Olympic Weightlifting for MMA

I recently attended the 2-day course in Olympic Weightlifting with ex-Canadian Olympic team member Larry Sheppard as the course instructor.

Larry has a striking resemblance to Joe Pesci, as you can see here:

olympic weightlifting

Come on – these guys gotta be twins separated at birth!

Larry was awesome at breaking down the technical details of the lifts and how to teach them effectively.

In short, the course was amazing and I learned a ton of great info that will help me help you effectively integrate the Olympic lifts into your MMA strength and conditioning program.

First, let’s talk about what exactly Olympic weightlifting is and why you might want to integrate it into your MMA strength and conditioning program.

Olympic Weightlifting is a sport comprised of two main lifts: the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk (C&J).

Here’s an example of Greek lifter Pyrros Dimas performing the Snatch (check his crazy jump height after).

This video is from the 2000 Olympics where he weighed 85 kg (187 lbs) and Snatched 175 kg (385 lbs).

I set the vid to start right before the lift for you:

And here’s the C&J, by Chinese Olympic weightlifter Liao Hui.

This video is from the 2010 World Championships where he C&J’d 198 kg (435 lbs) at a bodyweight of 69 kg (151 lbs)!

Also check his back flip after he makes the lift:

So it’s apparent that the top Olympic weightlifters in the world have a high degree of relative power – that is power output based on their bodyweight.

In the video above, Liao Hui C&J’d almost 3x his bodyweight – which is huge!

The top Olympic weightlifters can lift massive weights and move them fast, despite the fact that they’re not big guys.

But here’s the thing that you might not see: the Olympic lifts require explosive power, rapid relaxation (dropping the body under the bar) and again explosive power to catch the weight.

This timing sequence with the Olympic lifts is something not developed in other lifts such as Squats and Deadlifts.

The ability to quickly turn muscles on, off, then on again is a component of power developed in a fairly unique way through proper execution of the Olympic lifts.

Think: being able to surprise your opponent by rapidly faking a takedown by changing levels, coming up to throw a jab then dropping down again and sprinting in to score a sick double-leg.

Other benefits to Olympic weightlifting include shoulder mobility and stability, hip mobility and stability, and acute body awareness.

But it’s not all milk and honey – to get the benefits, you’ve got to ensure good technique.

More so with these lifts than others, bad technique can result in an injury.

Wrists from catching the weights in the C&J, shoulders from Snatch errors, knees from poor muscle recruitment – all stuff that can take you out of training that you must avoid.

Or this…

olympic weightlifting

One of the possible pitfalls of Olympic Weightlifting

That’s why technique is king when it comes to the Olympic lifts.

There’ s no use in trying to max out the weights you’re moving if you’re beating your body up in the process.

Whenever I train a beginner in the Olympic lifts, I never, ever push the weight. It’s all about form: being smooth, fast, proper timing, etc.

So if you’re going to start Olympic lifting, make sure you focus on speed, being smooth and above all else, good technique.

And of course, I’ll have more info on how to actually do the O-lifts properly. This was just a little intro to whet your appetite. 🙂

Do you do the Olympic Lifts?

If so, let me know what kind of #’s you’re doing below:

28
Leave a Reply

avatar
16 Comment threads
12 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
17 Comment authors
kentucky friend chickenlaeey hasselljohnSmurfDann Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
kentucky friend chicken

5TPN4G Well, there are certain techniques

laeey hassell
laeey hassell

Hy” I was into olympic lifting ever since the day I saw Tommy Kono, Paul Anderson, Vince Berger and rhe rest of the gange at the old York gym in York Pa. in 1956.I had just gotten out of the Army a joined a gym in Sewell NJ. and was ready to get started on the Olympic lifts. Well I did…the next day…doing 150 press 160 snatch and 219 c&j/ ther was 4 of Us who lived at working out on the lifts…4-5 times a week. I lifted with ANDY SUPERS GYM team ubtil 1968…at that time I did 220 press, 210 snatch and 270 c&j My lifting ended at that time but I carried the weights thru 4 states until My retirement in North Carolina…Im know 77 years of age and getting started all over again..Tomorrow will be My first attempt at lift on a regular basis in a… Read more »

john

fantastic website and info

Smurf
Smurf

Yo i been really wondering how to integrate O lifts into my strength and conditioning, i’ve tried but didn’t get the form on point please help

Mark
Mark

Whats your opinion on doing hte lifts fromt he hip….in my opinion mma guys dont have the time to learn technique and its easier fromthe hip and is easier to keep form doing olympic lifts with dumbells or from the hip in general….prevents you from rounding your back onthe bottom first part of the lift aka bringing the bar to your upper thighs and hip which is basically a glorified deadlift anyway…..most guys start thinking about hte second part of their lift before they finish the first part and get injured with bad technique that way……plus from a deadhang you still develop power by having to jump…..i also think its les stress doing power lifts instead of full lifts aka catching the bar low…we as fighters already put our body through hell any little bit helps lol….great discussion

Dann
Dann

Interesting post, Eric. I’ve always been keen to try out these lifts, but as many people have already said, and you pointed out, I wasn’t sure of the proper or effective way to actually integrate it into my conditioning/training without fear of injury and other ill-effects.

So I’m looking forward to read some feedback from a qualified person, right down our alley! Can’t wait for the next post!

Dar
Dar

My technique for the real clean+ jerk and real snatch isn’t perfect so I do power cleans+power jerks and power snatches … my question is are these good substitutes for the real clean+ jerk and real snatch . One more question, are these exercises good for fat loss?

Eric

The Power moves are good as well for sure – they are 1 step below in terms of technical difficulty and mobility needed, and obviously, use less range of motion so won’t develop as much power throughout the range, but still great exercises! The goal is to be able to have your body perform the full moves without restrictions – then you know you’ve taken care of mobility and stability issues.

austin
austin

So when you say you are gonna integrate them into the strength and conditioning program, does that mean your gonna update the strength and conditioning ebook?

Eric

Not sure where I’m going with that yet because it’s more than just “put this lift in for this other lift”… There have to be some screens done and corrective actions taken to be able to perform the lifts safely and effectively… So I’m thinking about how to do this. 🙂

austin
austin

Oh i see now lol. Im glad i haven’t started the base conditioning phase yet. But anyways, i can’t wait, i know i’ll get better results with these lifts. 😀

larry
larry

OL s are great for combat sports but do we really need as much weight as the these guys on the vids?

Eric

Like any exercise you’ll work within your level, as well,see my reply to Mark’s comment.

Gianni
Gianni

Excellent thanks Eric, it’s like you read my mind, this is a major coincidence, Oly training and MMA in one article 🙂 I really hope you expand on this!

Double Edge
Double Edge

Great article Eric, can’t wait for the next part.
Would these lifts be effective in mma training if used with a dumbbell instead of barbell?

Eric

With DBs the lifts are different: the clean cannot be performed with nearly as much weight because of the size of the DBs hitting your shoulders, and anything overhead will be more limited by shoulder stability.

So because less weight is used, the lower body won’t be as stimulated, likely making the gains less vs. barbells.

Mark
Mark

I have alot of experience with these lifts and have trained for many years with alot of guys who have great form and evrything…..strength and explosive gains are phenomenal but htey come at a price….bad knees lower back stress form or not form……especially because as you lift more weight its high stress on the lighter guys…..the heavier you go and the more you keep your weight down into a weight category can be tough …….ive been feeling alot of stress on my body from doing them alot but none the less they are great exercises……not for you if you want to build asthetics…..then do bodybuildig

Eric

Hey Mark I hear you bro that’s why these lifts must not only be performed with great technique but also after ensuring the body is qualified (strength and mobility wise) to perform them.

As well, the goal is not to become an Olympic weightlifter but to use the lifts for improved MMA performance, so intensity and volume will be much different than what a true O-lifter will use.

Michael H
Michael H

I’m sure the cardio of OLY weightlifters are superior, as well. At least the ones that have extremely low body fat because the lower your body fat, the quicker you are on your feet. Also, just think about it… In the snatch, for example, one is moving a weight within probably 2 seconds at most from feet to all the way above the head. That is some serious movement. A superior movement, I might add. So, perhaps, they may not have a great endurance level in cardio (it depends upon the lifter and their training), but they can sprint like heck, that’s for sure!

Eric

I see you figured it out by the end… 🙂

“So, perhaps, they may not have a great endurance level in cardio (it depends upon the lifter and their training), but they can sprint like heck, that’s for sure!”

Alister Pullen
Alister Pullen

he triple extension in the OL translate to just about every sport. Great article Eric

cork_boi
cork_boi

You have to admire the raw power of OW’ers. Dunno about their cardio though…

Eric

If you simply train for the O-lifts and you’re not obese, your cardio will be OK but nothing to write home about… But when you integrate the most important aspects of O-lifting to a program designed to develop your conditioning… well… look out!

Cork-boi
Cork-boi

I’m looking out alright – looking forward to your next blog!

Terence
Terence

Be aware that the way Crossfit does the Olympic lifts — high reps — can be dangerous. As you point out, these are difficult moves to do right, and take extensive practice under the eyes of an expert coach.

The consequences for screwing up can be severe. Bungle a deadlift and you dent the floor. Bungle a snatch with 150lbs overhead– you have a whole different kind of problem.

Eric

Yeah I’ll definitely talk about EFFECTIVE program design when it comes to the O-lifts…

Doing them for reps is definitely not on the list.

Dar
Dar

I kinda thought doing them for reps would be a great way to burn calories. 🙁

Eddy
Eddy

OL’s should be used purely for explosive strength and power development, so low reps with high % of weight for the individual capabilities. They should not be used for cardio/endurance purposes purely because there are so many intricate techniques involved throughout different portions of each lift that 100% concentration is neccesary for a successful lift, therefore the more reps you perform, the less explosive each rep will be and also the higher the risk of injury due to fatigue. Imagine doing a high load snatch at the end of a circuit or 5 minute round? not for me thanks.