Yesterday I mentioned the Olympic lifts and their place in CrossFit training. This debate could eat up enough pages to make a book so I'll try and keep it short. Again, these are my personal opinions and they don't necessarily reflect the opinion of others here at CF Valley Park or CrossFit.
- First of all, I create 2 distinctions when I'm working with these movmements. I engage in "skill" sessions where I work on the technique. Adding weight comes slowly and it's never done under extreme fatigue. Repetitions seldom excede 3 per set. I also engage in "metcon" workouts that include these movements. This is a very different workout with a very different purpose. Weight here will be "relatively" light. It is important to remember that word….relative. I can move it very easily for a high number of repetitions before things start getting tough.
- Most CrossFit workouts are a "work capacity" measure. Basically the goal is to accomplish a set amount of work in as little time as possible. This is accomplished by executing functional (not always but debatable) movements at high intensity (always!!!!). Power becomes the key ingredient and certainly the Olympic lifts are about POWER! And yes they can be considered highly functional….especially the clean. With that in mind, I do think they have a place in CrossFit workouts under certain circumstances. The big difference between the O-lifts and most other movements is the amount of technicality it takes to execute them correctly. I think most CrossFitters are too anxious to grip it and rip it, wanting to get their "Grace" or "Randy" times. We spend endless hours making sure people do ALL movements correctly whether its a sit-up, squat, push-up, or anything else. Yet I see posts and videos all over the community with shameful O-lifting technique being traded off for "intensity." Output and intensity are desired but you certainly don't need these movements to get intensity. We have a smorgasboard when it comes to movements. However, these movements are fast, powerful, athletic, and unlike any other exercise.
- You may want to learn them and actually get good at them, striving for heavier lifts. You may want to only use them for "metcon" workouts. You may want both. Either way, take a logical path.
- You should have developed adequate strength, power, and flexibility. You should be skilled in the squat, deadlift, and press.
- Learn how to lift! Period. This takes time and patience. People spend years and decades learning the O-lifts. Put your time in.
- Do not consider high rep O-lifts until you are "decent" with technique (definition will vary).
- Keep it light!
- Form will degrade as you become fatigued. This is no different from any other exercise but these allowances should be narrow.
- The CrossFit community is lucky to have excellent coaches willing to teach these movements. These people have put their time in perfecting this art and it is understandable that many people cringe when they see people doing them wrong. Still it has brought the great sport of weightlifting to masses of people who would otherwise never get exposure to them. Yes we can do the same movements with dumbbells, sandbags, and other objects but nothing feels quite like a barbell.