Olympic Lifting Alternatives For Maximum Power
Alternative methods to Olympic lifting to produce maximum power.
It is well known within strength and conditioning that Olympic lifting is an effective way to improve muscular power but for most athletes starting out, performing a snatch or clean and jerk can be completely useless. Olympic lifting is a skill that requires a lot of practice and time to even reach an intermediate level. If you play a sport or are preparing for an event, you may not have 6 months to learn how to lift. Whilst learning the lifts you aren’t going to be able to use weights heavy enough to elicit a power response and when results are the name of the game this would be a waste of your time. However, all is not lost. There are many alternatives to Olympic lifting, which can still create a power stimulus. Read on to learn about alternative methods to Olympic lifting to produce maximum power.
The technical term for this type of power is ‘Impulse’, which can be calculated by a simple equation;
Power=Force x Velocity
Within this equation, force and velocity have an inverse relationship. When force is high, velocity is low and vice versa. If you think of a 1RM back squat, the force is very high but the velocity is very low. It may take multiple seconds to complete the lift. On the other hand, if you think of a vertical jump, the velocity of the movement is very high but the force produced is a lot less. Maximal power occurs when force and velocity are created in equal parts and the highest amount of force is created in the shortest amount of time to create the biggest impulse of force. If you train to improve this capacity to produce maximal power within the lower body, you will be able to translate this power into speed and explosiveness during many sporting tasks such as sprinting, cutting and jumping.
When you jump, cut and accelerate your hips, knees and ankles all extend at the same time to propel you forwards, sideways or through the air. If you can load this movement of triple extension and perform it as fast as possible, you will develop the ability to create higher amounts of power, which in turn will allow you to run faster, cut harder and jump higher. Olympic lifting has often been described as “jumping with weights” because it utilises the triple extension to propel the bar vertically and create momentum into the barbell so that the lifter can drop underneath it. Olympic lifting allows an athlete to overload this triple extension with heavy loads and still safely move them at very fast speed therefore, creating very high amounts of power.
THE VIDEO: Olympic Lifting Alternatives for MAXIMUM Power
As mentioned before, Olympic lifting requires a lot of practice and time to become proficient enough to use the weights needed to create a maximal power stimulus. For this reason, it is essential that athletes have other tools in their locker to train for maximal power, if they haven’t got the time to waste on learning the Olympic lifts. Here, are our top 3 movements you can do to create maximal power without learning how to snatch or clean and jerk.
Top 3 Olympic lifting alternatives for maximum power
- Depth Jump
The depth jump is a plyometric movement, which overloads the eccentric part of a jump. When you land from a height, gravity will accelerate you towards the ground forcing you to adsorb force quickly. The depth jump requires you to turn this eccentric force around quickly and jump as fat as you can. This creates a very high amount of force into the ground as you jump. Research shows in excess of 4 times bodyweight can be experienced when performing a depth jump from 60 cm. This is not to be mistaken for a drop jump where the focus is to be as stiff as possible and “bounce” off of the ground as fast as you can. The contact times experienced within a drop jump are between 0.15 and 0.25 seconds however, this is not enough time to produce enough force to create maximal power. During the depth jump however, contact times can be up to 0.5 of a second, which allows the athlete to create a much higher amount of force.
Start small and build up the height of your box. Step out and land with both feet flat on the ground. As you land, you should flex to about a third of your knee bend and jump as high as you can producing the highest amount of force possible. Perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps.
- Barbell Squat Jump
We have spoken about the triple extension and how Olympic lifting overloads a jumping pattern. If you are unable to load your jumping pattern with the Olympic lifts, the next best thing is to load a jumping movement. Start with an empty bar and rack the bar on the back of your shoulders just as if you are going to perform a back squat. Pull down on the bar so that it is firmly connected to your shoulders. Dip about a third of your full squat and jump as high as you can. Ensure you are balanced and jumping straight up not forwards or backwards. Keep your feet underneath you as you jump and land with your feet flat. Absorb the force of the jump and reset your position before you jump again. Progressively increase the load of the bar. To work with maximal power you need to be working with 50-60% of your 1RM Squat. Perform 3-5 sets of 2-4 reps. The reps should be slightly lower with this movement because the loads and forces are much higher than the depth jump.
- Overhead Medicine Ball Toss
The depth jump and the barbell jump squat are great at overloading the triple extension. However, they both require an element of skill. The depth jump is limited by your ability to land from a given height. If you are unstable on landing, you aren’t going to be able to produce force into a jump. The jump squat requires you to land with a barbell attached to your back. This increases the load even higher. The hardest part of the jump squat is not the jump but the landing when you have to decelerate the bar. For this reason, we have included a projectile movement such as the overhead med-ball toss. Medicine balls are great for improving speed and power because they can be thrown and projected at full speed with no inhibition. The speed of your body and hands as you throw the ball is done at full speed to throw the ball as hard and as far as possible. There is no deceleration phase or landing that you need to worry about like the depth jump or barbell jump squat. Start by holding a light medicine ball in front of your face at arm’s length. Place your hands underneath it and swing the ball down between your legs. Break at the hips and knees just as if you are going to jump. As you get to the bottom of your dip, drive into the ground with your feet and swing the ball up above your head. Let go of the ball and throw it as high as possible. You may leave the ground as you jump, this is fine, just make sure that you have thrown the ball as hard as you can. You are trying to transfer as much force as possible from the ground through your body into the ball to project it as high as you can. By default, by throwing the ball, you are performing this movement as fast as you possibly can.
If you break this movement down, you will realize that all you are doing is overloading the extension of the hips knees and ankles just like in Olympic lifting and the other alternatives we have listed. As you become more comfortable with throwing the ball overhead, you can increase the weight of the ball. Perform 2-5 sets of 3 reps and make sure you throw the ball as high as you can each time.
All of the alternatives we have provided you with are just variations of loading a triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles. This is the same reason we use Olympic lifting variations within strength and conditioning. You may not be able to use loads quite as high as an Olympic weightlifter but you are still able to create a power stimulus by moving heavy loads as quickly as possible.