Why I Don’t Use the Olympic Lifts

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Blogging is funny sometimes.  There are instances where I feel I put a lot of time and effort into a post thinking to myself that I’m easily going to win some kind of blogging Pulitzer or that I’m going to step outside my apartment and a ticker-tape parade will just spontaneously erupt complete with a Stealth Bomber flyover and Kelly Clarkson busting out the national anthem in my honor.

Photo Credit: CamelBoy68

Low and behold that’s never even come close to happening (yet), but still…I’m often bemused at which blogs actually catch on, gain momentum in terms of traffic and shares, and which fall by the wayside.

Take for example one of my posts last week, Success = Strength. This was something I wrote in like 30-45 minutes and something I just tossed up on my site because I didn’t feel I had anything important or revolutionary to say that day.

Funnily enough, it’s a post that, despite not getting a ton of “Likes” (which doesn’t really mean all much anyways), did result in quite a few people reaching out to tell me how much they enjoyed it and that they enjoyed the overall message.

In addition, I also had a fair number of clients at the facility walk up me throughout the week telling me they really liked it. Go figure!

And with that, today’s post, I feel, is another one of those hit or miss scenarios which may resonate with a few people and win me a few internet high fives; or maybe more appropriately make people want to throw their face into their keyboard in a fit of rage.

I’m hoping for the former.

One of the more prevalent and frequent questions we receive at the facility from other coaches and trainers who visit is: Why don’t you include any Olympic lifting into your programs?

Seemingly I think many who visit are under the impression that we (or more specifically I) don’t find any efficacy in their use and that we feel they’re a waste of time, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

I don’t feel I need to insult anyone’s intelligence and delve into the in’s and out’s of why Olympic lifting is efficacious or why it’s a superior way to train speed, power, explosiveness, and overall athleticism.

They work. Nuff said.

I’d be a complete moron to state otherwise.

That being said, and I’m speaking on my own behalf here (and not for the rest of the CP staff), I have my reasons why I don’t use them in my programming.

Numero Uno

I know I’m going to catch some flak some of the internet haters and gurus out there, but I’m going to say it anyways. Point blank:  I know my limitations as a coach.  

I don’t have a lot of experience with the OLY lifts personally, and I just wouldn’t feel comfortable pretending otherwise. That said, it doesn’t make much sense to me to spend an inordinate amount of time coaching/teaching something I don’t have a lot of familiarity with.

It’s certainly not going to do my athletes and clients any good. And it most certainly won’t paint me in good light.  At best I can probably get by and fudge my way through coaching a half-way decent hang-clean.  At worst I end up hurting someone.

And I don’t feel any less of a person or coach admitting that this is a weakness of mine.  If anything I wish this is something more coaches and trainers would admit to themselves. That they’re not Superman and that they DO have weaknesses.

Hi, my name is Tony Gentilcore……and I don’t know how to coach the OLY lifts.

Of course this isn’t to say I’m never going to improve my OLY coaching prowess.  I’m sure at some point I’ll ask someone to coach the coach and take me through the ABC’s. But until that happens I’m most certainly not going to pretend I’m something I’m not.

Numero Dos (<=== That’s About the Extent of My Spanish)

There are other, more “user friendly” ways I can train power and explosiveness.

I never quite understand why some coaches and trainers take an “elitist” attitude towards any one modality or way of thinking. One of the more common examples would be some people’s gravitation towards everything kettlebells.

I like kettlebells, I use them with my own clients. But I also believe they’re a tool in the toolbox and aren’t the end-all-be-all-panacea of health and fitness.

I can use the same train of thought with regards to powerlifting, CrossFit, Zumba, Yoga, the Shake Weight…..you name it, and you’re bound to find your zealots.

Okay, maybe not the Shake Weight…but you get the idea.

When talking about power and explosive training, as paramount as OLY lifting is, when working with a specific population like baseball players, I feel we can serve them well by implementing med ball training into the mix.

Hell, I’d argue it’s more “specific” to their needs in the first place and a lot less detrimental in terms of joint distraction forces on both the shoulder and elbow:

And this doesn’t just apply to baseball players either. We use med ball training with our general population clientele as well.

Numero Three

Pigging back on the point above, I don’t necessarily know how long a particular athlete or client will be training at the facility.  Some have been with us for one, two, three, four+ years.  But more common are those who may come in for a 1-3 month span.

Teaching and coaching the OLY lifts (well) can easily take months to accomplish, and if I only have a limited amount of time with someone I have to be overly judicious with my time with them.

With that I tend to opt for med ball training, skipping drills, heidens, sprint work (when applicable), and the like to get my “power” training in.

And not to blow sunshine up my own arse, but I feel the results that I (and the rest of the CP staff) have been able to accomplish speak for themselves.

And That’s That

Hopefully I didn’t offend anyone or cause someone to blow a gasket.  Just to reiterate, I understand that OLY lifting is important and that it works.  So save the hate mail.

I just don’t feel that you HAVE to include them to be a successful strength and/or performance coach. As the saying goes – there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Maybe even most important of all: I think we can’t be afraid of knowing our own limitations as coaches.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it something to cower away from.

It’s as simple as that.

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  • Rees

    Awesome stuff

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks Rees – appreciate it!

  • Barath

    Good on ya! There’s nothing wrong in sticking with what you know best and improving other areas on the side.

    BTW, over the weekend, I achieved (my rather modest!) aim of hitting a 405 lb DL. I pulled 407 actually. Next goal – 450!! Consider this my anniversary gift to you and Lisa 🙂

    • TonyGentilcore

      Dude – awesome!!!! I’ll take like 2.7% credit for that pull….;o)

  • Darren Dendrite

    Exactly! Teach on what you know and don’t be a faker. Also, I agree that OYL are just one set of tools out of many. People get silly when they get dogmatic. E.g. don’t use machines, they are worthless. I have found my training and overall physical strength and ability has increased as a result of incorportating them into my routines.

    • TonyGentilcore

      I’m still a little more biased towards free weights over machines, but in the long run, I say whatever makes people happy and keeps them consistent, the better.

  • It’s really nice to see number one there Tony. Too bad more coaches can’t admit the same for themselves. Usually they just pick at the lifts instead of being honest.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Well, I try. Thankfully I know a lot of really bright people I can direct in people’s direction if they want to learn the OLY lifts in more depth.

      Plus, we always have someone on staff – between all the interns that come in and out – which dabble in them. So I can always defer to them as well.

  • Mike

    Hi Tony. Why don’t you dedicate some time to the OLY lifts. I would love to see how you guys feel it actually affected your training. When I see your reasons I still don’t really see them as valid, until you’ve been through them in your training. Seems like you are just talking yourself more into your stance, without both sides of the equation. This is love mail.

    • TonyGentilcore

      I see your point of thought, Mike, which is why I noted I may try to learn them down the road.

      It’s not like I was “dissing” the OLY lifts anyways. I understand that if I were more proficient in them, I’d probably use them.

      But even if that were the case, I don’t know if I would spend too much time on them since it’s rare when we get an athlete for longer than a few months anyways. In that sense I feel my points DO have validity. I can still train power/explosiveness just as effectively using med ball training.

  • Jen Keck

    “We can’t be afraid of knowing our own limitations as coaches.”

    Exactly! Wish more coaches took this stance with certain training modalities, rather than slopping their way through them just to seem like they know it all.

    Great post!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks Jen! Always appreciate it when you stop by and chime in.

  • ScottA1

    I’ve got some old basketballs set aside to build my own med balls in the coming weeks. Let’s hope they hold up. I quite enjoy OLY lifts, but the risk of injury for the average lifter doesn’t seem worth it or if they do have a great coach, the investment in learning it is really up to them if it’s worth it.

  • Kat

    I feel the exact same way about Oly lifts – I admit though I do feel a bit sub-par and embarrassed that I’m not more familiar with them. They’re not even high on my priority list.

    I think for general population the drills you mentioned above suit power for their needs just fine. As far as the weightlifting sports go I feel that they appreciate powerlifting / strongman style training more than Oly in general. Takes about 3 seconds to show someone how to pull a sled, 3 months and one very frustrated and mentally exhausted client to learn the Oly.

    • TonyGentilcore

      My sentiments exactly Kat. Glad to see I don’t have such a skewed train of thought afterall.

  • I’m puzzled by the Kryptonite too!

  • Matt

    Good points. Even once an OL Coaching course has been done, the coach should do a fair amount of OL’s himself/herself before implementing them in a client’s program.

    • TonyGentilcore

      THAT is sooo true.

  • Justin Sorbo CSCS

    It takes time and wrist flexibility to develop a good OLY front rack position! If you have months/years to train the olympic lifts, then go for it… simply gorgeous when performed correctly. But they’re a just means to an end when we’re training athletes/general pop… Would not want to deal with coaching these lifts constantly w/so many hyperlax baseball players around/$$ involved in arms, either. Keep doing your thing – love it.

    Justin Sorbo CSCS

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks for saying that Justin. For baseball players I really so no reason to implement the OLY lifts anyways.

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  • Donovan Gary Alan

    Excellent post! OLY lifts pretty much take over my training facility-as well as training our younger athletes for sports performance. I’m pretty much the main 1-on-1 guy there and don’t mess with OLY lifts mainly because I too an familiar with them. We’re even hosting our own OLY-competiton and hosting the CPPS Weightlifting Cert this fall (I’m not feeling the pressure at all :P). I have the time, but I’m a die-hard POWERLIFTER and I implement the squat, bench/press and deadlift into all my clients training-when appropriate.

    The great thing about the owners of my gym is they’re compensating our “head” OLY coach to teach the coaches who are willing to learn OLY lifts at an entry level, so that we may have more in our “training-toolbox” for our clients. To have that as an option and allow me to learn at my own pace-without having to incorporate them into my own training is huge. I highly recommend any gyms that have this service available to take that approach.

    • TonyGentilcore

      That’s awesome Donovan.

  • Solid advice, one can only hope more coaches lean on good principles instead of mindless dogma. Or as I tell every future coach I’ve had to teach to train others, ‘I don’t really care so much about what you program for your clients, as long as it’s safe in this facility and you can tell me exactly why you should do it to get the desired result, without skipping a beat.’

    • TonyGentilcore

      Sage words to live by for sure.

  • Paleo Snacks

    It’s awesome that you rather stick with what you know rather than fake some knowledge. I actually like olympic lifts, but I see too often trainers telling someone that they are doing the lift correctly when its clearly lacking or just wrong.

  • It’s awesome that you rather stick with what you know rather than fake
    some knowledge. I actually like olympic lifts, but I see too often
    trainers telling someone that they are doing the lift correctly when its
    clearly lacking or just wrong. It actually makes me kind of mad because the trainers are paid to help them out, but they are teaching them stuff they don’t know about or just don’t care.

  • Peter

    This is a great article. When people ask me why I dont use them when training athletes or reg population , I remind them that the Olympic lifts are a sport by themselves
    And I tell them i wouldnt bother teaching u how to tackle to lose weight or how to hit to be better basketball player. And there are other ways to achieve triple extension!

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  • ivan600

    Thank you very mucho for your clarity and honesty. Regards from Elements System (Madrid, Spain)

    • TonyGentilcore

      And thank you for only using one word of Spanish in this comment…..;o)

      But seriously, thank you. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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