Why Do We Utilize The Olympic Lifts?

“CrossFit is based off of functional fitness so why do we see the Olympic lifts in our programming?”

As a coach, this question pops up in conversation very frequently. Athletes question why CrossFit includes Olympic style lifts into the day to day when there are tons of other functional exercises out there that can be used but the answer is very simple…. the Olympic lifts breed results!

Below, you will find 10 reasons as to why we incorporate the Snatch, Clean and Jerk into our training programs and utilize them frequently.

1 – Muscular Development

Olympic weightlifting movements such as the snatch and clean are full body exercises, meaning that they recruit more muscle fibers and systems to execute. These movements work the legs, lungs, glutes, back, abdominals, shoulders and arms all at once…. Basically the whole body! When you’re using more muscles at one time, you’re burning more calories as well. This means that it takes more calories to knock out 5 clean and jerk reps than it does 5 bench press reps at the same weight. With that being said, by utilizing the Olympic weightlifting movements, we are able to maximize our training time by burning more body fat, increasing strength and building muscle per training session.

2 – Power Output

The snatch and clean and jerk produce the highest power output of any exercise. This power output directly translates over to jumping higher and running faster. In order to increase your capacity in both, you must increase your power output. Training the Olympic lifts has been proven to be the most effective method to train power and speed.

3 – Increase In Work Capacity

The Olympic lifts are multifaceted, meaning that they can be used for a number of different training modalities. Programmed properly, they can be used to increase strength, speed and power as well as to enhance high intensity exercise endurance and lactic thresholds. Regularly training these lifts will allow one to recover faster and handle higher amounts of training. Increasing your work capacity results in more exercise per session therefore yielding better results.

4 – Injury Protection And Prevention

The snatch and clean and jerk are full body movements that specifically target the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Constant use of these major joints promotes stability and flexibility across them. Controlling a load throughout the ROM (required for olympic lifts) of all these joints is key to preparing the body for the high forces encountered in some activities of daily living. Training the Olympic lifts and improving flexibility, strength, and stability can greatly reduce susceptibility to injury as well as preventing the possibility of re-injury. 

5 – Increase In Bone Density

Resistance training not only increases our muscle mass, it increases our bone density as well. As we age, strengthening our bones is very important to prevent fractures and breaks. Increased bone density is also very important to prevent Osteoporosis, especially for women. Olympic lifts place large forces on the bone structures in the legs, spine, and arms, which is exactly what is needed to stimulate the body and encourage new bone growth and improve bone density.

6 – Increase Coordination

Proper execution of the snatch and clean and jerk require coordination, rhythm and timing. All of which are very useful in activities that we perform everyday. Improving body awareness and coordination will aid in sport performance as well as daily tasks.

7 – Improve Sport Performance

Similar to sprinting and jumping, the Olympic lifts require one to exert large amounts of force into the ground via the feet. With the snatch and clean and jerk, we call this exertion of force “triple extension.” With similar training modalities and energy systems, olympic lifting has the highest carry over to improve overall performance.

8 – Gain Confidence

Now a days, strong is in style. As you get physically stronger, it spreads into your whole life. Mastering these new skills will show you just how much your body is capable of, therefore boosting your confidence both in and out of the gym. Lifting weights with speed and near perfect technique gives the mind a rush and keeps the athlete excited to train and refine their lifts throughout their fitness journey.

9 – Increase In Range Of Motion

When people think of lifting weights, they often think of the stationary/isolating exercises. This associates weightlifting with being stiff and bulky. In order to properly execute Olympic lifts, the athlete has to have a decent sense of flexibility and mobility. Let’s use the Front Rack Position (top of a clean or front squat) for example; this requires a decent amount of shoulder mobility to properly allow the bar to rest on the shoulders instead of the wrists.

10 – Dynamic Stability

Nothing we do in life (that requires strength) involves us being stationary, or sitting still, so it’s very important to stress your body during your workouts to reflect that. The snatch and clean and jerk provide strength and stability around major joints at a fast speed of movement, which is what enables the body to remain stable in activities of daily life as well as sport Olympic weightlifting movements are truly functional exercises.