What do you put in your program and why??-IMO by Coach McCauley

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What do you put in your program and why??-IMO
By Coach Don McCauley


When you start competing in a specific sport, you should have a guide as an athlete or a coach as to how to best use your training time. If it is Olympic weightlifting there are a couple of general trains of thought about programming. One is that the only way to get better at Snatch and Clean&Jerk is to do Snatch and Clean&Jerk. The other is that you should use a good amount of various exercises, as well as the two classic lifts of the sport, to get the best possible results.

I have seen programs in which the athletes do little else but the classic lifts, variations of them, squats and pulls and not much else during a training year. I have also seen programs in which varying degrees of many exercises were used through the training year, as well as a good amount of the classic lifts and their variations. I would like to pronounce that one type of program is clearly superior to the other. I cannot. I have seen successful programs using both general schemes for training. The reason for this is, as I see it, that some athletes simply fit one or the other program better and done correctly, either program type can produce top results with those athletes.

What I will do is give you my personal method of prescribing exercises in a yearly program. It has been relatively successful with different level athletes. First, let me start by saying that ALL athletes should start any specific sport already having a good foundation in GPP (General Physical Preparation). Second, let me say that the athletes that we often recruit in Olympic weightlifting don’t always have this foundation. What that generally leads to in my programming is spending a good amount of time trying to make up for this while also teaching the specific sport movements and working them hard. I have coined the term “novice/elite” to describe the type of weightlifter who has the ability to score highly in the national weightlifting scene but surprisingly lacks one or more basic physical skills. Let me quickly say here that I am talking about basic movements like jumping, hand stands, dribbling a ball and moving, balance, dancing rhythmically. I am not discussing someone’s ability to do complicated gymnastic movements, overall muscle imbalances or mobility problems. Bearing in mind that we have to create athletes weighted heavily towards specific skill sets to do best in specific sports tasks, some of this imbalance in overall physical ability has to be eliminated to achieve the best results, in my opinion. You have to start with as good a piece of marble as you can get before creating the best statue. This is the reason I fall into the second camp mentioned when setting up my program direction.

I use the ideas about exercise types and their importance to specific sports tasks that were proposed by Dr. Anatoliy Bonderchuk. He proposed the following groupings of exercises that I think should be used in a program for athletes of any type, based it on the idea of skill transference value. Basically, he said that the closer the exercise to your specific competitive event, the more using it would transfer to that event skill. So, for Olympic weightlifters, the closer the exercise looks like the lifts, the more valuable it is to the improvement of the lifts. So, Clean/Snatch Pulls would be of more importance than bicep curls to weightlifters, to use an exaggerated example. Here are Bonderchuk’s catagories and some examples:

1. General Preparatory Exercises. These exercises use both energy systems and movements different from the athlete’s competitive event. ie: Turkish get ups, burpees, farmer’s carry, etc.

2. Specific Preparatory Exercises. This category of exercises is closer to the competitive event in that they use the same muscles and systems, but in the form of a different movement. ie: thruster, jumping, shoulder press, etc.

3. Specific Developmental Exercises. This group, often referred to as “specific strength” or “special strength”, combines the same muscles and systems as the competitive event, as well as parts of the competition movements. ie: pulls, squats*, jerks from box, Power Clean(&Jerk)/ P. Snatch**, etc.

4. Competitive Exercise. The name of this category is self- explanatory. This group includes the competitive event and slight variations. ie: Snatch, Clean&Jerk, Hang Snatch, etc.

The balance of programs for specific sports will always be towards the latter two groups but some time has to be spent doing some exercises from all groups. You might find in Olympic weightlifting that some athletes that are further along in specific skill ability in weightlifting need more of the first two groups than you would suspect. Don’t just ignore or not correct the missing skill or what I have called “hole” just because the athlete is doing well in the sport. Fix it and you’ll have an athlete who will most probably do better and will be more durable.

*Some might consider squats SP not SD.

**Lines are fuzzy with these lifts, as far as categorizing them as SD or CE. I think of them as simply a Clean or Snatch received in a higher position. Some consider them a separate movement for Olympic weightlifters. In either case, a good amount of them should be in any program, I think.

Check out Coach McCauley on Instagram @d.j.mac for some very informative posts!

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