Power Cleans, Hang Cleans and Snatches have been regarded as the gold standard for athletes who are looking to develop explosive strength and speed. Olympic weightlifters are amazing athletes who are able to generate massive amounts of force to get under very heavy loads. This explosive power translates into some pretty unreal vertical jump numbers. It's not uncommon to see elite Olympic lifters with 40 inch vertical jumping capabilities.
These incredible numbers usually apply to elite Olympic lifters who have spent thousands of hours perfecting the nuances of each lift. For the average athlete looking to improve his or her speed and strength, Olympic lifts often yield suboptimal results.
This isn't to say that Olympic lifting shouldn't be included in an athlete's training program, they absolutely should be, but the goal should be to work from technique into heavy loads, not the other way around. This can often be a difficult task because athletes young and old often associate more weight with a higher level of achievement. This mentality is understandable as most coaches don't praise athletes for great technique. As a result athletes often develop bad habits that negatively impact performance down the road.
Let's looks at alternative exercises to assist with force generation that can replace Olympic lifting until technique levels improve.
What a Power Clean Should Look Like:
Chad Vaughn is an extremely impressive Olympic lifter. He combines amazing flexibility, strength and technique, which allows him to get under loads that athletes twice his size struggle with.
Continue to work on your Power Clean technique. Make sure you're able to check all of the major boxes before increasing your weight. To help with this process, have a friend video your technique. This is a great way to see which phases of your lift need improvement.
Replace heavy power cleans with this exercise:
As you work to improve your form, your focus should be on increasing your power output.
Let's look at some exercises to replace Olympic lifting.
Eccentric Bulgarian Squat + Bulgarian Squat Jumps:
3 Sets: 10 Count Eccentric + 6-8 Reps * Repeat 2
How to do this exercise:
Eccentric Bulgarian Squat
Eccentric (negative) simply means to lower yourself at a steady pace for the count provided.
Place one foot behind you on a bench. Make sure that your shin maintains roughly a 90 degree angle with the floor throughout the movement. Grab a weight and lower yourself, straight down, for 10 seconds until your hip is slightly below your knee (this will properly engage the hamstring.) Put the weight down and complete 6-8 Bulgarian Squat Jumps.
Bulgarian Squat Jumps:
Extend your knee by exploding through the middle of your foot. Focus on driving as much force into the ground as possible. Jump into the air and drive your knee as high as possible. Land quietly, and absorb force through the ball of your foot initially and then roll back to your heel. Complete 6-8 Reps, grab the weight and lower yourself again to complete this cycle again on the same leg (10 Count Eccentric + 6-8 Reps * Repeat 2.) Switch legs and follow the same process.
3 Sets, 8-10 Reps.
Start with your feed shoulder width apart and your toes pointed out slightly.
Start by swinging the kettlebell down between your legs and then swing the kettlebell up to or above chest level by exploding with your hip extensors (hamstrings and glutes) and quads. Keep your core tight as the weight moves upwards, come within a few degrees of lock out with your knees. Swing the kettlebell back down between your legs and repeat.
Combine these exercises with the #1 EXERCISE for improving speed (/this-exercise-will-make-you-run-faster) and you'll be faster in no time!
This exercise is meant to provide a starting point to help you perfect your power clean. Training for power, speed and strength is a comprehensive process. Factors like exercise selection, exercise order, optimal loads, optimal rest periods, technique, supplementation and program structure all factor into performance.
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