People are often surprised when I talk about Olympic Weightlifting and its relevance to multiple athlete types. There is a common misconception that Olympic Weightlifting is only for Olympic Weightlifters, this of course is simply not the case. In this blog I shall explain the adaptations you can gain from Olympic Weightlifting programming and how those adaptations can be relevant and useful to a number of different sports.
Firstly what is Olympic Weightlfting? Well technically it's actually just called Weightlifting. The sport of Weightlifting is testing an Athletes Snatch (bringing the bar from the ground to the overhead position in one movement) and their Clean & Jerk (brining the bar from the ground to the overhead position in two movements).
Below shows me completing a Snatch at 122.5kg
Below shows me completing a 150kg Clean & Jerk
Although in the sport of Weightlifting athletes are tested on their max lifts (usually utilising the full versions, i.e. catching the bar in the full squat variations) different derivatives of the lifts bring about different stimulus, thus different adaptations. The use of Olympic Weightlifting movements will depend on an athletes current performance from valid tests and their sports needs.
So what are the benefits of Olympic Weightlifting and the programming around it?
1) Improve Force Output
The ability to produce and apply force is critical in any sporting enviroment. Improving an athletes force potential (strength) will bring about improvements in all aspects of their performance.
2) Increase Power Output
Power is Force X Velocity, i.e. the faster you can move something the more powerful you are. In most sports you need to either move yourself or an object (bats, ball etc) as fast as possible. If you can apply force with more velocity then the more successful you will be in many sporting enviroments.
3) Improve Rate of Force Developement
Being able to produce a lot of force is one thing, being able to produce enough force in a given time scale is another. Most sports need an athlete to perform a task in a very short amount of time be it a foot contact during a run, kicking a ball, jumping as high as you can- the list goes on. If you cannot generate enough force in the time available (often below 0.2 seconds) then you run the risk of not being successful at that sporting task.
4) Improve Rate Coding
Rate Coding is your central nervous systems (CNS) ability to send motor units to the muscle mass. If Rate Coding is improved then the CNS will be able to send bigger and more motor units. This will mean that more of the muscle is used during a muscular contraction and more force can be generated.
5) Mobility & Stability
Olympic Weightlifting helps (with correct flexibility and mobility interventions such as stretching and myo-facial release work) improve mobility & joint stability. Continously performing correctly executed squats and overhead squats, holding the bar overhead will make those positions far stronger and more stable.
6) Fun Variation on training
A lot of people have never tried Weightlifting before. It is a great way to vary your training and thus help improve adhereance to a training programme - as long as it is taught properly.
I have shown that there are many benefits of including olympic weightlifting in thier programming. So what sports will benefit from this style of training? Well, to answer that I am going to refer to Dynamic Correspondence.
Dynamic Correspondance is the method of relating exercises to the skill sets that are needed in a certain sport or activity. In order to determine whether an exercise is a good choice for your sport, it should tick a few categories.
The amplitude and direction of movement
This refers to the direction of movement, is there a triple extension and triple flexion? In what planes of movement does it occur? Sagittal plane (forward-backwards), frontal plane (left-right) or transverse plane (rotational)?
The accentuated region of force development
The accentuated region of force development describes where in the movement the force is produced, or the highest peak for is produced.
The dynamics of effort
What kind of contraction is taking place? Plyometric? Balistic? Applying the right amount of Force in the right amount of time can make or break a skill.
The rate and time of force production
We have touched upon this when I explained Rate of Force development. Basically, how quickly does force need to be produced?
The regimen of muscular work
This describes the type of muscular work going on throughout the movement. For example, a Squat is generally an eccentric movement followed by a concentric movment.
Using these categories, a coach can select appropiate exercises that will bring about the desired adaptations.
So with this in mind, lets apply Olympic Weightlifting -
The peak force developed is in the final pull of the lifts when the athlete reaches triple extension (when the ankles, knees and and hips are extended). Basically we are applying force to extend upwards (like a jump). It is a Balistic contraction where force output is steadily increased then suddenly increased at triple extension and is generally a concentric based contraction (with a full clean being an exception as you catch the bar in a full front squat once the bar has been pulled high enough).
So what sports does this relate to?
- Any sport where ankle, knee and hip extension is important
- Any sport where the ability to produce force quickly through leg extension is important
- Any sport which has concentric balistic movements are important
- Any sport that requires co-ordination and propioception
Here is a list: