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For adolescent or older lifters
A Combined Weightlifting/Powerlifting Program
by Timothy J. Piper (1998)
Athletes who compete in both weightlifting and powerlifting need a program that will produce maximum lifts for each sport. Coaching such athletes requires a balance between the maximum strength requirements of powerlifting and the explosive, high-skill requirements of weightlifting.
If you are limited by equipment and time, training athletes for both strength and power can be complicated and frustrating. Greater explosive power for jumping, throwing, or hitting is developed via weightlifting, whereas the raw strength the athlete develops through powerlifting has little to do with speed of movement.
Most sports require varying degrees of both strength and power depending on the athlete's level and position. This article describes a model that combines strength and power training for maximal gains with limited time and equipment.
One of the most efficient ways to develop speed and power is through Olympic-style lifts. Both the snatch and clean & jerk will contribute to power development in activities that rely on the hip and back musculature. The kinesthetic sense developed with these lifts may also reduce the chance of injury when participating in other sports because they not only strengthen the muscles, tendons, and ligaments but also increase the athlete's overall coordination.
All of these factors will enhance the athlete's performance in any anaerobic sport with a high strength/power component.
The Case for Powerlifting
Powerlifting has been gaining respect as an effective way to develop total body strength. Centered around the three competition lifts of the squat, bench press, and deadlift, powerlifting develops strength in almost all major muscle groups with the possible exception of full range-of-motion development of the upper back. Powerlifters are known for their leg and chest strength.
Both weightlifting and powerlifting have their place in training programs for strength/power sports. Weightlifting involves virtually every major muscle group in the body as well as many smaller stabilizer muscles.
The term powerlifting is actually a misnomer when one considers the higher levels of power output created during weightlifting versus powerlifting. When compared to the relatively slow movements of the powerlifts, which produce approximately 12 watts per kilogram of bodyweight (W/kg), the second pull phases of the snatch or clean lifts may generate four times as much power, averaging 52 W/kg.
On the other hand, much heavier loads are typically used in powerlifting, but the exercises are performed at a much slower speed.
It makes sense that training with explosive, Olympic-style lifts will develop power. However, recent research has shown that speed training alone may not be enough to enhance power development.
Wenzel and Perfetto studied the effects of speed training on power development. One group underwent a timed leg-sled program to enhance power; the other group underwent a squat program to enhance strength. Finding no significant difference between groups, Wenzel and Perfetto concluded that speed training was not superior to strength training for developing power. They recommended combining speed AND strength training.
In the first eight to 12 weeks of training, increased neural adaptations account for most of the strength and power gains. As athletes become more experienced, they need higher intensity training if they hope to make further gains. While the use of low-speed powerlifts may initially improve both strength and power, the need for power/speed via weightlifting seems warranted in the latter stages of training, especially for elite athletes.
The critical factor is to determine whether your program will concentrate on (a) weightlifting, developing great amounts of power at the expense of total strength, or (b) powerlifts, developing greater overall strength at the expense of power.
The program presented here represents a compromise between the two. It is a strength/power program. By combining the faster weightlifting movements with the slower powerlifting movements one can optimize the potential for gains in both strength and power. The use of assistance exercises for injury prevention and muscle balance varies depending on the athlete's own weaknesses and injury history.
With limited time for training, each session is designed to develop power and strength via a combination of weightlifting and strengthening exercises, as follows:
Snatch Related -
- Overhead Squat
- Snatch Balance
Clean Related -
-Power Clean & Jerk
- Clean & Jerk
Jerk Related -
- Push Jerk
- Push Press
- Snatch Press
Core Strength -
- Camber Bench Press
- Close Grip Bench Press
- Romanian Deadlift
- Lat Pulldown
The general program design concentrates on low volume training with ever-increasing loads. All loads need to be adjusted for each athlete. Each training session should take approximately 45-60 minutes, depending on the athlete's rate of adaptation and the intensity of the phase.
The periodization program shown in Table 1 and has four phases. The average length of time spent in each phase ranges from two to six weeks. The number of weeks in each phase is based on how the athlete's lifting technique progresses and on upcoming sport seasons or competitions.
Within each phase are three separate but similar workouts, labeled A, B, and C. Choosing which workout workout to perform in each session is based on which areas the athlete needs to focus on most. If the athlete is proficient in all the Olympic-style lifts and powerlifts, each workout can be performed once a week.
It is also good to vary the order of workouts because this decreases boredom. One week the athlete may choose to do the workouts in A-B-C order and the next week in A-C-B order.
Regardless of which workout is chosen, the Olympic-style lifts are executed first, followed by the powerlifts. Some workouts list more than one exercise (e.g., snatch balance/overhead squat), thus offering an option. the athlete may execute the snatch balance, starting with the bar on the shoulders similar to a back squat, then explosively drive the body under the bar into a deep squat snatch position, or an overhead squat, in which the bar is held overhead while doing slow controlled squats.
The coach and athlete work together to determine which phase -- 1, 2, 3, or 4 -- and which workout -- A, B, C -- as well as which exercises to choose when options are given.
The first two sets of each weightlifting exercise are used as a warmup. The third and fourth sets are the most intense. Once the lifts are completed correctly, the athlete may raise the weight on any subsequent sets. The loads they use are altered on a weekly basis; from high, for optimal power development; to low, for optimal skill acquisition. Intensity ranges are listed at the left in Table 1. The exact percentage is determined by the coaches.
Powerlifting and all other assistance exercises are performed to a repetition maximum on each set, as opposed to a percentage. Each exercise is done with strict technique. The repetition maximum is based on the inability to perform any further repetitions with good technique, as opposes to complete muscle failure.
Although further research is needed to substantiate the use of training to failure, some proponents claim that it yields greater rates of hypertrophy and strength development.
Points to Ponder
Sometimes athletes complain of delayed-onset muscle soreness, in which case the training intensity is decreased. Even though this muscle soreness is sometimes common and even expected, coaches should always be on the lookout for joint aches and pains which may indicate overuse and possible injury.
Specific supplementary exercises are used throughout the program depending on muscle imbalances and weaknesses of the individual. Proper exercise technique is the most important determinant for progression with all these exercises. An emphasis is placed on back and shoulder exercises to decrease shoulder inflexibility.
Common problems encountered by powerlifters, even though not well documented, are shoulder pain and rounded shoulders. These problems are most likely related to a lack of back training and/or poor chest flexibility. An example of how the program variables can be manipulated for an adolescent or an older athlete is shown in Table 2.
One area that is not discussed, though just as important, is abdominal strengthening and conditioning. Each workout includes abdominal exercises to ensure a strong core. The core muscles, including the abdominals and spinal erectors, work together as stabilizers during the lifts and decrease the chances of back strain. This is a very important, but often overlooked area of the body. Athletes are only as strong as their weakest link, and without a strong core they place themselves at risk for injury.
The focus is on the quality of work, not the quantity. Total volume, in terms of sets and reps, may seem relatively low compared to some conditioning programs, but the workout intensity is much higher than most. That's because time is not being wasted going through the motions like so many young athletes do because of lack of knowledge, motivation, or supervision.
This type of program gives the coach a lot of flexibility in designing a program to meet each athlete's needs without having to set up a rigid routine spanning many weeks. One drawback to designing very rigid programs over many weeks or months is the inability to foresee complications such as injuries, difficulty of learning certain lifts, game schedules, personal life issues, and individual adaptation rates.
An individualized program allows the athlete to become a more active participant, which in turn builds responsibility. The athletes who have been involved in this program have enjoyed the variety and flexibility it offers and have found that it fits into their busy schedule.
For prepubescent lifters, all weights are kept very light, perhaps at a load that would reflect an estimated 15-rep maximum. The attempts are still only executed within the repetition ranges presented. This is to ensure an emphasis on proper technique. Olympic-style lifts are never performed to fatigue or failure, due to a high potential for missed attempts and possible injury.
With this program, one can emphasize either sport depending on what type of meet is upcoming. There is even a new lifting federation in which compete in all five lifts in a single competition.
This is only one example of a combined Olympic-style lifting/Powerlifting program. After using variations of this program for more than four years, we have found it to be highly effective for athletes from ages 11 to 27. Constantly updating, altering, and improving these programs to meet the needs of each athlete will help the coach find the best balance for each individual.