Peaking Your Sprinters and Field Athletes with the Olympic Lifts

Posted by Wil Fleming

The first of June means one thing in track and field. The most important time in nearly all of track and field for anyone competing in the United States. And you want to be peaking.

Championship season.

Collegiate conference meets have happened. NCAA regionals are in the book. Most track and field athletes are reaching the pinnacle of their season.

For high school athletes it means that the state finals are underway.

For collegiate athletes it means the NCAA meet is right around the corner.

I remember this time of year fondly as a competitor. I was fortunate enough to compete in state finals as a high schooler, and the NCAA meet as a collegiate athlete. There is no more exciting time of the year.

In most cases, an entire year of preparation has led up to this point, a chance to PR, a chance to compete against the state and nation’s best.

A year of preparation that can be completely de-railed by a bad peak.

I was fortunate to always hit the right peak, and hit season’s bests in nearly every championship meet I competed (with a couple notable exceptions). With extreme confidence I can say a big part of my ability to peak at the right time was the use of the right combination of Olympic lifts, at the right time with the right intensity.

So what does the right peak with Olympic lifts look like for a track and field athlete?

Through a process of subtraction we eliminate the big lifts 1 by 1 until all we have left is PR’s and a primed nervous system.

10-14 days out-Last Heavy Squat

The last heavy squat workout of training means the end of the REALLY hard work for a thrower, jumper or sprinter. This heavy workout should be completed in the days following a contest, 2 weeks or so from the final meet of the season.

In this workout the athlete will complete their last heavy squat workout for low reps, this can mean working up toward a PR 1RM or a heavy double or triple. By this time the strength and power gained in the season will show itself with big weights moved quickly.

From this point out squats are completed at lower and lower intensities until the last week in which they are completed with, at maximum, 60% of a 1RM.

7-10 days out- Last Heavy Clean

Power cleans

Power cleans

For throwers and jumpers this last heavy clean will likely be from a hang position to maximize their ability to take advantage of the stretch shortening cycle. For sprinters this movement can be completed from the floor position to maximize their potential to generate force from a dead stop position.

The heavy clean is done before the heavy snatch because it is a more taxing movement on the body.

The most useful variation during this time of year is the clean cluster, of 2-3 pulls from the hang position and then a power clean from the hang position. This rhythmic interpretation of the clean should mimic the rhythms found in most of the events on the track.

5-7 Days out- Last Heavy Snatch

Again we may employ the use of a cluster set (2-3 pulls and 1 hang snatch) to get the most advantageous reaction from the athlete. Sprinters will use the cluster by doing a pull from the ground and then 2 shorter movements from the hang. Throwers and jumpers will use the hang movements on the entire cluster.

With the completion of the last heavy snatch the athlete will no longer be lifting heavy.

Last week- Light and fast

Athletes will continue to do the big 3 movements (clean, snatch, squat) but at much lighter intensities, but at much greater speeds. Use clean clusters, snatch clusters, and squat jumps to maximize speed and prime the nervous system.

Using this approach has helped me and dozens of my track athletes achieve lifetime bests at the exact right time. Building a base of training comes down to knowing how to coach these movements to their greatest potential, Check out my Olympic Lifting Course to learn exactly how I coach the Olympic lifts.

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