Hey Y’all! I get a number of emails related to training and the lions share of those involve the Olympic lifts. I cannot think of a better resource for the lifts than Greg Everett’s book Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches. If you tinker with the lifts or derivatives at all, you owe it to yourself to understand both the theory and application. Below is a short excerpt from the book and for those of you in the Toronto area you can get hands-on coaching from Greg on October 9-10.
“A frequent question I get is, How much should my [lift] be if my [other lift] is [number] kg/lb? This is a question with no real answer, but I will take a moment, as I always do, to explain a bit. I actually do provide some numbers in my book, but as noted there, they are not meant to be prescriptive.
First, as I’ve said quite a few times and I’m sure I will say quite a few more, strength is a very specific quality and does not apply equally to all positions and movements. This is similarly true for speed or speed-strength. This means that one can be extremely strong in a given movement or lift, but not at all proportionately capable in another, even if seemingly related closely. A great example is the jerk. Too many people associate pressing strength with jerking ability, when it really has little bearing. The power for the jerk comes from the legs, and from an ability to change directions and drive down extremely quickly. There is no shortage of excellent jerkers whose pressing strength is embarrassingly weak.
Another example is the comparison of the deadlift to the clean or snatch. One would think (understandably) that a big deadlift should correspond with big cleans and snatches; after all, cleans and snatches are just extended deadlifts, right? No! This comes down to a few factors. For one thing, we have the issue of strength being very specific to positions and movements. If an athlete deadlifts with high hips and a round back, there is no reason to expect him or her to clean or snatch well with a more upright posture and rigidly arched back—the movements are completely different. We also have the issue of speed—heavy deadlifts are unavoidably slow, and lifting slowly gets us good at lifting slowly—there is little transfer to the ability to generate speed with weight. Add to this the fact that the snatch and clean have quite a few more elements along with a pull from the floor, and you suddenly have very little association among the lifts.
Additionally, each athlete has inherent physical characteristics that make him or her destined to be better at certain things than others. This is probably most noticeable in the jerk; some athletes are built perfectly to have tremendous elasticity in the bottom of the jerk dip and are able to generate huge upward acceleration. These same athletes, however, may not display similar speed or ability in any other area.
Ultimately, we can think of general strength levels as potential. They can be refined with time and effort into specific abilities, but they do not intrinsically guarantee any particular level of performance.”