Should Rugby Players Olympic Lift? Yes, Our 10 reasons

Here at Rugby Renegade we love the olympic lifts and they make up an important part of our training programmes. We understand that they aren’t for everyone however and have given great alternatives to help develop power for rugby. But the olympic lifts seem to have taken a bit of a bashing lately and we feel its worth defending and showing our reasoning for using them as part of our rugby performance approach. Here are our 10 reasons rugby players should olympic lift:

1. Teaches You To Be Explosive

Thats right! to complete the lifts you need to apply force rapidly to the bar. No speed, no lift! Often you see players just trying to get bigger and stronger but neglecting explosiveness. The Olympic Lifts are a great way to teach explosiveness and bar speed. Variations from the Hang or blocks are also great for developing Rate of Force Development too.

2. Eccentric Control

It is often thought that the olympic lifts involve a limited eccentric phase and this is why you can recover from them more easily than squats. But when you really consider it they actually involve a rapid eccentric and teach control of an eccentric which is extremely important for injury prevention and change of direction. Catching a heavy load that is falling rapidly and controlling the eccentric is a great athletic skill to develop.

3. Can be adapted to the F-V Curve

We have discussed how important it is to train along the force-velocity curve before, and various studies have shown the differing force and power characteristics of olympic lift variants. This makes them perfect to use with players to change the stimulus for them and periodise a training program effectively. To see which variants are better for each physical quality check out this article:

Power Output Comparison of Power Clean, Hang Power Clean & High Hang Power Clean

4. Explosive Triple Extension

When writing a programme it is important to cover all the fundamental movements that are produced in sport. As important as the squat is in improving rugby performance it doesn’t load an explosive triple extension in the way the olympic lifts do. Even if the athlete isn’t as proficient as you’d like in terms of technique they can still train triple extension using pulls and high pulls.

why rugby players should olympic lift

5. Tells You a lot about your mobility

To get really good at the olympic lifts you need good levels of mobility. The snatch especially is a great indicator of ones mobility. It in itself can be used to assess someones mobility at ankles, hips and their thoracic spine. Of course rugby players aren’t the best example of the most mobile athletes and you could argue they don’t need to be. However, being able to see if their mobility is improving whilst training is more effective than overdoing movement screening. It would be nice to see that your mobility work is carrying over to the exercises you perform in the gym.

6. Strong Grip

We’ve written about the importance of grip strength for rugby players before. Yes you maybe getting good grip training from deadlifts, upper body pulling exercises and direct grip work, but that doesn’t compare to gripping a heavy bar and lifting it explosively. Remember your grip will be challenged at speed in a game, not for reps!

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7. Mental Toughness

Gym training shouldn’t just be confined to improving physiology. It is a great place to build work ethic, discipline and mental toughness. Olympic lifts, as anyone who has done them can attest, takes balls! Throwing a heavy weight over head can be pretty daunting. Training the olympic lifts can become frustrating at times but learning how to overcome the difficulties teaches very valuable lessons and when an athlete succeeds provides great confidence and motivation. Athletes who master the olympic lifts will be mentally stronger and more confident.

fitness for rugby renegade

8. Builds Acceleration

You often hear of stories about olympic lifters beating sprinters over the first 10m of a race and it is clear that the nature of their training will improve acceleration. In a sport where most sprint efforts are short duration and acceleration is king (like rugby!) training with moderate loads explosively in a more hip dominant movement ticks all the boxes. Add to that plyometrics, and sprints and you will accelerate your gains (no pun intended!).

Get Stronger For Rugby

9. Prepares You For Contact

In a sport where you collide with 100kg+ objects it almost makes sense to train by throwing a heavy weight up in the air and then catch it on your shoulders! The postural control you need to control the catch of the clean can be a great stimulus to prepare players for the chaotic environment they will face in a tackle situation. The ability of the shoulder (aswell as other joints) to absorb force is extremely useful for a rugby player and hugely important for injury prevention. We like to think of cleans as armour building a la Dan John

10. Not That Difficult to Coach

Probably the biggest criticism of the olympic lifts is that they are difficult to teach/learn. Firstly, you don’t need to have the technique Dimitry Klokov to get the benefits of the olympic lifts and secondly, they just aren’t that difficult to coach. Here are two videos that demonstrate simple and easy ways to coach the olympic lifts:

Plus here are two articles to help you with common problems in the clean and snatch:

Common Snatching Tips

Fix Mistakes With Your Clean

Wrap Up

Hopefully that justifies the use of the olympic lifts in the Rugby Renegade program and potentially your own rugby strength and conditioning training. We understand that not everyone will be excellent olympic lifters but we know they can get tons out of them. If you want “Bang for your Buck” the olympic lifts and their variations might just be the ticket!

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