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The Use of Olympic Lifts and Their Derivatives to Enhance Athletic / Sporting Performance: A Mental Model

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A mental model for using olympic lifting and the derivatives of the lifts to enhance sporting performance.
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SPRT 719: UNDERSTANDING & ANALYSING SPORTING PERFORMANCE
THE USE OF THE OLYMPIC LIFTS & THEIR DERIVATIVES TO ENHANCE SPORTING
PERFORMANCE - A MENTAL MODEL
INTENDED AUDIENCE
This report is designed to inform all sporting practitioners that are involved in the physical
preparation of athletes, specifically sporting / technical coaches, strength & conditioning
specialists and medical staff.
MENTAL MODEL
Figure 1. Mental model for using the Olympic lifts and their derivatives to aid athletic
performance
This report explores the use of the Olympic weightlifting movements to enhance sporting
performance, with my mental model illustrated in figures 1 & 2.
MOVEMENT PATTERN
Weightlifting movements, and specifically the Olympic movements; snatch, and clean &
jerk, as well as their derivatives; hangs, pulls, blocks etc have been shown to provide a
superior training stimulus (Suchomel 2017) compared with other forms of training including
jumping (Tricoli 2005), powerlifting (Hoffman 2004) and kettlebell routines (Otto 2012).
The key element is in part, the similarities between the rate and pattern of ankle, knee and
hip extension that occurs during the specific movements (Suchomel 2017) which include
vertical jumping (Canavan 1996, Carlock 2004, Garhammer 1992, Hori 2008, Kawamori
2005, Stone 1980), sprinting (Hori 2008), and change of direction tasks (Hori 2008), of
which can be seen in figure 3, as well as the ability to provide an overload stimulus
(Suchomel 2015). Consequently, many Strength & Conditioning (S&C) coaches
implement the use of olympic lifts and their derivatives into the training programmes they
Figure 2. Components of the mental model for using the Olympic lifts and their
derivatives to aid athletic performance
Figure 3. Examples of triple extension within sporting contexts
design for athletes (Suchomel 2015).
One of the main considerations an S&C coach must apply is the transference of training to
sporting performance, and the patterning of extension found at ankle, knee and hip. Such
actions are often termed “triple extension” and are a vital part of sporting performance
characteristics across a range of sports. As mentioned above, the key similarities of
movement patterning found in the lifts and sport specific movements make the
implementation of the lifts and their derivatives clearly demonstrable. This allows the
practitioner to be extremely athlete centred / focused in their approach and aligning the
movement of a lift and the movements demonstrated in their given sporting context.
FRAMEWORK
The framework is the second component of the mental model, it explores the technicality
of the lifts. Whilst the coaching and application of the lifts may vary, the mechanics of
each lift do not. The olympic lifts and their derivatives can be broken down into specific
elements, first and second pull, transition, catch etc. Each element can be taught in
isolation and individual lifts, or conversely through a holistic approach to the full lift. For
example the hang clean incorporates a number of differing movements such as the mid
thigh pull, extension at the power position, pull and catch phases. The start and end
positions, and the movement through the phases, all have distinct movement
characteristics but can flow together in one coordinated movement. Despite the consistent
nature of an Olympic lift movement, there can be no “textbook” method due to individual
biomechanics and anthropometrics of participants.
One of the primary aims of the S&C coach is to reduce the likelihood of injury through the
enhancement of physical qualities. Teaching correct exercise technique and execution is
paramount in the daily role of the practitioner. It is readily apparent that novice lifters and
those new to the olympic lifts have difficulty learning the techniques, especially the full lifts
from the floor. The second pull phase exhibits higher force and power output than the first
pull (Garhammer 1980 & 1993), it may be better for strength coaches to introduce the
clean and snatch from the hang position (or from boxes) so that the technique is simplified
and lifters still take advantage of the second pull phase. My preferred method of coaching
is a top-down approach, teaching the catch first, then moving to second pull and adding
layers of complexity (transition, first pull) once the catch and second pull phases are at a
sound technical competency. For some, preparatory teaching of jumping and landing
mechanics may prove beneficial. For my model I have contextualised the model into four
stages (general preparation phase or GPP, novice, intermediate & advanced) with each
stage scaffolding on information from the previous stage. Each stage defines performance
solutions from three perspectives; technical, physical & psycho-social, and is illustrated in
figures 4 & 5.
I believe this contextualised information allows identification of key stages of competency
in which you can develop and enhance the athlete, monitor and record progression from a
number of variables. These variables are driven by the technical, physical and psycho-
social make up of each participant.
!
Figure 4. Contextualised aspect of the mental model, identifying technical, physical and
psycho-social concerns in regard to stages of development
!
FORCE-VELOCITY
The development of periodised planning (macro, meso and micro cycles) allows
progression of exercises throughout the year and can facilitate the optimal development of
the force-velocity (F-V) profiles of athletes (DeWeese 2015). Figure 6 displays the
physiological characterisitcs needed to generate force and velocity (Brady 2017). It is
imperative that close attention is payed to each component when analysing sporting
performance in relation to the individual athletes movement execution (Baker 2001,
Figure 5. Contextualised aspect of the mental model, identifying technical, physical
and psycho-social concerns in regard to stages of development
M o r r i s s e y 1 9 9 5 , S t o n e 2 0 0 2 ) .
!
Previous literature has suggested that the implementation of heavy and light loads,
utilising different exercises, completion of warm up sets enables the full development of
the athletes F-V profile (Haff 2012). Other training modalities such as plyometrics and
traditional resistance exercises have been shown to impact an athletes F-V profile
positively (Arabatzi 2010, Channell 2008, de Villareal 2011, Lake 2012). Traditionally,
when the olympic lifts have been programmed into an athletes meso / micro cycle, the full
lift including the catch phase is completed, and whilst previous research supports the
inclusion of the catch may train an athletes ability to absorb a load during impact activities
Figure 6. A graph showing the force-velocity curve, with selected physiological
characteristics
(Moolyk 2013). Conversely, more recent investigations have indicated the pulling
derivatives that exclude the catch may produce a similar or greater load absorption
stimulus (Suchomel 2017). Furthermore, research has demonstrated that weightlifting
pulling derivatives produce comparable (Comfort 2011) or greater (Kipp 2016, Suchomel
2016 & 2014) force, velocity, and power characteristics during the second pull compared
to weightlifting movements including the catch phase (Suchomel 2017). The use of
derivative lifts with non competitive weightlifters has a number of key benefits; pull only
derivatives produce a reduced technical demand allowing for the possibility of quicker
learning due to the reduction of technical complexities. Also, this approach may reduce
injury potential due to the relatively neutral position of the shoulders, elbows, and wrists
during the second pull phase (Stone 2006).
Figure 7 illustrates the theoretical relationship between force and velocity with special
consideration to weightlifting derivatives (Suchomel 2017). The derivatives of Olympic lifts
can be broken down into where they fall on the curve. Lifts such as mid thigh pull (Comfort
2015, DeWeese 2013, Kawamori 2006), countermovement shrug (DeWeese 2012), pull
from the knee (DeWeese 2016), and pull from the floor (DeWeese 2012, Haff 2003, Wicki
2014) appear on the high force end of the scale as they enable the athlete to use loads in
excess of respective 1RM of their hang power & power clean. Lift derivatives such as the
jump shrug (Suchomel 2014) and high hang or power position pull (Suchomel 2014)
appear at the high velocity end of the curve due to the ballistic nature of the movements,
as well as the necessity to use lighter loads with those lifts. Due to the versatility of the
olympic lifts and the wide range of forces and velocities that can be utilised, various
physiological characteristics can be developed such as maximal strength (Suchomel 2015,
Suchomel 2017). Research has shown that the mid thigh pull can be programmed up to
140% of 1RM (Comfort 2015 & 2012) which would enhance high force production capacity
(Suchomel 2017). Figure 8 (Suchomel 2017) expands upon the information presented in
figure 7, and offers a more detailed proposal of how prescribed loading may offer the S&C
!
coach the ability to manipulate force-velocity characteristics of their athletes (Suchomel
2017). Suchomel 2017 proposed the following guidelines; Blue = studied loads, Red =
hypothetical loads; Grey = Comparable force-velocity characteristics at given load ranges.
For the majority of sports performances, power output is the critical mechanical quantity
required rather than force production, namely strength (Newton 1994). Power is the ability
of the neuromuscular system to perform work over a given time period or, alternatively, the
product of force that can be exerted at a given velocity of movement (Hori 2005). Newton
& Dugan 2002 proposed seven independent qualities contribute to an athlete’s power
capacity; maximal strength, strength-speed (high load), speed-strength (low load) rate of
Figure 7. The force-velocity graph indicating where the Olympic lift derivatives may occur
force development (RFD), reactive strength, performance of skill and power endurance.
!
Each sport will require different combinations and varying degrees of these qualities, and
this allows the variety of exercises, forces and velocities inherent in the implementation of
the olympic lifts to match specific demands. The development of F-V profiles for athletes
will assist in the needs analysis of the individual and allow a greater focus of training
through structured and progressive programme design. The mental model can be
“operationalised” as demonstrated in figure 9 to further expand upon the needs / wants
analysis of the individual and sport.
Figure 8. Illustration demonstrating the percentage of 1RM, velocities and ranges of
similar F-V characteristics
Figure 9. Operational aspect of the mental model, identifying how the various
components can be implemented on an individual basis
The mental model allows the practitioner to identify the specific needs of the athlete and
sport through analysis of the movement patterns and force-velocity requirements of those
actions, and then applying a framework of competency at an individual level which allows
for the recording of progression.
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