Olympic Lifting For Jumping Power
It's amazing really. Look at this guy...
How about this guy?
And this guy! (That's 680+ pounds right there! And he weighs like 160...)
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me the honor of introducing the most physically powerful athletes in the world... Olympic WEIGHTLIFTERS.
So this is a "vertical jumping" website, and yet here I am prancing around with pictures of random dudes showcasing their big muscles and whatnot. You may be wondering "HEY!! So how about you teach us some pumping plyometrics workouts to jack up our legs to get ourselves some HOPS!"
Yes. I'll get there. But I want you to be open-minded for a second...
Let's play a little game... Close your eyes and for 10 seconds think of the word WEIGHTLIFTER...
Now here's my question. What was the first thing that popped up when you were and thinking of the word "weightlifter?"
Okay, if you visualized someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, or any guy in the gym who is in"Pumping Iron," keep reading. Because you kind of have to.
Arnold: Big, strong, no hops what so ever!
If you visualized this guy...
Wide Stance, Suited Up, Huge Squat: ...and also not much vertical!
...it means you have probably done lots of bench-press lockouts, rack-pulls, and box squats in the gym for sets of 2 reps, grinding all the way while your blood vessels are being relentlessly inflated by your "grunts." Nevertheless, keep reading.
If you visualized Galabin Boevski or Pyrros Dimas (see below), then it is safe to assume that you probably are familiar with what I am about to talk about. If you haven't implemented Olympic-style training but you have the desire to become STRONGER and MORE EXPLOSIVE, then please keep reading! If you are already implementing the Olympic-lifts in your training program but don't really have them set-up as your "main objectives" of improvement, keep reading!
If you are already on an Olympic-lifting program and you swear to the world that your training program works, then I best not get in your way and have you resume your cleans-pulls (This is of course assuming that you ARE in a good training program).
Now, here is where it all goes down.
"Pound for pound, Olympic weightlifters have a greater level of speed-strength than any other class of athlete in all of sports." - Frederick Hatfield, three-time world powerlifting champion and the Co-Founder and President of The International Sports Sciences Association.
Every muscle-fiber in your body is assigned as a part of a motor unit. Your Central Nervous System (CNS) is the "command center" of every movement in your body. Every skill that you have ever learned that requires physical movement is recorded in your Nervous System. Just like your muscles, it is a highly trainable part of your body.
In truth, the ability to jump high, run fast, and lift heavy are motor-skills that are learned. And just like any "skill," you have to practice the skill to improveit.
One of the problems with trainees is that they tend to get caught up with the mentality of "if I do this I will get that." If I curl this, I will get bigger biceps. If I strengthen my legs, I will jump higher. If I add some additional tricep workouts, my bench press will go up.
The issue with this kind of thinking is that it makes simple things a lot more complicated than they are. Instead of training programs becoming centered towards the improvement of necessary athletic attributes, they become a collection of exercises that are based on theoretical assumptions of improved performance.
From a logical standpoint, the most straightforward approach to improving a certain physical attribute is to practice that particular physical attribute.
Practice Makes Perfect: jumping is a skill to be learned.
When Ivan Abadjhiev, former National coach of Bulgaria's weightlifting team, refined the "Bulgarian Method," he removed all the exercises that add no value to the improvement of the weightlifting movements. The exercises that were left were the snatch, clean+jerk, and squat (front or back). He believed that in order to get the most out of training, his athletes must adhere to practicing these three lifts with very heavy weights and only very few others.
Of course, every weightlifter who was trained by him went through an extensive training program that involved general development as opposed to something as specific as the Bulgarian training system. But once these athletes graduated from these programs, they are put in a regimen of snatches, cleans and jerks, and squats. They would infrequently do things such as Romanian deadlifts and clean-pulls.
So how do we apply this concept in the improvement of the vertical jump? Simple. Stop doing "unnecessary" things that add no value to the improvement of the vertical jump and do the things that matter! In order to have a high vertical jump, you must have the ability to:1. Squat heavy weights (either front squat or back squat).
2. Power-clean heavy weights.
By simply having those two skills, you automatically will have a high vertical jump. Here's why...
The Olympic-lifts teach the CNS how to quickly "fire" a maximum amount of motor-units in the shortest possible time. They (snatch and clean) are the ultimate "power-building" exercises, and many experts will agree!
When you are executing the power-clean and are at the top position, you are essentially "jumping" with an added resistance that provides an even better stimulus than plyometric workouts themselves. Plyometrics do have their place, but in this article, we will focus on the Olympic-lifts.
First of all, one must keep in mind that these exercises must be done with a specific type of what strength coaches call "loading-pattern." Loading-pattern is a commonly used term to refer to the set-and-repetition-protocol of an exercise (5 sets of 5 is a loading-pattern. 3 sets of 3 is a loading-pattern. You get the point).
So what then, is the ideal loading-pattern for the Olympic-lifts?
In general, you do not want to be too fatigued with your workouts. If you are competing in a sport that involves performing a certain weight in the clean+jerk and do it for as many repetitions as possible, then it's a different story.
Rest intervals must be at least 2 minutes and nothing more than 5 minutes. Repetitions must be very low, not just for the Olympic-lifts, but also for their variations and the squat. There are many recommended protocols for this, but my recommendation for beginners (who have done at least a month worth of "normal" training and is not overtrained) is to literally max-out every week, and to have "volume-oriented days" that involves lifting heavy weights with many sets but low repetitions (nothing higher than 3 reps per set).
Here is a basic outline for a "Beginner Bulgarian program," courtesy of coach Plamen Asparukhov.
MONDAYSnatch, Clean+Jerk, and Front Squat done in a certain protocol called the "Maximum Training Resistance" or MTR. I will explain that below.
WEDNESDAYBack Squat: 3 to 4 sets of 2 reps with a weight that is 40 pounds heavier than your MTR for the Clean+Jerk.
Power Snatch: 3 to 4 sets of 1 repetition with your MTR for this lift.
Power Clean + Push Jerk (OR you can substitute the Push Jerk for a Push Press if you wish): 3 to 4 sets of 1 repetition with your MTR for this lift.
Romanian Deadlift: Same weight with the Back Squat.
FRIDAYHere you will test for a one-repetition maximum with the snatch, clean+jerk, and front squat in that order. Now if you are on the process of learning proper technique, you may substitute the snatch with the "segmented snatch" in order to reinforce proper positioning. The segmented snatch is done by performing a regular snatch, but with pauses at two positions which I will explain later. Remember that this day is dedicated to try to lift as heavy as you can. If you clean+jerk 200 pounds, you will then try to lift 205 pounds or 210 pounds.
Before I delve into the details, let us first discuss why such a training program is effective. Why exactly did I recommend this you may ask? Why shouldn't I recommend something more "mainstream" such as Starting Strength or Westside for Skinny Bastards? Well for one, a high vertical jump requires a high level of POWER with the least amount of bodyweight possible, and this training program gets you very strong with noticeable but minimal muscle gains (You WILL improve your physique and get noticeably more muscular, but it will not cause excessive weight gain due to enlarged muscles in the long run).
Like it or not, if a 150-pound guy can power-clean the same weight as a 200-pound guy and they both happen to have the same height and same bone lengths, the 150-pound guy will always be the higher jumper. Now to be fair, the 200-pound guy may as well have a stronger squat, deadlift, or bench press, but brute strength, as much as it is a HUGE advantage, will not necessarily translate to POWER. And POWER is the secret of the success of high-caliber weightlifters.
Power is about training both your strength and speed to create a hybrid physical attribute that allows you to produce a maximum amount of force. People who are familiar enough with modern, state-of-the-art powerlifting training knows the value of adding "speed-oriented training" (known as the dynamic-effort method) with their workouts.
A strong man will squat/bench-press heavy weights but will do it slowly, while a fast man will squat/bench-press explosively but will only be able to lift light. Neither is good and are better off being combined. Since strength and speed are extremely complementary attributes, they are best trained simultaneously to induce the best end-result.
Maximum Training Resistance ExplainedAlthough the elite Bulgarian Weightlifters who were coached by Plamen Asparukhov did not depend much on exercise variety, they did vary their training volumes a lot. A training cycle consists of 5 to 6 weeks, which includes two "A weeks," two "B weeks," and one or two "C weeks."
First off, you must figure out your MTR. Your MTR is a weight that you will struggle lifting but will not require a significantly high amount of effort. This will range from 85 to 93% of your one-repetition maximum (RARELY 95% and above). This weight will then be used to base your training loads every week.
"A" Week: Predicted MTR -20kilos for 2 reps, Pred. MTR -10 kilos for a single, MTR for 3-4 singles.
"B" Week: Perform A week progression, followed by MTR -10 kilos for a double, MTR -5 kilos for a single, and then MTR +5 kilos for 2-4 singles.
"C" Week: Entire B week progression performed, followed by a double with MTR -20 kilos, another double with MTR -10 kilos, and finally 3-4 more singles with MTR plus 5 or 7.5 kilos.
If you lift less than 225 pounds in any of the lifts, simply cut the weight jumps in half. Which means in A week, you lift -10 kilos for 2 reps, -5 kilos for 1 rep, and 3 to 4 sets of 1 rep each with your MTR. Also, the recommended training cycle would be A-B-B-C-A, but if you can handle A-B-B-C-C-A, then do so if you wish.
This program requires patience, as progress after the initial gains will slow down. You cannot expect to be getting stronger every single week, but you will notice increased tolerance against high volume training and increased overall strengthevery training cycle.
Final Note: The Segmented Snatch
Some people may have a different version of this, but the one that I recommend is for you to lift the weight (from the starting position) and stop at the spot right below the kneecap for one second, stop at the spot right before the third pull for one second, and then explode like you mean it, just the way you would for regular snatches. You may also use this with cleans, but I find it to be much less necessary.
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