Olympic lifting for soccer players?

I’m frequently asked if I use Olympic lifts with our soccer players. The answer is yes but it’s a little more gray than black and white. I think the Olympic lifts and their derivatives are great for teaching basic fundamental movement patterns and generating explosive power. I don’t think anyone would disagree with this. But is it worth the time to teach athletes to do them? Do athletes need to catch the weight? Should they do lifts from the floor or just the hang? My detailed answers to these questions would take more time than I have but in short, I think that:

  1. Yes, it’s worth teaching athletes how to do the Olympic lifts. I’m almost always able to teach athletes to lift safely and competently in one session. Like any tool, it’s not right for every job or every person but the ‘time to teach’ argument has never been an issue with me.
  2. We generally teach all our soccer athletes how to catch the weight for a power clean and then from that point forward often give them the option to do clean pulls or power cleans at a slightly heavier load. As Bob Alejo has mentioned there are reasons you might not want to catch the weight but I do believe I could make a strong rationale for its inclusion.
  3. Similar to my previous point, I don’t think the answer to whether to pull from the hang or from the floor needs to be an either / or scenario. There are benefits to both. I generally teach athletes to pull from the floor and have found that once they can do that that hang variations are easy to incorporate.

Here’s a video of us incorporating the Olympic lifts for the first time this year at the start of pre-season with the North Carolina Courage.

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Mike Young

Director of Performance at Athletic Lab
Mike is the Head Fitness Coach for the North Carolina Courage and North Carolina FC. He is also the owner and Director of Performance at Athletic Lab sports performance training center. He previously served as the fitness coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Carolina Railhawks. He has a PhD in Biomechanics, an MS in Coaching Science, and a BSS in Exercise Physiology and has coached Olympic and professional athletes in Skeleton, Track & Field, MLS and NASL Soccer, PGA Golf, NFL Football, MLB Baseball and Olympic Weightlifting. He has lectured around the world and authored 2 books and dozens of research and coaching articles.