Written by Team Juggernaut
By Chad Smith, Juggernaut Training Systems LLC
The power clean and other Olympic lifts are a staple in strength and conditioning programs for many sports from high school to the pros. Many Westside (Darkside, Conjugate, whatever you want to call it) influenced coaches despise it, I am not one of those. The Olympic lifts are good exercises, they help build explosive power, BUT you will not find it in mine or my athletes training program. We don’t Olympic lift because:
- It takes to long too learn how to do effectively.
A- An Olympic lift with poor technique is not safe and not effective
B- Why should I take days/weeks/months teaching an athlete how to do something, when I could take minutes to teach them something else that yields the same or better results? That is poor training economy.
C- Many athletes are not strong in the right places (posterior chain) to be able to execute proper technique. If you can’t get into the proper positions to perform the lift correctly, why do it? Time would be much better spent doing box squats, GHRs and reverse hypers, than performing ugly cleans and snatches.
- The Olympic lifts put unnecessary strain on the wrists, elbows and shoulders. Athletes need to be healthy to play their sport. Athletes like football lineman are already banging up their bodies on a daily basis and do not need to place more stress on their joints in the weightroom.
- Other exercises are equally or more effective. At its essence the Olympic lifts are weighted triple extension.
What do I replace Olympic lifts with?
- Jumps- Seated, standing, depth, onto a box, over a hurdle, weighted, whatever variety you choose, they are easy to learn and they work. Read Louie Simmons’ article entitled Explosive Leg Strength to learn more about these methods.
- Kettlebell or Dumbbell Swings, Cleans and Snatches- These are much simpler to learn how to perform and have the ability to exploit the stretch reflex through eccentric loading. Single, double, alternating, between the legs, outside the legs, against bands, from blocks, dead start and swinging start are all great variations of these exercises.
- Tire Flips and Strongman Loading- Easy to learn and fun to do. These are great teachers of explosion and triple extension. They are also great for creating competitive situations in team environments.
- Medball Throws- These are great teachers of triple extension, there are endless variations of them, they are easy to learn and fun to do. An all around great choice.
- Dynamic Effort Box Squats- Six to 12 sets of 2 with 40-60% of an athletes 1rm. Bands and chains greatly improve the training effect of these. They are my least favorite dynamic effort lower body movements for athletes.
The Olympic lifts are a viable option in a training program, but after assessing training economy, it is a choice that I do not include when designing training programs for myself and my athletes.
There are athletes that I train though that do Olympic lift, this is a result of it being a testing component for their sport at their respective schools. They way it is implemented is based off of ideas adapted from Louie Simmons’ article “If I Were an Olympic Coach.” These athletes have achieved great results from following this training split.
- DE Olympic Lift (8 to 12 singles at 60-80% of 1rm in clean or snatch, this also serves to activate the CNS before squatting, often resulting in much improved squat poundages)
- ME Squat (Almost always a box squat variation, different bars, box heights, bands and chains are all employed here)
- Heavy Unilateral Work (Split squat, step up or lunge variations)
- Posterior Chain (This is usually a lighter day of PC work because of the taxing it received through the Olympic Lifts and Squats)
DE/RE Upper Body (Similarly set up to Joe Defranco’s WS4SB3)
- DE LB (Jumping or Throwing Variations)
- ME Olympic Pull (Work up to a 1-3rm on an Olympic pull from various heights, ie. From the floor or various height blocks, bands and/or chains could also be incorporated here, this serves as excellent posterior chain work)
- Posterior Chain
- Unilateral Work
ME Upper Body
So to some up, the Olympic lifts are good lifts with lots of benefit, but this same benefit can be derived through other, simpler means. The choice is up to you.