By: J.V. Askem, The Cable/ Bar Guy.
The following article deals with setting up training for beginning Olympic lifters.

When setting up a weight training protocol, centered around the Olympic lifts, keep your training schedule simple! Remember, the Olympic lifts are "athletic events" and should NOT be treated like the isolation and compound exercises you would do when bodybuilding or powerlifting. Also, Olympic lifters DO NOT concern themselves with body parts. Forget the frivolous exercises that the mirror preening set do. Your workouts should emphasize "quality" not quantity.

All Olympic weightlifters train around three (3) BASIC LIFTING MOVEMENTS, which are "squatting", "pulling", and "pushing", and most of these basic movements should be done standing.

Now, as an Olympic style weightlifting coach, I generally work one on one with most of my trainees. It's impossible to coach someone sight unseen. Also, I keep my trainees' training very simple! We train 3 days per week doing one exercise or lift per session, from each of the fore mentioned basic lifting movements. Now, in all cases, the technique of the Olympic lifting events is a number 1 priority! There's no point drilling a young lifter with near limit weights if their technique is sloppy.

Generally, the snatch is harder to learn than the clean. So I devote 2/3 of all Olympic pulling movements to snatching and only 1/3 to cleaning. I do this because the principles of pulling are the same for both anyway!

When "pulling" you must always pull the bar straight, close to your body, with a full shrugged extension at the top, and a "full shrug" is nothing less than your shoulders up to your ear lobes. Also, all that is different between a snatch an a clean pull is the grip spacing and the height at which the bar is pulled. Of course that height will always be more on a snatch because less weight is used.

Now, when performing an Olympic lifting movement lifters MUST be flexible, because without that flexibility lifters will not be able to get their bodies into the correct positions to properly execute their lifts.

I've found from experience that the first position that must be learned, in nearly all beginning cases, is the "Olympic Front Squat". In short, all trainees must be able to squat deep, with their feet flat on the floor, with their backs in a straight upright position, and with their arms up in front of them parallel with the floor. (NOTE: See the article "Front Squats" for this position.)

Now, if a trainee can not obtain the above described position, front squats are performed every training session.

The second position that must be stressed is the "Overhead Squat". This like the front squat is part of a lifting event. Thus it is performed in every training session where the snatch is drilled, which is 2/3 of the time.

Now, as previously stated, I drill my trainees on the snatch 2/3 of the time, and the first thing I teach is the "first pull"! To do this I have them do Romanian Deadlifts with an empty bar, and no weight is added until they can satisfactorily do this movement with the correct body positioning, which with the bar at the mid shin area, the lifter has a position of, shins vertical, hips back as far as possible, with the back straight. (NOTE: See the article "Romanian Deadlifts" for the above mentioned position.)

Now, when the first pull has been accomplished properly, the trainee then moves on to the "second pull". This starts with bar above the knees and generally I have a new trainee practice the second pull in two stages. The first stage of a second pull is a grazing or brushing of the bar up the thigh with a shrug at the end. When this is understood, then I have the trainee lower the bar to the floor and have him first pull followed by the first stage of the second pull. Only when this can be executed properly do I have the trainee try a whole snatch.

In the beginning when trying a full snatch I always have my trainees "power snatch" the bar. This is done to primarily to tell me, as their coach, what their snatch pulling limit is. Now generally, I drill all beginning lifters in the 60% to 70% range, based upon what I think they "are capable of lifting with good form". However, as beginners, many times this 70% figure might be 85% to 90% of what they can actually lift, because their technique has many flaws.

Now, some lifters iron out their basic flaws more quickly than others! To date, in all cases, where I've spend at least two sessions a week with a lifter for 4 weeks, I've had that lifter ready to lift in a contest. However, also let me say, that many trainees I've worked with give up and quit after just two to three sessions.

Olympic lifting is NOT easy. If it were there would be at least 100,000 people doing it in the USA. It is a very highly skilled athletic endeavor, and on the average takes about two months to learn just the basics, and then it usually takes several years more to become really proficient at it. Now, if you're willing to persevere and endure some initial discomfort and inconvenience,  you will become the best strength athlete you can be.
The following is the basic schedule that the majority of my lifters do. Now other OL coaches may have differing points of view than I. However, this works very well for my guys, so I will stick with it until something better comes a long.
Snatch- Power snatch, then overhead squat with the bar from the catch position. Start with the empty bar for 3 reps, then if ready a little heavier for 3 reps. At 70% plus the trainee drills for 5 to 10 singles.

Front Squats- 10 reps with an empty bar or light weight. Then a heavier weight for a comfortable set of 5, then moderately heavy weight for 3 to 5. If only 3 or 4 reps are made then 3 to 4 sets more are done with this weight. If 5 reps are made with room to spare, then 3 to 5 reps more are performed with a heavier weight up to a forced rep set.

Presses- This is usually a light day doing 5 sets of 5 to 8 reps. Some of the exercises performed are, seated presses, incline presses at 45 degrees or higher, dumbbell presses, with one clean, or military presses. The fore mentioned exercises are rotated every 3 to 4 weeks.

Front Squats- same as Day 1. (Note- when the trainee has good positioning on front squats, full back squats are performed every third to fourth workout or about 25% to 30% of the time.)

Snatch- This is a "light" day, so only about 3 to 4 sets of 3 reps are performed on the power snatch with an overhead squat tacked on from the catch position.

Snatch Pull- 5 to 8 sets of 3 reps are performed with the first two to three sets being warm ups. Then the rest of the sets are done with a "work weight" which is no more than about 105% of the trainee's snatch. This exercise is to build maximum pulling strength but with the best possible technique. (Note: See the article "Snatches and Snatch Pulls" for illustrations of this exercise)

Now, I rarely use the clean pull! First, because the muscles used are redundant to the snatch pull. Second, because I feel the snatch pull has better and fuller range of motion than the clean pull. And third, because snatch pull technique generally requires more attention.

Pressing- This is a medium to heavy day. Here the trainee works up to a limit set of  3 to 5 reps. On rare occasions a limit single is performed. The following exercises are rotated an average of every 3 to 4 weeks. Seated Presses, Military Presses, Inclines above 45 degrees, Push Presses, and Power Jerks. Note: Generally no more than 3 reps are performed on Power Jerks.

Romanian Deadlifts- 5 to 6 sets of 5 reps. Here the trainee works up over 3 sets then does 2 to 3 sets with a work weight. (Note: Once again, see the article "The Romanian Deadlift" for illustrations of this exercise.)

Clean and Jerk- Generally 6 to 12 sets are performed with no more than 3 reps per set. On the first 2 to 3 sets. 3 power cleans are performed, then the bar is front squatted from the catch position. Then 3 jerks are performed. The first sets of 3 maybe as light as an empty bar for a beginner. Then between 5 to 10 singles are performed depending upon the percentage of a 1RM. If the trainee's technique is sound on this lift they will work up to 5 singles with 90%, and if they are close to a contest, the trainee will C&J his opener three times one week out from the contest.

Front Squat- 2 to 3 sets of of 8 to 10 reps. Here the first one to two sets are warm ups, then the third set is a forced rep set of 8 to 10 reps.
To work on specific weakness I use two extra exercises. They are Overhead Squats with the CBS and Overhead Supports, also with the CBS. Both the fore mentioned are isometric exercises held for 10 seconds with as much weight as possible. Overhead squats are usually done for about 4 attempts after snatches on Day 1 and 2. Overhead supports are ONLY used every 3 to 4 weeks, generally following C&J's on Day 3.

Jesse Marunde demonstrates a CBS Overhead Squat.
The first step is to set the cable lengths to the exact length
for a full overhead squat. Then you just swing the empty bar,
or you can drop snatch it, to get it to the full overhead position.
Once in that "full" overhead squat position, you then just squat
up about 3 to 4 inches and hold that position for a full 10 seconds.

NOTE: In December 1998 Jesse's best Squat Snatch was 100 kg/ 220 lb.. He had the pull to do much more but could not hold the bar overhead once he received it. Then after just 3 workouts on the above exercise he immediately snatched 5 kg/ 11lbs more. He then within 6 months increased his snatch 61 lb.. to 127.5kg/ 281 lb..

NOTE: Pictures of me doing a CBS Overhead Support can be seen on my Home Page.

IMO, the CBS is far better than a power rack for the two fore mentioned exercises. On overhead squats, a power rack is not practical because the pins will get in the way of one's hands on the wider snatch grip. And on overhead supports, the CBS offers more convenience!

For example, if Jesse, who is 6'4", is doing overhead supports, many racks would not fit him. Also, if he were working out with a training partner who is much shorter than he, the power rack would be impractical because the barbell would have to be torn down and then reloaded on another pin height for each individual set. With a CBS adjustments can be made in seconds.

All of the above workouts are preceded with a thorough stretch and warm up before a bar is touched. Remember you're NOT warmed up until you've drawn perspiration. Included in the pre workout regime are 50 leg raises and or crunches for the abs, plus 3 to 4 sets of 25 to 50 reps of reversed legs raises for back care.

It is possible to use Olympic lifting as your major strength training protocol for others sports. In fact, in my opinion, Olympic Lifting is the best strength training protocol for ALL sports! Except, you MUST make a complete commitment to do the lifts correctly! Which means you WON'T get the full benefits from Olympic lifting movements by just mixing a couple of them in with a power lifting or a body building training protocol! The reason, and I reiterate, OLYMPIC LIFTS ARE ATHLETIC EVENTS. Or to put is another way, YOU WON'T ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING IF YOU GO AT IT HALF ASSED.

To really get the most from an Olympic lifting strength training protocol one should make a commitment to compete in it as a competitor! A COMPETITOR'S MINDSET WILL ALWAYS RAISE A TRAINEE'S AWARENESS TO A HIGHER LEVEL. Once a trainee decides he/ she wants to compete on the Olympic lifts, more concentration and focus is then placed on doing the lifts with proper technique.

As I previously said, I generally can get a "raw recruit" trainee ready to compete in a contest in about 4 weeks. All that is necessary is that the trainee can power snatch a barbell without press out and power clean the bar with stopping on the way up or walking around once they've racked the bar. Then they must be able to jerk the barbell cleanly without press out. Learning the more technical squat versions of the snatch and clean can come later. However, many times I've had trainees ready to do the full squat versions in that first four weeks.

When and if a trainee does enter a contest, the only changes to the above training schedule are made 7 to 10 days out from the contest. Essentially all assistance exercises except squats are dropped and just the snatch and C&J are emphasized each workout. Also, it is always my goal to have a trainee snatch and C&J their opening attempt in the gym 3 to 4 times. This is primarily to build their confidence.

The fore mentioned training schedule above is the exact schedule that my guys are using as of this writing. The only changes that would be made are for training around minor problems! For example, recently I had a trainee with a wrist problem. So I had him do "no hand" front squats instead of the regular hands on kind. He also did snatch pulls in place of snatches.

Now, for the most part, I coach high school and college aged students on these Olympic lifts. It is important that I mention this because all of my trainees are NOT Olympic lifters, per se! They all have other sporting endeavors that take priority over their Olympic lifting. However, they all have come to me to teach them the specific skill of Olympic lifting, because they've seen, from others that I've coached before them, that Olympic lifting is the best strength training protocol for ALL sports.

BEST OF LUCK WITH YOUR TRAINING... JVA cablebar@olympus.net