Updated: Nov 1, 2018
Weightlifting is obviously a sport of explosiveness and speed. When we Snatch or Clean and Jerk, we do sets of one, two or three. On some occasion we do sets of four or five depending on the individual athlete. If you’re doing something as explosive as the Olympic lifts (and doing it correctly), you’re going to need a significant work to rest ratio to adequately recover the ATP stores that the body uses from such fast, aggressive movement. In other words, most athletes need to just sit down!
In a sport as technical as the Olympic lifts where most of us are just beginner and intermediate lifters, we really need to focus on what we’re doing. Over time the goal is to have the movements become second nature, but until then we need to really hone in on one or two major problems (at a time) in our lifts that will make us better.
If we’re constantly doing reps and not taking much rest, we’re not going to be ‘’fresh’’ enough to allow ourselves to really focus on what we need to focus on.
This is a characteristic that we see a lot in CrossFitters who are used to doing work for 10 to 20 minutes straight. If a CrossFitter (or any athlete wanting to learn the Olympic lifts) comes to us wanting to improve their lifts, they’re not only going to get a program to get better, they’re going to get the coaching, mentality, environment and training habits that go along with becoming a better weightlifter.
On the other side of the coin, we have the Olympic lifters that lose focus on what they need to be doing in their training. They're proud of what they do and boast about how much rest they get to take. A lot of the time this turns their hour and a half session into a three hour ordeal. Spreading their training out like this is not only an inefficient use of their time, but it doesn’t stress the body like a truly focused and fast(er) paced training session would be. A lot of the time this lower amount of stress on the body doesn’t cause adaptation. On top of this, we want the athlete to be a bit fatigued when they’re learning technique. It’s been shown that slight fatigue helps in the learning process of motor patterns. Slight fatigue also helps the athlete by forcing them to use correct technique to make lifts rather than being fresh enough to hoark weight over their head.
Whether you’re solely an Olympic lifter, a CrossFitter or an athlete wanting to learn the lifts for the sake of learning them, being in a weightlifting gym is only the beginning. Sure, you’re in the right environment and have the coaches you need to succeed but as the athlete, you need to take some initiative. You need to identify if your training habits don’t match up with your goals. If you’re just rushing through your workout and not really focusing on each individual rep or you’re taking 5 or more minutes in between sets, you’re probably not going to be getting much better. Get your mind right and match up your training habits with your goals.