The Olympic lifts (clean and jerk/snatch) and all their variations are commonly used by athletes to enhance speed and power. The interesting thing about these movements is that there is presently no conclusive, scientific data describing this. I found this very interesting. So why do the majority of training programs for athletes utilize these lifts? In this post we will talk about the pros and cons of weightlifting as it applies to developing speed and power for sport (and when I say sport, I’m also talking about CrossFit! After all, it is the sport of fitness!).
First off, these exercises are performed with maximum velocity and utilize a ton of musculature. This allows for an extensive recruitment of type II muscle fibers. Extensors of the back, hips, knees, and ankles are highly involved when performing these lifts, and this translates very well to the development of speed and power. Since the duration of the lifting period is so quick, elastic energy stores are not compromised because the athlete’s tendons will not stiffen. And finally, the lack of eccentric loading on the athlete’s muscles during the Olympic lifts minimizes muscle damage and allows for faster recovery times.
Now that we have talked about how the Olympic lifts are beneficial to speed and power development, let’s talk about some ways in which they may not translate as well to sport as apposed to more traditional resistance training (ie. squatting and deadlifting). With Olympic lifts, anabolic hormone (the hormone necessary for tissue growth) is minimal. Also, the muscles are not under a heavy enough load for a long enough period of time for adequate protein synthesis. Olympic weightlifting, by nature, is bilateral. This type of movement is not seen a whole lot in sport (unilateral movement is much more common). And finally, the lack of eccentric loading (though easier on the muscles) does not allow for the development of maximal contractile capacity. Eccentric loading is vital in developing maximal strength (and therefore maximal speed and power).
In conclusion, the Olympic lifts are just another tool that can help develop speed and power in athletes, but do have limitations. That is why elite training programs incorporate traditional resistance training exercises into the mix. A good training program will utilize all the tools in the tool box. Not one form of training can hit all the areas we want to develop. I think we can all agree on the fact that CrossFit does an incredible job of taking all these different modalities and creating a final product that truly gets results!
Strength/Skill: Power Clean 2/2/2/2/2
1 minute at each movement for max reps (like FGB)
KB SDHP (70/53)
Pushup (Hand Release)
1 Minute Rest