Can Olympic lifting be effective in a soccer player training regimen?

Olympic lifting   

ImageOlympic lifting and power lifting are the most popular training methods used by coaches because of there focus towards power and strength development. Olympic style weightlifting consists of two different lifting techniques –

  1. Clean and Jerk
  2. The snatch

The most important aspect to olympic lifting in focus towards athlete performance is power specific force development or speed strength. Olympic style training involves lifting heavy loads that are performed at a high velocity resulting in high power output (Johnson Jr et al, 2008). Speed strength combines two crucial attributes of athletic performance to bring about power development. An athletes power capacity includes maximum strength, high load speed strength, low load speed strength, rate of force development, reactive strength, skill performance and power endurance. Athletes who use Olympic lifts can increase their speed strength. This is done because during the pull phase of the clean and snatch and the drive phase of the jerk athletes extend their hips, knees and ankle joints to push against the ground as rapidly as possible to producing acceleration on the body and barbell (Hoffman et al, 2004). Using Olympic lifts for training in soccer could be useful for developing strength speed to jump for headers, hold up the ball and quickly stop and change direction. Hori & Stone (2004) suggest that functional core strength is also developed due to the large amounts of overhead activity and movements with high loads away from the body. Different sports require different demands, so for soccer the question that maybe asked in Olympic lifting is how fast rather than how heavy.

Specificity to soccer

Its hard to imagine Olympic lifting having any specificity with regards to soccer as both are completely different from an athletic and aesthetic point of view. Soccer is a team based sport whilst Olympic lifting is an individual event, soccer is an invasion sport that requires lots of movement whilst Olympic lifting is essentially a static event. So how can Olympic lifting be incorporated into soccer training and be specific? Zatsiorsky & Kraemer (2006) suggest that all sports require different types of muscle synchronization, balance, flexibility, coordination as well as strength, speed and power. Olympic lifting can provide developments in all these areas which makes this training specific to soccer. Training maximal strength can impede speed in soccer as the hypertrophic adaptations will lead to decreased flexibility in the joints and movement speed of the muscles during explosive effort. However a way to counter this is to use smaller weights but at higher speeds as strengths gains can still occur. Mcguigan et al (2012) highlight that strength gains from high speed training can induce positive adaptations due to an increase in the number of fibres recruited along with a more effective firing of the motor neurons. In sports requiring short bursts of explosive energy Olympic lifting incorporates the necessary ingredients to accommodate the production of power and as such lead to improved performance in competition.

According to Kipp et al (2010) Olympic lifting is the gold standard when it comes to training athletes in strength and power. The speed of the movements coupled with the multiple movements you find in clean and jerk and the snatch simulate the movements involved in other sports more accurately than any other type of explosive approach. The higher power output created by faster velocity lifting can have a greater impact on positive athletic performance.

Training for improved athletic performance

The main focus of incorporating Olympic lifting in soccer is to help prevent injury. When looking to improve athletic performance power output, muscle synchronization, metabolic and biomechanical specificity are high on the agenda. If there is a set focus through a particular session for example concentrating on vertical jumping in soccer, than cleans and snatches would be used. Another way of training could be to focus on the energy systems used in soccer were explosive movement is required every 30 – 45 second on average and the training could be made specific to the interval and activity demand of this sport. Maximal strength can lead to greater power output so using Olympic style back squats and front squats could be ideal (Chiu, 2007).

Here is a few videos of me demonstrating techniques of Olympic lifts that can be used in soccer training. I decided against using weights for safety reasons as i was a beginner and the lifts are technical:

Safety concerns

As Olympic lifts are very explosive and complex there is always the risk of injury and this is a potential drawback to incorporating this training within soccer. The lifts are very technical and require a lot of coaching and a small error in technique could lead to serious injury due to the weights involved and potential body positions (Mckown, 2007).

This blog highlights the potential dangers and pitfalls of Olympic lifting

Here is a list of some useful links to build on Olympic lifting in sport


Chiu, L.Z.F. (2007) ‘Powerlifting Versus Weightlifting for Athletic Performance’ Strength & Conditioning Journal. 29 (5) pp. 55-57.

Chiu, T. (2014) ‘Make success routine. Available: [Last accessed 4th may 2014].

Cressey, E. (2013) ‘Earning the Right to train Overhead: Eric Cressey on the snatch’ Available: [Last accessed 4th may 2014].

Fleming, W. (2013) ‘How to miss Olympic lifts’ Available: Last accessed 4th may 2014].

Hoffman, J.R., Cooper, J., Wendell, M. & Kang, J. (2004) ‘Comparison of Olympic vs. Traditional Power Lifting Training Programs in Football Players’ Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 18 (1) pp. 129-135.

Hori, N. & Stone, M.H. (2004) ‘Weightlifting Exercises Enhance Athletic Performance That Requires High-Load Speed Strength’ Strength & Conditioning Journal. 27 (4) pp. 50-55.

Johnson Jr, J.B., Sabatini, L.P. & Sparkman Jr, R.M. (2008) ‘A Debate between Power Lifting and Olympic Lifting as the Main Athletic Training Method’ Virginia Journal. 29 (4) pp. 19-23.

Justin. (2012) ‘Transitioning to Olympic weightlifting’ Available: [Last accessed 4th may 2014].

Kipp, K., Redden, J., Sabick, M. & Harris, C. (2010) ‘Kinematic and kinetic patterns in Olympic weightlifting’ International Symposium on Biomechanics in Sports: Conference Proceedings Archive. 28 (0) pp. 1-4.

Mcguigan, M.R., Wright, G.A. & Fleck, S.J. (2012) ‘Strength Training for Athletes: Does It Really Help Sports Performance?’ International Journal of Sports Physiology & Performance . 7 (1) pp. 2-4.

McKown, N. (2007) ‘Complete Body Development With Dumbbells’ 2nd Ed. Oxford, UK: Meyer & Meyer Sport.

Zatsiorsky, V.M. & Kraemer, W.J (2006) ‘Science and Practice of Strength Training’ 2nd ed. Champaign, Il: Human Kinetics.

Olympic lifting, power lifting, soccer





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