Olympic Lifting for Athletes Revisited

Olympic weightlifting is a sport. Performing Olympic lifts during strength training is not mandatory to improve athletic performance in other sports. In fact, many experts question the use of the Olympic lifts for those who are not weightlifters. Here’s what strength and conditioning coach Steve Maxwell has to say on this controversial subject:

Peer-reviewed research does not support the view that explosive exercises, such as Olympic-style weightlifting, are more effective during strength, slow and heavy weight training in enhancing muscle power and athletic performance. In fact, there’s evidence that these exercises may be less effective, do not transfer well (if at all) to athletic performance on the sports field, and present a significant injury risk (Behncke, 2001; Bruce-Low & Smith, 2007). According to Bruce-Low & Smith, “such exercises should not be recommended in the strength and conditioning training of athletes, except those who need to learn the specific skill of lifting heavy weights fast, such as Olympic lifters and strongmen.”

There’s no denying, though, that great success can be achieved with the use of Olympic lifts when training athletes (refer to Al Vermeil’s training pyramid on page 82 of The Elite Trainer as an example). However, proper equipment and instruction from a skilled coach are essential if you plan to perform Olympic lifts in your training. The USA Weightlifting (USAW) organization is a good place to start.

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