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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Are the Olympic Lifts essential for performance enhancement?

Brent Brookbush

Brent Brookbush


Panel Discussion: Are the Olympic Lifts essential for performance enhancement?

Are the Olympic Lifts essential for performance enhancement or even functional for sports performance training?

Moderated by Brent Brookbush DPT, PT, MS, PES, CES, CSCS, ACSM H/FS

This Panel Discussion was originally posted on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/brent.brookbush - on October 20th, 2012

Bryan Yam Great topic Brent, really depends on the sport. I can see this excerise to be functional for sports that require a high degree for anaerobic capacity and output. Also, I believe it's not essential to all sports (archery and sharpshooting examples from the Olympic Games). Overall, if you want the best multi-joint excerise to bring your athlete (sport dependent) to a higher level of performance the implementation of olympics lift to the program cannot hurt. The benefits of OL are great. One can argue individuals who utlize the OL (olympic lifts) properly in are able to recruit muscle fibers more efficiently and effectively than their counterparts. Their neuromuscular system will be able to facilitate movements quicker with less amount of energy used (figuratively speaking).

October 20 at 12:56pm

Brent Brookbush So a couple of questions Bryan Yam, just to play devil's advocate…

Are Olympic Lifts worth the risk of injury? - Example, how good is a snatch for the shoulder?

Why not sled pulls? What is so special about the Olympic lifts that they deserve a place in everyone's program, but sled pulls do not, or medicine ball drills, or battle ropes, or whatever?

October 20 at 1:02pm

Bryan Yam Haha I welcome the questions Brent, I like the challenge and gets me to critically think. I'd rather discuss about this than study for my neuro midterm (study break).

Regardless of OL, with any exercise the individual is taking a level of risk for injury, it's life and things happen even if you do everything right. Any Strength Coach knows injury prevention is top priority. If the individual is not moving functionally through an OL it serves no gains for the person. Only with proper form and great coaching can you really minimize the risk for injury. OL is not an absolute exercise, but relative. Let me expand this idea, if you can explain the purpose of the other selected exercises and implement them into your/client/athlete's program "relative" to the OL than by all means use it. Change is always good, but not without a strong exercise foundation first.

My personal opinion when it comes to exercise for time, money, and space. I focus on a lift where less equipment is needed to get the most gains. Hence I love OL which correlates to other multi-joint exercises as well. Who knew a bar and plates on either side can serve so many purposes haha. Hope I answered your question thoroughly.

October 20 at 1:56pm

Shawn Fears Safe compared to what? I train Oly lifts with my athletes and have NEVER had an injury related to the lifts as a whole or in any part. Mike Boyle speaks out against wide grip snatches for shoulder injuries so he modified them to a narrower grip and injuries disappeared. I think one of the biggest misunderstandings of Oly lifting for sports is the use of the competitive lift. Would I have a basketball player do a squat snatch..hell no..would I have him/her do mid thigh hang power snatches or snatches off high pulling blocks..absolutely. Better yet I wouldn't even progress to snatches unless the Hang Power Clean was mastered and was looking for added variety. When training for sports performance it is important to not train as Weightlifters but use the tools as a part of the whole.

I have a new take on this as of lately as well. I have been recently certified by Laura and Shane Sweatt in the Westside Conjugate Method and have seen tremendous gains in explosiveness in myself personally with out picking up any bumper plates since last June…I am not saying that the speed work Westside does can completely replace Oly lifts but the are a viable alternative.

October 20 at 3:43pm

Brent Brookbush Great points Bryan Yam and Shawn Fears,

There are many points we could expound upon in both posts, so I want to summarize a bit.

1. I want to ensure that we are all on the same page regarding competitive Olympic lifting as a sport - of course you would need to use olympic lifts as practice for competition.

2. For field sports the use of these lifts becomes less essential. Many sports would likely benefit more from higher velocity movement patterns like med ball work and plyometrics.

3. Olympic lifts do place considerable strain on the shoulder complex and may be contraindicated for any athlete with extensibility issues in the upper body. An important caveat to this point is that we are not referring to acute injury alone, but the long term effects of these lifts contributing to anterior shoulder pain, low back pain, knee pain, etc…

4. There are modifications of these lifts that may be safer than traditional barbell work, and frankly, more sport specific. For example, I would rather see unilateral kettlebell cleans and snatches that allow the shoulder girdle to move more naturally.

5. There are movements other than olympic lifts that may provide similar benefits and improve the overall balance of programming. I personally try to work toward legs with push, legs with pull, and may incorporate olympic lifts as a progression for legs with shoulders/overhead press.

What do you think kats?

October 20 at 4:53pm

Shawn Fears I agree and disagree. There are other substitutes that can provide a similar training stimulus but its arguable that any are as efficient at eliciting the same training results. I am open to reading any studies making a comparison of a Med ball and Oly lifts or even Kettle bells. I did some research on this topic last semester to do a paper on achieving the best power output for training. I didn't find anything on comparing Med Ball exercises but I did find a lot on jump squats, Kettlbells, countermovment plyometrics, and explosive squatting (.8 m/s). All elicited a favorable training result but not on the same level as Olympic lifts.

October 20 at 5:52pm

Brent Brookbush What was the test used to determine power output in the study?

And yes there are a couple of different training adaptations that get mashed together in power lifts - which is more or less my point. Olympic lifts will not be as effective as increasing your vertical jump ( a measure of power output and a sports specific task) as box jumps.

October 20 at 5:51pm

Shawn Fears vertical jump was the test

October 20 at 5:52pm

Shawn Fears The only thing that I came across that was close to Oly Lifts was the speed squat at .8m/s

October 20 at 5:54pm · Like

Shawn Fears so I guess I am making your point for you lol

October 20 at 5:55pm

Brent Brookbush And power lifts were more effective than box jumps? Was volume considered, was force output equated (i.e. box height and the weight of the athlete versus the weight used for the lifts), was the observer biased (example, was the observer an ex power lifter with little plyo-metric training experience?)? Moving slower can't train you to move faster and there is a huge disparity in velocity between olympic lifts and plyometrics.

October 20 at 5:55pm

Shawn Fears These were random studies I searched on CALU's library, I tried to only read ones that had a strong internal and external validity. I did read some with bias..powerlifters promoting maximal squats, Oly Lifters promoting Oly lifts, but I tried to stay away from these. Volume is always an issue especially when comparing body weight to external load exercises. I do remember loaded counter movement jumps as being effective but not to the same level as Oly Lifts.

Force output was equated in some but not all, I would have to dig up the studies to get specific with the numbers.

October 20 at 6:00pm

Shawn Fears Oly lifts were estimated at .2-.4m/s and speed squats a .8m/s….both of these were more effective than unloaded plyometrics alone.

October 20 at 6:01pm

Shawn Fears I only read about 50 studies and you know better than me that barely scratches the surface. I was really looking for the best way to train my collegiate volleyball player without Oly Lifts because at UAF where work, I had no means to train her with Oly Lifts.

October 20 at 6:05pm

Brent Brookbush We need a study comparing olympic lifts to PAP (post activation potentiation a.k.a. complex training a.k.a. the max strength/power supersets used by NASM) for force output. I rarely use olympic lifts, but use the PAP training… so maybe there is a similar effect there… it may even be interesting to add a 4th group using olympic lifts as the max strength exercise followed immediately by plyometrics. What do you think?

October 20 at 6:05pm

Brent Brookbush I could see a using a clean as your max strength exercise followed immediately by a box jump as a tough superset

October 20 at 6:07pm

Shawn Fears a lot comes up about PAP when doing research in this area, in fact I came across a study comparing countermovment jumps and hang cleans before maximal squats and hang cleans came out ahead

October 20 at 6:07pm

Shawn Fears I actually remember thinking well ….this is just like OPT phase 5 when reading about PAP lol

October 20 at 6:08pm

Brent Brookbush I have seen that order too… where they use a power exercise followed by a max strength exercise. Personally, I think the other way around works better (max strength followed by power). Based on the study you mentioned before, I think the mistake was using the hang clean… I would use the standard clean to ensure that we got the most out of the lower body.

October 20 at 6:09pm

Brent Brookbush P.S. I would be very interested in seeing your paper with the 50 studies… maybe we could work into a guest post on my blog and get your stuff out there :-)

October 20 at 6:10pm

Shawn Fears sorry to say I didn't finish the paper…now I wished I would have. My time was wearing thin with a full time job, and new daughter and school full time so I had to give up on school and take a year off or pull out all my hair lol

October 20 at 6:14pm

Shawn Fears I do miss these kinds of conversations though :-)

October 20 at 6:14pm

Shawn Fears speaking of which my daughter is wanting to paint the walls … gotta go

October 20 at 6:17pm

Brent Brookbush Get to finishing that paper and you'll be a huge step ahead when you get back to school. I look forward to reading your findings. Maybe you can show your daughter how to paint the ideal tibia/torso angle during squat mechanics via stick figures on the wall… :-) Have a good night Shawn Fears

October 20 at 6:49pm

Keith Allaway Yes! Duh!!!!

October 20 at 6:59pm

Janet De Sena I have SO much more to learn!!! I love it!!

October 20 at 7:39pm

Kim Williams Love to read these discussions! So helpful. I am also a masters age sprinter as well as trainer and my coach has me do power cleans and then box jumps. Seems to help my acceleration power.

October 20 at 9:33pm

Brent Brookbush Nice superset Kim Williams, there is always more to learn Janet De Sena regardless of our level of education, and Keith Allaway I know you are a fan of the olympic lifts :-)

October 21 at 7:08pm

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