Olympic weightlifting can be a challenging sport. In this article we’ll be diving into one of the biggest training programme mistakes that I see as a coach and tutor; programmes not having enough strength work.
Today we’re going to cover:
- What Do We Mean By Strength Work?
- Why is Strength Important in Olympic Weightlifting?
- How Little Strength Work is too Little for Weightlifting?
- Practical Recommendations for Olympic Weightlifting Strength Training
- Looking for An Olympic Weightlifting Programme?
- Frequently Asked Strength & Weightlifting Questions
- Next Steps
There’s also a video link if you prefer to view the content that way…
What Do We Mean By Strength Work?
By olympic weightlifting strength work I mean basic, general strength exercises like…
- Push Presses
- Overhead Presses
Exercises that develop your ability to generate maximal forces.
Why is Strength Important in Olympic Weightlifting?
Simply put, weightlifting might be technical, but it’s still a STRENGTH sport.
Given two weightlifters of similar or equal skill level, the stronger weightlifter is going to snatch and clean & jerk more weight.
Plus, having a ‘strength reserve’ may provide a buffer for you to do more safe and effective specific weightlifting training. For example…
- 3 x 2 cleans @ 100kg when you front squat 150kg is pretty easy. It moves quickly and you stand it up without too much effort.
- 3 x 2 cleans @ 100kg when you front squat 110kg is HARD. You might catch and get under the barbell, but standing it up takes a lot out of you.
Therefore I would make an argument that having a strength reserve allows you to do more specific weightlifting training with less total fatigue. Anecdotally, this is something that I’ve seen a lot in my own coaching, especially with people who are moving from powerlifting or CrossFit into weightlifting.
How Little Strength Work is too Little for Weightlifting?
It tends to depend on your training age and body size, but a good rule of thumb is that most weightlifting programmes should have you doing some squat, pull and overhead strength type work AT LEAST once per week.
And by this, I mean moderate to hard sessions in which the goal is to overload the movement and build strength. So sessions like 5×5, or 4×6, or 6×3. A quick, easy single at RPE 7 isn’t going to cut it.
If your programme doesn’t have at least this amount of strength work per week, it’s very likely going to leave you with a strength deficit in the long term. You’ll know if this has happened to you if your technique looks and feels good, you’re training hard, but your lifts just don’t seem to be increasing anymore.
Practical Recommendations for Olympic Weightlifting Strength Training
Aim to perform strength movements with good intensity at least once per week. Typically, I have my athletes perform them around 2-3 times per week with varying intensities. Which might look like…
Monday: Back squat 3×5 @ RPE 8, Snatch Pull 3×3 @ 100% Snatch
Wednesday: Front Squat 3×3 @ RPE 7
Friday: Push Press 4×5 @ RPE 8
Saturday: Clean Deadlift 3×4 @ RPE 8
And remember, this is on top of all the specific weightlifting work (snatches, cleans and jerks) plus assistance exercises like pull-ups, back extensions and others.
Also, please bear in mind that this is only a rough example to demonstrate the concept of how strength work should be applied. There are plenty of other ways to arrange strength exercises within the context of a weightlifting programme.
Looking for An Olympic Weightlifting Programme?
I’ve put together a 13-week classic weightlifting programme.
It utilises the best evidence-based practice and focuses on the exercises, sets and reps proven to work, whilst cutting out the fluff and filler.
It also comes with full instructions, Q&A access, and a guide to auto-regulation/individualisation.
You can learn more about the programme by clicking right here.
Frequently Asked Strength & Weightlifting Questions
Do weightlifters need to bench press?
Honestly, not really. it has very little carryover to the snatch, clean or jerk. However, I do sometimes programme it as an off-season general preparedness exercise for some of my female athletes, alongside push presses and other upper body work.
How big is the role of strength in weightlifting performance?
This is a complex question. The simple answer is very big, because weightlifting is a strength sport, and it can’t be denied that all lifters at the elite level are phenomenally strong. However, with that said, there is an upper limit to how useful general strength can be, and most lifters will get to a point at which more general strength does very little to improve their main lifts. You can read more about this in the next article (Too Much Strength Work)
Is Olympic Weightlifting Strength Training?
Another big question. To some extent, yes, snatches and cleans will develop strength. However, you’ll struggle to get maximally strong just doing snatches and cleans, mainly because they’re too light, too fast, and don’t have an eccentric component.
Where Can I Find a Weightlifting Strength Programme?
You’ve got a few good options. I’ve written a great no-nonsense weightlifting programme right here, which has plenty of strength work. (Then programme is free) I’m also a big fan of travis mash’s programming, which has plenty of solid strength work.
1) Hopefully you’ve found the article useful, if you did, maybe take a moment to consider joining my mailing list for weekly programmes, workouts and weightlifting tips.
2) Feel free to share the article with anyone you think would benefit
‘Til Next Time
Alex Parry, MSc
Alex’s experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.