Power production is an essential skill for any explosive athlete. Increased power will improve sprinting, jumping, and tackling among other activities. Power is a combination of speed and strength. Strength is the ability to apply force and speed refers to the velocity of the movement. Research indicates that the power outputs (watts per kilogram of bodyweight) of Olympic weightlifting movements are significantly higher than powerlifting movements.
The Olympic lifts can be broken down into the first and second pull. The first pull starts off the ground to what is known as the power position. The power position is when the lifter is upright and tall, with the knees bent by 10-20 degrees. The second pull starts from the power position to when the lifter is fully extended at the ankle, knee and hip.
The snatch is the Olympic weightlifting movement where the lifter starts with a wider grip and catches the weight in an overhead squat. An 82.5kg weightlifter had a power output of 2173 watts in the first pull and had a power output 3634 watts in the second pull of the snatch (1).
The clean is the Olympic weightlifting movement where the lifter starts with their hands shoulder width apart, and receives the bar in a front squat position. The 82.5kg weightlifter had a power output of 2123 watts in the first pull and a power output of 3475 watts in the second pull of the clean (1).
In a separate study, the power output of a 100kg male was recorded. The recorded power output of the bench press was 300 watts. The power output of the back squat and deadlift were at 1100 watts. The power output of the bench press is only 8.3% of the snatch second pull and the power output of the squat and deadlift is only 30.3% of the snatch second pull (2).
Coaches may argue that the learning curve of the Olympic weightlifting movements is too high. The ability to teach the Olympic lifts varies from coach to coach [Editor’s Note: Every Athletic Lab coach is recognized by USA Weightlifting as a certified club coach]. According to the data, it looks like it is worth the time to teach the Olympic lifts for optimal power development.
Elite level Olympic weightlifters are capable of snatching over 300 pounds and can clean and jerk over 400 pounds. It is impossible to perform Olympic weightlifting movements at a slow speed. In the powerlifts such as the bench, squat, and deadlift it is not uncommon to see slower maximum lifts. When performed correctly, the Olympic lifts will translate into higher power outputs on the field.
1) USA Weightlifting Club Coach Manual. USA Weightlifting. Colorado Springs, CO (2010). Print.
2) Garhammer, John. “Power Output of Olympic Weightlifters”. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 12.1 (1980). Print.