Olympic Lifts – An Intro to an Olympic Weightlifting Program

What are the best Olympic lifts and lifting programs? Real competitive Olympic weightlifting uses only two lifts: the snatch and the clean and jerk. Thus, both are explosive lifts that require a full range of motion and multiple joints (knees, hips, shoulders, etc.). Also, these lifts require you to move a barbell loaded with a maximum weight as quickly as possible.

Olympic weightlifting builds strength and power.

Years of training will strengthen your entire core (abdominals, erector spinae, obliques, and lower back) and your glutes, upper back, biceps, triceps, and grip strength. In addition, Olympic lifting will strengthen you.

However, this training does not promote muscular hypertrophy (big muscles). Also, performing the Olympic lifts is sport-specific; focusing on this training will improve your strength, flexibility, and explosive power when performing the two lifts, but it will not produce a “bodybuilder’s” physique. Don’t forget to check out: the Top 6 Men Weightlifters of All Time (And What You Can Learn From Them).

We can develop Olympic style lifting programs for a variety of desired outcomes:

  • Training accessory muscles to improve your Olympic lift performance.
  • To develop explosive power and improve athletic ability. Also, this is especially useful for athletes (basketball, football, etc.) who wish to improve their vertical jumps.
  • And to incorporate Olympic lifts with traditional powerlifting exercises to improve performance.
  • To build or improve functional movement (activities of daily living).
  • Or to improve your overall fitness, strength, and resistance training program by including new full-body, multi-joint exercises.

Designing the best Olympic Style lifting program for your needs

If Olympic lifts are so helpful, why isn’t everyone doing them? Because these exercises require hard work! Unlike endless bicep curls in front of the mirror, Olympic lifts are full-body movements that require moving heavy barbells from the floor to overhead in three distinct phases: pull, catch, and push.

Regardless of your fitness goal, adding Olympic lifts or portions of the Olympic lifts will improve your outcome. You will become stronger, faster, jump higher, and burn more calories.

Your Olympic-style training program should include the snatch (a high explosive pull), power cleans, back squats, front squats, and various pulling and pushing exercises 2-3 times per week.

Use Olympic lifts as the core lifts to design a basic program, including:

  • Power Cleans – Moving the barbell from the ground to your shoulders fluidly. Start with a barbell in front of you on the floor. Then, grip the barbell with an overhand grip, more expansive than shoulder-width. Bend your knees until your hips are parallel to the floor. Next, straighten your arms and legs as you explode upward and extend your body. Then, shrug your shoulders, pull the barbell up towards your chin, and keep the bar close to your body. Rotate your elbows as you get “under” the bar. Next, catch the bar at chest height with your elbows out in front of you and your knees slightly bent. Finally, return to the start position and repeat.
  • Push Presses (Standing Military Press) – Starting from chest level, push a loaded barbell above your head. If done correctly, shoulder presses engage your entire body. First, remove the barbell from a shoulder height rack using an overhand grip. Next, perform a partial squat and then explode upward from your knees and use this momentum to drive the barbell over your head. Finally, pause briefly at the top, return to the start position, and repeat.

Sample Olympic Style lifting program

A sample three-day program might look like this:

  • Monday – Power Cleans and Bench Press.
  • Tuesday – Push Presses and Bent Rows.
  • Wednesday – Front and Back Squats.
  • Thursday – Rest and then repeat.

Note that you are training only BIG, full-body power movements.

Advantages of training Olympic style. When you perform a bicep curl, you move a relatively lightweight about 12 to 16 inches. When combined, Power Cleans and Push Presses become an Olympic Clean and Jerk, in which you move a heavy barbell from the floor to overhead!

Every muscle in the body is engaged – large muscles, stabilizing muscles, and your core. Finally, as you become more conditioned and add weight, your body compensates by getting more robust, and you become lean, powerful, explosive, and well-balanced.

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