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Olympic Lifting’s Affect on Fitness

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Olympic Lifting in Fitness
    By: Coach Brandon


The olympic lifts; snatch and clean and jerk, are only 2 of the many movements we do in CrossFit, but I believe they do an amazing job at developing the 10 general physical skills or fitness domains. A reminder of what those 10 skills that create fitness are;

  1. Cardiovascular/ respiratory endurance – Anyone that has done either benchmark workout “Grace” (30 Clean and Jerks for time) or “Isabel” (30 Snatches for time) knows it will leave you gasping for air when completed.

  2. Stamina – Along the same lines, “Grace” and “Isabel” require a certain amount of stamina, sustained energy in a physical effort,  for your body to keep delivering the energy it takes to finish the 30 reps of Clean & Jerk or Snatch.

  3. Strength – Strength is different than power, but strength is needed to develop power. Strength is the amount of force a muscle or group of muscles can exert against an external load. Think about strength as the portion of the clean and jerk or snatch as the standing up portion of the movement, squatting up out of the bottom after you have received the barbell. Ultimate measures of strength are usually ‘slower.’

  4. Flexibility – Many of us know the two olympic lifts show a big weakness in part of our game, that being range of motion. Both the Clean and Jerk and Snatch demand maximum range of motion of the ankle, hip and shoulder joints to get into the correct positions for the movements.

  5. Power – Like I said before strength and power are different, but strength and speed are needed to develop force quickly. Power is the ability to generate as much force as fast as possible. The idea of the “power snatch or clean” is to move the weight as fast as possible with perfect form. Think of the power position of the clean and jerk or snatch as the explosive hip extension at position 1 where the bar makes contact. Regardless of weight, a 1RM snatch or clean and jerk have to be performed ‘fast’ to be successful.

  6. Speed – Back to the benchmark workouts of “Grace” and “Isabel.” Not only do you need cardiovascular endurance and stamina to move the barbell 30 times, if you want to maximize your potential you will need speed as well. The minimum time it takes to cycle the barbell from the ground to overhead.

  7. Coordination – We all know squat cleans or squat snatches even with an empty barbell for the first couple of times is a very awkward movement. Usually split up into 2 movements, the power clean first then a front squat second. Over time we were able to combine those 2 movement patterns into a singular motion.

  8. Agility – The Clean and Jerk, technically two movements requires a certain amount of agility, the ability to minimize the transition time from one movement to another. In a workout such as “Grace” the transition from the clean to the jerk can be challenging, but if we want to minimize our time the transition needs to be smooth and quick.

  9. Balance – Split jerks anyone? I think we all have fell off balance in this movement with an empty barbell or even with no barbell working on the footwork. Both of the movements develop a very strong over all body awareness and control.

  10. Accuracy – On a heavy (being relative your experience level) Clean and Jerk or Snatch having accuracy is key! We probably will not successfully complete the lift if we do not have the ability to to control the movement in the right direction or with the right intensity.

All of the 10 physical skills can be developed, and everyday we step in the gym we are working towards developing all 10 with different movements. I wanted to show how all 10 general physical skills can be applied to any movement we do in and out of the gym.

More specifically, the first four general physical domains (endurance, stamina, strength and flexibility) come through training developing an organic change in the body. By contrast, the last four (coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy) come through practice developing a change in the nervous system. While power and speed are adaptations of both training and practice.