Olympic lifts are complex movements that include the snatch, clean, jerk, and all the variations thereof. These lifts have been included in the world Olympic Games for decades, and there are widely available opportunities to compete in weightlifting as a competitive sport at any age, weight, or experience level. Today, we’ll cover the benefits of adding these lifts to your own training programs for the purpose of gaining speed and power. You’ll also develop greater body control and awareness, better coordination, and improved timing.
Slower lifts like squats and dead-lifts are great for developing muscular strength, and have their place in your programs, but don’t match Olympic lifts for development of explosive power. The force production (most force in the shortest time) created in the clean and snatch have each been measured to be far greater than that of any traditional strength training exercise. In short, Olympic lifting WILL make you faster and more powerful.
When do I snatch? When do I clean? The snatch trains predominantly for speed, while the clean emphasizes strength a bit more. Your best power snatch weight should be almost 80% of your best power clean weight. This shows you are achieving the best balance of strength vs. speed to demonstrate the most power possible. If one of those measuring points starts to fall too low, train to compensate. For example, if your power snatch drops to 60% of your power clean, you have become too slow for your strength. Train the snatch and snatch related exercises to increase your speed until your power snatch is again nearly 80% of your power clean.
These movements can be done safely by almost anyone. However, it is important to develop proper flexibility, strength, and structural balance before attempting the lifts. Proper form is also extremely important! You can check out video demonstrations of the clean, snatch, and jerk* here, but I recommend spending a few sessions with a USAW Olympic weightliftingcoach to get your technique down. Take your time getting the movements perfect before you add weight. Then push for new personal bests! Get into it. It will make you better.