Programs for the Olympic Lifter

Programs for the Olympic Lifter

Programs for the Olympic Lifter

Tags: Olympic, Conjugate, Speed

Time to Read: 5 Min

Westside Barbell has broken more than 100, actually close to 140, all-time world records. How you may ask. We have combined the Russians, Bulgarians, and Chinese training systems along with the proven Conjugate System, which Westside has used since 1972.

Ironically, that was the year the Conjugate System was developed at the Dynamo Club in the former Soviet Union by A. N. Medvedev, and Y. V. Verkhoshansky. This system called for rotating special exercises, both small and large. Medvedev had several programs from which to rotate to avoid accommodation. Accommodation happens all the time with Olympic lifters—they keep doing the same exercises over and over, and their progress stops.

The loading must be correct, and the only way to do this is the three-week Pendulum Wave Method, developed by Arosiev and other Russian Olympic lifting coaches. Why use a three-week wave? If you look at A.S. Prilepin’s 1974 data, you will note that he used a set number of lifts per workout, and A.D. Ermakov and N.S. Atanasov’s data from 1975 found that 50 percent of the lifts were performed at 75 to 85 percent. Both data showed Westside that combining the two research projects along with the three-week waves by Arosiev would control of the correct amount of work. This means knowing the number of lifts that would make it possible to not over or under train, based on anyone’s own one rep maximum.

If you look on page 32 of the book Managing the Training of Weightlifters, Prilepin’s research found the correct number of lifts at different percents, which makes it possible to do the right amount of lifting at a certain percent of the lifter’s maximum. This will monitor the lifter’s total volume per workout, so you don’t over or undertrain. For most lifters, use the optimal number of lifts. This data will work for all lifts, both classical or special exercises.

Prilepin’s work also shows the correct number of reps per set. This works for Speed Strength, because after all, Olympic lifting is a Speed Strength. As you can imagine, this is a high-volume workout. Like the Chinese lifters, you should do two or three small special exercises and the barbell lifts. 

The Westside System calls for the total work volume to be divided into two categories: 20 percent of the work is on the barbell lifts, and 80 percent is on the small special exercises such as back raises, belt squats, shrugs, rows, abs, and so forth. Why do so many special exercises? Everyone will have a mini-max or what is otherwise known as a sticking point.

If you just do the Clean-Jerk (C-J) and Snatch, you will have strong points and weak points. And the weak points will always keep your lifts down. This is a biomechanical problem that will never go away. Only by doing special work for the legs, or upper back, or lower back will you improve. The small special exercises can perfect technique with not only the C-J, but also the squat.

Is the squat important? Just looking at the Chinese and the amazing amount of pounds they use should prove this critical point. The squat—front and back—is used for Max-Effort (M-E) work.

If you look on page 84 in the book Managing the Training of Weightlifters by N. P. Laputin and V. G. Oleshko, it shows the main reason for failure in the Snatch and C-J. A coach should know what muscles are responsible for correcting the failures. The coach must then pay more attention to those same muscle groups that have stopped progress in the Snatch and C-J.

Also, look at Page 38 in this same book. It shows the correlation of special barbell lifts ranked in their importance from one to 14. We have said many times that it does no good to be strong in the wrong exercise.

Max Effort

Maximal strength is the key to lifting success. This is precisely why a 123-pound bodyweight lifter of equal talent cannot lift what a Super Heavy Weight can. The Conjugate System is best used for maximal strength.

When training at 90 percent or above for three weeks in a row on the same lift, you will regress in training, but you must continuously lift heavy weights above 90 percent. You must rotate an M-E workout each week. The Olympic lifters should do two M-E lifts per workout 72 hours after the Speed-Strength workout at 75 to 85 percent.

Let’s look at some sample M-E workouts.

The Science and Practice of Strength Training by V. M. Zatsiorsky and W. J. Kraemer states that the maximal effort method is superior to all other training methods. By definition, the M-E Method is lifting a maximum load … that is the Maximal Effort Method. The central nervous system adapts only to the burden placed on it.

The Bulgarians would measure an M-E daily. This means that even if it was not an all-time record, it would count as an all-out max on that day.

The Russians and Westside count only an all-time record. This would account for the Russians and Westside making about 600 new M-E records a year, while the Bulgarians make about 4,000 M-E lifts a year. 

The author has an Olympic weightlifting book titled Olympic Weightlifting Strength Manual. It shows how to raise your strength for Olympic lifting. A gentleman wrote on Chinese Olympic lifting, and it was basically the same book. Why? There are only two ways to lift—the right way or the wrong way.

The Westside version has almost 100 workouts for the Olympic lifter. Supertraining has a section on Olympic lifting by Medvedev that covers the snatch, C-J, squats, Goodmornings, back exercises, and presses. The workouts can be on Dynamic Day, where several sets are done, or use them for M-E workouts, where you work up to a small personal record. Westside suggests two M-E workouts be done on M-E days to supply extra barbell volume.

Let’s look at a small list of workouts.

    1. Snatch starting with bar below the knees; power clean starting with barbell above the knees from hang or boxes
    2. Power snatch from floor; clean pull starting with barbell at knee level
    3. Power snatch leg straight torso leaning forward; push jerk after a power clean
    4. Snatch pull starting with barbell above knees from hang or boxes; clean pull until legs straight
    5. Power snatch followed by overhead squat; power clean push jerk, then overhead squat
    6. Snatch pull with four stops; lower slowly followed by a fast snatch pull; clean pull slowly up, plus lower slowly
    7. Snatch pull followed by classical snatch; power clean from floor
    8. Snatch pull up to knee level; clean pull with medium hand spacing
    9. Snatch from standing erect starting position; push jerk from behind the head followed by an overhead squat
    10. Snatch pull standing on block with or without raise onto toes; clear and jerk starting with barbells below the knees.

Remember to rotate each week with two M-E workouts. You now have two workouts a week—one for Speed Strength, and one for M-E work. 

Add two workouts a week with special exercises using a high volume:

Back raises Shrugs

Reverse hypers Leg raises

Upright rows Belt squats

Pull weight sled Calf-Ham-Glute raises

Pick two or three of the above to use after the major workouts. And, on the two days you do just small special exercises, only do two small special exercises per workout, which should only last 30 minutes, but use high volume. These workouts are intended to bring up a weak, lagging muscle group. Isometrics can also be done on the two special workouts.

Remember, a pyramid is only as high as its base.

Louie Simmons


Suggested Reading

Managing the Training of Weightlifters

N. P. Laputin and V. G Oleshko



Mel Siff


Science and Practice of Strength Training

V. M. Zatsiorsky and W. J. Kraemer


Olympic Weightlifting Strength Manual

Louie Simmons

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