3 Methods to Coach Olympic Lifts More Effectively

Posted by Wil Fleming

As a coach there are so many options to include in your training program that it can sometimes be overwhelming. We know that strength training is important (including olympic lifts) but if it isn’t distilled down to the essentials we can end up in a position of “paralysis by analysis.”

These questions have crossed my mind before and made writing the programs for my athletes difficult to say the least.

Is there an event for which we must “peak?”

Can athlete X do this movement?

How long will it take me to teach them to do this?

How can I ensure that the athlete gets the most out of each set of work?


If we have decided that the Olympic lifts are an important part of preparing your athletes for the field, court, or track, then each of the above questions can apply even more.

Here are my 3 tips to using the Olympic lifts easier and more effectively in your programming for athletes.

power_clean_lift1)     Use the hang power clean.

Teaching the Olympic lifts from the ground up takes a lot of time, and as a coach time isn’t always what we have the most of. The ground based position of the full clean or power clean also means that your athletes must have a ton of mobility at the hip, ankle and thoracic spine to get into the right start position.

Choosing to use the hang power clean means that we can forgo much of the required mobility at the hip and ankle and still develop great power. Teaching this movement is also significantly easier than getting athletes in the appropriate start position from the floor.

In short, you will get nearly all of the benefits of the floor start position, when moving to the hang position, with not nearly the time commitment.

Bonus: Use the Power Jerk in your programming as well.

The hang power clean is a hip dominant movement that does an excellent job of developing posterior chain power. Use the power jerk to develop power in the anterior chain.

2)     Use work up loading

The traditional model of programming  requires you the coach to select the loads of the day based on a percentage of an athlete’s one rep max. While this has been used for years to great success, it means that you must know the one repetition maximum for every athlete in your program.

Certainly this process is time consuming, and leaves your beginning athletes out in the wild before you can test their maximal strength in the Olympic lifts. Secondly, I don’t always find it feasible or safe to test new athletes in their 1RM before a significant learning phase.

Instead I choose to use work-up loading. In this way you will tell athletes to move up to their best weight on a given day, in a given exercise, for a given rep scheme. An athlete’s best set on that day, is the 100% we will use for training on that day.

Any set that will be counted as a “work set”  must fall within 10% of the best set that an athlete completes on that day.

This method will save you time on the front end, but will also allow your athletes to get in the highest quality work that they can on a year round basis.

3)     Never go above 3 reps

If there is one thing that I absolutely hate it is high rep Olympic lifts. Anything nearing five repetitions is too many for me. In my gym, with my athletes, we use 5 repetitions for only 4 weeks per year in the Olympic lifts.

The Olympic lifts are designed to recruit the maximum number of muscle fibers on nearly every rep, this is similar to the output needed for most power sports. Using more than 3 reps is counter productive to this need.

Keep the reps low, use a quick teaching progression that can incorporate the most athletes at one time, and use a method of assigning weights that takes the work off of your plate. These methods will cut down on the number of decisions you need to make in the weight room and allow you to coach even more.


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