When most people go to the gym it is with the intention of either losing weight, toning muscle or gaining strength. You often have those content with using a treadmill or rowing machine and then those who will grunt and groan in the free weight area. No matter what your goal is in the gym, it would be worth considering implementing some, preferably all, of the Olympic Lifts in your weight lifting routines.
Let us quickly recap the Olympic Lifts and then go from there. There are only two Olympic Lifts; the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk (The Clean & Press is no longer included as it faced problems with judging proper technique) and both have a multitude of benefits for any athlete.
A lot of men will be saying ‘Surely I can stick to squats, deadlift and power-clean and it will have the same effect?’ and yes, whilst these exercises work similar muscles, it would not have the same effect. As a huge scientific experiment in the Mexico Olympics of 1964 discovered, ‘Pound for pound, Olympic weightlifters have a greater level of speed-strength than any other class of athletes in all of sport’. It is this level of speed strength that separates Olympic lifting from other gym movements.
Let us first examine Olympic lifting as a method to gain strength and build muscle. All men have seen films like 300 and thought, ‘I want to look like that’ and then started a routine based around the upper body. No matter how much you lift, you will always look ridiculous unless you work your whole body and grow in proportion. Furthermore, using Olympic lifts that work the leg muscles so much will greatly increase your testosterone levels. The Clean & Jerk and Snatch will absolutely ravage your body if you try to lift a similar weight to what you squat, so respect the lift and start off light.
Remember, if you are trying to build muscle through your weight lifting routines you will be performing less repetitions and on a much heavier weight than people looking to lose weight or tone. I would recommend using the first week of a new routine including Olympic lifts to pratice the technique of each movement, possibly enlisting a qualified instructor to help you iron out any mistakes and advise you on how you can improve. In these two lifts, form is everything. I cannot stress enough the need to respect the lift and not to try to show off by piling plates on the end of the bar, only to put out your back or tear a muscle. These movements are intense, sharp movements designed to test your strength in the most complete way. It goes without saying, do not try this at home!
After you are familiar with the techniques of the Snatch and Clean & Jerk you can try to up the weight. I have found it is very beneficial to use these lifts at the start of your weight lifting routines, after a thorough warm up, so as to maximise their benefits. However, it may be easiest to only implement one lift, probably the Clean & Jerk, as both movements really work the legs and you could not do both in the same workout and expect to perform to your maximum potential. Another option would be to alternate the lift for each session, so one week your routine would start with the Snatch and the next it would start with the Clean and Press. Always remember to give your large muscle groups ample time to recover if you are lifting heavy weights and to keep your body topped up with all the necessary fuel.
Good Luck if you try either of these in your weight lifting routine and always be safe. Get Hench or Die Training!