Olympic Lifts and Young Athletes?

Young Athletes


Young Athletes Performing Olympic Lifts?


Yes or No?


Teach them so you can use them in programming?


Recognize space, time and technique limitations so teach ‘3-joint-explosition’ in a different way?


Lots of opinions regarding Young Athletes


… And I want to hear yours.


Leave your thoughts below:




For blueprints for Learning Everything About Olympic Lift Training, Technique Instruction, Programming and Adjunct Exercise Selection click the link below.


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21 Responses

  1. Nick says:

    Brian: I luv the topic as well! I used to stay away from it when I first got in the biz. Now I luv introducing my 12 & ups to olympic lifts just heavily supervised to ensure they are always doing light weights to optimize hip flexion and really learn correct technique before they move into the HS years, especially with the explosive lifts – power cleans & hang cleans. – never ever more than 70% even for the 12-14 since they r goin thru the growth spurts. We mainly focus on body weight – pull ups, vert. crunches, etc. , dbells, kettles, and bands for the 12 and unders. I explain the simple rule of mother nature & survival of fittest before we got soft with industrial age. Kids should be able to handle their own body weight because there was a time when chased by a predator you had to escape or pull yourself into a tree or a ledge. We let them use the small weighted bars or straight bars or just a stick when Olympic lifting to get them great technique & keep them excited about working out like the older kids. They luv it!

  2. Joseph says:

    I absolutely believe in teaching any child the Olympic lifts. Teach a child the proper technique and not about the weight will the give the child in later year an advantage. Even though I don’t have a child of my own at the moment I recommend this to all my young players parents. And of course you have to make it fun for them. Thanks for you program I just picked it up yesterday and I really can’t wait to go through it.

  3. Andrew english says:

    I think olympic lifting is potentially the best thing you can do in a gym for an athlete whos sport requires core strength, flexibility, and explosiveness.
    The important thing to remember is that it is exactly that- it’s own sport! To think it’s something you just squeeze into an hour session with a kid or randomly throw in 50 cleans as fast as you can into a routine like cross fit does is where we go wrong. People spend years learning to do a proper olympic lifting move and still can’t master them. It requires hours of hard work and commitment just like any other sport.
    So, I think yes a young athlete can do Olympic lifting as long as you have the following : 1) a coach who knows how to do these lifts and communicate it to a kid 2) an athlete who is mature enough smart enough to take cues from a coach 3) enough time to learn it – he/ she is not restricted to a short timeline. 4) a kid who is willing to spend hours practicing it if he wants to be any good at it. If he or she is working from scratch than make sure you have a few years to teach it.
    There are young athletes who can pick this up but I have many adults who can’t understand how to position themselves for a proper deadlift and don’t have the patience to want to learn how.

  4. Steve Darling says:

    I teach the Olympic Clean to my 13 and 14 year old athletes. We obviously spend a majority of the overall workout working on the elements that an Olympic Lifter and an athlete needs – ankle mobility, hip moblility, core stability, T-spine mobility, strong scap stabilizers, shoulder mobility etc….. which also help improve their FMS testing scores. They are at a great age to begin to be introduced to this style of training. They all start with stick, move to light bar, and then a heavier bar. Technique is assessed during each workout. After a few years of training and gradual progressions they make tremendous strides in all areas of athleticism – speed, power, strength, mobility/stability etc. I strongly feel olympic lifts are a tremendous tool for all atheltes. There are no true substitutions. The benefits are huge, but they must be trained properly and monitored for consisitentcy, which can be challenging. Similar to my belief that partipating in a solid gymnastics porgram at a young age gives athletes a tremendous advantage by developing balance, stability, mobility, coordination, etc. at a young age. Athletes who have had a gymastic background tend to learn and execute the olympic lifts (and other exercises) much quicker vs. an athlete who has only participated in a few general team sports.

    I also teach the Hang and Power snatch to my advanced high school and collegiate athletes. Using other tools such as Kettlebells, Medballs, DB’s etc. to perform similar explosive exercises are good and can produce some similar gains, but I strongly feel the true Olympic Lifts cannot be matched.

  5. Travis says:

    As always, I’d say it depends, but I’d err on the side of no, simply because there are other effective ways of teaching hip extension and explosion. Olympic lifting does have the potential to be dangerous if not done correctly, so only have the kid do it if they have progressed effectively through other similar movements (i.e. a good squatting pattern, especially the front squat, RDL, etc.). Also, you’ve got to consider their sport. Are they an overhead athlete? If so, I’d keep an eye on how their GH joint is handling the front squat, and we’d only go light weight on a snatch, or not at all if they seem to have a lot of congenital laxity. However, why risk it if you’re on the fence about it? That wouldn’t be smart- you’ve gotta watch out for the kid first before you try to make them a beast at their sport. #1 priority of a performance/strength coach: Keep your athletes healthy.

  6. Joseph Hanson says:

    Following the USAW text book, a coach prepares an athlete to be ready mentally and physically for the olympic lifts. There is absolutely nothing wrong with snatching pitchers and quaterbacks. However, if your quaterback or pitcher has elbow/shoulder problems, they are not able to do the lifts. We add anywhere from 2 to 8 mph by snatching pitchers. We took a 10 year old benchwarmer on his dad’s little league team and turned him into a D-1 pitcher. He competed in meets. We have a swimmer with such terrible thoracic spine mobility, we can’t put a stick overhead. The lifts are fine- we have 3 under 14 AAU Junior Olympic Champion weightlifters who play other sports. Teach technique, don’t worry about the amount of weight for months, don’t even keep track of the amount of weight, and make the kid feel like a million bucks for doing it right. Unless there are structural issues/mobility issues every athlete we have does Power, split and squat cleans and snatches with bars and dumbbells.

  7. Eric Driver says:

    I am training two high school athletes with herniated discs caused from olympic lifting because their football coaches made them do them as part of the program but didnt adequately develop strength prior to doing so and also didnt properly coach them in the lift technique. On one hand I dont blame them for not knowing, and on the other hand I blame them for being ignorant of getting help when you dont know what your doing.
    BTW, the college athletes I train, use OL’s one adequately trained prior. We dont progress unless they are developed to a certain standard.
    Health and Performance should be high on the pedestal.

  8. Charlie says:

    I strongly believe in teaching young kids the proper fundamentals of olympic lifts. I usually find young kids have very good flexibility and range of motion to be very efficient at these lifts.
    Keeping in mind that every kid develops differently than the other.
    I train a 14 year old hockey player who is very mechanically able to do these lifts. The strength gains he reaps from these lifts are phenomenal. I also train a 14 year old baseball player who is not ready to do these lifts with added weight. I do use a light body bar to teach form and use it as a dynamic warm up though.
    So I think you have to understand each athlete and take time to teach proper form and execution. I believe every young kid should be using some time of olympic lift because they are very functional for sports.

  9. Larry Binion says:

    I am a strong proponent of teaching our young athletes olympic lifts. It is our responbsibility as the “educated” in our industry to teach the kids the proper form and integrate into their training. As I keep telling my kids, “Form before Force!” They must always focus on proper form. If we fail to do so, we run the risk of turning them over to their high school coach who puts together a training program of what he did “back in the day” and never teaches form, leading to, among other things, herniated discs in High School athletes(I was among this unfortunate group-2 low back surgeries by age 22!).

  10. Mike Kozak says:


    You hit it on the head when you said time, space and technique limitations. If I have 1 on 1 time with a 14yr old who has been in my program for months – then maybe we look at working on some Hang Cleans. To me, MB throws, Squat Jumps and 1 arm DB snatches are WAY easier to teach and work into group settings then Hang Cleans. The key is progression.

    I have seen to many bad Hang Cleans with no triple extension and too much lumbar flexion and extension in my experience. If I know a kid has to do them at school, then we will work on doing them right in my facility. But, I would rather not waste time trying to turn a football player (or whatever sport) into an Olympic Lifter.

  11. scotty cox says:

    I very much believe in triple extension movements but saying this doesn’t mean you must do a full power or hang clean simply because MOST people do not know how to teach properly. Jump shrugs, high pulls etc. there are other ways without having to drop under a barbell. I do firmly believe in teaching proper squat technique first and also think deadlift is one of the greatest exercises ever for speed and can be used for explosion as well. In my opinion there is no way you can teach an Olympic lift if you can’t teach a deadlift. My quote is “if you aren’t able to teach a kid how to properly pick a weight up from floor to waist height without hurting his back then you need to find another profession”. I am tired of hearing coach’s claim the DL is dangerous yet rave about Olympic lifts….triple extension movements absolutely, power cleans not so much. I will also admit that I was a National level powerlifter and never learned the power clean but my kids don’t miss a beat I can assure you! There is nothing special about dropping elbows under a bar….

  12. Jason says:

    I think the question is a little ambiguous because a lot of people confuse teaching and training. I have absolutely no issue with teaching kids proper movement of any type. I think the real controversy comes when you talk about loading the athlete and training them. Also think that even the most well meaning coaches, those that are a part of the IYCA family can get caught up in training Olympic lifts. By that at times we all get caught up in how fast a child progresses through something and continue that progression to the next level even if we probably shouldn’t. This is not a shot at anyone as I have been guilty of getting caught up in the athlete and temporarily forgetting the long-term, big picture before realizing my mistake and dialing it back down. My philosophy is to teach propert technique over and over until it is so ingrained that i cold wake them up in the middle of the night hand them a stick and they could do it perfectly before I would start to load them with anything more than 1/4 of their body weight. Even then I would consider where they are at maturation wise. For example, are they done with a majority of their growth spurts? Loading a rapidly changing body even with 50% of BW seems like their is more that can go wrong than can go right. I also would, like what Steve Darling posted, incorporate the FMS into Olympic Lifting Training. I also like what Scotty Cox posted above “nothing special about dropping elbows under a bar”. That ones going to challenge me to think about that more in depth – Thanks Scotty.

  13. Chris says:

    I think the olympic lifts should be part of gym class curriculum on a weekly, year round basis.

  14. larry says:

    Brian, I can give a perfect example of the benefits of training a kid on the olympic lifts. I took my boy at age 12 and started working with him for the mechanics of the olympic lifts and power lifts. We utilized dowel rods first then progressed to 15 pound metal bars and over a two year period progressed to 95lbs. on hang and powercleans. I would not allow load progression unless technique held true on each lift. My boy is now a senior in high school and stands at 6’5″ tall and now power cleans 275lbs. With the utilization of proper mechanics my boy has surpassed most others in high school in the weight room and is moving on to play at Missouri State. Giving kids proper instruction in the weight room early in their young athletic careers gives them an advantage that like my boy can promote them to athletic levels that otherwise might be impossible. Never accept anything less than great mechanics in the weight room and always provide thorough supervision.

  15. Laura Schuster says:

    As an elementary PE teacher I teach the ready position from Robert Pangrazi and the vertical jump to touch a big red hand on the way out the door – after every class- I tell them if they know this 2 body orientations and movement- they are on the way of being an athlete. I also try and slip a piece of paper under their heels when we are ready to lateral defensive slide to get their weight more out of their heels then on the balls of their feel because they often exagerate and get on relevee like a ballet dancers- the piece of paper is a nice compromise and they can check eachother – which they love to do. As for weights – I believe that comes later and maybe I will feel otherwise but the amount of time and effort which it takes to get the body orientation without weight is well worth it- and developmentally my domain in elementary pe. I love that we can communicate like this!!!! thanks;

  16. Brian says:

    I personally don’t include them in my athlete’s exercise prescription. The number of specific technique/form details require much more time to perfect with the Olympic lifts than other exercises that develop strength/power in the same musculature in less time. They require less neuro-muscular engramming (mastering of the “skill/lift”) due to the lesser number of teaching points/cues to perfect and achieve overload in the involved musculature. Essentially, the form/execution is learned quicker, which allots for strength/power gains to be realized quicker, as mastering a simplified lift with *5 cues should occur faster than a lift that has multiple phases with multiple cues, as is often the case with Olympic lifts. The sooner the form, or mastery, of a skill is learned, the sooner overload can begin. And overloading the involved musculature is/should be the goal for every lift of every session…for the most part. Progression is ultimately what garners the results from any athlete’s resistance training regimen. While overload can obviously be attained utilizing Olympic lifts, the orthopedic stresses incurred by those lifts lend their inclusion in a resistance training program to the RISK VS. REWARD DEBATE. Regarding that debate, I recommend every coach do their research…from SCIENTIFIC resources…and decide for themselves. In addition, the musculature involved in ANY resistance exercise, or any of the involved connective tissues for that matter, do not have “cognitive abilities” regarding the modality being utilized. They only “know” how hard they were required to work (SUPER-COMPENSATION VS. STAYING THE SAME) and how traumatic the incurred stress was (SUPER-COMPENSATION VS. STRAIN, SPRAIN, FRACTURE/BREAK). Just a thought.

  17. darren says:

    Get technique right ,as a good grounding. dont worry about how much its all about technique to start . olympic lifts go for it ,with good supervision.

  18. It is all about form and technique early on. I use a 10lb Bar for a number of weeks then make slight progressions to about age 13.
    A lot of bodyweight exercises early on to.

    I am amazed at how change occurs in the young bodies with 2-3 times weekly. Jump Squats and 1 arm DB Snatches are two of my favorites.

  19. Maximus says:

    So you guys think cleans are OK for 14-year olds? I’m so-so, but my son just started freshman football and they have the kids doing the basics (squats, etc.) & cleans.
    He coach screams at them to go heavier, but I’ve told my son to stay light.
    2 kids have already hurt themselves.
    How long does it take the body to memorize the ‘clean’ motion?

    I’m an old timer(500lb squats in my day) but never did cleans..

  20. Wil Fleming says:


    Thanks for the question.

    Not only do I think that cleans, and other Olympic lifts are OK for athletes at age 14. I think they are ESSENTIAL. No other training method has ever been shown to increase power and performance the way Olympic lifts do. Motor Unit recruitment, Coordination, and motor control are all improved with Olympic lifts.

    The problem comes when coaches encourage or demand that athletes progress in weight before they are ready. The progression and the art comes from progressing the movement to aid in learning and mastering the moves.

    Typically with the right system in place of teaching athletes, they can perform the movements efficiently and safely with in the first 2-4 weeks. Time should then be spent improving the quality of the movement, and then finally improving the load moved.

    I go over a lot of this information and lay out the exact system I use to teach 100’s of athletes how to Olympic lift in the IYCA Olympic Lift Instructor Course. You can check it out here.


    Thanks again.

    Wil Fleming

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