Using microdosing to teach the Olympic lifts

Recently I wrote an article on substitutions and alternatives for the Olympic lifts. Those of you who have not read the article may be asking why would you want any substitutes for Olympic Lifting? Why not just do the Olympic lifts? For some coaches the reason is that they take too much time to teach. For those coaches I have another option for you: microdosing. Teaching the Olympic lifts in small doses means that you don’t take time away from other forms of strength training to learn the basic lifts.

Every challenge is an opportunity

Each Summer I am presented with the challenge of preparing incoming freshman athletes for their upcoming fall seasons. I call this a challenge because I have a short amount of time to simultaneously teach them the skill of lifting and also get them stronger. Adding to the challenge is the logistical setup: 40-50 athletes per group to coach in less than an hour. Just doing standard Olympic lifting progressions in a group that size would take the whole session, without any time left over to really train.

So what is the answer to this problem of getting some quality strength training in and teaching the complex Olympic Lifting movements. My answer is mircodosing! 

In the past we have discussed how I set up my training sessions in modules. Each session will have essentially nine exercises split into three superset. I pair them up in this manner for efficiency. No athletes are ever standing around. I like to call it Active Recovery. As you can see in this example, the movements in each module also do not hinder each other in any way.

Module 1Module 2Module 3
Explosive: DB Jump ShrugLower Body: Goblet SquatPosterior Chain: Split Stance RDL
Core: V-UpUpper Body Pull: Inverted RowUpper Body Push: DB Bench
Mobility: Wall Ankle MobilityMobility: Shoulder DislocatesMobility: Pigeon Stretch

Finding time to teach Olympic lifting

There are two ways to easily incorporate Olympic lifting teaching progressions into this type of a program. First, you can choose Olympic variations as exercises in one of the modules. This is what I do. The first session of the week (above) has the dumbbell jump shrug. The second session has a dumbbell push press. And the third session has a dumbbell 1-arm snatch. You might only get a few reps with each exercises, but it adds up over time. And each dumbbell variation is easy to learn and the athletes don’t require feedback after each rep.

The other way to incorporate Olympic lifts comes from the program’s efficiency. With three to five sets of each module, a session will take anywhere from 30-40 minutes. This leaves us with 20-30 of extra time at the end of each session. This time can be used to more formally teach the Olympic lifts without sacrificing the core of the program.

After the first session we will do clean progressions: barbell jump shrug, drop squat, slow motion high pull to rack position, and then finally a hang clean. The second session will end with pressing: barbell push press, front jerk, and then front split jerk. The third session focuses on snatch progressions: barbell snatch grip jump shrug, snatch balance, slow motion pull to catch position, and then the high hang snatch.

Our typical foundational strength phase lasts four weeks. Therefore, the athletes will get four weeks of foundational strength work and four weeks of learning how to Olympic lift. After four weeks we move onto a basic strength phase and continue to work on the Olympic lifting progressions at the end of each session. I find after these two phases, each athlete has done so much pulling with dumbbells and barbells in eight weeks that they become very proficient at it. Through microdosing the Olympic lifts learn technique without sacrificing the time to build a foundation of strength. In other words, they get to have their cake and eat it too.