Olympic Lifting Programming

My previous post about Olympic lifting inspired a few readers to ask how to program an Olympic lifting routine.  Here I’ll share an approach that worked great for me.  A wonderful thing about this routine is that it can be adapted to just about any level of lifter, from beginner to advanced.

Let me start off by saying you really need to learn the basic technique of the snatch and clean and jerk before jumping into this program.  Otherwise, all of the reps you’ll be doing will end up reinforcing your technique flaws and make it harder to correct them later.  Your technique doesn’t have to be perfect, but you need to understand the fundamentals of the lifts with no serious errors like rounding the lower back, shooting the hips up early during the first pull, or swinging the bar out in front of you.  So with that out of the way…

The core of the routine looks like this:


Snatch – warm up, then 5 sets of 2 reps

Clean and Jerk –warm up, then 5 sets of 2 reps

Back squat – work up to an explosive triple with at least 125% of the C&J weight


Snatch – warm up, then 5 sets of 2 reps

Clean and Jerk –warm up, then 5 sets of 2 reps

Strict standing press from the rack – warm up, then 5 sets of 3 explosive reps


Snatch – warm up, then 5 sets of 2 reps

Clean and Jerk –warm up, then 5 sets of 2 reps

Front squat – work up to an explosive triple with at least 110% of the C&J weight


On the Olympic lifts, take your time warming up by gradually working up in weight for the day, and then do your 5 sets of 2 with a constant weight.  For example, if your top sets are planned for 215 lb, then start with the empty bar x 5, then 95 lbs x 3, 135 x 3, 155 x 2, 175 x 2, 195 x 2, and then 215 for 5 sets of 2.  Week 1 you should use weights that make it fairly easy to complete all of the reps without missing.  For your top sets, I suggest starting with 80% of your current 1RM, but if you aren’t consistent with that weight then you should start lower.  Do each rep with a sense of purpose… try to make each rep better, faster, and more effortless than the last.  Use the same weight on Mon, Wed, and Fri, then increase the top sets by a small amount (1 to 2.5 kilos) on the next Monday.  You should be able to increase the weight like that each week for at least 4-8 weeks before you start missing a bunch of reps, at which point you should take an easy week, test your 1 rep max, and back up and run the routine again.

On the front and back squats, make sure to squat deep and drive up explosively with the weight.  If the percentages I listed are very easy for you on the squats, either because you aren’t very proficient at the Olympic lifts or you have unusually strong legs, feel free to go a bit heavier.  Just beware that heavy grinding reps on the squat will take away some of the spring in your legs for a few days which will hurt your next snatch and clean and jerk workout.  The focus of this routine is the Olympic lifts, so it’s better not to go too heavy on the squats.

The exercises I listed up above for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday form the “core” of the routine, and that leaves room for some extra workouts if you have the time and recovery ability for it.  If you are totally focused on being an Olympic lifter, then your extra workouts should consist of lighter snatches and clean and jerks to get the blood flowing and to work on your speed and pulling technique.  I don’t recommend doing power cleans, power snatches, deadlifts, high pulls, or similar variations on this routine unless you are an advanced lifter because they can mess up the timing of your pull on the classic lifts (full snatch and full clean and jerk).  If you want to do a bit of bodybuilding style training for the showy muscles, extra workouts are a good time for that as well – just try not to overdo it to the point that it interferes with your Olympic lifting sessions.

There it is.  As you can see, the routine is based on doing many sets of the Olympic lifts throughout the week with a constant weight which will allow you to hone your technique and build strength that is specific to the lifts.  It uses doubles instead of singles because doubles allow you to adjust your technique, timing, and balance immediately on that second rep based on how the first rep felt.  Triples are not used on the classic lifts because they would require a lighter weight, and the fatigue on the third rep would tend to slow down the bar speed.  Ideally, you’ll have a training partner or video camera with you to provide feedback and help you iron out and wrinkles in your form.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Leave a Reply

Free 3 day pass

Please enter your information below to access your 3 day pass.