Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed
There are two reasons for the worldwide popularity of the three Olympic lifts: their suitability for competition, and the fact that they constitute an ideal training schedule for the body-builder.
Olympic lifters are apt to forget, or not appreciate at all, the second reason; but it is the much more important of the two. The dominance of these three lifts can be traced, not so much to the arena where promoters have found them to have the snap and fire that rouse an audience, as the gymnasium where trainers have proved that a normal man can reach the pinnacle of power by basing his training upon them.
Most important of the three, from the training point of view, is the Snatch. The average lifter has to work the hardest, in terms of repetitions, on the Press, but this is due to the fact that the progress on the lift necessitates it. He heeds less training on the Clean and Jerk because the lift is, in many ways, complimentary to the two which precede it. The Snatch is the key lift of an Olympic training schedule. Whatever other mistakes he makes, the lifter-novice and champion alike must be certain beyond the possibility of doubt that his training on this, the most important of lifts, is absolutely right.
I have stressed in previous articles the availability of practicing the three lifts as a set on three days in each week and the Press only on two other days. The lifter who follows such a schedule must, for obvious reasons, restrict his heaviest pressing to the two sessions when he practices this lift alone.
But not every lifter has the opportunity or facility for five training sessions each week. So much more important is the Snatch than the Press as a general training medium that, where this is the case, the lifter must be most careful to ensure that his Snatching schedule is not preceded by too heavy and exhausting a workout on the Press.
The champions use, as a general rule, rather lighter starting poundages for repetition work on the Snatch than they do on the Press. Many also exceed the usual maximum of 3 consecutive repetitions. The extreme, in both respects, is reached by the Russian whose standard training schedules call, in some cases, for as many as 6 consecutive "hang" snatches with moderate poundages, while some of the Egyptians are not a great deal behind with 5 consecutive repetitions.
I have not found that a high number of consecutive repetitions on the Snatch is particularly productive of results. Experience has taught me that 4 is the advisable maximum while 3 is the ideal for the great majority of lifters. I am satisfied, however, that most lifters start (and finish) their Snatch training with poundages that are too heavy for the best results and in this respect at least I am sure that the Russians and Egyptians are right.
65 to 70% of maximum is a suitable commencing poundage for most men. The weight should be snatched to arms' length and then, then the feet have recovered, lowered first to the shoulders and then to the "hang" position (i.e., body erect, arms straight, the bar resting against the front of the thighs). The bar should then be lowered steadily to within an inch or so of the ground (this, of course, is accomplished by bending the legs and not by rounding the back) and then snatched overhead again. The process is repeated for the third repetition. For the average lifter, 3, 4, or even 5 repetitions with such a poundage will not prove to be too much.
Beyond this commencing the correct method of progression, the total of consecutive repetitions and the number of groups performed at each poundage stage, depend largely on the individual lifter.
The Russians work up in stages of approximately 10 pounds until 85% of maximum is reached. With all poundages above 75% only 2 consecutive repetitions are performed and the number of groups (sets) diminishes rapidly as the weight is increased. They then work backwards to the original commencing poundage, increasing the sets and the number of consecutive repetitions as the bar becomes lighter (full pyramid).
The Egyptians (pyramids. . . along the Nile?), on the other hand, work upwards all the time (usually by small stages) and continue with 3 consecutive repetitions until the very weight of the bar compels a reduction.
The Germans in prewar days (and the modern American lifters have largely followed their example), worked up from 70% to 95%, gradually reducing the number of repetitions and sets until single lifts were performed. They then reduced the weight again for 75% for further sets of repetition work, concluding this second stage at 90%.
The one thing which these different methods of training have in common is the total amount of work performed in one session. In the usual Egyptian or American schedule, where a great deal of work is put in with heavy poundages, the total number of repetitions performed in one session is at least 20 and often 30 or more. In the case of the Russians, where more work is carried out with lighter poundages, the total often reaches 50.
Most novices will find that they thrive best on the lighter, Russian type of schedule. It is somewhat monotonous. But in the early stages of a lifter's career a great deal of work with poundages that are not too close to maximum is the right way to ensure and maintain regular progress.
The Snatch is complete and comprehensive in itself and additional exercises to aid any part of its performance are justified only where there is a particular weakness.
If for instance, a lifter is satisfied that his particular weakness lies in the "first pull" he may effect improvement by variations of the Dead Lift (which is a similar movement), the Deep Knee Bend, and Dumbbell Swings.
If his weakness lies in the second stage of the lift he can sometimes benefit by "dead hang" snatching in which a very light bar is held in the "hang" position and then snatched to arms' length without any preliminary lowering of the weights or bending of the knees.
But such auxiliary exercises are very seldom necessary. And where they are not necessary they are certainly not advisable for they can sometimes do more harm than good. Constant "dead hang" snatches, for instance, can impair a certain jerkiness to the full snatch movement and impair the smooth rhythm of effort that is so necessary. For 99 lifters out of 100 the Snatch itself is all that is necessary for progress on the lift, and the rules by which even the novice can build himself a suitable schedule are simple.
The first is: lighter minimum and maximum poundages than the average British lifter employs. The second is: 3 repetitions from the "hang" with the lighter poundages, 2 with the heavier weights, and single lifts only with those that are closest to maximum. The third is: a sufficiency of work.
The novice who accepts my advice and follows a lighter, Russian type of schedule must perform a minimum of 30 snatches in a session; the man who prefers or finds more suitable a heavier type of schedule must perform a minimum of 20. Provided that these rules are observed it matters little whether he works upward all the time, as do the Egyptians, upwards by stages and then backwards by the same stages as do the Russians, or in a series of steps on the German pattern. Each system has produced world-beaters.
Here is a comprehensive study on how best to improve upon the two Snatch lifts. Also herein the author touches upon the various training methods of the Russians, Americans, Egyptians and Germans and tells you how best to use their methods for your advantage.