Olympic weightlifting is not only for Olympians; it is also for athletes, bodybuilders, and even regular fitness enthusiasts. Olympic lifting consists of two main lifts: the snatch, and the clean and jerk.
The two are very technical and require as much skill as they do strength. It is recommended, but not completely necessary, to learn these two movements from a certified coach, but that isn’t always an option for everyone.
Luckily, listed below are the top 5 beginner programs to help ease you into Olympic weightlifting.
5. Dan John’s Beginner Program
With only 3 days per week in the gym, this program is for someone who does not have a lot of free time, or just likes to take things slow. In order to progress in the snatch and clean and jerk, assistance movements are often performed to target one’s weak points during the movement.
However, that is the stuff of seasoned, advanced lifters who are lucky to budge their lift maxes by five pounds in a year; in this program, we stick to the complete basics.
There are no variation lifts to be found here; no high pulls, block pulls, or even regular power cleans. Instead, we have only the two staple lifts (of course), front squats, and military presses. While this program is great for learning the lifts, it does neglect a lot of muscle groups, such as chest and back.
4. Mike’s Generic Workout Program
This program is essentially Dan John’s program with more added work; there are movements that target your core, and other lifts to help with the snatch and clean and jerk, such as stiff-legged deadlifts.
Every Saturday is a “max” day, where the lifter will try to move as much weight as possible in the two Olympic movements; this is a fantastic way to build strength as quickly as possible, as you are constantly pushing your limits.
Mike’s program also adds one more day a week, bringing the total to four. However, despite having the extra day, Mike’s listed workouts may last up to two hours or more, making it difficult for those short on time to complete the required lifts.
3. Greg Everett’s Catalyst Athletics Starter Program
Greg’s routine consists of a four-week block, where the workouts will change depending on what week it is. There is also a minimum of four days per week in the gym, with some weeks demanding five; this is a lot of time to invest, but getting good at something new can only be done with practice.
This program is meant to prepare lifters to transition into a more intense Olympic lifting regimen, hence it being known as a starter program. For a starter program, though, it is fairly intense, and requires a lot of time and physical effort, which may be too much for a beginner.
If you can make it through, it will prove to be one of the most effective ways to learn the Olympic lifts and become stronger at them.
2. Glenn Pendlay’s Beginner Weightlifting Program
Glenn Pendlay is a renowned strength coach across multiple sports, and has created a program that alternates between two different weeks indefinitely.
It is not uncommon for lifters to continue making progress with this routine for over six months. Like Mike’s program, sessions can be a long, grueling, 2-hour window of pain, but it’s worth it in order to master the most complex lifts there are.
The greatest aspect of Glenn’s routine is the amount of exposure you have to the main lifts their variations. The program aims to make you as strong as possible in every phase of the movements, which it achieves by hammering in the required motor patterns and coordination through a ton of sets and reps.
1. Olympic Lifting Made Simple
Topping the lift is the beginner routine, listed above, which has everything you need in order to progress in the lifts. What sets it apart, however, is that it combines elements of the other aforementioned programs into something as close to ideal as possible.
It uses a four-week block schedule that incorporates the main lifts, their variations, assistance lifts such as Romanian deadlifts, and plenty of squatting.
No set in the program has more than five reps, with most having only two or three; this is optimal for strength building, and also ensures form does not break down as the set goes on. Strength is a skill in itself, and it must be practiced like one in order to improve.
Olympic lifting has many benefits, such as improved flexibility, overall strength gains, fantastic lower body development, and simply looking awesome while you perform the lifts. For athletes, explosiveness will sharply increase, which is at the core of nearly all sports.
Olympic lifting can seem intimidating at first, especially when watching an experienced lifter throw large poundages over their head. With the right routine, you can safely begin to build strength and create a firm foundation to build upon.