It is pretty well known in our gym that I have an aversion to writing prescriptive training programs for Olympic Weightlifters, especially the 8, 12 or 16 week variety. This is particularly true for beginning and newer lifters – those that have major technique flaws they are still working though. I’ve seen so many “newbies” grinding away on fancy programs they’ve seen on line all the while yanking bars off the floor with rounded backs, bent arms and other eye straining technique glitches. They are simply reinforcing their inferior technique and bad bar paths by cranking out rep after rep of God-awful looking snatches, cleans and pulls. Working from the hang, or blocks or integrating heavy pulls prematurely in a lifters routine almost never leads to the kind of long term improvement that perfecting technique first will result in.
The overwhelming majority of athletes I work with are newer and haven’t “mastered” the classic lifts (as very few of us ever do). So what would I suggest and what do I do? First, after assessing beginning technique and flexibility I start from the hang (usually with the clean) and as quickly as the athlete can handle it I get the bar to the platform. I see athletes that have been lifting for years and can still hang clean more than they can full clean! They never mastered the transition to pulling properly from the platform into the second pull and final pull-under. The “hitch” remains; the bar slows down around mid-thigh as the athlete strains to find “the spot” to initiate the strong final pull. Learning to execute a smooth pull and accelerate the bar once it gets above the knees is one of the most important factors in training a successful weightlifter.
To do this I simply have lifters do full snatches and full cleans early and often. I guess I’m a Joe Mills wannabe with a little Bulgarian thrown in. New lifters especially should keep it simple, skill development comes first, getting strong is easy (or easier) and can come later. Snatch, Clean & Jerk, Squat and repeat, all under the watchful eyes of a committed coach. I don’t even like to add pulls in a workout until an athlete has developed a pretty smooth and repeatable bar path on the lifts. Ever see a lifter with a max clean of 100 kilos doing clean pulls with 140? Then you know what I’m talking about.
For me a model training program for a newer lifter would look something like this; full snatch or clean, snatch or clean pulls, front or back squat and maybe an overhead movement like a push press. Depending on the needs of the lifter I might add in RDLs, overhead squats, jerks from rack or even classic barbell rows sometime during the week. They can finish with 15 to 30 minutes of conditioning work of their choice and some stretching. The K.I.S.S. principle in action.