Olympic weightlifting has proven time and time again to be a major developer of triple extension power necessary for high-velocity sprinting. The trouble with these lifts is that they’re highly technical, involving multiple joints and muscle groups sequencing at varying rates of speed and different times. Additionally, reproducing the complete version of these lifts requires some unique mobility at every joint in your body.
Not everyone is ready to jump directly into the full clean & jerk or full snatch. Whether the issue is strength, joint stability, coordination, mobility, fear, or some combination of these, everyone should start small and develop a foundation for long-term success. While there are major athletic benefits to learning the complete lift, the time it takes to dial in the most efficient technique might not be worth your while. Most athletes only get a few months of off-season time before training camps start. That’s not a lot of time to improve.
Rather than spending time trying to master a movement you won’t be using on the field, why not work on developing force production and power output? For example, there’s some recent evidence showing that Olympic lifting variants provide the same athletic benefits as their complete counterparts. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research studied the possible differences in power production and force absorption between the clean from the knee, the power clean from the knee, and the clean pull from the knee. When the dust settled, how the bar is received showed no difference in power production. Additionally, there seems to be more force absorption during the clean pull from the knee.
If the goal is coordination, mobility, stability, and power, learning the full clean has some huge benefits. However for the athlete in a short off-season, there are plenty of gains to be had in terms of power production, triple extension speed, and transfer to sprinting velocity. Downgrading the variant slightly will enable the athlete to load the bar with more weight to elicit greater motor unit recruitment and strength gains and eliminate the learning curve. Remember: there is no weightlifting platform on the field.
Comfort P, Williams R, Suchomel TJ, Lake JP. A comparison of catch phase force-time characteristics during clean derivatives from the knee. J Strength Cond Res 21 (7): 1911-1918, 2017
Author: Aaron Runner, MS, CSCS
Aaron Runner is the Owner of Full-Stride Performance in Roswell, GA and a former NCAA Strength & Conditioning Coach.