DIRECT APPROACH OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING PROGRAM
BY: JOE DUBE and VIRGIL DUBE

Since first presenting this idea to certain coaches and a few lifters, they have shown interest and wanted better clarification, a direct approach program of sorts. Below is a hypothetical program we’ve derived for this purpose and are calling for the sake of name: Zone of Comfort – No Misses (ZCNM) and based on Contest First Attempt (CFA). Such a program can be done instinctively disregarding percentages or on a cycling rotation – whichever the lifter/coach deems appropriate for the trainee. We’ll explain as we chart our conceptual program.
We recognize that no two persons are alike, that some individuals have natural talent and the genes, and react to training much different than others. We also recognize that much time, money, mass media dialogue, and personal effort has been admirably invested and administered by coaches, gyms, schools, training centers, etc., to enhance Olympic Weightlifting, but on the grand scale the truth is: our sport is suffering from lack of elite performance, and this can be corrected in part with a different, perhaps old-time and direct approach to fundamental training. This program we’re presenting is merely an example on our behalf to illustrate quality championship training, a start towards the ultimate objective of every lifter. It is fat-cut-to-lean and a model for our approach to training the Olympic lifts … and we must add that it is open to modification to fit any particular lifter’s needs … but only after he or she has attained proper lifting technique. We also recognize it will be open to scrutiny, even criticism and possibly be viewed as radical to modern so-called scientific and accepted general concepts and elaborate formulas, especially when it is advocated broadly that tons of exercises done singularly or with elaborate apparatus will make sufficient contribution. It is true many of these auxiliary exercises will help to some extent, but not on the elite or mountain-top level of performance we are suggesting, and seeking from our great reserve of athletes, a multi-cultural and diverse nation unparallel on Earth. Science is great! So is hard down-to-earth practicality! The concept of direct training is straightforward and our well-meaning attempt to present what we believe is the best most compact and comprehensive approach to enhancing a lifter’s training skills, which we feel confident will result in successful platform performance. To accomplish this goal there are certain necessities we have identified and implemented: simplicity, eliminated certain specialty exercises which are actually time-wasters … their intended results be actually accomplished by repetitive singles on the platform lifts and as close to that environment as possible. We are focusing on primary moves, more volume on technical-lift-training, and scheduled quality back-up strength training exercises to be executed in periodic moderation. Presented are ten different hypothetical workouts that span two weeks, more or less, depending on lifter/coach schedule: five are technical, three are basic strength, and two are leisure. The ten should be repeated several times with slight progression the objective until contest day arrives. Please understand we are presenting a program in weight and exercise arrangement solely for demonstration, a roadmap if you will to illustrate our concept.
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It is broadly advocated that dozens of exercises can be performed to enhance Olympic weightlifting. Some are good and have merit. Some are unnecessary. For lifters seeking peak performance and cut-to-the-bone-training, there are but a handful of quality exercises he should truly focus on. We hate to say it but a lot of the specialty apparatus gyms have purchased specifically for Olympic lifting could be sidelined and replaced by more top-quality lifting platforms and simple racks. Hitting a baseball, throwing a football, throwing the shot put and discus, broad jumping, high jumping, hurdling, table tennis, all gymnastic events, etc. … plus snatching and cleaning and jerking, are all examples of precise movements that require time and thousands of single and precise practices for the athlete to become good or the best. Building supportive strength has become a modern phenomenon in athletics, and specialty training is great, but specifically training the actual event still holds true as a direct route to develop champions.
Here are a few of the more popular exercises we feel can either be eliminated, or greatly reduced in a lifter’s training regimen. Some are actually our old standbys, but in years associated with this sport and analyzing platform progress against gym training, and maturity, if we started again today we would train much as what we are passing to you in this presentation, a training program that is simplified, direct, compact, and one that builds power, speed, and sound technique.
High Pulls with Snatch or Clean Grip: Most lifters pull to designated heights … sticks for example, but most often poor exercise form is executed and the consequence is lousy lifting technique and performance, and may be one of the culprits in lifters often losing the bar to the front. Unless corrected by a coach or training partner, lifters tend to bend into the bar as it approaches the high point instead of extending the body upward mimicking the actual finished pull for the lift. Also, the weight is usually an over-load, often grossly, which lessens the pulls speed to some extent. You don’t want this!!! It is counter productive to nerve impulses you’re activated between the nerve center in your brain and the muscles trained to respond by doing the Olympic lifts in real-time speed and form.
Power Clean & Power Snatch: Two great lifts, and body building exercises. We love them, but in reality and for the Olympic lifters purpose, are they merely extended and modified versions of the actual Olympic lifts, the latter shortened versions? It’s hard to cast them aside, but in putting quality time on the actual lifts, they can be eliminated, or at least lessened in importance. Extension on the top pull is a natural component of the snatch and clean movement, and if trained properly, real-time spent training snatches and cleans is sufficient. Time spent on these exercises can be better transferred to the Olympic lifts and more volume on technical days.
Drop Snatches, Hang Snatches & Cleans, and Block Work: These exercises are designed for top pull, to hone technical form, and develop quick descent, which to an extent is good training. They are novel and fun to do, but are they actually necessary? We say no, and again we assert … if a lifter is coached properly on technical form, the actual Olympic lifts can’t be beat to teach all aspects of pull, descent, even a solid overhead jerk … practice makes perfect!
Repetition Snatches & Cleans from Floor: We feel outright this is a ridiculous way of attempting to build strength for the actual quick lifts. Why? Each successive rep is compounded in slower motion, and fatiguing to the muscles and joints. Overdone, they can be dangerous and career-ending! The explosive properties this sport demands is to an extent lost with each successive repetition done on any ballistic movement, regardless of floor, block, or hang start position. The power needed can be built by directly squatting or dead lifting weights … and yes, these power assist exercises can be done in reps because they are aimed for one primary purpose … building the supporting power that works in unison with sound technical form that comes into play on the competitive platform.
Toning and Isolation Exercises: There are many, and some are good and serve a viable purpose. They should be done on occasion, but not as a regular component to quality and specific Olympic lift training. That is why we have inserted leisure days when the lifter can chill-out and play around in the gym doing random meaningful work on auxiliary movements he favors and feels are beneficial to him.
In Summation:
1. Its imperative from day-one to develop good technique and explosive speed in Snatch and Clean & Jerk. Technique is fundamental and straightforward: pull the barbell smoothly from the floor, back flat, hips low to initiate leg drive upward, and accelerate in as straight a line as possible and close to the body over the center of gravity … no jumping back, no animated excessive slamming feet on the platform, no violent banging the bar against the body which will reduce inertia … good extension … quick drop downward to compact squat, or split. Time, plus the center of gravity, is limited and unforgiving if these points aren’t adhered to in fluid motion.
2. Train majority the Olympic Lifts - doing singles for Lt, Med, Hvy, days, and in a cycle process. Also visualize platform lift with each single done - be it first, second, or third attempt.
3. Train moderately on power to reinforce need for strength and continued progress. Monitor your needs sensibly. Squats, Deadlifts, Presses, are merely a means to attain progressively greater platform lifts.
4. Lessen or eliminate residual exercises. It is argued some exercises are designed to save the joints. However the joints come into play no matter the movement and the more exercise saturation over time the worse on joints. Time and wear breaks us down, a cruel reality for we Olympic Lifters. Partial movements can be more harmful in sudden bursts and when the body hasn’t gone through full-range motion, the latter more natural. Economizing training to include the program we have presented should actually economize on joint flexing. However, common sense also comes into play. If sudden injury or illness is apparent, stop training and seek professional medical aid.
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The technical days are the heart of this theoretical program and designed to teach the body to adjust to levers under ever-increasing burden, and hone the nervous system and the energizer to all movement, which greatly controls the weightlifter’s destiny. Envisioning your performance on contest day with each and every technical lift scheduled in training is very-very important. A healthy way to train is to envision platform competition experience: light day = first attempt, medium day = second attempt, heavy day = third, which is often a personal best or record attempt. From the standpoint of an equation: basic power + technique + hard work = quality progress & champions. Our overriding emphasis is: the Olympic lifts must be done fast every time, and to attain the exactness in skill and speed require they be done in multiple singles with quality target weights in proportion to what is desired in an upcoming competition. Reps, even doubles, slow the movement, thus affect and de-rail nervous system channels thus far attained, and this acts much like premature breaking on a fast-spinning wheel. Our view of the difference between power and strength, is: power equates into speed with tonnage, strength equates into power potential, but not direct power which is asserted by optimal speed of movement, or singles = power …… multiple sets & reps = strength.
The basic strength days should not exhaust the trainee but leave him exhilarated. Eye-popping strain, bone-crushing reps are unnecessary. We assert, overdoing reps with near max intensities in one workout, or over time, increases the PSI and comprehensive fatigue on soft and connective tissue. Overdone over time we believe this is where so many injuries are attained. Bursts are best where periodic rest periods intervene for short-time recuperation. Also when the tonnage mounts and excessive fatigue to the body and becomes dangerous when form is accidentally broken. The exercises should build some muscle and create a foundation to support the body throughout the fast-moving technicals. They should be done with varying sets and reps and high and low intensities, and be creative and enjoyable … a welcome break from the nervy technical days. The power assist exercises should include: full back squats and front squats for push, Olympic pull dead-lifts for pull (stiff-legs done for erectors on occasion with bar just above feet and on blocks), power drives for shoulder explosion, some military presses for basic shoulder and arm power, power jerks for fast thrust. A casual off day workout should be thrown in when fatigue reaches high level. They should include tone and core exercises for a welcome relief from the strenuous regimented training.
For lifters with specialty problems in the jerk, there are several exercises previously listed. They can be incorporated in the basic strength days, but don’t overdo them … because much of what can be accomplished to correct problems is done by repeated technicals and having a coach or recording device on hand to catch such flaws.
One very important point to make is: Olympic weightlifting isn’t purely a power sport, though strength is a factor. Attaining success lies on proper attitude and mental preparation (envisioning as we have expounded on, for the mental side is the other key to success), with mental and physical execution in unison and unequalled by any other sport. Olympic Weightlifting is athletic, is the gymnastic sport of the iron games. Each platform lift should be explosive and technically sound. When we lifted many years ago we envisioned a bomb going off as we pulled the bar from the floor … lightning speed throughout. Guys and gals, at this point we got quite crazy!!! Being slightly left of center is sometimes beneficial!!!
Some last comments before presenting our hypothetical program; we started training in the early sixties using pictures in the Strength & Health Magazine to learn technique. With today’s technology that primitive approach has changed, but there also exists numerous contradictions in training approaches as we have mentioned earlier. There remain absolute principles that apply directly to the type progress that is necessary to build world-class champions …and that is direct simple-approach training, which includes the fundamental equation we stated earlier. When Joe trained in the late sixties his training was economic, and the reps were minimal on power assist moves (though every 10 or so days he would rep-out on squats with some random weight). Training the Olympic lifts, he did singles to develop lightning speed, which he attained for such a big man at 330 pounds … and did a majority of it with rusty weights and bars in a backyard shed, except when he trained at York with Bednarski, Picket, etc.
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This is our hypothetical program outline with added comments for explanation. For the sake of simplicity below we’ll use a 140 kilo snatch and 180 kilo Clean & Jerk to give the percentages only on the technical days, for singles based on the starting attempt in an upcoming competition. With each successive technical workout 1% (less or more) goal intensity can be added for progression towards desired cycle-completion objectives. The other power lifts should be randomly chosen by lifter and coach and executed with various multiple sets and reps that will be heavy enough at various stages of the training cycle to enhance (and not disrupt) power performance on the actual Olympic lifts. Build programmed singles toward target weight, and once there do as many singles as lifter/coach desires. The technical workouts can be lengthy, so only one Olympic lift should be done per session, except on contest workout day where the lifter does the snatch and clean & jerk and mimics the contest experience.
If you should try this program earnestly in this or some close versions, please let us know what you think. We welcome comments on improvements or otherwise suggestions that don’t sway drastically off our concept or presentation, that being comprehensive Olympic lift training. We wish not to infringe on coaches and lifters who are comfortable with their present program training regimen … stay with what works, if it truly works. For the critical-minded … just give it a try, and if you should, please don’t blame us if you make great progress, or become a lifting champion. For pacifists and pessimistic lip-flappers … just don’t bother with any challenge to your narrow mental zones and keep losing.
Bear in mind, the life-blood of this sport is the lifter’s personal and supreme challenge … to defy gravity! It doesn’t happen without the appropriate preparation and follow-up action.

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For Clarity: ZCNM means Zone of Comfort – No Misses, a guideline point where whatever percentage weights are measured to Contest First Attempt (CFA). Higher number of singles with lower intensities offers refinement and better control on technical flaws. No misses is merely a means or yardstick for the lifter to be better determined that each of his/hers lifts to be successful and to maintain scheduled continuity, which in the end should pay-off in competition with fewer platform misses. The total number of reps prescribed in a workout: single x 20-22 sets on light day, single x15-17 sets on medium day, and single x10-12 sets on heavy day, can be done in build-up to target percentage, or after appropriate jumps done, be performed in whatever number as near to that desired weight. What is important is to reach as close to the desired weight and do as many singles as is soundly possible to enhance future contest performance … not breaking form, not missing.


TRAINING DAY 1 (Basic Strength Day).
MILITARY PRESS (Rack) --- Reps & Sets can vary (3 to 10 range after warm-up) … be creative in arrangement. A great exercise to strengthen arms and shoulders, thus enhance the overhead jerk.
FULL BACK SQUAT --- Reps & Sets can vary (3-10 range after warm-up). This exercise is the fundamental pushing foundation for snatching, cleaning, and jerking.
OLYMPIC PULL DEADLIFT from floor (Keep HIPS DOWN at start, no BACK ROUNDING!) --- Reps & Sets can vary (3 to 10 range after warm-up). This exercise is the fundamental pulling foundation for snatching and cleaning … remember hips down.
CORE EXERCISES (optional each Basic Strength Day) --- Use discretion for Reps and Sets: hyperextensions, sit-ups, leg raises, other exotics.

TRAINING DAY 2 (Technical Day – Power Oriented).
1 – SNATCH (Low Intensity) --- After warm-ups (will mention once: elliptical machine is a good warm-up for lower body mobility, then do normal stretching, shoulder rolls with empty broom stick or PVC Pipe, empty bar overhead squats, ankle and wrist flexing, etc.), do 20-22 singles each lift envisioning CFA (Contest First Attempt) in upcoming contest. If the lifter is cycling start by working up to the 70% (20-22 single buildup, then 98 x 3-5 singles that is to be included in the 20-22 single buildup, or whatever is desired) CFA and work in successive workouts working up to the 75% (20-22 single buildup, then 105 x 3-5 singles that is to be included in the 20-22 buildup, or whatever is desired) CFA – jumping 1% (1.1) each repeated workout.

TRAINING DAY 3 (Technical Day – Power Oriented).
1 – CLEAN & JERK (Low Intensity) --- After warm-ups as mentioned in Day 2, do 20-22 singles each lift envisioning CFA in upcoming contest. If the lifter is cycling start by working up to the 70% (20-22 single buildup, then 126 x 3-5 singles that is to be included in the 20-22 single buildup , or whatever is desired) CFA and work in successive workouts working up to the 75% (20-22 single buildup, then 135 x 3-5 singles that is to be included in the 20-22 single buildup, or whatever is desired) CFA – jumping 1% (2.0) each repeated workout.
FRONT SQUAT --- Reps & Sets can vary (2-3 range after warm-up
).

TRAINING DAY 4 (Basic Strength Day).
POWER JERK (Rack) --- After warm-ups, do 10 singles ZCNM. Comfort Zone percentage is optional and what is appropriate to the lifter on any particular day, but heavy enough to not miss --- no press-outs!!!
FULL BACK SQUATS --- Reps & Sets can vary (5-6 reps range after warm-up).
LEG EXTENSION/LEG CURL --- Reps & Sets can vary (3 to 10 range after warm-up). These are isolation exercises to strengthen both the knee joint and thigh stabilizer muscles (thigh biceps).
STIFF-LEG DEADLIFT (feet on blocks and toes just under bar) --- Reps & Sets can vary (3 to 10 range after warm-up). Be aware not to go especially heavy, or overdo this exercise. Is an excellent spinal erector developer (thigh biceps too) but caution must be adhered to avoid injury.

TRAINING DAY 5 (Leisure Day) at coaches discretion.
Stretch, perhaps do core exercises, and spend quality time on an elliptical machine to enhance lower trunk mobility, ankles, knees, hips.

TRAINING DAY 6 (Technical Day – Power Oriented).
2 – SNATCH (Medium Intensity) --- After warm-ups, do 15-17 singles CFA, each lift envision 2nd attempt in upcoming contest. If the lifter is cycling start by working up to the 80% (15-17 single buildup, then 112 x 3-5 singles that is to be included in the 15-17 single buildup, or whatever is desired) CFA and work in successive workouts to 85% (15 single buildup, then 120 x 3-5 singles that is included in the 15-17 single buildup, or whatever is desired) CFA - jumping 1% (1.1) each repeated workout.

TRAINING DAY 7 (Technical Day – Power Oriented).
2 – CLEAN & JERK (Medium Intensity) --- After warm-ups, do 15-17 singles CFA, but each lift envision 2nd attempt in upcoming contest. If lifter is cycling start by working up to the 80% (15-17 single buildup, then 145 x 3-5 singles that is to be included in the 15-17 single buildup, or whatever is desired)) CFA and work in successive workouts to 85% (15 single buildup, then 152 x 3-5 singles that is included in the 15-17 single buildup, or whatever is desired) CFA – jumping 1% (2.0) each repeated workout.
FRONT SQUATS (With pause at bottom) --- Do 5-6 singles, kilo’s at coaches discretion.

TRAINING DAY 8 (Basic Strength Day).
PUSH PRESS (Push-to-Ceiling at top) --- Reps & Sets can vary (3 to 10 range after warm-up). Done properly is excellent to strengthen jerk lockout.
FULL BACK SQUAT --- After warm-up do 10 singles in ZCNM, (whatever weight that is comfortable to lifter and form isn’t broken), then drop back lighter for a set or two of reps.
OLYMPIC DEADLIFT/SHRUG AT TOP (HIPS DOWN at start!) --- After warm-up do fast 10 singles in ZCNM (whatever weight that is comfortable to lifter and form isn’t broken), then drop back lighter for a set or two of reps. Is the fundamental pulling foundation for snatching and cleaning … remember hips down.

TRAINING DAY 9 (CONTEST SIMULATION DAY).
3 – SNATCH (Heavy Intensity) --- After warm-ups, do 10-12 singles CFA, each lift envision 3rd attempt in upcoming contest. If the lifter is cycling start by working up to the 90% (10-12 single buildup, then 126 x 3-5 singles that is included in the 10-12 single buildup, or whatever is desired) CFA and work in successive workouts to 95% (10 single buildup, then 132 x 3-5 singles that is included in the 10-12 single buildup, or whatever is desired) CFA - jumping 1% (1.1) each repeated workout.
3 – CLEAN & JERK (Heavy Intensity) --- After warm-ups, do 10-12 singles CFA, each lift envision 3rd attempt in upcoming contest. If the lifter is cycling start by working up to the 90% (10-12 single buildup, then 162 x 3-5 singles that is included in the 10-12 single buildup, or whatever is desired) CFA and work in successive workouts to 95% (10-12 single buildup, then 170 x 3-5 singles that is included in the 10-12 single buildup, or whatever is desired) CFA - jumping 1% (2.0.) each repeated workout.

TRAINING DAY 10 (Leisure Day) at coaches discretion.
Stretch, perhaps do core exercises, and spend quality time on an elliptical machine to enhance lower trunk mobility, ankles, knees, hips.

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NOTE: THESE TRAINING DAYS ARE NOT NECESSARILY CONSECUTIVE DAYS TRAINING. WORK, ESPECIALLY REST DAYS, CAN BE DETERMINED BY THE COACH/ LIFTER.

REPEAT THE ABOVE TRAINING DAY WORKOUTS BY FOLLOWING PROGRESSIVE PERCENTAGES CFA GUIDELINES. THE LIFTER CAN ADJUST HIS PERCENTAGES UPWARD ON THE LATER CONTEST SIMULATION DAYS IF DESIRED AND HE/SHE IS HITTING THE 95% LIFTS EASILY WITH ZERO MISSES.

AT THE DISCRETION OF THE COACH/LIFTER IF THEY FEEL THE NEED FOR MORE/LESS WORKLOAD THEY MAY INCREASE/DECREASE THE SINGLES TO FIT THE LIFTERS NEEDS AS TO AVOID THE POSSIBILITY OF OVERTRAINING OR UNDERTRAINING. USE GOOD COMMON SENSE.

Wishing you health, happiness, and great success in our wonderful sport,
Joe Dube, and brother, Virgil.

Revised: July 31. 2008