Choosing your Olympic Weightlifting program

There is so much variety of commercially available training programs on the Internet that it is difficult to choose an Olympic Weightlifting program to meet your needs. An Olympic Weightlifting program must provide the end user with the following:

A schedule of exercises

The schedule of exercises is the most basic component of a training program. It dictates the frequency of training on a weekly basis and the exercises to be performed in each training session. The frequency of training must be in accord with the athlete’s personal circumstances and level of commitment. It is pointless to provide an athlete with a 4-day-per-week training program if they can only attend 3 days per week. if this occurs, the athlete or their coach is left to decide which session to leave out. This can have negative consequences for the athlete’s skill learning, competition preparation and wellbeing.

Exercises that comprise the schedule should not be randomly selected but reflect the specific requirements of the sport and the needs of the athlete. A schedule of exercises for a beginner should therefore be entirely different to an experienced athlete. In general, the schedule for a beginner will usually include a great variety of exercises for skill learning whereas the schedule for an advanced athlete will contain fewer exercises that mostly focus on performance.

The schedule also provides an order of exercises for each training session. While this order is not mandatory, it is a recommendation for obtaining the best value from the training session and is usually followed.

When choosing your Olympic Weightlifting program, you rely on the program’s author to ensure that there is an effective balance between Snatch and Clean and Jerk exercises, and between technical and strength development exercises. Unfortunately, it is commonly the case that program authors fail in this regard and the result is a preponderance of exercises for the Snatch and insufficient attention to the Jerk. Similarly, the balance of exercises will often reflect the program author’s training philosophy. Some programs may be excessively focussed on strength development which for athletes with less than 4 years of experience is likely to be a significant problem.

You can be assured that sufficient scrutiny has been performed on every Olympic Weightlifting program available on this website to ensure that the mix of exercises and the training methodology is in keeping with the athlete’s level of experience.

A prescription for intensity and volume of work

On its own, a schedule of exercises should not be regarded as a training program because it lacks the essential detail about how much work the athlete should perform. Traditionally, training programs for Olympic Weightlifting utilise two key parameters, volume and intensity, to prescribe the extent of work for each exercise in the exercise schedule. The major issue is that there is no standardisation of these measures and this can lead to major confusion and completely incorrect interpretation of the training program. This is why it is so important for Olympic Weightlifting programs to include instructions and commonly, this component is missing.

The Olympic Weightlifting programs on this site provide information about the total number of sets for each exercise and the distribution of sets across different training intensities. However, it is common to see Olympic Weightlifting programs that prescribe the work to be performed only at the target intensity. This may suit highly experienced athletes but the vast majority need much greater guidance. The lack of such detail in training programs can greatly affect the value of the athlete’s training session. For example, the athlete may skip sets at lighter intensities and hurry towards the prescribed target intensity. On a prolonged basis, this strategy is detrimental to the athlete.

Intensity is the parameter that expresses the limit of heaviness for each and every exercise. It is a very problematic parameter for the athlete and the coach and inexperience on the part of the athlete or the coach often leads to major problems. For example, high-intensity training if carried out on a frequent basis typically leads to a breakdown in the performance of the athlete. This breakdown may be due to high states of fatigue, injury and loss of confidence. It is necessary therefore for the design of the training program to incorporate a safety margin to ensure that the athlete not only survives training but physically and mentally flourishes.

Here is a diagram for training intensity over 60 sessions. It shows that, on average, the athlete should attempt intensities at 90% or above in only 1 in every 6 sessions (10 out of 60 sessions).

Beware of the training too often at high intensity when choosing your Olympic Weightlifting program.

Instructions on how to interpret the program

The provision of instructions to the end user is key to the successful implementation of the training program. Athletes may obtain training programs from many different sources, and it is likely there will be major differences in how they are written. For example, the athlete should not make assumptions about the intensity parameter or else major problems are likely to result. On this website, each training program provides instructions on how to interpret the planned training intensity. Advice is provided on the objectives of each exercise, critical coaching cues, how to deal with difficulty or failure, and when to exceed the prescribed intensity. Instructions also provide advice on warming up and make suggestions on how to work on flexibility.

In short, if a training program only provides a schedule of exercises and a prescription for volume and intensity, then the athlete will have a greater need for an experienced coach to be present during their training. It would be fair to say that athletes are very often overly optimistic about their ability to train uninjured on a consistent basis and make progress in both skill and strength development.

Advice on key training objectives

A training program is an instrument to plan the content of training over a specified period of time. The plan is usually based on key objectives such as preparation for a forthcoming competition, skill development, performance improvement, injury rehabilitation or often a combination of several of these factors. The design of the training program assumes that the athlete will attend each and every training session, follow the prescription, obtain appropriate rest and nourishment, remain uninjured and maintain motivation. The issue, of course, is that athletes have life circumstances that inevitably undermine their training activity and impact their key training objectives. There is no perfect training program as there is no perfect athlete. However, an approach that can be taken is to continually promote the quality of training as being more important than quantity and to help the athlete keep key training objectives front of mind. It is too easy for an athlete who is tasked to work on skill development to get carried away with how much they can lift and to relentless pursue their personal bests. Similarly, it is necessary to often remind athletes that a training program that is designed for competition preparation should lead to the highest performances on the day of the competition. All too often athletes become obsessed with producing personal bests many weeks out from the competition and suffer burnout and performance decrement as a result.

When choosing an Olympic Weightlifting program, it’s not really a matter of who designed the program that counts but the extent of effort the author invested in its creation. When you download your program, look for more than a simple schedule of exercises and training prescription. You will need advice on how to implement the program.