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Olympic Lifts & Stone Training Similarities

This summer, many athletes, just like the one in the post below, are walking onto the platform in Beijing and competing in Olympic weightlifting, and I have been watching as much of this event that I am lucky enough to catch broadcast on television and streamed on the internet. These world records lifts are the result of years of preparation, attention to detail, technique, and discipline, and because of all this, I have much respect for the athletes who attain a level of performance that propels them to the Olympic trials.

For many years, strength coaches have realized the importance of including the Olympic lifts in the athletic routine because they mimic the specific movement patterns and share many of the same qualities of many sports. The main two lifts, the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch as well as the many break-down lifts that are used to train for the main two are outstanding lifts for sport preparation for many reasons.

Sports-Specific Benefits of Olympic Lifts

One of the reasons for the strong appeal of the Olympic lifts is due their closed-chain, ground-based nature. Since the athlete is generating force through the feet and into the floor, it is said they are closed-chain, and ground-based.

To this end, these lifts have an excellent crossover for sports, especially those that involve running, leaping and throwing. Other common gym lifts, such as the bench press and leg press are not ground based because the athlete is positioned on a bench or inside a machine, missing the mark when it comes to the need for imitating sports-specific force development movement patterns.

Closely related to this is Triple Extension, the rapid extension of the hips, knees and ankles. This movement is found in almost all sports. It can be seen in hockey, basketball, baseball, football, soccer, 100-yard dash, shot put, discus, and many more. Completing the Olympic lifts depends on the force generating from triple extension as well as the firing of other major muscle groups.

Olympic lifts are also complex in nature, meaning they involve movement over several joints. Many sports involve powerful movements that require coordinated function and firing of musculature over many joints. Thus it is often believe that the Olympic lifts and their breakdown lifts are excellent for the athletic strength-training program. In comparison, while single-joint exercises like curls, reverse curls and tricep pushdowns have their value for strengthening the elbow flexors and maintaining the elbow injury-free, they should not be the primary focus of the athlete.

Another important aspect about the Olympic lifts is that they are posterior chain dominant movements. In other words, they put a tremendous focus on the muscles on the back side of the body. Although the hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors and soleus muscles don’t show up when you look in the mirror, they are some of the strongest muscles in the body and some of the most important when it comes to athleticism.

Just one other feature of the Olympic lifts that makes them excellent choices to include in the athletic strength training protocol is their rate of power output. In research documented in the article Movement Pattern Specificity /Advantages of Using Pulling Movements, the authors Gattone, Schilling, Pierce, and Byrd noted the power out put of several traditional gym lifts as well as various portions of the Olympic lifts.

The comparison is staggering. Where more traditional lifts such as the bench press, squat and deadlift yielded power outputs of 300, 1100 and 1100, respectively, the Snatch produced 3000, the Clean, 2950, and the Jerk, 5400. In other words, there is a tremendous potential to develop extremely powerful athletes by incorporating the Olympic lifts and their breakdowns.

However, as great as the Olympic lifts are, there is one downside to them. They are phenomenally technical. Doing them properly in order to fully take advantage of all of the possible benefits of them depends on having an experienced, knowledgeable, and patient coach.

This summer in the Olympic Games, when the weightlifters are standing with hundreds of pounds aloft, you can rest assured that it is all a result of years of preparation and attention to technique. Unfortunately, this level of technicality is the reason that many athletic programs do not include these lifts in the strength training routine. Many athletes who could seriously benefit from time training these lifts will either never get the opportunity to perform them, or may attempt them on their own and end up with an injury.

Fortunately, there is another style of training that shares all of these benefits of the Olympic lifts: Closed-chain & ground-based movement patterns, Triple Extension, Complex Movement (multi-joint involvement), Posterior Chain Dominance, and Extreme Power output. This training style is Stone Lifting.

Stone Lifting

Stone Lifting is a common event in the sport of Strongman. It involves wrapping the arms around a round stone called an Atlas Stone and drawing it from ground level, up the athlete’s body and loading it on top of a platform. Strongman training is another type of training that is growing in popularity at all levels of training including the university and collegiate level, but many do not realize how similar stone lifting is to the Olympic lifts.

For instance, here is a pictorial comparison between the Olympic Clean and Jerk and an Atlas Stone lift starting from the floor and progressing through to the loading portion.


Set-up for the Clean

In the Clean, the athlete begins by bending down and grasping the bar. In the Stone Lift, the athlete begins by bending down and wrapping the arms around the stone. While these positions are not identical, the principles are very similar.

First Pull / Pull to Lap

First Pull for the Clean First Pull for the Stone

In the first pull of the Clean, the athlete begins to move into a more upright position, pulling the bar upward. In the first full of the Stone Lift, the athlete pulls the stone upwards, above the knee.

Second Pull / Near Lap

Second Pull - Clean Second Pull - Stone

Next, in the Clean, the athlete slightly re-bends the knees and then moves into the second pull, drawing the bar upwards near the hips and waist. At this point in the Stone lift, the athlete continues to pull the stone upwards as high as possible.

These two phases do not quite resemble one another as much as the rest of this series of freeze-frames, due to the inherent differences of the two movements, but you will see in just a moment that the Second Pull of the Clean, the component of Triple Extension in the movement, closely resembles a different portion of the Stone Lift coming up.

Catch / Lap

Catch - Clean Lap - Stone

Next, in the Clean, with a great flexion of the trapezius muscles the athlete pulls the bar upwards while quickly pulling himself under the bar, catching it on the front delt/clavicle area. In the stone lift, the athlete begins to drop the hips low enough to support the stone on his thighs and re-grip the stone.

Recovery / Loading Phase

Recovery - Clean Loading Phase - Stone

Now in the Clean, the athlete returns to the upright position, readying himself for the Jerk. The Clean is complete and the Jerk is ready to be started. Similarly, at this point in the Stone Lift, the athlete fires the hips and extends the back, propelling the stone upwards and outwards in the loading phase.

At this point, you can also see that the Loading Phase of the Stone Lift is where Triple Extension comes in. This phase is similar to the Second Pull of the Clean, shown above.

As you can see, these two movements are very similar. In fact, many of the events in Strongman follow the same movement patterns as the Olympic Lifts, especially the Clean and Jerk. At this time, I have found no research or studies on Stone Lifting and the actual force that is generated in lifting stones. However, I think it is safe to assume that the force production is similar, especially when you consider that the purpose of stone lifting is to do so quickly and powerfully!

Closed-chain & ground-based movement patterns, Triple Extension, Complex Movement (multi-joint involvement), Posterior Chain Dominance, and Extreme Power Output are benefits that are shared between both the Olympic Lifts and Stone Lifting. Both of these types of training will lead to outstanding carryover for athletes in all sports!

Of course, Stone Lifting is not without its own technicality and risk. For that reason, you should not enter into it blindly.

You need a resource that will show you how to get the most out of stone training while doing it safely – Check out our DVD – Stone Lifting Fundamentals.

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One Response to “Olympic Lifts & Stone Training Similarities”

  1. ian Says:

    awesome article.

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