Olympic Lifting: No

Large-scale ballistic exercises such as the Olympic lifts are promoted as advantageous for athletes on all levels. However, in my opinion, these exercises are very dangerous and expose multiple joints to risk. This risk is just not necessary for traditional young athletes interested in improving sports performance or general populations that seek to improve body composition.  Some research has been conducted to determine injury occurrence from Olympic and at minimum reported an injury risk (Feito et al., 2014; Johasson et al. 2011; Kulund et al., 1978; Raske & Norlin, 2002). More research is needed and we must keep in mind the limitations of research that requires accurate reporting of injuries.  

Following my time training clients, I can say unequivocally that I would absolutely never prescribe the snatch and clean and jerk for any of our clients.  

Olympic lifting is designed for Olympic competition, not for basketball, baseball, football, or hockey player’s who need to improve strength, power, and muscle mass throughout all the major muscle groups.  Simply if an athlete becomes 100% stronger throughout all major muscle groups they will move faster, jump higher, or throw a ball harder.  Further, Olympic lifting for Olympic athletes takes years to perfect the form necessary to safely perform those exercises.  Athletes of typical sports simply do not have the months and years necessary to perfect the form required nor does the risk-benefit ratio match the goals of the athlete. The benefits of Olympic lifting does not exceed that of basic resistance exercise and presents an extreme risk of musculoskeletal injury.  

Stay Strong,

MT

References

Feito, Y., & Paul, A. (2014). Prevalence of injury among CrossFit® participants. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46, 762. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.mss.0000495783.20863.86

Jonasson, P., Halldin, K., Karlsson, J., Thoreson, O., Hvannberg, J., Swärd, L., & Baranto, A. (2011). Prevalence of joint-related pain in the extremities and spine in five groups of top athletes. Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy, 19(9), 1540–1546. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00167-011-1539-4

Kulund, D. N., Dewey, J. B., Brubaker, C. E., & Roberts, J. R. (1978). Olympic Weight-Lifting Injuries. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 6(11), 111–119. https://doi.org/10.1080/00913847.1978.11783743

Raske, Å., & Norlin, R. (2002). Injury incidence and prevalence among elite weight and power lifters. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 30(2), 248–256. https://doi.org/10.1177/03635465020300021701

Exercise Selection and Routine

As I mentioned yesterday exercise selection is the most important component of exercise prescription.  I published two studies one in 2016 and one in 2019 and both of those studies demonstrated improvements in lean tissue mass (muscle mass) and strength from a handful of basic exercises (Thomas & Burns, 2016; Thomas et al., 2019).  These exercises were chosen because they are exercises I had implemented in my practice of fitness consulting, safe for most trainees, recruit a lot of muscle mass, and the learning curve is low.  

Exercises

Flat Chest Press (machine, dumbbell, or barbell)

Pulldowns, Pullups, or Rows

Walking Lunges or Leg Press

Standing Calf Raises

Bicep Curl

Tricep Extension, Parallel Bar Dips, or Close Grip Presses

Set up your exercise program by completing 1-5 sets of 8-15 repetitions per exercise 1-5 days per week. I realize this exercise prescription provides a large range of possibilities.  Perhaps the best approach to perform this program 1-2 days per week and after a few months, reassess if or when training frequency/volume should be increased.  

Tips:

Record all training data including weight and repetitions completed per set.  

Record data in a notebook or software such as google sheets that you can access from anywhere.

Over time your training should be progressive.

Stay Strong,

MT

References

Thomas, M.H., Burns, S.P., Ferguson, R.H., & Allen, N.B. (2018).  Early timeline of lean tissue mass and strength improvements in trained men following a high volume/frequency resistance training program. International Journal of Exercise Science, 12(4), 1094-1109. 

Thomas, M. H., & Burns, S. P. (2016). Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A comparison of high-frequency strength training to lower frequency strength training. International Journal of Exercise Science, 9(2), 159-167.

Experience

Experience

I have spent over 30 years being a student of resistance training and applying knowledge within the laboratory of my own body.  I have altered every training variable possible to improve strength, muscle mass, and health.  

After all of this research, I have found that what worked early in my exercise career is just about the same advice I would give today.  The only difference is today I have greater confidence in my recommendations that experience brings.  Training programs recommended here are backed by my own experiences, the 30 years of training of clients, and support from research.

Just about every training study that assesses outcomes such as muscle mass, strength, and power results in similar improvements in those outcomes as a result of the program. The phrase you will see in the literature is, “these results demonstrate no significant difference between groups” for whatever variable researchers are examining.  One might say we can perform any exercise routine and achieve benefits and that is true to an extent.  Perhaps researchers are asking the wrong questions. Finding a safe, practical approach to exercise is a more appropriate question. The approach we should implement is one that maximizes the benefits of resistance training while limiting injury potential.

Exercise Selection and Volume

Many exercise programs consist of way too much training volume along with dangerous exercise selection. These two issues are so rampant in the exercise world today that both the general population and exercise professionals are confused at best. My goal here is to educate you on effective exercise prescription providing you with a laser-focused program that mitigates your chance of injury and overuse.  All routines I will write about are routines I have followed.  Of course, you should use your own judgment before following any program, and certainly, you need to be medically cleared to exercise. I will cover the importance of appropriate exercise selection more in upcoming blog posts. This topic is the most important element to consider regarding exercise prescription.

Youth Exercise

The thoughts of the beginning of my resistance training journey lead me to a current state of thinking about the purpose of this writing. I have three boys and two of them are involved in sports. Most coaches are encouraging young athletes to engage in a conditioning program and rightfully so. However, safe, prudent strength exercise programming information is in limited supply. I can think of no other population that I want to serve than our youth. Therefore, the main purpose here is to distribute evidence-based, practical, and safe strength training information appropriate for youth.  If only I had been able to find a mentor or resource to form the basis of my training. Such a mentor would have shortened my time to success and reduced my chance of injury. Yes, I have experienced some major injuries over my 35 years of resistance training and some of what I will share will be information related to what I would have done differently.

Be Careful Who You Listen To

I have observed coaches recommending exercises that offer minimum benefits but expose athletes to extreme risk of musculoskeletal injury. The thing about some musculoskeletal injuries is that they are permanent, affecting a youngster long after their athletic career.  Resistance training should improve performance and be designed with the concept of individual differences at the forefront. Strength and conditioning programs are often written with ego and “routine” as the driving force. For example, the dogma that all athletes must perform barbell squats, deadlifts, and power cleans regardless of orthopedic status or biomechanical traits is a recipe for injury. Young athletes report pain and discomfort only to feel the pressure from coaches or a tribe to continue with such a risky exercise. Resistance training exercise should not cause pain within joints but rather stress the muscles surrounding a joint. Frankly, some exercises are just not suitable for certain body types based mainly on the biomechanics and or physiological makeup of the individual. I will dive deeper into these topics in future posts. Until then…

Stay strong,

MT