A question I often get asked by young athletes, especially in power sports like football, basketball or track and field, is whether or not they should spend time learning the Olympic lifts. Before we get into the answer, let me start by saying that I think the Olympic lifts are fantastic exercises. One of the best expressions of speed and power can be seen with a beautifully executed Clean & Jerk or Snatch. These qualities have great transfer to things like blocking and tackling in football, accelerating out of the blocks in a sprint, or jumping for a rebound in basketball. Being good at the Olympic lifts means you have the ability to generate force, which is crucial for success in power sports. Now that being said, my answer is it depends.
The reality you need to understand is that the full Olympic lifts are very technical movements that take many years to master. They require tremendous flexibility and mobility. Coaching is required to teach athletes how to properly apply force. Trying to learn the full movements on your own can be a risky proposition. If you don’t have the patience to learn the techniques under the supervision of a qualified weightlifting coach, don’t bother. There are other ways to train for power and explosiveness for your sport. For example, you could learn some of the more basic variations of the Olympic lifts, such as the hang clean, hang snatch, and push press. Although I’d still recommend spending some time learning these under a qualified coach, they are far less technical and take less time to master. And for the athlete trying to improve power, the hang variations provide all the benefits of the full versions. For a little inspiration, check out the Beast below doing a hang snatch with 345 pounds!