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Thread: Olympic Lifting Correlating to Speed in Sports

  1. #1
    Westside Bencher Travis Bell's Avatar
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    Olympic Lifting Correlating to Speed in Sports

    It's something that you run into a LOT in athletics. From the highschool to college and pro level you consistently run into guys trying (largely in vain) to perform power cleans, snatches and what have you.

    Where did this trend come from?

    There is no denying that oly lifters are explosive. With that said though when they get to the point where they are that explosive they have spent a very long time learning the technical aspects of the movement and are extremely proficient.

    In relation to athletics, for some reason olympic lifts are often held as the gold standard in strength assessment with athletes who only have a very basic knowledge of the movements yet are trying to perform them with weights that are far beyond their skill level because they want to impress their coach.

    Too add on top of that, the performance just does not add up. I've seen it time after time. Athletes who spend their time focused on oly lifting consistently get out performed both in strength increase as well as speed increase on the field and injury prevention. It's not even close.

    So why are olympic lifts continually put out there as such a beloved aspect of strength and conditioning in sports??


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  2. #2
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    Olympic lifters usually peak very young. To me, that indicates their explosiveness is genetic and not from years and years of training. People incorrectly think it was olympic lifting that made the olympic lifters explosive. The truth is their genetic explosiveness made them good at olympic lifting.

    If you look on youtube, there are D1 athletes doing olympic lifts with horrible form. Some of it is even filmed by the school and posted as a promo video for their weight training programs. It's crazy how bad it is. It's right up there with the school that said it was unsafe to squat over 315, so they used 315 for reps to project squat maxes for their football team. There's clearly some people in that industry who learned from books and never got under the bar themselves.
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    I think Olympic lifting has the reputation of building explosive strength for 2 reasons.

    1.) When football started incorporating lifting a lot of the coaches they got had oly lifting in their backgrounds and so it coincided when teams started strength training. And back then even bodybuilders did some Oly lifting and powerlifting was a baby at the time.

    2.) I think people (mainly the public and untrained) make an ignorant assumption that a fast lift will build speed. So if you see a powerlifter grinding out a 600lb deadlift vs. a Crossfitter (not making fun of Crossfit) blasting out fast powercleans with 135, they assume they powerclean will make you fast since it is done faster. Even though someone who is relatively weak will probably get more bang for their buck building their deadlift instead of doing relatively lightweight powercleans.

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    Senior Member Butcher's Avatar
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    I don't know if it is true, but supposedly when the idea of a strength and conditioning coach caught on with sports they ended up pulling a lot of European coaches for the jobs. O-lifting is (or was) pretty popular over there and these coaches were good at coaching it, so that is what they coached American athletes to do. And so started the tradition.

    Of course that could be nothing more than an internet legend.

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    Risk10k Clifford Gillmore's Avatar
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    What do you have your guys do Travis?

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    Westside Bencher Travis Bell's Avatar
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    My athletes train on a Westside template using squat bench and dead variations and then following with accessory work. The younger athletes will use an abbreviated version to allow their tendons and ligaments to grow but the older stronger ones it's pretty standard.


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    Risk10k Clifford Gillmore's Avatar
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    So you do no plyometrics or other explosive development work? Intervals with prowlers/sleds etc. I guess my question was a little broad.

    So you feel that what westside has developed is a pretty sound foundation for sports, but you surely must have some SPP/SSP exercises you would have your athletes do.

  8. #8
    Powerlifter/Strongman J L S's Avatar
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    an extract from a defranco article.

    Myth #4: Olympic lifts are the only way to get explosive.

    Most people say they perform the Olympic lifts because they're "explosive." The truth of the matter is that any lift can be explosive! By incorporating the dynamic-effort method with sub-maximal weights into your program, you can turn any lift into an "explosive" lift.

    For example, if a man who can box squat 500 pounds were to train with 275 and focus on accelerating the weight, the box squat would then become an "explosive" lift. This example can hold true for many other exercises as well. By training with weights that represent 50-60% of your 1RM in a given lift, science has proven that the weight is heavy enough to produce adequate force, yet light enough to produce adequate speed. And we should all know that speed times strength = power.

    Another reason I feel the Olympic lifts are overrated is that they take a long time to teach and most athletes are horrible at them. After all, Olympic lifting is a sport in and of itself! Olympic weightlifters spend their entire lives practicing these lifts and some of these athletes still never perfect them!

    The reason that most non-Olympic weightlifters aren’t great at the Olympic lifts is usually because they aren’t strong enough in the right places. After assessing an athlete’s power clean or power snatch form, I usually conclude that their technique flaws are due to a lack of hamstring, glute and low back strength. This assessment usually means that I end up prescribing more deadlift variations, reverse hyperextensions, glute-ham raises, pull-throughs, etc.

    This is called the training economy. Getting stronger in the deadlift, reverse hyperextension and glute-ham raise will improve your power clean, but it doesn’t work the other way around. Basically, I choose the exercises that give my athletes the best "bang for their buck." Another benefit of my "economical" exercises is that they're much less stressful on the wrists, elbows and shoulders compared to the Olympic lifts.

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    Westside Bencher Travis Bell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clifford Gillmore View Post
    So you do no plyometrics or other explosive development work? Intervals with prowlers/sleds etc. I guess my question was a little broad.

    So you feel that what westside has developed is a pretty sound foundation for sports, but you surely must have some SPP/SSP exercises you would have your athletes do.
    GPP as well as many different jump variations is a good part of the Westside method.


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    Cardio bunny Alex.V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J L S View Post
    an extract from a defranco article.

    Myth #4: Olympic lifts are the only way to get explosive.

    Most people say they perform the Olympic lifts because they're "explosive." The truth of the matter is that any lift can be explosive! By incorporating the dynamic-effort method with sub-maximal weights into your program, you can turn any lift into an "explosive" lift.
    EXACTLY! This is how I've been training people for years.

    Not to mention the learning curve for Oly lifts make them a poor choice for athletes who haven't regularly performed them, since the amount of time they'll spend perfecting technique for a lift that's essentially the means to an end is NOT ideal.
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    Super Moderator vdizenzo's Avatar
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    So interesting this is coming up now, I am just making the switch to oly lifting.


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  12. #12
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    Travis,

    How often do the guys at Westside do box jumps? I know Louie talks about all the guys squatting 1,000+ can box jump at least 50".
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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Well, in reality, explosive strength can only be trained unloaded or with extremely light loads. Explosive strength is the ability, within a given movement pattern, to reach a high level of force production in the shortest time possible. Most sporting activities involve unloaded movement. Olympic lifting involves relatively high loading (most work is done in the 75-85% range), therefore beyond its ability to improved maximal force production (an increase in maximal force production can improve explosive power up to a point) it has no direct value for explosive strength. The powerlifts, by virtue of their nature, build maximal strength more effectively than Olympic lifts. The Olympic lifts are thus an inferior choice for athletes (unless you are an Olympic lifter ).

    Discussion over.

    Jk, feel free to discuss further.
    Last edited by chris mason; 04-04-2013 at 11:30 PM.


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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex.V View Post
    EXACTLY! This is how I've been training people for years.

    Not to mention the learning curve for Oly lifts make them a poor choice for athletes who haven't regularly performed them, since the amount of time they'll spend perfecting technique for a lift that's essentially the means to an end is NOT ideal.
    Another very good point (the skill component).


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    Senior Member Jonathan E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris mason View Post
    Well, in reality, explosive strength can only be trained unloaded or with extremely light loads.
    Does a westside DE leg day, for example, fall under the 'extremely light loads' category? Also, can plyometrics play a big role in development ?
    Last edited by Jonathan E; 04-05-2013 at 10:09 AM.
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    Cardio bunny Alex.V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whoopipally View Post
    Does a westside DE leg day, for example, fall under the 'extremely light loads' category? Also, can plyometrics play a big role in development ?
    Well, it depends what sort of explosive force you're looking for.

    What you might be more interested in when it comes to most sports performance is actual wattage- force alone doesn't determine speed- it's actual force over distance over time, or watts.

    To move, say, a 100kg squat (+100kg bodyweight) from the bottom of a range of motion in two seconds will require 2000 Newtons, 2000 joules or 1000 watts. To move a 300kg squat from the bottom would require 4000 Newtons, or 2000 watts. People then tend to look at maximum wattage of speedy athletes and think "Oh, Usain Bolt was producing around 2800 watts during his record setting run". True, but VERY different- Usain Bolt took 41 steps in the 100 meters- figure 4 steps per second. It is not just the total wattage, but how you arrive at it.

    Now, this math is VERY simplified- but it's to illustrate a point--

    Which would simulate the sort of loading required to make a 100kg athlete faster?:

    1) Squatting +300kg over two seconds (concentric only), which produces 2000 watts (with one full extension movement over two seconds)
    2) Squatting +100kg over one second (concentric only), which produces 2000 watts (with TWO full extension movements over two seconds)
    3) Squatting bodyweight (100kg total) twice per second, which produces 2000 watts (with FOUR full extension movements over two seconds)

    Now there's certainly a strength (force) component to a sprint stride, but this should at least point out specificity. Same overall power output, but only one of those scenarios involves the quick turnover and high rate of movement needed to produce that power during a run.

    Now translate this into typical ME/DE loading for powerlifting, and look at how this applies to an average athlete. Even look at a vertical jump, and see the total duration of the lengthening cycle for a leap versus the duration for a maximum squat, and see how you'd try to simulate this in the gym.
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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whoopipally View Post
    Does a westside DE leg day, for example, fall under the 'extremely light loads' category? Also, can plyometrics play a big role in development ?
    No, it addresses more of the speed strength/strength speed end of the spectrum based upon the loads used. Westside addresses explosive power with things like box jumps. Louie firmly believes in simultaneously developing the entire strength spectrum in order to optimize results.


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    Senior Member Jonathan E's Avatar
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    That makes sense. Thank you Alex and Chris.
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  19. #19
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    This thread was good. I've met countless varsity level HS football players who think cleans are amazing and they think that deadlifts are not an effective exercises for strengthening the body. If I increase my squat from 500 lbs to 600 lbs and execute cleans with excellent form, then obviously my clean will increase. Olympic lifters dedicate a great deal of time to squatting and the clean starts out as a deadlift. Another issue I find with oly lifting for football is that a lineman is not going to be able to push away another linemen within 3 seconds, unless one of them is super strong.
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