Training ‘Explosive Strength’ With the (Partial) Olympic Lifts
We much prefer to cherry pick from the Olympic family of lifting rather than perform a deep dive into their full catalog. When doing so, we are looking for high impact movements (not impact as in ‘landing’, impact as in ‘benefit’) that provide a very high rate of return on your effort, don’t take ages to get get good at, and can be progressed reasonably well for about a decade.
Enter: the push jerk and the hang power clean. For the sake of easy communication, we’re going to focus on the push jerk as to not be scattered, but understand that the benefits that we list below are very reasonably similar in the hang power clean.
Sitting smack dab in the middle of the simple to complex spectrum, like anything that represents middle ground this movement can be used by any person to get explosively strong and athletic, a trait we believe in very much.
- Simple (not easy): Strict Press
- Little Harder: Push Press
- Sort of Complex: Push Jerk (below)
- Complex: Split Jerk (‘Performance’ option)
The reasons that the push jerk makes our list of foundational barbell strength movements are as follows:
Explosive Strength (aka Power)
Where the back squat and deadlift are excellent at training absolute strength, the push jerk excels in training strength through velocity. We are not recruiting as many muscle fibers in this list, but we’re recruiting them to contract more quickly and enhance our ability to produce power.
Training power increases testosterone levels, which is a critical hormone for defeating body fat for both men and women. Yes, ladies. We strongly encourage you not to fear the word ‘testosterone’. It doesn’t mean you’re going to grow a mustache, as there’s far more to this wonderful hormone than Chad and Brad getting into a pissing contest at El Prez. Testosterone is naturally produced by all humans for many reasons, and the levels released from power-based lifting support the addition and maintenance of healthy lean body mass, as well as a healthy metabolism. Studies have also shown that it can help decrease fatigue and even fight depression in women.
Not to mention, training the body to produce faster muscle contraction has strength carryover to everything else related to your all around fitness and physique.
Complete Kinetic Chain
There really is not a muscle in your body that isn’t being worked in some fashion when you press something overhead. Could we have just said, “every muscle is worked?” Sure. But that doesn’t quite hammer home the point quite as dramatically. While true, the push jerk is a great movement to train and build upper body strength, you probably didn’t realize that it’s also one of the best lower body power movements and core transfer of force movements we can perform, did you?
- Lower Body Power –– The power has to always come from somewhere and in this instance (and really in any instance), it comes from the legs and the “drive”. After all, how else do you imagine that momentum is generated?
- Transfer of Force –Power generated from your legs is worthless if a weak core can’t keep it going to your upper body. Any overhead lift trains this core skill quite well. Think about your core as the translator that keeps the upper body and lower body talking to one another in a movement, and you want it speaking clearly at all times.
If you weren’t really sold on any of this, just understand one simple concept. When you train power, your body is always going to change favorably. There is no wrong that can come from your musculoskeletal and nervous system learning how to move large loads quickly in a safe and responsible manner.