Using Olympic-Style Lifts

In my 13 years of conditioning football players I have virtually "seen it all" in terms of training philosophies, Periodization, using/not using explosive lifts, high Intensity Training (HIT), etc.

I would like to take this opportunity to separate football-training myth from reality.

Hang Clean

Hang Clean

Hang Clean

There is a faction of strength coaches who believe that the Olympic-style lifts are dangerous and not applicable to sports in general. This reminds me of something I heard at the first strength and conditioning clinic I ever attended.

Former University of Arizona strength coach Meg Ritchie said, "There is no such thing as a dangerous exercise. Only dangerous strength coaches".

The Olympic-style lifts, if taught correctly and used appropriately, serve as a tremendous tool to prepare our football athletes for competition.

Keep in mind that these are technical lifts and it does take time to master them!  Using Olympic-style lifts incorporate all four of perhaps the most important aspects of weight training for football (adopted from Tom Cross and Mike Burgener CSCS

  1. Train on your feet
  2. Use free weights
  3. Train using compound / multi-joint movements
  4. Train Explosively

Think about when it is important for a football player to demonstrate maximal strength in a supine position supported by a bench…NEVER! Yet the 1RM bench press is still used by many as the basis for categorizing whether a football athlete is "strong" or not. 

Now think about the application of an athlete performing a power clean.  The athlete explosively pulls the weight off the floor, forcefully extending upward to full triple extension (ankles, knees, hips) and athletically catches the weight at shoulder height.  "Power" is emphasized rather than slow-strength, the entire body is used rather than just a few muscle groups, and the athlete is on his feet (like he is when he is on the football field).  When creating your football strength program make sure to use two basic principles:  "specificity" and most importantly "common sense".

Let me leave you with one final thought.  I am sure that no one would argue that football is in fact an "explosive power" sport.  Taking this into consideration I would like to illustrate the difference between the above mentioned two lifts.  

We will look at the bench Press vs. the Power Clean using the following formula:

Equation for "POWER"

POWER = Mass X Distance ¸ Time

1RM 300 Lb Bench Press = 300 Lbs x 2 feet (600) ¸ 2 seconds = 

300 ft lbs. power

1RM 300 lb Power Clean = 300 lbs x 5 feet (1500) ¸ 1 second =

1500 ft. lbs. Power

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