Editors’ note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
If you are an athlete and aren’t using the Olympic weightlifting movements in your training, then you may not be realizing your full athletic potential. Regardless of the sport you play, weightlifting movements and their derivatives offer a host of benefits to take your game to the next level.
Will sprinting faster and jumping higher help you dominate your competition? Do you need to add lean body mass or decrease fat mass to optimize your body composition for peak performance? Are you intrigued by the idea of naturally increasing your serum testosterone level? Do you have any movement restrictions or you could you use a little more flexibility in just about every major joint in your body?
If the acquisition of any of these attributes is what you are after, then grab your chalk, lifting shoes, and get to your closest lifting platform because it is time to start weightlifting.
Sprinting and jumping are fundamental tasks of many sports, and better performance in these abilities are often the prevailing distinctions between better and worse athletes. While there are many inherent genetic factors that dictate your ability, these characteristics are still trainable. The major mechanisms that improve sprint and jump ability are similar, and enhancing lower body strength and power is the best way to elicit improvements.
Long term investigations into weightlifting demonstrate enhanced lower body strength, generally measured through 1-repetition maximum back squat testing (Tricoli et al. 2005). In fact some studies have demonstrated that the inclusion of weightlifting movements increase back squat strength to a greater extent than traditional strength training alone (Hoffman et al. 2004).
Lower body power development may even be more critical than strength for enhancing sprint and jump abilities. Power is the product of force and velocity, and you will be hard pressed to find any exercises more effective than the clean, jerk, snatch, and many of their derivatives at maximizing both variables to yield the highest power outputs (Suchomel et al. 2015).
The clean and snatch are likely the most popular weightlifting movements, but in fact the dip and drive portion of the jerk has been shown to produce more power than the secondnd pull of the clean or snatch (Garhammer, 1980). Many studies have substantiated the positive effects on vertical jump, and short sprint performance through the use of weightlifting movements (Hackett et al. 2015; Hoffman et al. 2004; Tricoli et al. 2005).
[Those are just some of the entries on our list of 10 undeniable benefits of the clean and jerk.]
Better Body Composition
Bodybuilders are the most muscular and leanest humans on the planet, and you rarely ever see them doing weightlifting movements. If you are an athlete needing to add muscle or drop body fat, you may be questioning why you would ever need to include the weightlifting movements in your training to alter body composition.
You are welcome to let your local gym’s broscientist talk you out of using weightlifting movements in favor of more traditional resistance training exercise, or you can trust the many Phd sport scientists who have demonstrated time and time again in studies that performing a weightlifting program leads to increased lean body mass, with a concomitant decrease in body fat.
In fact one study by Stone et. al showed athletes on average gained over 6 lbs of lean body mass while decreasing body fat by 3% in only 8 weeks (1983). That’s a significant change to body composition in a very short time, all the while reaping the other benefits associated with improved athletic performance that weightlifting provides.
External body composition changes aren’t the only physical changes taking place while weightlifting. They also have been linked to positive hormonal adaptations as well, most notably an increase in serum testosterone levels with long-term weightlifting training (Häkkinen et al. 1988).
This is definitely a more cost effective and safer way to enhance your body’s anabolism without having to buy expensive and unsafe testosterone boosting supplements or performance enhancing drugs. Save your money and protect your health by putting some sweat equity into weightlifting.
Better Quality of Movement
If sprinting faster, jumping higher, improving body composition, and enhancing your hormonal profile still isn’t convincing enough, weightlifting will also help you move better. As a sport, Olympic weightlifters are second only to gymnasts in flexibility tests (Jensen, C., Fisher, G. 1990). Good weightlifting encourages full ranges of motion in just about every major joint in the body, all the while yielding improvements in balance, coordination, and kinesthetic sense (Hedrick, A., Wada, H. 2008).
If you grew up watching the G.I Joe cartoon, then you’ve heard the cliché “Knowing is only half the battle.” Motor learning has shown us that this is in fact true when it comes to technical skill acquisition. It is not often an individual’s lack of understanding of what they need their body to do when executing a technical skill. Rather impaired biomechanics due to flexibility limitations are often a common cause of technical inefficiency (Muratori, L.M. et. al 2013).
Overall improvements in flexibility and athletic coordination through weightlifting will ensure restricted motion will never be the reason for an inability to execute proper technique in your chosen sporting skills.
If you are now on board with the benefits of adding weightlifting movements to your training plan but are apprehensive to get started due to the technical requirements of the lifts, just relax. You can yield many of the same benefits by first starting with weightlifting derivatives.
If you aren’t comfortable doing a clean, start with a clean pull. If you can’t figure out the snatch starting from the ground, try starting from the mid-thigh or knee. If you don’t yet have the coordination to perform a split jerk, start with a simpler push jerk. Rome was not built in a day, and nor will your weightlifting technique.
However, technical mastery and athletic development are not dependent. Technique may always be a work in progress, but athletic development will begin immediately.
Featured image via @torokhtiy on Instagram.
Garhammer, J. (1980). Power production by Olympic weightlifters. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 12(1), 54.
Hackett, D., Davies, T., Soomro, N., & Halaki, M. (2015). Olympic weightlifting training improves vertical jump height in sportspeople: a systematic review with meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, bjsports-2015
Hakkinen, K., Pakarinen, A., Alen, M., Kauhanen, H., & Komi, P. V. (1988). Neuromuscular and hormonal adaptations in athletes to strength training in two years. Journal of Applied Physiology, 65(6), 2406-2412.
Hedrick, A., Wada, H. (2008). Weightlifting Movements: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks? Strength & Conditioning Journal. Dec. Volume 30 – Issue 6 – p 26-35
Hoffman, J. R., Cooper, J., Wendell, M., & Kang, J. (2004). Comparison of Olympic vs. traditional power lifting training programs in football players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 18(1), 129-135
Jensen, C., and G. Fisher (1990). Scientific Basis of Athletic Conditioning (2nd ed.). Philadelphia,PA: Lea and Febiger.
Muratori, L. M., Lamberg, E. M., Quinn, L., & Duff, S. V. (2013). Applying principles of motor learning and control to upper extremity rehabilitation. Journal of Hand Therapy : Official Journal of the American Society of Hand Therapists, 26(2), 94–103.
Stone, M. H., Wilson, G. D., Blessing, D., & Rozenek, R. (1983). Cardiovascular responses to short-term olympic style weight-training in young men. Canadian journal of applied sport sciences. Journal canadien des sciences appliquees au sport, 8(3), 134-139
Suchomel, T. J., Comfort, P., & Stone, M. H. (2015b). Weightlifting pulling derivatives: Rationale for implementation and application. Sports Medicine, 45(6), 823-839
Tricoli, V., Lamas, L., Carnevale, R., & Ugrinowitsch, C. (2005). Short-term effects on lower-body functional power development: weightlifting vs. vertical jump training programs. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 19(2), 433-437