Olympic weightlifting and its effects on power performance

By Matt Ham

Olympic lifting consists of extremely powerful movements exemplified by two major lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk. It is named Olympic lifting its inclusion in the Olympics, whereby the combined weight of both lifts determines the winner of the competition. Olympic lifting has been categorically proven as one of the most effective resistance techniques to produce power (1). This form of training has been compared to many other resistance training techniques that include multiple multi-joint movements and has consistently produced more wattage then traditional resistance exercise. Olympic lifting is comprised of more than just two specific lifts; it has a multitude of derivatives that when performed together in training regime elicits significant power gains.  These derivatives are variations of the two lifts, that when practiced, increase technical adaptability of the initial two lifts, the clean and jerk and the snatch. There are a plethora of variations, examples of but a few are:-

  • Snatches from the floor or from blocks;
  • Cleans without the jerk from blocks or floor;
  • Jerks from racks;
  • Auxiliary techniques such as snatch balances and jerk recoveries;
  • Power snatches; and
  • Power cleans and power cleans and jerks.

There are many more exercises that make up the Olympic lifting spectrum, especially strength exercises that further assist the aforementioned and further enhance power production and technique adaptation.

This type of training stimulates agonistic muscles in an eccentric and isometric form, generating greater opposing impulses to overcome eccentric forces when compared to the conventional multi-joint standard exercises (2). This specific action yields strength development from rapid force production in an eccentric manner. This type of strength is called reactive strength where, throughout the lift, eccentric contractions are rapidly transferred into concentric contractions (2).

Such reactive strength is highlighted in studies conducted by Hoffman et al in (3), where it was shown that Olympic lifting produced higher strength and power output as compared to power lifting exercises when performed on collegiate footballers (grid iron). Olympic lifting protocol used in these athletes produced an 18% increase in squat strength and up to twofold faster 40m sprint times. These results are extremely significant for power based athletes, where acceleration and the ability to produce increased wattage during performance may give an athlete a vital advantage.

Moreover, such results were seen in a study done by McBride et al (4) where Olympic lifting significantly rated higher peak power and force production in comparison to power lifters, sprinters and a control group. Studies performed by Hori and colleagues showed similar improvements in power and force development, when significant increases in counter movement jump height and decreases in sprint times were seen in response to hang power clean training in comparison to other training protocols. Baker and Nance (5) further illustrated the effectiveness of Olympic lifting and its relationship with power performance on rugby league players, where players showed a considerable improvement in both 10m and 40m sprint times in response to hang power cleans.

There seems to be overwhelming evidence to suggest that Olympic lifting is an essential training protocol to increase power performance. It is therefore suggested that the mechanisms present during an Olympic lift, such as the muscular sequencing of the triple extension of the hips, knee and ankle joints, coupled with the results shown from Olympic lifting studies, is comparable with the movement patterns of many sports, therefore giving it a strong association to sports performance (6).

  1. J et al A Comparison of Strength and Power Characteristics Between Power Lifters, Olympic Lifters, and Sprinters  Strength Cond Res 13: 58-66, 1999
  2. Chiu LZ and Schilling BK. Force-velocity, impulse-momentum relationships: Implications for efficacy of purposefully slow resistance training Strength and Cond 27: 42-48, 2005.
  3. Hoffman et al. COMPARISON OF OLYMPIC VS. TRADITIONAL POWERLIFTING TRAINING PROGRAMS IN FOOTBALL PLAYERS J Strength Cond Res 18: 129-135, 2004
  4. Mcbride. J et al A Comparison of Strength and Power Characteristics Between Power Lifters, Olympic Lifters, and Sprinters  Strength Cond Res 13: 58-66, 1999
  5. Baker and Nance, J. Comparison of Lower Body Strength, Power, Acceleration, Speed, Agility, and Sprint Momentum to Describe and Compare Playing Rank among Professional Rugby League Players Strength Cond. Res. 13:230-235, 1999
  6. Chiu LZ and Schilling BK. Force-velocity, impulse-momentum relationships: Implications for efficacy of purposefully slow resistance training Strength and Cond 27: 42-48, 2005.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *