Olympic Lifting for Track & Field

Posted by Wil Fleming

As a division 1 track and field athlete (at Indiana University, and a thrower to be specific), I know the importance of Olympic lifts to being a complete athlete. Getting your throwers on the platform is not a difficult task, but the connection is sometimes lost on your jumpers and sprinters. During my time competing 2 of my non-throwing teammates come to mind as living proof of the power that Olympic lifting for track can hold in unlocking athletic potential.

Those 2 teammates were both skinny athletes when they arrived on campus, each was highly recruited and from them, much was expected. One was a top jumps recruit and the other a top sprints recruit. They had the tools, but they needed to become more explosive.

Over the course of the 4 years that I competed with each, I saw them develop from skinny recruit into full fledged collegiate stars, multiple time national champions, and ultimately both were to become 2008 Olympians for the best track and field team in the world, the United States.

These two athletes, and the rest of our team, had been taught well how to Olympic lift, but we were not all doing the same movements all the time.

Yes we all did power cleans and power snatches at some point, but when training really picked up the throwers, jumpers, and sprinters each had different focuses for their training. Each had specific movements that were the staples of their training programs.

Most programs are based on the power clean as the primary Olympic lift, it is the staple of many athletes training, but in lifting for track and field athletes need to be doing so much more than just the power clean. The specific patterns and movements that are involved require you to have a more diverse Olympic lift toolbox and each event group, sprinters, jumpers, and throwers, need to be doing different movements to get the most out of their program.


Hang clean and hang snatch: While throwers can certainly benefit from the power clean the staple of their program should be the hang clean and hang snatch. The stretched position while starting closely resembles the timing and explosiveness necessary to finish the throw in the front of the ring.

Discus throwers and hammer throwers, in particular, will greatly benefit from the hang snatch. The timing of these events features a longer impulse of power at the front of the ring and the snatch is similar.

shot putSlide technique shot putters can greatly benefit from doing power cleans from the floor start position. The loaded start at the floor will improve maximal leg strength, which will assist in the push from the back of the ring.




Similarly, jumpers can benefit from hang cleans and hang clean pulls, sets of 3 performed rapidly will prepare jumpers to react explosively to the ground. Dozens of studies have shown a high correlation between Olympic lifts and jumping performance, due to an improved rate of force development after performing the lifts.


One variation that can greatly impact the performance of jumpers is the split clean. While there is no great difference in single leg force production while performing a split clean, there is a demand for force absorption on the forward leg in the receiving position. Muscle activation is highest in this eccentric/isometric catch position, and up to 80% of the load will be on the lead leg when receiving.




Sprinters must learn to produce power from a static start position to improve their ability to get out of the blocks explosively. For this reason, one of the best variations for sprinters to perform is the power snatch from blocks.


Starting from an elevated position, the athlete must create tremendous starting strength and move the static load rapidly overhead. The long impulse of power needed to move the bar overhead is similar to the impulse in getting out of the blocks.




You know your athletes need to be Olympic lifting. There is just too much evidence showing that Olympic lifting improves rate of force development, rate coding, and recruits the largest motor units, all leading to more powerful athletes.


What most coaches don’t have is a specific system for teaching all of the Olympic lifts, the clean, the snatch, the jerk, different start positions, different receiving positions,


The Olympic Lifting Course will give you the tools to teach all of the variations, it will give you programs to implement with your athletes to have them reach their full power potential, all from my experience as a national champion Olympic lifter, All-American hammer thrower, Division 1 track coach, and the coach of 1000’s of high school and college athletes who need exactly what your athletes need: to be the most explosive athlete they can be.


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