There are two Olympic lift variations used quite frequently in CrossFit and with athletes in the speed-power realm: the power clean and power snatch. Now, read that last sentence one more time. Did you notice anything? The word POWER precedes both clean and snatch. This is exactly what these movements require and are designed to train. Power. Many CrossFits and performance training centers around the world use high repetition Olympic lifting in their programming. Rarely, if ever, will you ever see this performed at Athletic Lab.
Olympic lifts are used in training to develop power and explosiveness, not to enhance muscular endurance or power-endurance. Using power cleans for power-endurance (high rep sets) is like using a hammer to cut a piece of wood. You reduce the power aspect to a power clean or power snatch if you perform these lifts to muscular fatigue. If you are trying to train to improve your muscular endurance or power-endurance, there are other, safer, less technically difficult multi-joint exercises (i.e. squat jumps) to choose from that can do just that, while limiting fatigue-induced poor form.
Olympic lifts are among the most technically challenging of multi-joint movements. To perform these lifts, and perform them well, you will need to recruit almost every muscle in your body. As the repetitions increase in a set, your ability to produce power and velocity decreases in the later reps, due to fatigue. This increased fatigue can wreak havoc on the body, in the form of the ability to, or lack thereof, maintain proper form throughout the movement. For most people, the lower back is usually the first to falter. This can result in poor posture or rounding of the back during the first pull phase of these Olympic lifts. If your starting position is not correct, everything can, and usually does, follow suit, putting you at immediate risk for injury.
Many speed-power athletes on the collegiate and professional levels use these lifts in combination with other exercises to generate sport-specific power and velocity. At Athletic Lab, we run our CrossFit with this in mind; a smooth operating collegiate or pro-style strength and conditioning weight room. This maximizes one’s potential to become the most athletic and fit they have ever been in their life while reducing the likelihood of injury.