressive technique and stuff that looks dangerous. Without starting a debate I will start an agreement on what I feel is adequate. Davan, a member of elitetrack, states:

I personally view adequate technique as one that:

  • Is safe
  • Develops necessary qualities (strength in certain muscle groups, specific levels of power, etc.)
  • Can be repeated consistently

I agree. Let’s move on how to do this.

Strangely I see people failing to show high school athletes lifting a transferable load (power) with an athlete that distributes his or her time to a complete set of biomotor abilities to a field or olympic sport (besides weightlifting). Most well rounded programs include all five of the biomotor abilities in some sort of composition that allows for the athlete to do well in their respective sport. Lena is an example of someone that can switch from world championships (60m) to European Elite in weightlifting. Her technique is adequate but most of us will not have that type of athlete as she is not 14-18, the largest group of strength training athletes. How we get the largest group to lift well enough to get the bar to do positive things to their program is the name of the game.

The primary focus on the olympic lifts is system power in the lower extremities. Some of the secondary and minor adaptations to the body like spinal mobility, biochemistry to the neuromuscular system, and even joint range of motion are nice bonus gifts. Strangely what I see from strength and conditioning programs are awesome olympic lifters that can’t run or jump well, guys that can run but can’t jump, jumpers that can’t lift, and throwers that can’t run a step but can lift the gym. I think we all want well rounded but what is rounded enough? If we put all our marbles into olympic lifting we can get a lot of bang for our buck but we must remember that sprinting and jumping work faster and are more natural.

Being an observer and looking at the research I would bet that olympic lifters spending 80% of their time lifting and 20% of their time working on movement training will out vertical a power lifter working with the same percentage. That happens if it’s 50% weight room and 50% movement work? The static lifts start to be a bigger influence as time decreases. What about 8% of the time olympic lifting and 92 percent working the sport demands and other training? My own research of my program and other programs feel that the olympic lifts are worth the time but are not easy to pick up as most of us are not spending the same time on the platforms as olympic lifting coaches. The other aspects are energy levels to train on the platform if you have plyos, sprints, and other lifts such as the static lifts. Now things become tricky.

Some coaches go from the hang only, some go from the floor, some catch, some dump without a catch. Who is right? The guy that has the best athletic profile at the time of the first competition and the last competition. One coach argued with me that he could get his athletes ready to go earlier than me because he didn’t olympic lift and could focus on getting stronger earlier. His belief that I would spend all day with a broomstick was further from the truth. He failed to look at long term planning as freshman will become seniors and that time between year three and four slows down the curve of improvement unless you have a big bag of options. He was a slave to the squat rack and his options were little when guys and gals hit close to their ceiling of strength and conditioning. I was doing warm-ups with the bar for the less skilled athletes, work capacity for the slightly skilled, and relative power for the adequately skilled athlete. Those that were just doing movement work got more plyometric work and squat work as they would naturally respond better as they were weak and couldn’t get a good overload with a motion they didn’t have good control.

With any resource, one must be careful not to invest too much into one thing as any effort one way is taking away from something else as most qualities are finite. Some athletes come in with injuries, poor habits, poor work ethic, and frames that make things tough. Extreme cases like KG from the Celtics make one guess he is not full cleaning from the floor with 2 x body weight. Yet an athlete that is suffering with an foot and ankle injury may respond to the olympic lifts as the joint is not getting the same impact characteristics. Snatches with a shoulder issue may not be smart. Catching with a wrist problem is perhaps a no no with cleans. Squatting deep with a bad back is tricky and perhaps unnecessary. Load what you can do technically right and safely, teach what you want to load in the future.
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Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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