Why You Don’t Need Olympic Lifts to Develop Power
by Coach Matthew Welker
Let me start by saying I am not against Olympic lifts. I think they have great training benefits when it comes to power development. And for those who can perform them properly stick with it. Now my problem with Olympic lifting comes from the risk versus reward involved. While they are considered the king of power development, when performed incorrectly it’s a recipe for disaster. Since Olympic Lifts are themselves a sport, when working with athletes of other sports I feel that for the time it takes to teach them properly isn’t worth the training effect. So what’s the alternative to develop serious power?
When working with my athletes I prefer to go with ballistic movements. Now unlike most traditional training modalities “ballistics” represent exercises where the object is actually released. In this from of training you don’t focus on the deceleration. Ballistic movements – like throwing a medicine ball- allow you to accelerate through the entire movement. Which actually comes closer to replicating gameplay.
For example, when a lineman explodes off the line and engages a defender what movement is that similar to? A power clean or a medicine ball chest pass? There are other numerous examples that can be used. And one of the biggest aspects of what makes olympic lifts great is the triple extension of the hip. Which is a huge part of jumping mechanics. When the lifts aren’t done correctly you will miss the training effect all together. Instead, by using a medball you simplify the process which makes mastering them quicker. The motor learning capabilities of ballistics are much easier and less time consuming then standard olympic lifts.
Since ballistic movements are highly CNS intensive, they can be performed at different stages of the workout. I usually have them performed in the warm-up or as a power portion of the workout. Such as medball throws before a bench press to fire up the CNS and to prime the pecs for the workout. They can also be used at the end of a session to offer metabolic benefits. Since the movements are typicaly explosive, the speed will determine the volume you perform in the workout.
To wrap it up it all comes down to what you are training for. If olympic lifts are something you enjoy and you can do them correctly, then by all means keep them up. For those who are looking for a similar training adaptation maybe try ballistic training as a subsitution. When it comes to training everyone is different so you need to do what’s best for you. As long as you can stay injury free and keep benefitting from training that’s what truly matters.