May 1, 2002

Conducting A Test: Non Olympic Lifting vs Olympic Lifting

 "If you cannot power clean you cannot be a good shot putter. -Name Withheld

(We use this quote mockingly! We love to receive e-mails from our readers regardless of their stance on a safe, productive and efficient training program, however, please think about what you are saying before you say it!) [Please see our April 26 post for more information on this statement.]

Conducting A Test

One of our readers suggested that we write about controlled tests to gain an understanding of these issues in which are discussed here. We know that any test or such, controlled as it may be, would not be conclusive of anything other than speculation. However, we have discussed this idea with other coaches in our high school. We came up with a premise to test our athletes over an 8-week summer school strength training class.

Knowing some problems exist in its design, we have laid out our original idea of an experiment below. Following our proposal is an evaluation by Tom Kelso, Strength Coach at the University of Illinois Chicago. We would like to thank Coach Kelso for his input and gladly accept others to evaluate it as well. Please keep in mind that we understand this project's limitations and only proceed for the sake of putting our philosophy to the test, not to declare a "winner" or "loser".

  • Objective: To test in-coming high school freshmen on power development through the comparison of Olympic and non-Olympic training methods.

  • Testing Methods: The athletes will be tested in the vertical jump using an electronic jump pad. They will be tested on Day 1 and the last day of the 8-week summer program. Both groups, Olympic and non-Olympic, will be allowed to practice 5 jumps on the pad per week.

  • Group Selection: The groups will be selected randomly. Half will be assigned to an Olympic lifting program and the others to a non-Olympic lifting program.

  • Training Protocols: Both groups will use the following exercises (which were suggested by all coaches involved, not just staff): Squat, Deadlift, Bench, Straight Leg Deadlift, Dips, Pull-ups, Shoulder Press, Practice jumps, as well as work through a conditioning program. The Olympic Lifting group will also perform Hang Cleans and Power Press movements.

  • Hypothesis: It is projected by that there will be no significant difference between the Olympic and non-Olympic groups. This would defend our stance that using the Olympic lifts to develop power is misleading. Again, we understand that an experiment of this sort with the limited numbers and limited time frame would, in fact, prove nothing, yet we conduct it nonetheless. We are prepared to come to the conclusion that Olympic movements may contribute to developing power should that group show significant gains in the vertical jump when compared to the non-Olympic group.


  • 1. It sounds like [you want to determine if] doing a power and/or hang clean -- or other Olympic lift/variation of it -- is superior to simply leg pressing, squatting, or dead-lifting with slower-moving, yet more fiber-recruiting movements. Try to [explain to other coaches on your staff] on the fact that you can actually recruit more muscle -- especially the type II fibers -- by using heavier and naturally slower moving resistances and working to muscular fatigue (many coaches don't understand this, or refuse to believe it because it doesn't "look the part.") It's a proven fact -- and a governed by basic laws of physics -- that a relatively heavy weight cannot move relatively fast (if it does, it is still relatively "light' for the lifter!), but it creates more tension, thus potentially overloads more muscle fibers (read: more type II) when worked to muscular fatigue

  • 2. The ability to vertical jump well is skill-dependent. Furthermore, are you using the old-fashioned method of jumping up against a wall?...the Vertec device?.....the Just Jump pad? Whatever is used, naturally it would need to be done for a number of trials (i.e., 5+) to get a good idea of an athlete's ability

  • 3. If you were able to get legitimate, reliable pre-test results, I firmly believe you could prove that  there are safer, more efficient alternatives available by doing the following experiment

  • **** 2 groups: 1 x Olympic lifts only and 1 x squat, leg press, and/or dead lift only (I think trap-bar dead lifts would be great for this experiment).

**** Train for progressively for 8 to 10 weeks with each group doing only their respective lift(s). In other words, the Olympic lift group could not squat, leg press, or dead lift -- nor could the squat/leg press/dead lift group do any Olympic lifts.

**** Both groups would have to be exposed to the same conditioning program to account for any  "outside" influences. They could BOTH PRACTICE vertical jumping or BOTH NOT PRACTICE jumping.  Naturally, if one group practiced the skill of vertical jumping, it would influence the post-test  results.

**** Bottom line: Provided the non-Olympic lift group were to progressively increase strength via the squat, leg press, and/or dead lift -- whether or not they practiced the vertical jump -- they would improve their ability to generate force (strength) in an "explosive muscular display" just as well as (if not better than) the Olympic lift group.

**** The Olympic lift group would also likely improve provided they trained progressively (added weight and or reps). Lifting "faster" by nature lessens muscular tension, but can create some overload if done to muscular fatigue. Thus, the Olympic lift group could increase strength in as much as the faster movement speed creates muscular tension.  This, in turn, would also help to improve force-production potential.


  • 1) Unquestionably a greater risk of soft tissue injury due to greater accelerative forces that need to be dissipated/absorbed by the body.  Not necessarily immediate/measurable injuries, but injuries resulting from the long-term wear-and-tear of ballistic exercises

  • 2) An inefficient means of creating tension/recruiting muscle fibers.  Excessive momentum decreases muscular tension (laws of physics) and consequently optimal muscle fiber recruitment

  • 3) Perpetuates the myth that sport-skill specificity can be improved by either "moving fast with a weight" or attempting to mimic a skill or segment of that skill.

Coaches, at this time we are still undecided if we are going to put a experiment proposal into effect this summer. However, we wanted to share this idea with you and encourage you to play around with the idea. Let us know what you come up with, we would love to share them with our readers.

Mystery Guest

[We are posting a photo of this week's mystery guest to help you out. Coach Bryzcki already got the right answer so we feel that its O.K. to post the picture now. However, he wasn't so sure of himself this time as he followed his answer with, "I think."]

"This week's mystery guest is not a strength coach. He "played linebacker and tight end as a senior for Oceanside High School. He earned CIF San Diego Section defensive player of the year, all-state and USA Today All-USA honorable mention as well as North County and Avocado League offensive player of the year. He was named to California's All-Academic team with a 3.6 GPA. "

"After nine NFL seasons, many experts consider our mystery guest to be the best linebacker in football today. He has started 140 of 141 regular season games during his career, and is averaging 119.8 tackles per season. He can bench press 500 lbs. (No that is not a typo, 500.) He has been named to nine consecutive Pro Bowls.As a pro player, he established a charitable organization designed to benefit local San Diego youth programs. In 1994 he was named the True Value Hardware NFL Man of the Year. "

"n 1997 his bar & grill was voted "Best Sports Bar" by the San Diego Restaurant Association. And he trains in a Non-Olympic training program."

**Note** Much of this bio was taken from another web site. We will give credit on Friday.

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***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the website. No medical advice is given on exercise. This advice should be obtained from a licensed health-care practitioner. Before anyone begins any exercise program, always consult your doctor. The articles are written by coaches that are giving advice on a safe, productive, and efficient method of strength training.***