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The Debate Part II


The Debate Part II

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.

9 Responses

  1. I think you are spot on in your comments. I completely agree that one should get decent to good at the oly lifts before implementing them into metcon workouts. And if you are going to work the oly lifts, work them light to get the technique before you start hammering them for high reps. Too many times I see ugly technique from individuals just trying to struggle thru a wod as rx'd when it would be better to scale the weight and work better technique. It's so true that it takes years to perfect these movements. I have literally been working oly lift movements for 12 years now (yes I'm only 24 so it seems like a long time for me!) but each year I learn more about my technique. I never think I have mastered/perfected my technique. There is always something I can improve upon. If you're not sure what you are doing wrong, ask an outside eye to take a look. We have great coaches even within CFVP who can really help in improving some aspect of your oly lift. Okay, I'm done rambling, but I just had some serious input on this topic. And yes, I agree, MB Cleans are worthless… :->

  2. After reading the post and comments about the MB cleans I am going to have to disagree. I have to admit that I am not even close to being an athlete like Josh, Dan, or Paul (From Crossfit-TNT, giving you your props Paul!) but I did hold my own back in my hayday. I atribute my success in college to O-lifting which I worked on through my basketball years and only recently went back to after finding CF. I remember when I first started working on cleans, the snatch, & pushpresses, etc. for weeks it was PVC pipe and the bar until my coach was satisfied that the form was correct. It is my opinion the MB cleans would of been a good tool to help me in developing by cleans when I was learning these lifts. Just like as a child, lay-ups came before 3-pointers, and T-ball came before hitting a 90 mph fastball. Just remember in athletics you have to have baby steps in order to be successful.

    I agree that there are people that will never have the form or the desire to clean 185, 225, 285, but they can do MB cleans in a safe manner and still get their metcon. As far as the elite athlete doing MB cleans they are worthless for them, but for us athletes that have pain in their joints everytime they squat or are missing the majority or their cartilage in their knee MB cleans have their place.

    I usually don't post any comments, but I thought I had to share by opinion on this one. Dan good post for a great discussion.

  3. I am one of those MB clean haters, but Jeff, you make a great point. You have to have tremdous flexibility in doing Barbell Cleans. And this allows people to have some type of a clean in their program. Sandbags are also a good way, but are certainly more difficult than a MB Clean. A lot of women have a lot of trouble gripping the sandbags but none the less, still a great exercise.

  4. dan thacker

    Jeff, some great points! I don't think anyone will ever convince me to like cleans with a med ball but maybe I'm just stubborn! One peculiar note. They spend tons of time hammering this movement at level 1 certs. Has anyone ever seen the movement on a CFHQ WOD? Ever?

  5. Mike Shaw

    Why is the med ball clean getting so much hate? How else would you train for a strong man comp when you are required to clean Atlas Stones? 🙂

    I'd rather do a med ball clean than a bench press. Least the clean is a functional movement!

  6. Paul C

    I am NOT a fan of the med ball clean at all. No particular reason, I just find it annoying whenever I have to do it. I do get the point on the O-Lifts in Greg's article though.
    I AM a HUGE fan of the O-Lifts, but as a self taught crossfitter, I did not spend the time or effort necesssary to properly learn the execution of these lifts before haphazardly "banging them out" to keep up with the studs on the main site. The result? Several injuries and horrible technique flaws that had to be "unlearned" before I could advance to another level in my own fitness persuit. All-in-all I figure that I wasted about an entire year fooling myself into thinking I knew what I was doing before getting serious about actually learning how to perform these lifts (somewhat to standard that is)
    The O-Lifts are a necessary component in Crossfit, and they really can be effective in a METCON WOD, but NOT until the dues are paid. That is, TAUGHT by a QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL. Take a look at the Iron Maven site, there are links to some very impressive athletes executing these lifts and you can tell that they have spent YEARS perfecting their technique. Just my $.02

    (Thanks for the shout out Jeff. It cracks me up to hear someone refer to me as an athlete).

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