Should Athletes Include Power and Olympic Lifting Into Their Programs?

What is Power Lifting and Olympic Lifting?   

Hint: They're not the same!

Power Lifting is a type of strength training in which participants attempt to improve their maximum strength through 3 major lifts: The Squat, Deadlift, and Bench Press.

Olympic Lifting is a type of training where emphasis is put on power output from two major lifts: The Snatch and The Clean-and-Jerk (along with variations on both).

This can be confusing because "Power Lifting" does not necessarily focus on improving power, rather it focuses on improving maximum strength (amount of weight lifted during a one to three rep max).  While "Olympic Lifting" does focus on improving power because the speed or acceleration component is incorporated.

Power = Force x Velocity

Power = (mass x acceleration) x (distance x time)

The force and velocity factors within olympic lifting are improved by moving the barbell more rapidly through its' movement.  The Snatch and the Clean-and-Jerk are good indicators of power because the movement must be performed quickly to be completely properly.  Whereas, the squat, deadlift, and bench press can be performed slowly without necessarily being incorrect.

Power Lifting or Olympic Lifting?

Now that we know they are not the same, which type of lift is better for athletes, and you specifically? There are many schools of thought on this matter.  At T3, we train our athletes with some of each.  Our main goal is to make sure that the way we are training our athletes is functional and progressive.  Meaning, the training can relate to movements they will experience at some point during their sport and that the athlete is able to perform each movement with proper form and technique before moving onto a more complex movement. 

Athletes need to develop a solid foundation of strength and mobility before they can begin advanced lifts like the snatch and clean.  Power lifts like the squat and deadlift are essential to learn properly before one can move onto more advanced lifts.  At T3, we ensure our athletes stay healthy throughout their training and sport by moving progressively with strength exercises in our program.

Level 1:  Body weight strength, stability, and mobility.

Level 2:  Power lifts such as deadlift and squat are introduced, emphasizing form.

Level 3:  Strength is improved through these power lifts. Olympic lifts are introduced.

Level 4: Proper technique is used to become more explosive in Olympic movements.

Level 5: Explosiveness is maximized through Olympic and Sport-influenced movements.

*Stability and mobility are emphasized in every level as very important factors of athleticism.

How will these types of lifts help me in my sport?

As we said, we train our athletes to be more powerful in their sports using functional movements. Since functional movements are intended to mimic movements that one will see at some point during their sport, you may ask "When am I ever going to be throwing a heavy object over my head during my game?!"  It's not quite that simple.  Olympic lifts do not mimic sport-specific skills like catching, throwing, and running.  They mimic The Universal Athletic Position.

The Universal Athletic Position (AKA "Ready Position"): standing in a 1/4 squat, feet flat, hips behind the center of gravity, and back straight.  This is the most common position in all of sports.

*Improving explosiveness from this position will translate directly to the field or court.

Explosiveness from a stationary position is not the only facet of your sport that these lifts will improve.  Hip flexor strength will be improved as well. Your hip flexors are some of the longest and strongest muscles in your body but many athletes fail to train them properly.  Your hip flexors allow you to pull your leg through the swing phase of your run.  The images below express how hip flexion and extension is utilized in both sprinting and Olympic lifts.

How can you get started?

Olympic and power lifts are intended for advanced, trained athletes.  It is important to develop a solid base of movement, mobility, and strength before including these movements into a strength or speed training program.  When you feel you are ready to include these movements, it is imperative to have the proper coaching on technique in order to avoid injury.  However, there are safe variations for beginners that will improve overall strength as well as hip flexor strength. 

The jump squat, kettlebell swing, and glute bridge are a few examples.

*If you are interested in learning how to utilize power and Olympic lifts in your strength training program to improve your speed and explosive power, contact T3 Performance so we can get you set up on a program that is right for you.



"The Scientific Rationale for Incorporating Olympic Weightlifting to Enhance Sports Performance - NASM Blog." National Academy of Sports Medicine, 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2015

Tortora, Gerard J., and Sandra Reynolds Grabowski. Principles of Anatomy and Physiology. 8th ed. New York: Wiley, 1996. Print.