After achieving structural balance, one of the next priorities when you’re training athletes is to develop explosive strength. If you want to enable athletes to jump higher, throw farther, and throw more powerful kicks and punches, you need to find ways for them to display strength rapidly. And one of the best ways to improve this important quality is by teaching them the Olympic lifts.
My mentor in the Olympic lifts is Pierre Roy, and on several occasions I’ve invited him to the Poliquin Strength Institute to instruct coaches in teaching athletes the basic skills involved in these important exercises. Roy has coached several Olympians, including 1984 Olympic silver medalist Jacques Demers, and more than 50 athletes who competed in Canadian national championships. Can’t get much better than that!
I’ve seen athletes follow Roy’s methods to learn the basics of optimal lifting technique in as little as 20 minutes. This is in stark contrast to those who believe the Olympic lifts are so complex that only coaches with years of experience can teach them properly. Or to those who believe that once bad habits are developed, they cannot be corrected, or that only young athletes can master technique. Case in point: Eileen “The Hawaiian Mongoose” Miyoko Olszewski.
Olszewski is the current Women’s International Boxing Association World Champion, and is a champion who took up the sport long after most professional boxers have retired. Olszewski became convinced that learning the Olympic lifts would help her develop more explosive strength that would add more “punch” to her punch. Although she’d already had six months’ experience performing power snatches and power cleans and noted marked improvement in power, she was not satisfied with her technique. So she arranged to have a few training sessions at the PSI.
In the following video clips of Olszewski, you’ll see that Olympic lifting technique can be radically improved in as little as one training session.
This first video shows before-and-after clips of Olszewski performing the power clean. The “before” clip demonstrates at least three problems: difficulty in bringing the bar to the “power position” so the bar can explode off the upper thighs (a method that Roy calls achieving “balance” between the bar and the body), jumping forward, and bending her arms too soon. The “after” clip shows dramatic improvement, especially in terms of exploding the bar off the upper thighs. And in the third clip her more efficient pulling technique enables her to extend the lift into a full-squat clean.
The second video shows the snatch, which Olszewski learned after the clean. The before clip shows many of the same problems she had in the clean, and there is a problem with her not getting the bar behind the ears. The after clip shows a much more efficient and powerful snatching technique, and interestingly, her new snatch technique is performed without the unique “swooshing” sound that appears in the before version.
The final video shows our world champion performing a jerk. In the first clip she hasn’t learned yet how to properly position the bar on her shoulders, or to drive the bar in a more efficient path, or to properly position the legs and feet in the split position, or to begin the recovery with the front leg. The second clip shows her performing a full clean and jerk after correcting these problems.