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Should Sport Athletes Snatch and Clean & Jerk?
Tuesday we recorded another episode of “The Barbell Life” with my friend Spencer Arnold. We talked about Weightlifting, Strength & Conditioning, and our Faith. It was pretty much all of my favorite topics minus my family. We met at Dallas Theological Seminary sometime around 2009-2010.
When we met, Spencer was even skinnier than he is now. Naturally the sport of Olympic Weightlifting quickly came up in our conversation. He was all excited to find a training partner, and I was confused as to how such a skinny guy could lift the bar. Well I was wrong about Spencer in a lot of ways. Not only did he go on to become one heck of a lifter, but also he is one major warrior for Christ.
He is now a Strength and Conditioning Coach at a private Christian High School in Georgia. I was excited to hear how he implements Snatch and Clean & Jerk with all the athletes at his school. He learned this system from his high school coach, Stan Luttrell, who is now at Buford High School in Buford, GA. Coach Luttrell is the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for Buford, which is one of the biggest football powerhouses in Georgia. He still teaches the Clean & Jerk to each and every athlete at the school.
The system is the key to success. In middle school the athletes start with Overhead Squats and Front Squats. If they can’t do those movements, then they don’t move on to Snatch and Clean & Jerk. It’s a simple but effective system. They still do the strength training work as well with benches, pulls, rows, and presses.
A lot of people ask me, “Why the big deal about Olympic weightlifting?” It’s because nothing produces more bang for your buck like Weightlifting. First, nothing produces more power than the Snatch and Clean & Jerk. When you take into consideration acceleration, poundage, and distance, nothing comes close. That is why Weightlifters can jump so high. They have spent their lives producing massive amounts of power with their lifts.
There is a lot more to consider than just power production. The mobility required from the Snatch alone is incredible. Athleticism is determined greatly by movement. If a guy is big and strong but can’t move, then he is useless on the athletic field. If you take a guy that can snatch and he’s strong, then you have a good athlete. As long as that same guy is good at his sport, then he will be a killer player.
There is the obvious kinesthetic awareness that goes along with the sport, which has massive intangible benefits to athletic competition. Awareness of one’s body as it moves through space is a trait that is very hard to improve. Anyone that has ever snatch 300lbs has incredible kinesthetic awareness.
Think about the steps required to Snatch a heavy barbell! First, the athlete is applying maximal force on a heavy barbell. Next, the lifter will begin the second pull completing it with a violent extension of the hips. That movement will cause the bar to peak, and then the magic happens. It a blink of an eye, the athlete will rip their body around and under the bar as if it were a fixed object. The movement is so beautiful!
There are other secondary benefits like core stabilization, posture, speed, and balance that are also experienced performing the Olympic style lifts. I am unaware of any other movements in the gym that benefit the athlete more. The real key is the ability to teach them. A strength and conditioning coach needs a lot of experience with the lifts to be able to apply the snatch and clean & jerk safely and effectively.
As my Father-in-Law says, “This is where the rubber meets the road!” If you are unfamiliar with the lifts, then you can’t teach them. That is 100%! The Snatch and Clean & Jerk in the wrong hands is a deadly weapon. A coach must understand how to teach the lifts, and they need to understand their application. They should also understand the science behind them to fully understand how they work.
The question is where does one learn to perform the lifts. There are several places that teach the lifts now, but I am excited to be a part of Team Mash Elite’s new movement to spread the love of the Barbell. If you are a Strength & Conditioning Coach in a High School or College, Team Mash Elite is looking to provide Barbell Clinics! We will teach you all about the barbell, and we will teach you how to apply that knowledge. Our goal has always been to educate people, but now we are going to be more aggressive about it. If you are interested and you are a high school or college Strength and Conditioning Coach, email me at:
If you don’t understand the lifts, it isn’t the end of the world. You can still squat, bench, and deadlift. You can always perform box jumps, lunges, and push the prowler. You can still get athletes better for sure. The key is sticking with what you know. Don’t try to teach something just because someone told you to. First master the movement, and then pass it on to your students.
My mission is to see the state of strength & conditioning improve to an acceptable level all across the United States within the next 10-20 years. There are great coaches now, but let’s face it, there are some terrible ones as well. Our kids deserve better. High School and College Strength & Conditioning Coaches are too important in our children’s life for those coaches to not be up to par. I am hoping that the coaches at Mash Elite can help provide some resources.
Don’t forget about the Mash Elite Weightlifting Team Camp:
We are hosting a three-day camp July 8-10 at the Mash Compound. It’s going to look like this:
• Day 1 Max Out Friday with the team and social afterwards
• Day 2 Clinic with Coach McCauley, Coach Wilkes, me and the team
• Day 3 Clinic about meet day prep and strategy, and then a sanctioned meet
We’ve decided to limit the camp to only 20 people, so don’t wait if you’re interested. Here’s the link to find out more: