I have been working recently on olympic weightlifting exercises. These tend to be full body exercises and will contribute greatly to all-round strength. They are working my body in ways it is not used to and I am enjoying the business of learning a new set of skills and techniques.
Below are some useful assistance exercises to prepare you for the demands of olympic weightlifting.
Front squats are a useful precursor to the clean as they involve squatting with the barbell balanced across the front of the shoulders – which is the top position of the clean.
Front squats are a great exercise in themselves, even if you never intend to clean and jerk at all. Mike Boyle, for example, recommends front squats over back squats as you get a similar result much more safely. Read more about Mike’s position on front squats and injury-free training in general.
Hang power clean
I’ll be honest with you, I’m partly into this exercise because I think it looks good! Fortunately, it’s also a good strength exercise. The hang part means that it starts from a hanging position not from the floor; the power part means that it is performed only with a partial squat not a full squat.
Some people argue that unless you are training to be an olympic lifter, there’s no need to do full squat cleans; you will get good results with the hang power clean, which is easier to perform than the full clean. You can see where front squats come in, as practice for catching the bar in the clean.
This exercise is good training for both of the olympic events, as it involves pressing the bar overhead. It’s also a great shoulder exercise.
The push press is actually the second of three exercises that form the progression to the ‘jerk’ part of the olympic lift. The first exercise is the military press, which is the same as the push press except you don’t bend your legs as you press – all the effort comes from the arms and shoulders. The push press is the second exercise, using the legs to initiate the move and get the bar off the shoulders. The push jerk takes it one step further by incorporating not just the bend in the legs but the actual jump as well.
I have heard about the merits of this exercise from a number of sources and it is an important precursor to the snatch. But mainly I was inspired to do it by seeing the Crossfit women training this move so much. It takes incredible strength and hip power to perform this exercise, especially for high reps and with a lot of weight. My hips were aching after this session as they weren’t used to being worked so hard!
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