Olympic Lifting Baseball – Start Up Guide

Olympic Lifting BaseballWhy Olympic lifting baseball? Evidence suggests the Olympic Clean and its variations are considered the best training exercises to maximize muscular power and dynamic athletic performance (Kawamori, & Haff, 2004). Olympic Lifting Baseball is great for enhancing performance in sports that demand power and complex motor control like baseball. In training with baseball players, I have found great success in improving the key components of elite pitchers and hitters using the power clean as a staple of the strength and conditioning program. In the process of helping a pitcher or hitter achieve a 1.3-1.5 times power to weight ratio based on the size of the athlete using a power clean one repetition maximize and their body weight, I find it best to use the hang clean and clean pull variation of the Olympic Clean to develop this above-average power.

The reason pitchers need above-average power is because high-velocity pitchers generate more ground reaction forces than low-velocity pitchers (Lin, Chen, Wu, & Huang, 2007). Also, professional pitchers are better at timing their pitching mechanics to reduce stress to the arm (Aguinaldo, Buttermore, & Chambers, 2007). Based on the work of Dr. Garhammer he found that the 2nd pull or the Hang Clean produces five times more powerful than the deadlift or bench press (USA Weightlifting Coaching Manuals, NA). Evidence also suggests that Olympic lifters due to their explosive lifts measure better in field measurements like vertical jump height (Kawamori, & Haff, 2004).

Programming for Olympic Lifting Baseball

The best programming for starting young baseball players in the Olympic clean and jerk is first dealing with the forearm and hip and leg mobility challenges that come with developing good technique. I find those who struggle with the front rack position for supporting the barbell on the upper chest is due to poor external rotation of the shoulder, poor pectoral strength or tight latissimus dorsi. Once I can get them to move their hands outside of their elbows and pull their elbows together with the elbows in flexed position then the stretch on the forearm eases up. Many baseball players get nervous about the stress on the forearm in the front rack position but evidence shows that elbow injuries for elite Olympic Lifters are less than 2.5% of all injuries (Hamill, 1994). This study made the point that Olympic Lifting must be supervised to keep it one of the safest sports in all the recreational sports.

The hips and legs are the next big hurdle in developing good Olympic Lifting technique. The key separator of elite Olympic Lifters from amateur Olympic Lifters is the ability to keep the trunk upright to allow the knees to shift under the bar, called the double knee bend, for triple extension of the ankle, knee and hip flexor to occur which will maximize force production to launch the bar up the body. Amateur lifters tend to keep trunk over barbell during the initial phase of the lift which causes the weight of the bar to move forward causing the posterior chain to power most of the weight. This poor trunk posture usually links to poor dorsiflexion causing the hips to over flex leaning the trunk forward over the barbell. The key is to use exercises to improve dorsiflexion and hip flexion so the lifter can keep the trunk more upright.

I have found the best programming for making gains while avoiding overtraining is with an undulated periodization model. Here is a sample program I have developed using a simple 4-week cycle for developing proficiency with the Olympic clean variations for baseball players. All the peripheral exercises and lifts are to help optimize the ability of the body to better perform the clean variations. This program will not only help progress the motor pattern of perfecting the Power Clean but will develop the mobility and strength in the body to best develop the efficient motor pattern of the Power Clean.

Sample Program for Olympic Lifting Baseball

This is a sample program for you to start implementing the Top Velocity Programming. This is best for off-season training. If used in-season split the weeks in half. Perform Day 1 and 2 Week 1 then Day 4 and 5 Week 2 and continue. Day 3 can be used as an extra day. For more advanced programming for pitchers checkout the 3X Extreme Pitching Velocity Program and the 2X Velocity Program for position players.

Week 1 (Base Week) Light Weight – Olympic Lifting Baseball

Day 1:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips (Foam rolling)
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Deep Squat Barbell to Knee Dorsiflexion Stretch (Up to 2min holds per leg)
  • Single Arm Farmer Carries: 3×20 yards both arms
  • High Box Step Ups: 3×5 each leg
  • Clean Pull: 3×5
  • Front Squats: 3×10
  • Hip Thrusters: 3×10
  • Core Routine: 3×10

Day 2:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Single Arm Farmer Carries Overhead: 3×20 yards both arms
  • Bench Press: 3×5
  • Lat Pull: 3×5
  • Push Press: 3×5
  • Low Row: 3×5
  • Forearm Routine: 4×15
  • Shoulder Routine: 3×10

Day 3:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Plyometrics: 2×10
  • Medicine Ball Routine: 3×10

Day 4:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Banded Stretch Dorsiflexion (Up to 2min holds per leg)
  • Single Arm Farmer Carries: 3×20 yards both arms
  • Lunges: 3×5 each leg
  • Hang Clean Pull: 3×5
  • Back Squat: 3×10
  • Deadlift: 3×10
  • Core Routine: 3×10

Day 5:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Turkish Get-ups: 3×10
  • Push Ups: 3×10
  • Pull Ups: 3×10
  • Military Press: 3×5
  • Single Arm Row: 3×5
  • Forearm Routine: 4×15
  • Shoulder Routine: 3×10

Week 2 (Volume Week) Add Weight Up to 10% Previous Week – Olympic Lifting Baseball

Day 1:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Deep Squat Barbell to Knee Dorsiflexion Stretch (Up to 2min holds per leg)
  • Single Arm Farmer Carries: 3×20 yards both arms
  • High Box Step Ups: 3×5 each leg
  • Power Jerks: 3×5
  • Clean Pull: 3×5
  • Front Squats: 3×10
  • Hip Thrusters: 3×10
  • Core Routine: 3×10

Day 2:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Single Arm Farmer Carries Overhead: 3×20 yards both arms
  • Bench Press: 3×5
  • Lat Pull: 3×5
  • Push Press: 3×5
  • Low Row: 3×5
  • Forearm Routine: 4×15
  • Shoulder Routine: 3×10

Day 3:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Plyometrics: 2×10
  • Medicine Ball Routine: 3×10

Day 4:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Banded Stretch Dorsiflexion (Up to 2min holds per leg)
  • Single Arm Farmer Carries: 3×20 yards both arms
  • Lunges: 3×5 each leg
  • Split Jerks: 3×5
  • Hang Clean Pull: 3×5
  • Back Squat: 3×10
  • Deadlift: 3×10
  • Core Routine: 3×10

Day 5:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Turkish Get-ups: 3×10
  • Push Ups: 3×10
  • Pull Ups: 3×10
  • Military Press: 3×5
  • Single Arm Row: 3×5
  • Forearm Routine: 4×15
  • Shoulder Routine: 3×10

Week 3 (Recovery Week) Drop Weight Back to Base Week or Less – Olympic Lifting Baseball

Day 1:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Deep Squat Barbell to Knee Dorsiflexion Stretch (Up to 2min holds per leg)
  • Single Arm Farmer Carries: 3×20 yards both arms
  • High Box Step Ups: 3×5 each leg
  • Power Jerks: 3×5
  • Clean Pull: 3×5
  • Hang Clean: 3×5
  • Hip Thrusters: 3×10
  • Core Routine: 3×10

Day 2:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Single Arm Farmer Carries Overhead: 3×20 yards both arms
  • Bench Press: 3×5
  • Lat Pull: 3×5
  • Push Press: 3×5
  • Low Row: 3×5
  • Forearm Routine: 4×15
  • Shoulder Routine: 3×10

Day 3:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Plyometrics: 2×10
  • Medicine Ball Routine: 3×10

Day 4:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Banded Stretch Dorsiflexion (Up to 2min holds per leg)
  • Single Arm Farmer Carries: 3×20 yards both arms
  • Lunges: 3×5 each leg
  • Split Jerks: 3×5
  • Hang Clean Pull: 3×5
  • Hang Clean: 3X5
  • Deadlift: 3×10
  • Core Routine: 3×10

Day 5:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Turkish Get-ups: 3×10
  • Push Ups: 3×10
  • Pull Ups: 3×10
  • Military Press: 3×5
  • Single Arm Row: 3×5
  • Forearm Routine: 4×15
  • Shoulder Routine: 3×10

Week 4 (Performance Week) Add Weight Up to 15% Previous Week – Olympic Lifting Baseball

Day 1:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Deep Squat Barbell to Knee Dorsiflexion Stretch (Up to 2min holds per leg)
  • Single Arm Farmer Carries: 3×20 yards both arms
  • High Box Step Ups: 3×5 each leg
  • Clean Pull: 3×5
  • Below the Knee Clean: 3×5
  • Power Clean: 3×5
  • Hip Thrusters: 3×10
  • Core Routine: 3×10

Day 2:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Single Arm Farmer Carries Overhead: 3×20 yards both arms
  • Bench Press: 3×5
  • Lat Pull: 3×5
  • Push Press: 3×5
  • Low Row: 3×5
  • Forearm Routine: 4×15
  • Shoulder Routine: 3×10

Day 3:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Plyometrics: 2×10
  • Medicine Ball Routine: 3×10

Day 4:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Banded Stretch Dorsiflexion (Up to 2min holds per leg)
  • Single Arm Farmer Carries: 3×20 yards both arms
  • Lunges: 3×5 each leg
  • Split Jerks: 3×5
  • Hang Clean Pull: 3×5
  • Below the Knee Clean: 3×5
  • Top to Bottom Clean: 3X5
  • Deadlift: 3×10
  • Core Routine: 3×10

Day 5:

  • Myofascial release toes to fingertips
  • Dynamic Warmup covering the full range of motion through all joints
  • Turkish Get-ups: 3×10
  • Push Ups: 3×10
  • Pull Ups: 3×10
  • Military Press: 3×5
  • Single Arm Row: 3×5
  • Forearm Routine: 4×15
  • Shoulder Routine: 3×10

Olympic Lifting Baseball Reference

Aguinaldo, A. L., Buttermore, J., & Chambers, H. (2007). Effects of upper trunk rotation on shoulder joint torque among baseball pitchers of various levels. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 23, 42-51.

Hamill, B. P. (1994). Relative safety of weightlifting and weight training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 8(1), 53-57.

Kawamori, N., & Haff, G. G. (2004). The optimal training load for the development of muscular power. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 18(3), 675-84.

Lin, C., Chen, C., Wu, H., & Huang, C. (2007). Characteristic ground-reaction force in beginner baseball pitching. Journal of Biomechanics, 40, S742.

USA Weightlifting. (NA). USA Weightlifting Coaching Manuals. Colorado Springs, CO.

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