Rick Scarpulla: Power Lift to Get Stronger Olympic Lifts

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by RICK SCARPULLA

Rick Scarpulla: Power Lift to Get Stronger Olympic Lifts

[T]he 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.
Building bigger Oly lifts is something every CrossFitter wants and needs to do to continue making progress toward their quest of being a better competitor. Again we are back to those key phrases –“explosive power” and “absolute strength” — because bigger Oly’s require added explosive power and more absolute strength.

First, let’s understand that the “Big 3” power lifts — squatdeadlift, 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

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.

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.
Being good at the “Big 3” power lifts will not automatically translate to bigger Oly lifts; you must still work them with technique and speed. Yet if you use this approach to build the “Big 3,” it will have an absolute strength carry-over that will translate to the application of the Olympic lifts. Just doing the Oly lifts themselves is akin to running a 40-yard sprint over and over to get faster at the 40. That type of training only works for a beginner; an intermediate to advanced athlete will soon run aground, resulting in halted progress and increased frustration. An intermediate athlete will need to work the different areas of the task at hand — in this case, running the 40 — in order to see gains, and the same is true of trying to improve the Oly 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.

Crushing PRs using this method
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.

By growing your squat and deadlift, you will have a large increase in overall lower body and core strength. By making the bench grow you will have more power in all pressing movements. This is accomplished not just by doing the “Big 3” powerlifts, but also by using the proper accessory work that complements that growth.
As for your exercise selection — especially at the early stages of development —  it is very important, as the wrong selections too often may hinder your progress.

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.

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