With Covid scrambling the schedule for powerlifting meets and the off/on opening of gyms, I have oriented my own training to physical conditioning rather than straight power. I have also changed up the routines for some of my coaching clients to emphasize (drum roll) some Olympic style lifting!
There is something about popping a weight overhead that is exhilarating all by itself. Both yours truly and my coaching clients who are doing this love doing a modified Olympic lifting program.
One of the coolest aspects of doing these types of lifts is that according to the exercise physiologists, each of them activate at least 75% of all the muscles in your body on each rep. They are coordinated compound movements that build not only strength, but also agility and stamina.
As some of you know, I competed in Olympic lifting waaaay back in the late 1950s and early 60s. The sport was very different then as we had three lifts instead of two (the standing press was included). Also there was a rule that against the bar touching your body during cleans or pulls.
Aside from eliminating the standing press, the biggest difference between the old days and current Olympic lifting is the use of the hip bump during both the snatch and the pull for the clean and jerk. This is a very different technique than was used when I was competing.
The new hip bump technique is difficult to learn and rarely attempted by inexperienced lifters. The old style clean and other lifts Ill show below are comparatively easy to learn and even used to be included in beginners workout programs.
Another thing that is drastically different is the invention of rubberized bumper plates. Because there is no danger of breaking the barbell plates by dropping them, lifters merely drop the weight from any altitude. While dumping the bar is noisy, it creates minimal danger for lifters and anyone else in the vicinity.
Back in the 50s we only had metal plates. Dropping the bar only happened when you lost control of the weight. Dumping it intentionally was unthinkable. That little maneuver would get you thrown out of a contest and an immediate major league ass chewing by your coach and any other lifters in the vicinity.
We trained and competed using technique that included carefully setting the bar back on the floor. This is much like the rule for deadlift now. NO dropping the bar.
Few gyms ever teach people to lift overhead anymore. With the sizable number for free range idiots around this is probably a good idea. I have seen more than one room temperature IQ drop his massive 65 lb clean and jerk on the floor from full overhead extension. In his mind he is Alexiev having just hurled 400 overhead.
However, for experienced lifters (and other adults) who want to gain the benefits of Olympic-ish lifting, I offer the following:
- Power Clean (Olde Style)
This is the old version of the power clean where it went from the floor to the shoulders in one uninterrupted movement. Known far and wide as grip and rip.
Note: In all the pulling movements, the bar travels in a straight line upward and you maneuver your body around that straight line. This is not like the bench press where you move the bar in an arc. When you read the instructions below think of pulling or moving the bar in a straight line and moving your bod to accommodate this.
Set up with your shins against the bar and feet roughly shoulder width apart. Grasp the bar slightly wider than shoulder width. Lower your hips so that your butt is down, back flat and head erect. The bar should be about an inch ahead of your shoulders. Roll your shoulders forward slightly (exactly opposite of what you would do to pull a deadlift).
Take a deep breath and hold it. Pull by standing erect quickly and pull back. Pull back and go up on your toes as the bar passes your knees. Dont pull with your arms until the bar reaches the top of your thighs. Then contract your traps and pull with your elbows up.
When the bar is level with the top of your chest, quickly flip your elbows forward. This will allow you to catch the bar and hold it just below your collar bones.
When the bar is at your shoulders, hold it for a second or so, release your breath, then lower it back to the floor under complete control!!!!! Reset your feet and do another rep.
I recommend that you begin with a weight that you can do easily for five reps. Do 3-4 sets.
- Push Press
Clean the bar to your shoulders and then set your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Take a deep breath. Bend your knees slightly and quickly straighten your legs simultaneously driving the bar upward.
The bar should travel straight upward so you will need to move your head back slightly to avoid being hit in the nose.
When the bar is just above your head, move your body slightly forward so that as you lock the bar out overhead it is directly over the center of your head.
Release your breath and lower the bar to your shoulders again. Take a breath and do another overhead rep. When you have done five reps (or whatever you planned) lower the bar back to the floor.
I recommend that you begin doing this exercise with a weight you can easily do for five reps. Do three sets.
- Power Snatch
The Olympic snatch is one of the most difficult athletic moves you can learn. Thus, I recommend you perform a less athletically demanding version known as the power snatch. In this exercise you will not have to jump under a heavy bar and catch it at full lockout. Rather you will simply pull it from the floor to a full standing overhead lockout in one movement.
For this lift you take a very wide grip. This is the standard width for doing an Olympic snatch.
Because this lift is something most of you may not have tried before, I strongly recommend practicing the movement with a PVC pipe or a wooden dowel. Do your first reps involving weight with an empty bar.
You should begin in the position in the first photo. Take a deep breath and pull the bar upward keeping it close to your body. When it passes your forehead lean forward just a bit so that the lockout at arms length is directly over the center of your head.
Release your breath and lower the bar to the floor under complete control!!!! Set it down gently and do your next rep.
These movements are a super way to introduce some variation into your regular power training program. I enjoy them very much and feel as if Im at recess when doing them.