Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Fallacy of the Fallacy of High-Rep Olympic Lifting

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Recently, legendary strength coach Mark Rippetoe came out with an article criticizing high-repetition Olympic lifting. Rippetoe makes some decent points in his article, but in the end, he fails to support his claims.

Most fitness experts would agree that there's no such thing as a bad exercise, just bad exercises for certain people. For example, squats are great. But if you're a 7-foot tall basketball player with long femurs, your squats probably look like doo-doo, and you should choose a different knee-dominant exercise.

Most fitness experts would also agree that if your form breaks down on the 7th rep of a set of squats, then your set is over. But would anyone advise you never to do sets of more than 6 squats? No! In fact, the quads can hypertrophy with sets of up to 30 reps. You simply have to work up to that kind of volume progressively.

In the same light, just because you can't do more than 6 snatches perfectly, that doesn't mean that the CrossFit workout Isabel (30 snatches at 135 pounds for time) is a bad prescription. It just means that it's a bad prescription for you.

In Rippetoe's article, he admits that "for an experienced lifter, high-rep snatches won't be a problem." He proceeds to declare, though, that "high-rep snatches don't accomplish anything productive." However, he fails to substantiate this claim.

It's certainly true that high-rep Olympic lifting will not elicit the training adaptations that Olympic weightlifters seek (higher one rep maximums in the snatch and clean and jerk). But this fact has little bearing on whether high-rep Olympic lifting can serve as good conditioning for other populations (CrossFitters, for instance).

Watch three-time Fittest Man on Earth Rich Froning take on Isabel (fast forward to 11:30):

It's a thing of beauty — an incredible display of power and conditioning. You'd be hard-pressed to find a technical flaw in his execution of any one of those 30 snatches. Is there any reason Rich Froning should not be doing high-rep Olympic lifting if he so chooses?

Granted, not all of us are Rich Froning. In fact, most average Joe's can't do 30 snatches for time with perfect form. But that doesn't mean that there's something inherently wrong with high-rep Olympic lifting. It just means we have our work cut out for us if we want to partake in that type of programming safely.

The point is this: you must be technically proficient at whatever lift you choose to do in high volume; otherwise, you shouldn't do it. The only difference between the Olympic lifts and other movements is that they're much more difficult to perfect.

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