One of the questions I regularly get asked is:
“Can you teach me how to do Olympic Lifting please?”
The answer is always no.
Actually, the first ‘answer’ is usually “Why do you want to learn it?”, followed by “No”.
Why do most people want to learn Olympic Lifting?
Sadly, the answers range from: because it looks cool, they’ve read in a fitness rag that they should add it to their training, or because they’ve just watched the Crossfit Games.
All of these answers are equally redundant.
Why do I always say no?
I don't believe in Olympic Lifting for two reasons,both stemming from the same root, and that root is: I don’t regularly practice Olympic Lifting in my own training.
To digress here, this is one of the reasons you need to question your trainer not just about what he or she theoretically knows, but also what he or she practically does on a day to day basis.
Would you learn to drive from someone who passed their driving test a few months ago but never actually drives?
To return to my original point, I’m not saying I can’t teach it (because, theoretically, I can), I’m saying I choose not to.
Why is that, Craig?
I’m glad you’ve asked.
Firstly, as I’ve already touched upon, I don’t do it. I don’t mean I don’t do it regularly, I mean I don’t do it, full stop. No trainer should attempt to teach something he/she doesn’t practice consistently and competently. Unfortunately, most trainers in chain and private gyms will happily teach you anything – no matter how incorrectly – just to relieve you of your hard earned money.
So the question I'm really addressing is: why don’t I believe in Olympic Lifting?
Well, I do – but for Olympic lifters or any other athlete who’s sport included a maximal explosive element. And in the case of athletes, I’d still encourage the equivalent Kettlebell movements over their Olympic Bar cousins.
Obviously I’m going to say that, because I love Kettlebells, right?
Yes, that’s right – but I’ll never say anything I can’t back up with facts:
FACT 1: Olympic Lifts are designed to lift heavy weights once. They are NOT designed for medium to insanely high reps with medium to pointlessly light weight (Yes, I’m looking at you, Crossfit). As your form degenerates with fatigue, the last thing you should be doing is looking to continue repping with increasingly poor technique, unless you like enforced rest, physio bills, and a diet of painkillers.
FACT 2: Unlike just about anything you do in real life or sport, Olympic Lifts are symmetrical exercises. Not only does this make them functionally far less efficient than their Kettlebell (or even dumbbell equivalent), it also means that the less strong side of your body (at Sparta we don’t believe anyone has a weaker side) will never catch up to your stronger side.
If you’ve read this and still want to learn Olympic lifting, all I can say is please find a properly qualified coach who practices what he preaches – if you’re in Coventry and Warwickshire, mail me and I’ll happily send you a list of coaches I’d recommend.
If, on the other hand, you want the benefits of Olympic lifting without the functional redundancy and high risk-to-reward ratio, welcome to the world of Kettlebells, and…
Welcome to Sparta.