This might come as a bit of a surprise for most of you, considering my football background where Olympic lifting remains a staple for most strength and conditioning programs at all levels, but I believe athletes should not perform Olympic lifts.
Throughout my entire playing career I performed these Olympic lifts in every strength program I participated in without question. Thinking this was the best and maybe only way to become more explosive. It wasn’t until my playing career came to an end and I started to piece together my own training philosophy that I formulated my own opinion on Olympic lifts, their effectiveness, and where they belong in a training program or if they even belong at all.
Now before I go on and explain my top 3 reasons why I don’t use Olympic lifts, let me first make it clear that I do believe Olympic lifts can produce some positive training adaptations IF AND ONLY they are performed with proper technique and they are used in the correct format. However, these 3 problems listed below make the “if and only” extremely rare.
#1. Poor Technique
I would venture to say that nearly 90% of all athletes that are attempting to perform these Olympic lifts are performing them incorrectly in some fashion. Using poor technique when attempting to execute these lifts will not only result in injury but also take away from what you are trying to accomplish in the first place by performing these lifts. I have walked into weight rooms at all levels where the technique, or lack there of, has literally made me cringe and made my own back hurt just from watching. One of the most common mistakes people make when performing these lifts is trying to use too much weight. These lifts are meant to be performed at a high rate of speed where the objective is to try to move the bar as fast as you can. When you put too much weight on, your technique suffers, your back suffers, and so do your results. Another popular mistake is performing sets of Olympic lifts until failure. This again not only sets you up for injury but it also makes it impossible to execute these lifts with any sort of speed.
#2. Not Time Efficient
With High School kids having such busy schedules these days with extra curricular activities and multiple sports being played year round, it is nearly impossible to find the proper time needed to teach these complex lifts correctly and safely. With the limited amount of time that you get to spend with young athletes it becomes a very poor use of time to spend it trying to coach the proper mechanics of such a complex lift. Olympic lifters literally spend hundreds of hours working to master the intricate technique needed to perform these lifts properly. To reap the full benefits of performing these lifts you must complete them with nearly flawless execution. Because that kind of time is obviously not available, the attempt to implement these lifts in your program becomes a complete waste of time.
#3. Olympic Weight Lifting is a SPORT
Much like basketball, football, baseball, and golf are their own respective sports so is Olympic weight lifting. You would never ask an Olympic power lifter who is training for the next Olympics to go spend hours upon hours at the driving range asking him/her to master something as technical and difficult as a golf swing would you? So why do we ask our athletes of more conventional sports such as football, basketball, and baseball to try to learn and master such a difficult sport or lift?? Bottom line is the risks heavily outweigh the rewards. Safer, more effective, and efficient exercises such as a variety of sprints, jumps, and med ball throws should be used in a program to replace Olympic lifts. We have been sprinting, jumping, and throwing since we were 2 so teaching athletes these movements versus Olympic movements is much easier and thus much safer.