I can’t say enough about Olympic Lifts; they are just fantastic lifts!
Develop coordination … hell, they REQUIRE coordination!
Stimulate hormone production for building muscle mass
Train the nervous system to be responsive
They work flexibility
And the list goes on and on and on….
Olympic Lifts are pure athletic strength development, and should be a part of any level of an athlete’s program- especially throwers!
Personally for me, when I was in college at Mt. SAC, UCLA, and then CU Boulder, it was the first time I was exposed to true weight training and Olympic Lifting, especially techniques.
This exposure is where I learned how to do cleans and snatches more effectively.
Most college throws coaches also spend a great deal of time as strength coaches for their throwers. I was very fortunate to learn from some of the top throws/weight lifting coaches in the nation: Art Venagas (who brought in Coach Bob Takano to teach us Olympic lifting technique at UCLA), Ej “Doc” Kries, and my biggest strength training influence, Tony Ciarelli, USAW level 4 to name a few.
This is when I caught the fever to learn more, and I dedicated myself to learning the science of the throws, the details in the details, and the connection of an elite lifting program for the throws…
… and it led me to the finals of the Olympic trials in ’96, and a top 10 US ranking!
Let’s state the obvious: Olympic lifts ONLY improve an athlete’s performance when they are coached CORRECTLY!
A coach must understand the proper positions and movements of the Olympic lifts in order for them to be successful for the athlete.
To know proper weight load, body positions – i.e. the proper alignment of the back, hips, knees, shoulders, and head, plus the action of the hips, weight distribution through the feet, as well as the most optimum path of the bar.
This is why you should watch out for places that have “classes” for Olympic lifting, or call themselves “certified”.
If you are looking for places to learn Olympic lifting for throwers…well, we are it!
Most places do not know, or understand the intricacy, or the details of proper technical movements of the Olympic Lifts, let alone how they translate to the throws.
Olympic lifts take time and training to learn.
In order to master these lifts correctly takes patience and constant studying.
There are places that offer Olympic lifts, but due to their lack of truly understanding HOW to coach it (or instruct it), they are giving the sport of lifting a reputation for numerous injuries, when in actuality when coached properly, it is ranked lowest in injuries of all sports- except maybe shuffleboard. 😉
In this article, I’m not going to dissect the Olympic lifts, but rather touch on the general benefits and correlations to the throws.
At Arete Throws Nation, I coach and provide all my athletes (high school, college, & Pro) with an elite level weight training program, in which we focus on Olympic lifts.
I also coach each thrower on every aspect of the lifts:
The proper positions
And always educating how these movements directly impact and benefit the throws.
How Do The Olympic Lifts Improve Throwing Performance?
First of all Olympic Lifting is not a “grip it- and rip it” style of lifting.
When performing Olympic lifts, there is a double eccentric load, which is why the lifts are so effective. This means you are going to load at the start by taking time to set it up the lifting chain reaction, and before you can ballistically accelerate the weight.
As you complete the first pull, you are then going to quickly drop back under the bar to catch the weight with the lower body (which is the 2nd eccentric load) its an athletic response… something you see in almost all explosive sports, especially the shot put, discus, and hammer.
The movement of these lifts, to fully extend through a lift by generating the most power from your lower extremities setting up maximum power to your upper extremities in a sequence correlates with the same type of general movement pattern you would have in the throws.
Now the throws, of course, add an additional component of rotation (transverse plane) and transfer of momentum forward into the throwing sector, which clearly you don’t do in the Olympic Lifts as these lifts are movements that are done on the frontal and sagittal plane, moving up and down with 2 feet on the ground straight up- and that is clearly different.
The action of facilitating drive (pushing the legs and driving the heels into the ground), creating power from the ground, extending the hips up in this very short time window, to optimally sequence the path of the bar for the second pull in both snatch and clean is absolutely fantastic for creating explosive strength for the throws!
Now, many people out there will incorporate deadlifts, and to this I say- NO.
From my reading and research, and from the best sports science coaches in history collectively do not focus on the dead lifts.
I, therefore, do not have my athletes do the deadlifts.
Heavy pulls, yes ( both clean and snatch pulls), but no deadlifts… I do not like them… not in a box, not with a fox… I do not like deadlifts, Sam I Am!
Now there will be powerlifters out there who will say, “ You are wrong… deadlifts make you strong.”
… And to them I say, “It’s great, for a powerlifter, but throwers are not powerlifters, so explain to me the science of how it transfers directly to a thrower, and back it all up with proof of how it transfers into the throws?“
Our ATN athletes have had some incredible PRs every single year using the TCR™ Strength Training program, which incorporate lots of Olympic lifting…
…. focusing on the maximum velocity, or more specifically, focusing on the meters per second in which the bar moves.
The focus is on training the body to move as fast as possible
When it comes to strength training for throwers, you just can’t run away from those pesky scientific facts of physics- so embrace them!
When we look at the number of throwers that have excelled in the TCR™ system & the TCR™ Strength program, and those of my mentor, Tony Ciarelli, or of my good friend Doug Reynolds, Head coach of New Mexico State University who has produced 39 NCAA All- Americans and counting, and many, many others, the performance gains and the empirical data supports my argument- and the microphone drops! 😀
BE A JERK
One of my favorite Olympic lifts is the Jerk.
The jerk is, by far, an excellent movement for the throws, especially for shot putters!
The jerk is where the bar is on your shoulders, and you have to dip the hips and drive the bar overhead via the proper action of the legs to set up maximum drive. (This is of course very simplified)
If you don’t facilitate the movements correctly, you’re likely going to try to muscle the weight overhead with the upper body instead of the legs, and that will limit the amount of weight you can move.
Kinda like throwing the shot… you must sequence the legs before the upper body strike. If you time it wrong, you will try to muscle the shot with the upper body, and you simply won’t throw far!
Olympic lifts are about moving the weight as fast as possible; moderate to heavy weight that is.
Again initiating from the ground, through the legs, hips, to set up the upper body pull where you move even faster; just like the finish on a throw!
That split second sequencing is what you are training the body to do which again becomes very similar to the throws.
So if you are not doing Olympic lifts, by all means, you need to understand it is something that will absolutely enhance your throwing.
It’s constantly training you to be fast and explosive!
If you want to learn more about Olympic lifting, how to so them properly, and how to design a bulletproof strength program for throwers…
… then join me on Sept 18th, for a 6 day Strength Training & Program Design course. CLICK HERE for more info!