Why I Do Not Olympic Lift Athletes

Why I Don't Use Olympic Lifting For Athletes

First and foremost, I am not married to any certain training style. I am willing to experiment with all training variations, but when it comes to my athletes I tend to stay away from Olympic lifting.
Olympic lifts are often seen in the weight room but are rarely done correctly. The three main reason I tend to shy away from Olympic variations are risk of injury, learning curve, and supplemental motor unit recruitment exercises.

Are They Worth It?

For starters when it comes to Olympic lifts there is no doubt that when performed correctly, they can translate to some of the highest speed of movements exercises that you will see in a weight room, but at what cost? Usually when you enter a weight room and see Olympic lifts taking place you will quickly pick out the lack of triple extension and a lot of reverse curling the bar. Olympic lifts - when not done properly - can lead to injury.


Let’s take the clean for example. A vast majority will clean the bar and land in hyper extension. Not only is it bad to be in hyper extension walking around, but now add the forces of the bar landing on you in that positioning. That cannot be good for the lumbar spine. Other common injury sites are the wrist. Thinking about all of the sports that I have worked with they all use the wrist to some capacity, so why would we risk potential injury.


Second, let’s talk discuss the learning curve for teaching and executing Olympic lifts. To execute a proper Olympic lift there are multiple stages of learning whether it is a top down or bottom up approach. Being that I am one coach in the room of up to 45 athletes at a time I would be lying if I said I could coach up each athlete individually. In the time that it takes me to teach and execute proper Olympic lifts are their other movements that can display similar speeds of movement with decreased risk of injury? I would like to argue, yes!


Motor Unit Recruitment

 This chart displays the max amount of motor units recruited by each movement:


By looking at this chart you are telling me I can recruit the same amount of motor units from max. velocity sprinting, throwing medicine balls and doing plyometric jumps then it is a no brainier for me. I can teach my athletes these movements in a fraction of the time that I can teach them to Olympic lift while mitigating risk of injury.  Therefore, in my time spent at the college level I have chosen to sprint, throw med ball and use plyometrics and have had success. 


Safety is #1

I am not saying there is not a time and place for Olympic lifting (personally I play around with Olympic variations lifts), but I am saying if I can get just as much bang for my buck with way less risk of injury, I am going to take that road every time. My number priority is safety.  Every athlete’s greatest ability is……. availability.  


Colin Masterson

Sports Performance Coach at Villanova University 

Follow along for more content on IG @CM1_performance

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