The Benefits of Olympic Weightlifting for CrossFit Athletes

Another great post from Marcia! She is CF-1 certified and also has coaching certifications ‎in the sports of Olympic Lifting and Wrestling. Marcia trains out of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Check out her blog, The Snatch Monologues, for more lifting tips!

In every CrossFit gym, you will find a variety of athletes. Everyone has a different body type and has different strengths and weaknesses in the gym. This is often determined by an individual's past athletic experience and genetics.  With some exceptions, most athletes at the box can be categorized into one of the following categories: Endurance, Metcon, or Strength.

The Olympic lifts, the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk, are sometimes overlooked by the general CrossFit athlete.  Why? Because these lifts are difficult and require time to develop appropriate technique. It is much easier for a new gym goer to successfully pick up a deadlift, as compared to hitting a technically sound snatch on their first day in the gym. 

In my experience as both a coach and as an athlete, I have found that after adding Olympic weightlifting to your programming, your CrossFit abilities improve. Therefore, I highly recommend that the general CrossFit athlete should consider focusing on the O-lifts as a performance enhancer.

1. Strength. Resistance training in general will develop strength. Common strength exercises used frequently in CrossFit programming include squats and deadlifts. While these movements are very efficient at increasing strength in specific muscle groups, becoming proficient at the Olympic lifts increases overall strength. The stronger you become, the easier it is to move loads at those prescribed weights!  Don't get me wrong, "Fran" will always be an uncomfortable workout - but when the prescribed weight is 50% of your 1-rep max rather than 90%, the 21-15-9 repetitions of thrusters aren't quite so terrible.

2. Power. Being strong is important to athletes, but power - the ability to display strength quickly - has greater implications to performance. Executing the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk results in significantly greater power output than other strength movements. Increased power will enable the CrossFit athlete to proceed through repetitions, much more quickly. Suddenly,  that Clean ladder that coach has programmed doesn't quite take you as much time to complete!

3. Flexibility. Many athletes, including myself, have the tendency to overlook the importance of flexibility.  Frequent O-lifts drills with an emphasis on proper technique will assist in improving flexibility - especially in the hip and shoulder areas. While lifting will help your flexibility, there is no excuse for omitting a regular stretching routine. Stretching and mobilization will help keep your body resistant to injury, help prevent compensatory muscle patterns and are critical to improving your performance in the gym.

Hopefully, adding more Olympic weightlifting to your training will help you reach your full potential as a CrossFitter.

Photo: Guelph Barbell Club member Jadon Hammill executing the snatch.

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