How to write an Olympic weightlifting program, Part I.

Nothing generates controversy in the world of weightlifting more than programming. Well, except for proper technique, who coached who, and drugs. But all that aside, there are plenty of arguments about how to program, and I would like to present some simple steps to follow that should allow just about anyone to write a decent program, no controversy needed.

Step 1 – Do enough snatching to make progress on the snatch.

Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Well it is simple, but there are some qualifications to help you along. Beginners can usually become steadily better at the snatch with only 2-3 sessions of snatches a week. As you progress, you will usually find that adding sessions helps keep the progress coming. But don’t dismiss snatching 3 times a week as only for rank beginners, plenty of people have snatched big weights training the lift 3 times a week. So start with 2-3 snatch sessions a week, and use common sense as a guide.

When you do snatch, what exactly do you do? There are of course many snatch variations to choose from. I recommend using the competition style lift as your default position, if there are no special considerations, do full snatches from the floor. But, there are many reasons why you might want to do something else for one or more of your snatch sessions. If your technique is bad or you are just learning the lift, you might want to include partial lifts, such as the snatch from the hip. Variations like this are simpler, make it easier to do at least part of the lift correctly, and help reinforce good technique. There are a million variations, educate yourself on the possibilities, and include those you think will help. But keep in mind that the default should always be the actual competition lift, and barring a good reason, those should make up the bulk of your training.

Step 2 – Do enough clean and jerks to make progress on the clean and jerk.

All the advice for the snatch applies. The one further consideration is that the clean and jerk is two movements that can be separated. As with the snatch, if there are no special considerations, do the whole lift as it is done in competition. But if technique is bad or you are just learning, you can simplify it to make it easier to learn good technique on part of the lift at a time. You can do cleans by themselves, or jerk from a rack or block without cleaning the weight first. Separating the lifts this way often makes it easier to work on one particular deficiency. But even if you find this useful, try to do the clean and jerk in competition style at least once a week.

Step 3 – Get stronger.

Squats are the most important strength exercise for weightlifters. Others that are valuable include front squats, push presses and presses, RDL’s and pulls with a snatch or clean grip. But the most important is squats, and squats can be sufficient by themselves.

There are a million strength programs available. Most will work if you put the work in, but squatting 2-3 times a week for multiple sets at a medium rep ange (4-6) is popular in weightlifting and general strength training circles for a reason. Let that form the basis of your default strength program unless there is a good reason to do something different.

So there you go. The backbone of a weightlifting program.

In Part II I will talk about some of the details.

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21 responses to “How to write an Olympic weightlifting program, Part I.

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