Part III – Developing Power for Improved Sport Performance

In designing a sound sports performance training program, it is important to understand that sport-specific skills are best developed by actually practicing the skills involved in the sport. For example, if you want to get batter at catching footballs, you need to practice catching more footballs. On the other hand, exercises used in the weight room should be chosen based on their effectiveness for developing the type of strength and power that allows an individual to run faster, jump higher, change direction more quickly, etc. 

Although the Olympic weightlifting exercises are not specific in terms of matching sport skills, they are specific in terms of matching the explosive power demands of most sports (Clark & Lucett, 2010).  According to Newton and Kraemer (1994), “Power output is extremely high and the speed of movement is fast during weightlifting movements. Further, such lifts have an explosive, accelerative velocity profile, making them much more specific than traditional resistance training exercises to explosive power performance in other sport activities” (p. 29). Specificity of the Olympic lifts, in regard to power development, is illustrated in numerous research studies that demonstrate the relationship of the lifts to vertical jumping. For example, Canavan et al. (1996) found close similarities between the hang power snatch and the squat jump including maximal power values, time to maximal power, relative power, maximal force and time to maximal force (p. 129).  Similarly, Hori et al. (2005) found distinct similarities between the hang power clean and squat jump in hip and knee extension angles. Additionally, the magnitude and shape of the force time curve were remarkably similar between the two movements (p. 52).

The biomechanical similarities between the Olympic lifts and vertical jumping is the primary reason why this form of training is so effective for developing explosive power that transfers to sport performance (Clark & Lucett, 2010).  The efficiency of Olympic weightlifting exercises for improving explosive movement capabilities is clearly demonstrated in research completed by Tricoli et al. This particular study compared the effects of an 8-week training program, involving Olympic weightlifting versus vertical jump training, on a range of explosive physical skills including the squat jump, countermovement jump, 10- and 30-meter sprint speeds and agility. The results revealed that the weightlifting group improved significantly on the squat jump, countermovement jump and 10-meter sprint speed while the vertical jump training group only improved on the countermovement jump. Interestingly, countermovement jump performance improved to an even greater extent in the weightlifting group (Tricoli et al., 2005). From a specificity standpoint, this study indicates that Olympic weightlifting exercises may be more effective in developing a wider variety of skills that require high power outputs. The authors suggest that “the greater skill complexity required for the Olympic lifting exercises facilitates the development of a broader physical abilities spectrum, which seems to be better transferred to performance” (Tricoli et al., 2005).

In summary, the biomechanical characteristics of the Olympic lifts are very similar to the explosive movements used during many athletic skills and the physical demands of the lifts are highly effective for developing the ability to generate increased levels of power.  In consideration of these factors and the available evidence, the Olympic lifts are clearly an effective means for developing explosive power that transfers to improved sports performance and should be utilized as part of a training program seeking to develop this quality.

CJ Del Balso – MS, CSCS, RSCC

USAW International Coach

Owner/Head Coach – Conqueror Weightlifting


Canavan, P.K., Garrett, G.E. & Armstrong, L.E. (1996). Kinematic and kinetic relationships between an Olympic-style lift and the vertical jump. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 10(2), 127-130. 

Clark, M.A. & Lucett, S.C. (2010). NASM essentials of sports performance training (1st ed.) Baltimore: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.