Olympic Lifts

I am curious what you guys think about the Olympic lifts in a track and field athlete training program. After speaking to James and listening to Charlie weight and speed download I am starting to wonder if they should be in my program.

One thing that James and Charlie both pointed out was the weight lifts compete for more similar reserves as the speed work, so the athlete may better off focusing on the squat and bench press. Charlie also pointed out that a sprinter training in a cold climate but have access to a 60m indoor track could have room for the Olympic lifts.

As a personal experiment, I am dumping O-Lifts in favor of bounds (3bound, 5 bound, short approach TJ). Doing it because while I can o-lift as much as most sub 10.50 guys can, I am far behind in bound distance.

O-lifts will probably stay in my team’s program though given winter climate and poor indoor surfaces for bounding or even sprinting.

I have access to 200m indoor track but I do most of my strength training at a commercial gym.

While I see (or hear stories) of many top sprinters squatting big numbers, I haven’t seen much evidence of many high level sprinters having big o-lifts.

I personally don’t think that o-lifts are necessary. I believe that squats are along with a lot of actual sprinting.

I agree but 99.99% of universities in the states uses Olympic lifts. Also Dan Pfaff who has had ton of success also uses the Olympic lifts.

I drop squats and just do cleans/clean pulls during main competition time.

That’s one reason why I don’t want to drop the ol’s because I like to use them in the comp phase.

For the group, here’s what I just shared with RB34 in a private message regarding my thoughts on Olympic lifts in the training of a sprinter:

[i]I’m probably more objective about the situation as any coach you’ll speak with because I have a clearer understanding of all possible approaches then most; not only from a theoretical/programming standpoint but also from a practical/technical instruction standpoint.

Don’t forget that I trained a weightlifter who was invited to Abadjiev’s camp.

You are correct in stating that a few sets of an exercise is unlikely to hinder the track work- even if it close on the F(t) curve.

That is not the question, however.

The question is- why include something that is unnecessary in the first place.

Remember, the objective must be to train as efficiently as possible and if something is unnecessary than it must be eliminated from the program.

Trust me in my objectivity as I would be just as quick to eliminate a squat or press from the program if I knew it were unnecessary to the objective; and in some cases they are.

Case in point, my CB and WR that you may have noticed that have 4.3/4.2 40yd times, +40inch verticals, +11ft broad jumps…

Neither of them squat and only one of them bench presses. [/i]

Don’t understand how they are unnecessary?

Yep same. First time ever dropping squats for over 10 days since i started doing them, and i ran 4 straight personal bests in one meet. Only did cleand at about 80%, clean pulls all kept at 70% ish. and 2-3 reps. power cleans 1-2 reps.

Nice, I use similar numbers for my ol’s inseason also, for the upcoming training period I am going old school and will use 4x6, 4x5, 4x4 etc for my cleans.

Here’s why, and remember, I’m not localizing my statement to Olympic lifts alone- but any training means that doesn’t fit what’s ‘optimal’ to the trainee in question as well as his/her training for their sport discipline.

Regarding sprinting:
The only training component that is absolutely, unarguably, necessary is sprinting itself.

Beyond that, we know the benefits of explosive jump exercises, explosive throwing exercises, and strength/explosive strength exercises with overload.

I’d be willing to state that most of the world’s elite sprinters would go so far as to state the sprint work and some form of ‘strength’ training alone is sufficient to attain world class performances.

So we can rule out sprint work because everyone must train that.

Then the question becomes how we will present the overload to develop the other necessary biomotor abilities.

Certain coaches opt to solve this problem via more explosive jump training, others with weightlifts, others with basic strength/calisthenic/gymnastic exercises, and others with some aggregate of all the above.

My feeling is that ALL coaches would be best serving their athletes by only having them perform the means that are necessary in order to further their sports results.

I should clarify that this statement applies to the most costly means (ergo the most CNS intensive) as one can take plenty of liberties with auxiliary work as its physiological impact is negligible.

It is problematic to insinuate and even say that everyone can achieve the same or similar results (or get as close to their potential) through identical means.

Example, Charlie has explained numerous times that not everyone responds to the same training program in the sprints. Some do well with short-to-long, some with long-to-short. Some need numerous races, some don’t need many at all. To think this would apply to one aspect of training and not others (ie lifting) seems absurd and would be wrong empirically. I don’t think people should be married to any particular element because it’ll always bite you in the ass (lack of facilities, ability to teach an individual, etc.), but to dismiss a tool that could be valuable is equally bad. One of the most successful coaches in track and field (through a variety of events) has said his results are not as good when not using them. Hard to argue with that, not to say it is therefore required, but clearly it can have a place. Of course, people here are free to have better results ;). I’ll wait on that one.

I agree with the entirety of your post.

I think it’s important to note, however, that the particularities of one high level coach’s experience are, at best, only beneficial for the consideration of others; as all we can gather from that coach’s efforts are that what he/she did worked for their athletes.

Here we have Charlie’s, and others, viewpoints for our consideration.

While my statements often occupy the minority viewpoint I should note that my objective in sharing them on an open forum is simply to inspire the critical thinking of others.

So what’s interesting to note is the comparison of high level programs/coaches and in this regard, if we consider sprint/T&F programs, I’ll remind the group that various coaches/programs demonstrate continued success via widely varying strategic/methodological approaches- the only commonality between all of them is their sprinters sprint.

All other training elements, therefore, become debatable and in this regard we are justified in creating a hierarchy of what is necessary and what is not relative to the needs of the athlete.

What I contend is that, despite the claim of any coach, regardless of his her resume, is that no sprinter is dependent upon any singular training means other than sprinting.

My two fastest American footballers, whom I referenced, are excellent testimonials to the point I’m making.

Both very fast, incredible vertical and horizontal jumping ability and neither squat. To add to the variability, one belt squats and the other performs a single leg squat with the rear foot elevated. The one who belt squats perform dumbbell floor presses and the one who single leg squats performs bench presses.

The commonalities for these two, as well as the rest of my skill crew, is that everyone sprints, throws med balls explosively, and performs various jumps.

In regards to speed improvement only, I might very well be able to eliminate the throws and the jumps; however, I test my guys in throws and jumps so I keep those means in the program and ultimately, they will all be tested in the jumps on Pro Day or Combine so the throws are the only CNS intensive means that’s debatable in my program.

Again, I am not sure we can say this.

True, the only commonality between DIFFERENT sprinters as a whole is sprinting, but that does not logically mean we can then decide that the rest is irrelevant or the same or unimportant. That does not mean that, because one thing sticks out, the rest is interchangable and dependent only on the situation (coaching/facilities/etc.). Quite clearly, some athletes do well when other factors (General and/or Specific) are in place that may not be exactly sprinting. Not everyone is going to maximize their sprinting ability and strength needed to sprint doing just 2x6 on the squat. Charlie’s 2nd fastest male (McKoy in 6.49) back in the Optimist group did cleans… would he have ran the same if he did squats in place of these? Eh… hard to go back and make those kind of claims.

My two fastest American footballers, whom I referenced, are excellent testimonials to the point I’m making.

Both very fast, incredible vertical and horizontal jumping ability and neither squat. To add to the variability, one belt squats and the other performs a single leg squat with the rear foot elevated. The one who belt squats perform dumbbell floor presses and the one who single leg squats performs bench presses.

The commonalities for these two, as well as the rest of my skill crew, is that everyone sprints, throws med balls explosively, and performs various jumps.

In regards to speed improvement only, I might very well be able to eliminate the throws and the jumps; however, I test my guys in throws and jumps so I keep those means in the program and ultimately, they will all be tested in the jumps on Pro Day or Combine so the throws are the only CNS intensive means that’s debatable in my program.

Yes, but again, this only is a testament to the individuality that is likely needed. If it doesn’t matter or isn’t important (which is essentially what is being said when cleans are dismissed in the way described), then why don’t they both do the same exercises save orthopedic concerns? The problem with this dumbing down and general dismissal of olympic lifts seems to be ironic to me because those same programs tend to use great variation in the static lifts between athletes, which seems to go in the face of doing something that is the most basic and easy to learn?

Saying olympic lifts are not necessary for EVERYone is one thing. Saying, however, that they are not important for some individuals or that identical results could be had for everyone without them seems inappropriate. Just like you couldn’t switch between S->L and L->S with equal results between individuals, I don’t think you could change the lifting programs as seems to be implied either.

I understand your point.

What I must clarify is that, regarding my two guys, the reason for the different exercises is due to limitation- not selective decision making with respect to what will most benefit their development.

To clarify, the one who belt squats does so because his femurs are so long, relative to his torso, that the barbell squat is simply an unnatural movement for him regardless of his joint positions/angles. The one who single leg squats does so because he doesn’t like squatting.

For both, some form of leg strengthener is necessary; however, the means by which it is realized is irrelevant. I am in a position to state that because there was no forethought on any of our behalves.

The exercise selection happened in about 10sec when I combined what they wanted to do with what I thought (ergo ‘ok you do this and you do that and let’s see how it goes’). I am afforded this type of care free thinking because of the careful approach I take in regulating the workload of all training elements.

So, per this example, I’m talking about general leg strengtheners.

Going back to what is absolutely necessary and what is not…

While certain/many programs swear by the efficacy of the weightlifts- here’s what I’d like to point out:

While certain world class athletes are proficient at the weightlifts- attaining high results in them is unnecessary for attaining world class results.

What’s interesting to note, however, is that the only means of truly assessing whether one is proficient at the weightlifts is to have them weightlift. I state this because the means by which most assess their efficacy has very little to do with their performance; because it doesn’t really matter how much they can clean or snatch. What matters is how much farther are they jumping, throwing, and ultimately sprinting faster.

This is what typically takes priority in the testing process, because of the greater relevance to sprinting: jumps, throws, and various sprint variations/distances. It is the particular overload associated with the weightlifts that renders them weaker in transference than jumps and throws for example.

So I’d like to bring everyone back to the fact that very impressive jump and throw distances/heights as well as sprint times are seen void of weightlifts in the program as well as other exercises such as squats, or bench press, or what ever.

The question I have for coaches who are proponents of the weightlifts to the point where it seems as if they feel the lifts are fundamental towards their athletes’ performances, is: what does the rest of the program consist of because I would wager that a simple rearrangement could obviate their role in the training.

Remember, what we know, void of theory, is that a strong enough stimulus on one point of the F(t) curve has an impact on other areas of the curve.

Thus, other than the competition activity (which MUST be performed) all we know is that other point(s) of the curve must be addressed in order to further the competition result.

What we cannot know to a certainty, however, is the means via which this different, or these different, stimuli must be realized.

Here’s something to consider: one should be cautious of gleaning too much from programs that claim dependence upon a particular exercise so unlike the competition exercise itself.

My feeling is that coaches who think that the success of their athletes sport results is dependent upon a particular exercise such as an Olympic lift have, to the contrary, generated a programming strategy that is dependent upon the performance of the weightlifts- something altogether different than a particular sport discipline that demands the training of some other exercise in order to heighten its result.

To summarize, it is my feeling that it is the coach and program, not the athlete and not the sport discipline, that has the potential to create dependence upon particular exercises other than the competition exercise itself.

I’d like to see coaches start to use real time changes in a olympic lifting session by measuring acceleration/velocity etc - then wouldn’t it be possible to change the session while it is being performed? Joe might only need 3 sets of 3 reps while James may need 8 sets of 3 reps - the session is regulated to the athlete’s “status”. I’m not sure if this could be done with the current technology on the market i.e., Tendo unit, muscle lab etc or if it would be valuable for olympic lifting given the complexity of the lifts. Thoughts?

I have bolded some of your points/comments that I want to address–

  1. Your decision to and reasons for changing the exercise selection may have taken little thought and were not for any particular reason, but inherently give what is an example (albeit minor) of how the same exercise and have different effects in different individuals. The guy with long femurs is going to experience a different stimulus from the squat. A person who has a psychological disposition against the squat will inherently give a different effort and there is plenty of data on the psychological aspects of lifting and how it can be beneficial (or detrimental). While this may seem unimportant, subjective feelings clearly can play a role as to how an individual’s programming should be organized as objective data on the matter does not exist, yet.

  2. You are right in that there are impressive results in throws/jumps/sprints without weightlifts, but there are also impressive jumps without sprints or throws and even without impressive jumps of other varieties. There are impressive throws without impressive jumps or sprints, but with impressive lifts (Reese Hoffa) and more. I think your point here may obscure things because the other point is that, while proficiency in lifts may be best determined by weightlifting result (though I don’t necessarily agree with that since you already brought up how different limb lengths and proportions will affect the ability in a given lift), it does not address how certain things may have a carry over in teaching. For example, both Pfaff and Vince Anderson have explained how they have had great success in using olympic lifts to help teach athletes to fully extend and push from the blocks and during early acceleration. Was this the only way they taught this? No, but to dismiss that it had a positive effect that may have not been able to be achieved otherwise within that setting is difficult and problematic IMO.

  3. Everything on the F(t) curve will have an effect elsewhere on the curve, but that doesn’t mean everything has the same effect or that the curve alone is the only thing that relates to transference. You mentioned VJ and throwers in another thread, yet if we look at the results of some of the top throwers in the world, their Olympic lifts far surpass their abilities in the VJ. Not all of them test, but some do. Reese Hoffa has great lifts, but his vertical jump is weak in comparison. Some highly successful coaches have eluded to the fact that there may be some hidden or unknown benefits from certain exercises. Again, that isn’t saying they are an absolute requirement, but if it is available and it is the best tool, why not use it? Pfaff et al have a higher correlation between OHB throw and sprinting than most jump movements, which are going to be much closer to sprinting on the F(t) curve AND use more similar musculature.

  4. I am sure there are some coaches who feel a single exercise is absolutely necessary, but I think we are beyond talking about that. The point here I think is the opposite–people who are against a set of exercises (weightlifts) in all circumstances that involve non-weightlifters. That seems equally absurd and empirically would be true. There are many roads to Rome, but the same road won’t get everyone there the same way depending on what they are bringing with them to the table. If you are naturally incredibly elastic, you may need to get there a different way. If you are incredibly strong and have less elasticity or you have unusually long levers or whatever else, you again may need to get there a different way.

We are closer to agreeing than not; however, I must remind you that I am not anti-weightlifting per se; but rather, anti-unnecessary.

I agree with what you stated in point 1.

Regarding point 2, specifically teaching cues, I’m certainly a proponent in finding instructional cues that work for the individual; however, an Olympic weightlifting variation may very well be the most ‘expensive’, and therefore inefficient, tool of them all relative to its neuromuscular demand. If we were to use block starts as an example, all of the following are both less costly and of higher transference:

  • diving from the blocks onto a mat
  • med ball accelerations
  • and many other jump exercises in which the focus is complete extension particularly at the hip and knee

We agree on all points regarding an individual approach and that, ultimately, all athletes will most greatly benefit from a uniquely individualized program (of course in the team setting this presents many logistical challenges)

Regarding the weightlifts, however, In my personal weight training experience and coaching experience, which together spans over 20 years, I have yet to have known of a non-weightlifter that necessitated the performance of a weightlift variant in order to improve either explosive strength tests such as jumps and throws, sprint tests, or their actual sport form.

I am able to state the same regarding the squat, bench press, and all other exercises when mentioned in a specific context.

In regards to some of what you stated in point number 3, if we are to presume that a stimulus similar to what is provided via a weightlift variant is necessary to further sport results then we may specify the context of the discussion to that regime of stimuli.

I this specific context a new set of circumstances arise to include cost:benefit, orthopedic concerns, trainability, and so on. So if we are to agree that a certain athlete necessitates a stimulus closer to what a clean or snatch provides than, again in the interest of economy/efficiency, why over complicate the matter.

From a motor unit recruitment standpoint we know that certain explosive jump and throw variations are just as beneficial, again, as a stimulus.

From a wattage or strength-speed standpoint, if it were determined that a certain athlete necessitated this type of strength-speed stimulus that a jump or med ball throw does not provide, we may reduce the ‘cost’ of a snatch or clean by, in a general sense relative to sprinting, performing a pull variation or actually throwing the barbell backward overhead (a snatch-throw). I actually had my weightlifter perform this exercise in a training block.

In either case, much less is required of the athlete and due to the technical simplicity of both examples the athlete is more readily able to exert a higher degree of their power potential as they are uninhibited by technical/coordination short comings. These examples are illustrations of reducing structural cost.

In terms of heightening biodynamic specificity to the competition activity we would have to specify the T&F discipline.

Regarding your point #4, remember, I’m not anti-weightlifting. It just so happens that the context of this thread is RB34s curiosity as to others thoughts on the relevance of weightlifts in the training of a sprinter and to this I have a concrete opinion, and this is where I think we would agree, that it is not the biodynamics of the weightlifts that are relevent (because remember there are much simpler ‘teaching’ mechanisms) but rather the neuromuscular component of the weightlifts that possess a certain transfer to sprinting, jumping, and throwing.

Thus, from a neuromuscular perspective, consistent with my ‘perform no more CNS intensive training than necessary approach’ I contend that the weightlifts remain unnecessary because the biodynamics of the neuromuscular stimulus they provide may be improved upon, from a transference perspective, by either reducing the orthopedic concerns or more closely approximating the biodynamics of the competition exercise- in either case, to those who accept my explanation- all non-weightlifters may readily do away with cleans and snatches.

I’d be more than willing to offer similar explanation as to why squats, bench press, and deadlifts are unnecessary in the training, in another thread, if anyone is curious as to the relevance of the barbell squat, barbell bench press, or barbell deadlift in the training of a non-powerlifter.