There are 100 ways to skin a cat…
When it comes to training athletes, everyone has their own way. There are 100 ways to skin a cat, no one idea is better than the other, but we’re all bias as to what is the biggest contributor to transfer onto the field/court. Recently there has been speculation on the safety of Olympic lifting (which consists of the Clean, Jerk, and Snatch), in particular, if we should ever catch the movements because of the inherent risk it can cause to the wrists, shoulders and possibly the elbow. This is where I want to educate you on pros and cons on catching vs not catching the Olympic variations.
Involving the catch utilizes a second expression of power, which is extremely important to athletic performance and proper force absorption. During most variations of any of the Olympic movements you 1st produce power from the floor or from the hang and then on the catch you absorb it immediately on the impact. This ability to absorb force immediately on impact is vital for protection of joints and tissues and re-acceleration just to name a few. As we change direction we need to put our foot into the ground, absorb the ground force reactions through the foot and then use that energy to help us redirect in a different direction FAST. The ability to absorb forces quickly may be one of the most vital tools to teach ALL athletes.
Along the same lines as force absorption, pulling your body under and bar involves timing, deceleration qualities, coordination, agility and speed to receive the bar in proper position. All of these qualities I just named, are qualities you would find in most of your high level athletes. Most of the forces I described are also highly reactive, which is another quality that you would be missing if the catch was taken out of the Olympic variations.
Teaching the Olympic variations takes an important concept that we like to call “time”. This is a luxury that most of us, if not proficient at teaching them, don’t have. As an example, if we had 4 weeks to train an athlete that has never learned the Olympic lifts before, this wouldn’t be a very good time to teach them. Use another movement that involves triple extension (extension of the ankles, knees and hip) to produce similar qualities. Another downfall would be, the risk of injury to the wrist, elbow or shoulder. For certain athletes such as pitchers and quarterbacks the risk may not be worth the reward and therefore it is likely that using other methods for these populations would be better. Olympic lifting is a sport, some people believe why teach a sport to another sport, sometimes the complexity of the movement is too much for athletes to learn.
THERE ARE 100 WAYS TO SKIN A CAT!! The question you have to ask yourself is, is this in the best interest of my athletes? Once you’ve answered that question, find the fastest method possible to produce the biggest results. From there decide what is right and wrong for each population of athlete. In my opinion I think leaving the catch out is a mistake and should be taught because of the qualities is brings to athletic performance. Each athlete is capable is learning a new skill, the catch is a skill that can be learned just like any other. It’s important to teach athletes all types of movement so they have this variance of movement in their tool box as they get older. However, not every athlete at TP will catch these movements, as we carefully weigh the pros and cons on an athlete to athlete basis, before making their training program.