5 Olympic-Lifting Variations For Runners

Runners can greatly benefit from Olympic-style weightlifting. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Looking at five explosive weightlifting exercises that can help runners’ strength.

Traditionally, explosive weightlifting has been reserved for sprinters, but distance runners can also benefit from including these power-producing exercises in their strength and conditioning program. In addition to traditional strength training and plyometric exercises, the Olympic lifts and their variations can help runners improve their potential for performance.

The Science

Power is the amount of force you can produce in a given moment in time. Therefore, the more powerful you are, the more force you can develop in less time. Powerful runners have a higher level of relative strength and can tap into their fast twitch muscle fibers better than weaker runners. According to recent research, you may want to get better at being powerful if you want to improve your racing potential.

Findings from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that runners of different distances had better race performances if they also possessed the ability to develop force quickly. The researchers took NCAA Division I track athletes from several disciplines (sprints, middle and long distance race distances) and tested their power producing ability using a multiple jump test. After measuring power performance, they found a significant correlation between power producing ability and race performance in all subjects. In other words, the more explosive runners were able to run faster race times. To target your fast twitch muscle fibers, runners must incorporate explosive-type exercises into their weekly routine.

Your Olympic-Lifting Variations

The Olympic lifts such as the clean and jerk and snatch are excellent exercises for developing explosive power and athleticism. The full versions of the clean and snatch are very technical exercises that can take up valuable time and energy to learn. Instead, you can perform less technical versions but still reap all the benefits.

Referred to as pulls, these Olympic lifting variations involve the important ankle, knee and hip extension—known as triple extension—involved in the full versions, but do not include the difficult catch phase. Additionally the Olympic lifts can be performed with dumbbells or a sandbag with handles, which are much easier to learn.

Below are exercises that focus on power development. Choose which exercise works best for you and perform 1-2 times per week.

Clean High Pull

How To Do It: Stand with your feet hip width apart with the barbell inline with the top of your laces. Squat down and grab the bar with a double overhand grip shoulder width apart. Stick out your butt and chest and arch your lower back. Pull your shoulders back and keep most of the weight in the middle of your feet. Brace your abs and push the floor away. Lift the bar upward keeping it close to your body. Once the bar passes your knees explosively extend your hips and pull the bar upward toward chest level. Carefully catch the bar and return it to the floor in preparation for the next rep.

Prescription: Perform 3-5 sets of 3 repetitions. Take 2-minutes rest between sets.

Snatch High Pull

How To Do It: Stand with your feet hip width apart with the barbell inline with the top of your laces. Squat down and grab the bar with a double overhand grip two times shoulder width apart. Stick out your butt and chest and arch your lower back. Pull your shoulders back and keep most of the weight in the middle of your feet. Brace your abs and push the floor away. Lift the bar upward keeping it close to your body. Once the bar passes your knees explosively extend your hips and pull the bar upward toward chest level. Carefully catch the bar and return it to the floor in preparation for the next rep.

Prescription: Perform 3-5 sets of 3 repetitions. Take 2-minutes rest between sets.

Single Arm Dumbbell Snatch

How To Do It: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart while straddling a dumbbell. Squat down and grab the dumbbell with your right hand. Stick your butt and chest out and arch your lower back. Brace your abs and swing your left arm back. Explode upward as if jumping off the ground. Pull the weight upward and catch the weight overhead with a straight arm while slightly squatting. Stand fully. Return the dumbbell to the ground in preparation for the next repetition.

Prescription: Perform 3-5 sets of 3 repetitions per side. Take 2-minutes rest between sets.

Ultimate Sandbag Power Clean

How To Do It: Stand behind your sandbag and grip the parallel handles. Tuck your toes slightly under the sandbag and pull it closer to your shins; your knees should be slightly bent with your hips flexed, back and arms straight and chest out. Take the slack out of the bag. Explosively extend your knees and hips to accelerate the sandbag upward. Pull upward and sweep your arms under the sandbag as to receive the bag in the crooks of your arms. Your knees and hips should be slightly flexed to help absorb the shock upon receiving the bag. Stand fully. Roll the bag off your arms and return the bag to the ground in preparation for the next repetition.

Prescription: Perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions. Take 2-minutes rest between sets.

Ultimate Sandbag High Pull

How To Do It: Stand behind your sandbag and grip the parallel handles. Tuck your toes slightly under the sandbag and pull it closer to your shins; your knees should be slightly bent with your hips flexed, back and arms straight and chest out. Take the slack out of the bag. Explosively extend your knees and hips to accelerate the sandbag upward. Pull upward until the bag reaches approximately chest height. Let the bag return to the ground and prepare for the next repetition.

Prescription: Perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions. Take 2-minutes rest between sets.

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About The Author: 

Jon-Erik Kawamoto, CSCS, CEP is a runner, strength coach and owner of JKConditioning in St. John’s, NL, Canada. Jon specializes in strength training distance runners and is currently in the middle of preparing a strength training resource for runners. Stay in touch by checking out www.JKConditioning.com.

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