Olympic Weight Lifting for Lacrosse Players

By Brian Yeager

There are many schools of thought when it comes to whether or not Olympic weightlifting is an effective means for increasing sports performance. Some claim that it is the only way for an athlete to improve his ability to display explosive power, while those who hold opposing views will make the case that weightlifters are inherently weaker than their powerlifting counterparts. Olympic weightlifting consists of two competitive lifts, the clean and jerk and the snatch. These two exercises, along with their derivatives make up the sport of Olympic weightlifting. In powerlifting, the focus is on three lifts: the deadlift, squat, and bench press.

To better understand the differences between the two modalities, we must first look at the basic physiology of strength training. Strength is the capacity to overcome external loads. Maximal strength is a maximum voluntary contraction against external load while relative strength is the strength per unit of body mass. Power, described as speed-strength, or strength-speed is the ability to overcome resistance at a high rate of speed(force x velocity). The goal when improving athletic performance is to increase the rate of force development(RFD). Olympic weightlifting utilizes speed-strength where the object is to move a relatively lighter weight as fast as possible. Powerlifting, employs more strength-speed, where the external load being moved is much greater, but speed of movement is greatly reduced.

In this article, it is not my intention to make a case for or against either method of training. I simply would like to present the method of Olympic weightlifting as an important tool for improving your ability as an athlete to take your game up a notch. I believe that every philosophy on training has something to offer and that to exclude one of these training methodologies is to limit your potential as a successful athlete.

Starting position

The starting position, for the Olympic lifts, is of primary importance. An athlete cannot finish "right" if they start "wrong".

  • All body levers are "tight"
  • The feet should be in the athlete's vertical jump position with the toes turned slightly out. The bar should be close to the shins but not touching them
  • The back should be "flat" and even have a slight, concave curve in it
  • The arms should be straight and the elbows locked and rotated outwards
  • The head is up with the eyes focused straight ahead
  • The hips are higher than the knees
  • The shoulders are in advance of the bar

The "Pull"

Pulling the barbell from the floor has become an exact science. The bar's inertia is the first thing the lifter must overcome and in order to do this, this movement must be executed precisely.

  • The bar must move back towards the athlete, immediately
  • The hips and shoulders should rise at the same rate
  • The head stays in a level position
  • The 2nd pull must be faster than the 1st pull
  • The athlete should try to stay flatfooted as long as possible
  • The arms only bend to pull the athlete under the barbell
  • The feet move from the pulling position to the receiving position

The two exercises used most in athletic develpment are the power clean and the power snatch. These are both shortened versions of the competitive lifts used in the Olympics. They are somewhat easier to teach and have a greater transfer to power development.

The Power Clean

This exercise is able to produce tremendous amounts of force. You will typically be able to handle more weight as the range of motion is less than the power snatch and the movement is more mechanically advantageous.

  • Approach the barbell on the platform and adopt the proper starting position
  • Use a hook grip to grasp the bar
  • Set your back and rotate the elbows out to the side, while the arms are straight and the shoulders in advance of the bar
  • From the start position, initate the first pull by pushing the feet into the platform and extending the legs
  • As the bar accelerates upward with increasing velocity, finish with a violent shrugging motion once the ankles, knees, and hips are fully extended
  • Then catch the bar in the receiving position
Utilizing the hook grip:

This grip entails wrapping the index and forefingers over the thumb to grasp the barbell. This grip takes some getting used to as it is initally painful, but will eventually allow the lifter to move high loads without grip strength being a determing factor.

The Power Snatch

This exercise is more technically demanding, but the benefits are worth the effort. The snatch has been shown to increase vertical jump when combined with a proper training program.

  • Take a "snatch" grip on the barbell and assume the starting position
  • Set the back flat and inflate the lungs
  • The arms are straight with the elbows rotated outward
  • From this position, the legs and hips pull the barbell from the floor
  • As the bar passes the knees, velocity increases until touch the thigh or lower abdomen
  • The bar is then "caught" in the receiving position overhead.
Determining the proper snatch grip: Measure from your spine to the end of your extended fist. This should give you an approximate grip width to begin with.

When properly executed and combined with a well-designed strength and conditioning program, these lifts will assist you greatly in your ability to improve your strength and power. Due to their complex and technical nature, I highly recommend you work with a weightlifting coach certified by USA Weightlifting.

Next month, I will discuss the assistance lifts that are associated with the Olympic lifts, as well as proper plyometric exercises and program design.

Happy Holidays to everyone and best of luck with your training.

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Brian Yeager is the owner of Pro Strength and new head strength and conditioning coach for the Philadelphia Barrage. In addition to training several players from the Philadelphia Wings, Brian has also worked with athletes from Villanova University, Malvern Prep, and Villa Maria Academy for Girls, in Malvern, Pa. Formerly a strength consultant for Lightning Fast training systems in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Brian has also worked with athletes from a variety of sports including football, volleyball, golf, and MMA.

For more information on Pro Strength, visit www.prostrength.net or contact Brian at phillyfitpro@yahoo.com.

Medical Disclaimer: The information and routines outlined in the article are intended only for healthy individuals. Individuals with health problems or a history of injury should not use these or any exercise routines without a physician's approval. Before beginning any exercise or dietary program, please consult with your physician and/or coach, as well as with your parent/guardian if you are a minor.


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