Olympic Weightlifting and Plyometric Training

A recent study published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research evaluated the training effects of Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics and traditional resistance training with children on functional and physiological measures.

Sixty-three boys (10-12 years), recruited from youth judo and wrestling development centres, were randomly allocated to a 12-week control, Olympic weightlifting, plyometric or traditional resistance training programme.

Pre- and post-training tests included:
Body mass index (BMI)
Sum of skinfolds
Countermovement jump (CMJ)
Horizontal jump
Balance
5 and 20 m sprint times
Isokinetic force and power at 60°·sˉ¹ and 300°·sˉ¹

Groups trained with a frequency of 2 sessions per week, performed o non-consecutive days (Monday and Thursday)Training volume (number of sets x repetitions) was equated for each group, with each training session composed of 4 different exercises and 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions. All exercises were ether compound lifts or jumps, involving multiple muscle groups. During the 3rd, 4th, and 5th weeks, volume was altered to three sets of 12, 10, and 8 repetitions, respectively.

The plyometric training group performed:
CMJ, drop jumps, ballistic type push-ups/clapping push-ups and medicine ball throws.

Traditional strength exercises consisted of:
Squats, lunges, alternate flat and incline chest press, and unilateral shoulder flyes.

Olympic weightlifting exercises included:
Power cleans and snatches (progression model), in addition to shoulder push press and kettlebell/dumbbell cross body pull.

Olympic weightlifting or plyometric training were generally equal to or more effective for enhancing performance that traditional resistance training in the male youths. Olympic weightlifting was likely to provide better improvements than plyometric training for CMJ (mean difference, lower to upper 95% confidence limits, effect size; 3.2 cm, 0.6 to 5.8, 0.78), horizontal jump (13.5 cm, -0.9 to 27.9, 0.63), and 5 and 20-m sprint times (93% likely, 0.12 s, -0.03 to 0.27, 0.57).

Plyometric training was more likely to elicit better training adaptations compared to traditional RT for balance (98%, 9.1 s, 2.2 to 16, 0.86), isokinetic Force 60°·sˉ¹ (84% likely, 13.0 kg, -3.7 to 29.8, 0.54) and 300°·sˉ¹ (79% likely, 6.7 kg, -3.1 to 426 16.4, 0.48), and Power 300°·sˉ¹ (78% likely, -7.9 to 39.6, 0.47).

The study findings support the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association position stands which recommend that Olympic weightlifting and plyometrics can be included in children’s resistance training programmes to enhance strength and power gains.

Recommendations that individuals should squat at least 1.5 x body mass before performing lower body plyometrics may have impeded the findings within the study. Olympic weightlifting training was equally or more effective than traditional resistance training in the study, which isn’t too surprising given the high force, high velocity nature of the lifts producing high power outputs, an increase in rate of force development, and require coordinated control and stability to perform.

The authors do not suggest that traditional resistance training should be precluded from resistance training programmes for children. There are many misconceptions that more complex coordinated exercies like Olympic lifts and plyometrics might lead to injury in children, but the study demonstrates the effectiveness of these training modalities. Since coordination, balance and power are underdeveloped in youth, training programs implementing Olympic weightlifting and plyometrics  can accelerate positive training adaptations leading to competitive advantages. The implementation of any resistance training programme should be under professional supervision and involve an orderly training progression.

For  more information, see the attached UKSCA Position Statement: Youth Resistance Training.

Olympic weightlifting and plyometric training with children provides similar or greater performance improvements than traditional resistance training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Publish Ahead of Print DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000305

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