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Olympic Weightlifting for a Higher Vertical Jump

Olympic weightlifting is one of the most effective methods you can use for increasing your vertical jump.

The picture below, of elite Olympic lifter Pyrrohs Dimas, shows exactly how powerful of a method Olympic lifting is if your goal is to jump through the roof:

Olympic weightlifting will improve your vertical jump

Olympic weightlifting will improve your vertical jump

But don’t just take my word for it, because the science shows that Olympic weightlifting definitely improves your vertical jump as well.

So why exactly is Olympic weightlifting so powerful for improving your vertical jump?

Well, there are a few reasons…

One, the lifts involve full extension of the body, just like the vertical jump.

Two, the lifts force you to be explosive, otherwise you won’t be able to move the bar off the ground.

Three, the way that most good Olympic weightlifting programs are setup are conducive to developing power.

The first 2 points are quite obvious when looking at the movements. But the 3rd point deserves more explanation…

A lot of trainers and athletes have the mentality that effective training only happens if you’re absolutely toasted after your workout, gasping for air, and ideally, unable to walk up stairs without looking like a 90 year old.

This is a dangerously flawed mentality, especially if your goal is to develop your explosive power.

Here’s why…

All movements are reliant on the energy systems of the body.

There are 3 energy systems: aerobic, anaerobic lactic and anaerobic alactic.

It’s the last system – the anaerobic alactic system – that is responsible for explosive movements.

Although it is the most powerful energy system, it fatigues quickly, giving you no more than 12-15 seconds of power.

In fact, power output starts to drop off after about 7-10 seconds.

Plus, it takes anywhere from 6-10 times the amount of time for the anaerobic alactic system to recover.

This means that for a set lasting 10 seconds, you need at least 60 seconds rest, but ideally around 2 minutes, because you want to ensure you’re fully recovered and fresh for the next set.

But if you’re training for explosive power, you want each and every set to count and be at full output. This is how you force your nervous system to improve its ability to rapidly develop force, by training at full output, not a submaximal level.

Anything less will be training your body for less than full output, which will limit your explosive power production.

So when you’re doing exercises, if the set lasts over 15 seconds, you start to tap into the other energy systems.

Worse, if your rest period is too short and you don’t fully recover, you won’t be able to generate full force because you’ll still be fatigued.

Even if you don’t necessarily feel fatigued, your nervous system needs more rest than your muscles, which is why I recommend you rest more than you might need, to ensure you’re fully recovered.

Now, if you’re following a program that was designed by someone with the “go hard or go home” mentality, you’ll be doing long sets with short rest, because these are the most “intense”.

But just because they’re hard, doesn’t mean they’re effective. For the goal of developing explosive power, this is the exact opposite of what you need to be doing.

That’s exactly why following an Olympic weightlifting program is great for developing explosive power.

Years of research and training athletes for competition has shown coaches and athletes alike the best methods for increasing the amount of weight you can Snatch and Clean and Jerk.

Not to mention the fact that these are highly technical exercises that requires focus to execute properly. Fatigue ruins this focus and can result in poor form, even if you know proper technique.

Also, these programs include sets with low #’s of reps and lots of rest – exactly what the doctor ordered if you want to develop explosive power and your vertical jump.

So take this into consideration and think about what your program is doing – is it training your endurance or your power?

If it’s training endurance, shorten the sets and lengthen the rest.

And if you want to learn how to execute these exercises properly, look no further than the Olympic Weightlifting Mastery Course.

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Clean and Jerk Benefits

The Clean and Jerk, aka “The King of Lifts”, is one of the most impressive exercises because of the combination of strength, toughness, coordination, speed, power and flexibility.

Check out the video below from the 2011 Asian Olympic Weightlifting Championships:

A lot of people miss the fact that it trains so many different elements of physical fitness at once because the Olympic lifts are often seen as simply explosive exercises.

But just as a reminder and little bit of motivation to incorporate these lifts into your workouts, let’s look at exactly how the Clean and Jerk improves each area mentioned in the opening sentence of this article…

Strength is needed throughout various phases of the lift, but none more apparent than at the very start when pulling the barbell off the floor and standing up after catching the barbell on your shoulders in the deep squat position.

Clean and Jerk Start Position

Clean and Jerk Start Position

Just think – the first pull of the barbell off the floor is just like a Deadlift and rising up out of the deep squat position is just like a Front squat.

Elite Olympic weightlifters weighing in around the 150 pound mark are often performing the Clean and Jerk with over 400 pounds on the barbell – just being able to Deadlift and Squat over 400 pounds requires a tremendous amount of strength, so obviously the Clean and Jerk does too.

Toughness is trained when catching the barbell on the front of your shoulders.

Imagine a 400 pound barbell is crashing down into your body and you have to absorb that force and control it to complete the lift.

If you’ve ever performed a Clean with at least your bodyweight, you know that it can beat up your shoulders. To move beyond this weight requires being able to take a bit of a beating, or even liking it, you masochist you. 🙂

Coordination is obviously trained with the Clean and Jerk as precise timing is needed to properly execute the various sequences of the lift, otherwise you won’t be able to get the barbell to your shoulders, then overhead.

Poor coordination will limit the amount of weight you can lift and can even lead to injuries, as you’ll use the wrong movements/muscle groups at the wrong time, exposing your body to forces it shouldn’t experience.

An example of this is if your coordination is off when Jerking the bar overhead, if the bar is not pressed straight up and more in front of your body, it can strain the deltoid muscles as they try to keep the barbell from falling.

Speed and power are kind of the same thing here and the Clean and Jerk trains both.

There are two areas where speed and power are most needed.

One – when you’ve got to accelerate the barbell upwards enough to be able to drop under it and catch it on your shoulders.

Two – when you’re trying to drive the barbell overhead.

Without speed and power, you won’t be able to perform these movements.

Finally, while not as much flexibility is needed in the Clean and Jerk as compared to the Snatch, there is still a great deal required in two areas: your hips to get into the deep squat position and your wrists/elbows to be able to keep the barbell in the Clean rack position so it doesn’t fall off your shoulders.

Clean and Jerk Squat Flexibility

Tremendous flexibility is needed at the bottom of the Clean and Jerk

Without this flexibility, you won’t be able to get down low to catch the barbell, or you’ll have problems with the barbell falling forwards because of your tight wrists and elbows.

So by using the Clean and Jerk, you can either identify these flexibility imbalances then work to correct them. If your Clean and Jerk form improves you know your flexibility has improved.

If you do have the flexibility to get into these positions, then the old “use it or lose it” saying applies – you’ll be able to maintain this flexibility as you’re constantly required to use it.

But of course, that’s only if you’re actually performing these lifts regularly.

If you’re not currently using the Clean and Jerk and Snatch, you’re missing out on powerful tools that can go a long way in improving your physical fitness as well as help you have more fun in the gym.

If it’s the technique that intimidates you and you’re scared of hurting yourself because of poor form, check out the course I’ve developed to help you master the lifts, step-by-step, with each and every phase broken down into easy-to-understand language.

Click here for more info.

It’s called the Olympic Lifting Mastery Course and by going through it, what used to take months and months of coaching and training, you’ll be confident in the lifts in as little as 3 weeks.

Olympic Lifting Equipment

In today’s article, you’re going to get an overview of Olympic lifting equipment – what makes good gear, what’s needed, what’s unnecessary, and where to start.

olympic lifting equipment

A really nice Olympic lifting setup.

To begin with, here’s the thing – if you want to start Olympic lifting, you don’t need a heck of a lot of equipment.

All you really need is a long wooden dowel or PVC pipe with a diameter of about 1″ – similar to that of a barbell!

You may be thinking, “Don’t I need a barbell and weights?”

If you’re just starting out, the answer is a resounding “NO”!

If you’re serious about learning how to properly perform the Olympic lifts, starting by educating yourself about proper technique is the best place to start.

But most guys do the opposite – they’ll watch a couple of YouTube videos then go and try to lift as much weight as they possibly can.

This is the worst approach because you’ll probably be training bad technique and you may even hurt yourself.

And once you learn bad technique, it can take a lot of time and effort to fix it.

That’s why it’s best to get started on the right path so you don’t have to waste your time and effort unlearning bad form or suffer a needless injury.

So once you’ve learned proper technique, you can start using more equipment.

Now I’m sure you’ve seen the traditional Olympic lifting setup: a barbell, rubber bumper plates and a nice wooden platform.

But you don’t need to go that far, because if you’re starting out, you shouldn’t be attempting to lift anything close to your max or anything you can’t lower to the ground under control.

While it’s fun to be able to drop big weights and bumper plates, if you have to do this when you’re first learning the lifts – you’re using too much weight.

So all you need is a standard barbell and some plates found in any gym.

You can even start with the older bars that only take the plates with the small, standard hole (1″ diameter) – you don’t have to start with the Olympic plates and barbell.

Like I said, at first, your main focus is proper Olympic lifting technique, not moving max weights.

Sorry if I’m repeating myself like a broken record – I just want you to realize how important this is.

But once you start moving bigger weights, Olympic style bars have collars that rotate, which makes lifting safer (more about this later).

Now, let’s say you’ve learned the lifts correctly and you’re ready to start getting more serious, OR you want to build a little Olympic lifting setup at home.

Here’s what I recommend you look for and why…

Continue Reading Olympic Lifting Equipment…

Olympic Weightlifting – The Science

Olympic Weightlifting Science

What does the science say about Olympic weightlifting?

Being an Olympic sport, there is a lot of scientific research that has gone into Olympic weightlifting.

Because I’m a bit of a science geek (not too bad, just a bit), I’d like to share some of the research with you so you can get a deeper understanding of Olympic weightlifting.

Let’s start with a study published over 30 years ago by John Garhammer out of the University of California at Los Angeles entitled, “Power production by Olympic weightlifters” (Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1980, Vol. 12 (1), pp 54-60).

[BTW – this is the same study I referred to in my “Olympic weightlifting for Explosive Power” article]

In this study, they determined the power production from 7 superior athletes in various phases of the Snatch and Clean and Jerk, from tape from the 1975 US National Championships.

Here’s a table taken from the study (click to enlarge):

Olympic Lifting Power Output

Power output during various phases of the Olympic weightlifting exercises

Let’s focus on the second 82.5 column, which refers to a lifter that weighs 82.5 kg (181.5 lbs).

During the first pull, the power output is about the same for both the Snatch and Clean and Jerk.

Olympic lifting - first pull

It’s during the second pull (called “upper pull” in this study) that the power really ramps up.

Olympic lifting - second pull

We can see that this 82.5 kg lifter generated 3634 watts of power during the second pull of the Snatch and 3475 watts of power for the Clean and Jerk.

This is an enormous amount of power output generated!

Compare this to the numbers calculated looking at a world record (at the time) Deadlift of 450 kg by Doyle Kenady.

When all was calculated, it turns out the amount of power generated during this lift was 793.8 watts.

So that means that the power generated doing the Olympic lifts are more than 4 times that generated during a record setting Deadlift.

If power is what you’re after, look no further than Olympic weightlifting…

Now, we know that total power output is higher with the Snatch or Clean and Jerk compared to any other exercise out there, what other benefits does Olympic weightlifting show in the research?

Total power output is great, but what about some real-world applications of how the Olympic lifts can help improve performance?

There’s another good study done in 2005 by Tricoli et al entitled, “Short-term effects on lower-body functional power development: weightlifting vs. vertical jump training programs”. (J Strength Cond Res, 2005, 19(2), 433-437).

This study is great to look at after the previous study, because now we’re pitting an Olympic lifting style program vs. a vertical jump specific program that included jumping exercises. Both groups also performed 4 sets x 6 reps of half squats.

In theory, the vertical jump specific program should out-perform the Olympic lifting program with respect to vertical jump, right?

Continue Reading Olympic Weightlifting – The Science…

Olympic Lifting for Explosive Power

Olympic lifting is a sport that consists of 2 main lifts: the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk.

Olympic lifting Snatch

The Snatch: One of the Two Main Olympic Lifting Exercises

These exercises are the most dynamic and explosive exercises in the world, proven by how much weight elite Olympic lifters can move.

If you’re an athlete involved in a sport where strength, power and speed are required for peak performance, mastering the Olympic lifts will rapidly help you develop all of these characteristics and more.

To understand exactly why mastering the 2 core Olympic lifting exercises can improve your sport performance, whatever your sport may be (unless it’s marathon running or some other endurance event), you’ve got to understand what power is and how it’s developed.

Then we’re going to compare the differences between the Power Clean – a slight variation of the Olympic lifts – and a conventional weight training exercise used to build power: the Deadlift.

First, let’s start with some math so you can see how you can go about improving power through Olympic lifting:

Equation #1: Power = Force x Velocity

Equation #2: Force = Mass x Acceleration

Equation #3: Velocity = Distance / Time

Therefore, the master equation is…

Power = (Mass x Acceleration) x (Distance / Time)

So to increase power (on the left side), you can increase any one of the variables on the right: mass, acceleration and/or velocity, and decrease the amount of time it takes to travel that distance..

So you can increase the weight used, accelerate it faster, and move it farther and/or faster.

To sum it up as simply as possible: Lift more weight and learn to move it faster and you’ll increase your power.

Now let’s take a look at why Olympic lifting is superior to anything else that you can do in the gym for developing power by comparing the Power Clean and the Deadlift.

With both the Power Clean and the Deadlift, the barbell starts on the floor.

Olympic Lifting Power Clean Exercise

Both Olympic Lifting Exercises Start from the Floor

But that’s where the similarities end…

For the Power Clean, you grab the barbell and must accelerate it upwards at a high enough rate to be able to drop under it and catch it on your shoulders before standing up.

This is a great distance to travel, from the floor to your shoulders, meaning that you have to be able to apply enough force and develop a high enough velocity to do this.

Because of the technique of the lift, it is impossible to move slowly!

In the Deadlift, you start with the barbell on the floor, then stand up straight, keeping your arms straight the whole time.

The distance the barbell travels is about 1/2 of that compared to the Power Clean.

So looking at the master equation, right away we can see that the Power Clean wins on 3 out of 4 of the variables: acceleration, distance and time, because you must move the weight faster, it travels twice the distance, and the time of the lift is much shorter.

Let’s see the 2 in action…

Continue reading Olympic Lifting for Explosive Power…

What are the Olympic Lifts?

Most of you coming here know exactly what the Olympic lifts are. If you fall into this category, you can quickly skim this post, stopping to read when you see something new.

But many of my visitors are beginners and fairly new to strength and conditioning, so for you, read this post in full so you have a full understanding of what the Olympic lifts are and how to use them safely and effectively.

First off – Olympic weightlifting is an Olympic sport where competitors do their best to lift as much weight in 2 exercises: the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk.

Here’s a picture showing different phases of the Snatch:

The Snatch - one of the Olympic Lifts

The Snatch - one of the Olympic lifts

And here’s a video showing Liao Hui, a 69 kg (151 lbs) Olympic weightlifter setting a new record in the Clean and Jerk of 198 kg (429 lbs):

Olympic Weightlifting is a Weight-Class Sport

Individuals compete against others within the same weight class – much like MMA or boxing.

So it’s not just about being the biggest and most powerful dude on the planet – it’s about being as powerful as you can be for your size.

If you want to compete in the sport, you can compete against guys your own size.

That’s good news for anybody who doesn’t care about being a monster like those WWE wrestlers you see on TV and just want to compete and get stronger and more powerful, not necessarily bigger.

The Olympic Lifts are a Powerful Tool for Pro Athletes

Although the sport itself is not very big around the world when compared to big-league sports like Baseball or Football (Soccer), the Olympic lifts themselves are performed by athletes from many different sports to improve strength, speed, explosive power and even flexibility.

For an example of how the Olympic lifts can train all of these qualities, all you’ve got to do is watch this video of the Chinese weightlifting national games, where the 69 kg (151 lbs) men are performing lifts with over 400 lbs!

The fact is that learning how to perform the lifts correctly, then using them in a properly designed strength and conditioning program yields big dividends and can helps you build more power and get faster than not using them.

This was proven in a study by Hoffman et al entitled, “Comparison of Olympic vs. traditional power lifting training programs in football players” published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2004, Feb(1):129-35).

The researchers found that the program that included the Olympic lifts resulted in athletes who could run faster and jump higher than the program based on poweflifting (Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press).

The athletes trained the same amount of time each week, but using the Olympic lifts provided more bang for their training buck.

So if you’re about using the most effective and efficient means possible for getting stronger, faster and more powerful, look no further than the Olympic lifts.

Continue reading What are the Olympic Lifts?…

The Clean and Jerk

The Clean and Jerk is often referred to as the “King of lifts”.

Guys have lifted monstrous amounts of weight over their heads in the Clean and Jerk, such as in the video below from 1996 where Andrei Chemerkin successfully hoists 260 kg/573 lbs over his head:

Being the King of anything is a tall order, but the Clean and Jerk definitely lives up to its billing because of how much the exercise has to offer not only the Olympic weightlifter, but also the athlete looking for explosive power.

When comparing the Clean and Jerk to the other Olympic lift – the Snatch – you can see that with the Clean and Jerk you can lift more weight and the lift itself takes longer to complete.

That’s why the Snatch is called the “world’s fastest lift” – because speed is a more important factor in being able to get the barbell overhead, while in the Clean and Jerk, strength is the more important factor.

Also, the Clean and Jerk is basically 2 different exercises combined into one – the Clean, which is powerfully pulling the barbell from the floor to your shoulders, then the Jerk, which is driving the barbell from your shoulders up overhead.

When learning the “King of lifts”, I recommend you learn each phase separately, then put them together after you’ve mastered each phase on its own.

Clean and Jerk Setup

Clean and Jerk setup

Good setup position for the Clean and Jerk

  • Place your feet under the barbell so you can see your toes (the barbell is directly over the balls of your feet)
  • Drop your hips down low and keep your back straight
  • Grab the barbell with a hook grip (I’ll talk show you this in a sec)
  • Look straight ahead or slightly up

The setup is extremely important because if you don’t setup properly, you’re not going to execute the lift properly.

Once you’ve got your setup down pat, it’s time to start the lift.

Common Clean and Jerk Error to Avoid

One error I see a lot of guys do is that they try to explode right away.

This is an error for 2 reasons:

  1. It’s easy to lose your body’s optimal biomechanical positioning
  2. It’s hard to accelerate the bar when it’s needed most (when you have to ‘throw’ the bar upwards while dropping underneath it to catch it on your shoulders) if you start off too fast

When you watch the best lifters in the world perform their lifts, you can see that they start off relatively controlled and only explode once the barbell passes your knees.

This allows you to maintain good position through the first pull, then accelerate the bar enough to be able to drop under it in time to successfully catch it.

Continue reading The Clean and Jerk…