Turn it up to 11

Originally Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 1:06 PM

I was talking to my friend Chris last night.  He's an adult with a good full time job; he's also a 77 kg lifter who snatched 111 this week.  That's not too bad for a grown up with a job and other responsibilities.  That same day he snatched 104 eight times.  "It was a pretty good workout'" he told me.  He then said that, while he can't do tons of volume all the time, his best lifting and best gains happen when he lifts more and lifts heavier.  This experience totally makes sense.  In order to succeed at Olympic lifting, an athlete must lift often and heavy.  In fact, an athlete must lift as heavy as possible as often as possible.  

What do i consider appropriate volumes for which levels of lifters?  Let's start from the beginning.  Someone who just starts Olympic lifting, no matter what their background, can lift every day to a max lift with no ill effects.  I like using sets of 2 in the lifts, or two cleans and one jerk, for three to six months.  Lifters obviously use variations on the lifts, usually starting from the hang.  Since most people who train have school or work, usually a beginner can go three days a week doing six-eight sets of 2 in the both the snatch and clean and jerk.  I also have beginners do squats, 5x5 in the back squat, 5x3 in the front squat, and one day at 3x8 or 3x10.  We'll press one day at 5x5 and we'll do heavy snatch or clean deadlifts another day for 5x5.  That takes care of the early work for the lifters who have never done anything before.  For people who have lifted but not focused on the Olympic lifts, I add more squats and pulls.  We can add a day here or there, but I like to add volume by doing triples or two sets of two at each weight.  Usually, this stage lasts three to six months, and during this stage, we need to increase work capacity (GPP).  I like to increase work capacity by doing specific conditioning:  sprints, strongman workouts, barbell complexes, boydweight complexes.  I have a blog on these elsewhere.  Check it out.  

An intermediate lifter can do more volume depending on their work capacity.  I use technique to determine the skills of an intermediate lifter, but I also use pure ability.  Someone who has qualified for Nationals but has bad technique can still handle significant volume.  What I look for is a consistent, sound technique through all percentages of lifting. When a lifter is more efficient- and an intermediate lifter should be efficient- they can handle more volume.  The simplest things I look for in efficiency are consistency of technique across percentage ranges; little wasted motion, and the ability of the lifter to correct themselves from lift to lift when an error is made.  At the intermediate level, the athlete can also make quick gains, but not weekly in their lifts.  Also, some lifts may outgain others; their squats may go up fast or stagnate while their clean slowly creeps up.  At this level, the lifter needs to increase their GPP and volume.  So, how do we do this?  I like to hit the lifter with hard squats at this level.  extra conditioning is limited to one or two days/ week; usually a quick finisher or an easy workout on the days off, maybe 7-10 sprints.  The squats, though, kick their butt,  5x5, 6x5, 5,5,5, 3,2,1,3,2,1 etc.  I like to take the total number of squats at this stage up to  40-75 reps per week.  Supers can do more, many more, squats.  But we do the extra leg work lighter for the big folk, sets of 10-20 at 70% after the heavy low rep work.  The lifts themselves at the intermediate level are done every day, or nearly; if we only clean one day we will do snatch pulls that day and vice versa.  If the lifter has a tight or weak back, then the pulls can be done from the blocks.   The pulls can also easily be turned into the actual lift, though usually lighter.  My favorite way to build GPP at this level is triples, and to hit low weight:  50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80% for triples done three days/ week will get you in shape.  But then we add singles to the mix for the big folk, and doubles for small people (under 94 kilos):  85x2, 85 x2, 90 x1, 90 x1, 90 x1.  I like to do more snatches than cleans in a week, and more cleans than jerks.  

As a coach and lifter you must know that cannot just walk into this volume.  For example, we're just starting to ramp up the volume for our lifts.  In another two cycles the volume for our intermediate lifters will be pretty heavy.  They may become debilitated by it, but then we'll back down and wave back up.  If a lifter cannot stay crisp, then immediately lower the work load.  Good lifts are more important than a lot of lifts, and keeping the technique sharp is what matters.  I work up to the heavy volume, which occurs at the intermediate level about four-six cycles per year, by doing doubles into triples and triples into two sets of two.  It's better to be patient here, as less now will lead to more later.  Don't force a prescribed number of lifts on someone who is not ready for it.  I just dropped in half the volume for one of my lifters because she was losing her technique.  I'm still convinced she will get better.  

For the advanced lifter, someone who has qualified for Nationals or, perhaps, the American Open, volume is paramount.  Intensity follows volume, and at this level, a lifter will snatch 90% or more 2-6 times a week and clean and jerk 90% or above 3-5 times a week.  Yes folks, every week you hit 90%.  There is periodization here, but I'll talk about how that works in a later post.  The periodization isn't your traditional American Peridoization.  Volume as expressed in terms of total lifts done each week will be 250-350 lifts.  If I figure out volume like this, I count every rep.  One day a week lifts only go to about 70%, and are doubles; other days the lifts go to 90% and 85%.  Squats will be heavy here, for sets of five or three (and still big sets of 10-20 for supers).  A day will look like this:  Snatches 50,55,60,65,70 x2x2; 80 x2x2, 90 x2 or 90 x1, 90x1, 90x1, 80 x1, 80 x1, 70 x2, 70x2.  That workout should take about 45 minutes or so.  Take a break, do some cleans, then squats, then pulls, then presses.  One of my favorite squat workouts when I was at this level is 70 x5, 120x5, 170 x5, 210x2, 250x2 (5 sets).  Another day that week I did a whopping 70 x10 for three sets.  Lifters at this level should train 5-6 days a week and take 6-10 workouts per week depending on their work schedule.  

I also think lifter should add volume as they can.  I have a Junior lifter who's been training for 10 months now.  He's slowly adding a double one or two days a week; his workouts for those doubles are one lift and then some bodybuilding stuff, which he needs at his age.  I hope to write a whole blog entry about him in early January.

Michael McKennaComment