First, let’s understand that the “Big 3” power lifts — squat, deadlift, and bench press— serve as key building blocks to the Olympic lifts. As much as CrossFitters may hate to believe it, building the three powerlifts stronger will transfer to bigger Oly lifts; however, many CrossFitters simply don’t understand the correlation between the two.
We continuously have athletes put 20-25 pounds on each of the Oly lifts in a short period of time through not working them in a max fashion, but instead working on them using speed techniques and with lighter percentages. Instead of max Oly’s, they focus on building a bigger box squat, bench and deadlift. Here we are looking at how to grow the Oly’s through the “Big 3″ powerlifts.
The “Big 3″ Build Absolute Strength
As an example, let’s look at my buddies Kane Greene at CrossFit Fairbanks and the crew out at Golden Empire in Bakersfield, CA. Both of these facilities stopped beating their heads against the wall with the slow gain grind of standard Oly training. Both started to understand that the same approach that helps gain strength for the power lifts also helped grow the Oly lifts, but max Oly lift training alone did little to improve themselves. Simply put, the powerlifts will grow the Olympic lifts.
This approach has brought both of the aforementioned facilities to new heights. In fact, Kane has broken and now holds many Olympic lift state records using this approach. Tim Nakashima’s Golden Empire gym has a current world record bencher from the exact same approach. Most of the CrossFit facilities I am working with now use this approach with great success. The crew at 7 Mile in Cayman in another example. They are crushing all previous PRs and making a nice name for themselves.
Why does this approach work? The main factor is increasing strength in your weaker areas. Strength is paramount in CrossFit, yet the fact that it is a multi-faceted sport means it must be approached with situational training methods and need application must apply. You must attack all training aspects of the sport.
The need for overall strength gained through training for the “Big 3” powerlifts correctly as part of your routine will spark the growth across the board, including the Oly lifts. It will help your endurance as well — if you can squat 500lbs, you will need to use less energy to complete a required task then someone who can only squat 250lbs.
The fact is that the strength gained in getting a big squat using this method can be easily transferred to bigger Oly lifting because you are not discontinuing the Oly mechanics entirely; you are just not working them maximally. Therefore the bio-mechanical pattern remains intact. If you were to abandon the movement altogether, it would still not take you long to get it back and you would have greater strength to use.