Friday, June 21, 2013

Science Friday – Olympic Lifting Makes You a Better Athlete - By Jeff Pruitt

By Jeff Pruitt - Originally posted at CrossFit 316

We’ve discussed the idea of power training before  - namely that improving power output creates better athletes. Increasing power output  improves the athlete’s strength, jumping ability, acceleration, etc. Clearly these attributes are desirable in nearly every athletic endeavor. So the question becomes – what is the optimal strength and conditioning program to increase these attributes?

Many coaches and exercise scientists agree that Olympic weightlifting movements are good at improving rate of force development (RFD) but also believe that the movements are difficult to learn and thus the negatives of this learning curve outweigh any potential benefits when compared to other strength and conditioning approaches. This comparison is the focus of a Brazilian paper I want to discuss today entitled “Short-Term Effects on Lower-Body Functional Power Development: Weightlifting vs Vertical Jump Training Programs“. In this paper athletes were put into 1 of 3 groups for an 8 week training period.
  • Weightlifting Group (WL) – Half Squat, High Pull, Power Clean, Clean & Jerk
  • Vertical Jump Group (VJ) – Half Squat, Hurdle Hops – double leg and alternated single led, 40cm Drop Jump
  • Control Group – No Training, only pre and post tests
Participants in each group performed the following tests prior and following their 8 weeks of training: Squat Jump (SJ), Counter Movement Jump (CMJ), 10m and 30m sprint speed, agility test and half-squat 1RM. The results of these tests are quite interesting.

The WL group significantly improved their SJ, CMJ, 10m sprint speed and half-squat 1RM, while the VJ group only improved the CMJ and half-squat 1RM. The VJ training group out performed the WL group only in the 1RM squat. And while strength is certainly correlated to power, the slight improvement in strength for the VJ group did NOT carry over to other tests of power when compared to the WL group.

So only given 8 weeks and using subjects who had never been exposed to olympic weightlifting, the WL group outperformed the VJ training group in nearly every measure of power performance. I think this week’s conclusion is best summarized by the authors themselves:

Conclusion: “Even though Olympic lifting exercises require more time for the learning of specific skills, the short-term training effects seem to be more beneficial for improvement in the performance tests used than in traditional jump training in physically active subjects. The greater skill complexity required for the Olympic lifting exercises facilitates the development of a broader physical abilities spectrum, which seems to be better transferred to performance.