When most people first start learning about how Olympic Weightlifters train, they hear horror stories of twice a day training, 6 days a week where you do heavy squats at EVERY session. And while elite level Olympic Weightlifters often really do train like that, they didn’t always.
No beginner could ever hope to make any progress on a routine that brutal. In fact, I’m not all that sure that most elites could make progress on a routine that brutal unless they were on steroids or were blessed with the greatest possible genes—most of us weren’t.
And while to some of us, reading these routines can be inspirational, to a great many others they serve to scare them away. This is BAD. Olympic Lifting as a sport has far too few practitioners as it is, and we really ought not be shrinking the talent pool even farther through false advertising.
So, I’m going to lay out a realistic initial beginners routine. It does presume a little. Namely, that one can perform a Front Squat and an overhead squat with good/decent form. If you can’t do that, then that should be your focus. Do squats 3 days a week, alternating front and overhead, and then finish with chin ups and overhead press, abs and back extentions. The overhead squat is particularly important for it is an exercise in “body control” and “balance”.
Once a lifter can squat properly, there is no reason to hold them back from learning the lifts and doing them “often”. Often of course is a relative term. Each Olympic Lift should be performed at least twice per week, but preferably 3 or 4 times per week. I’ll lay out 2 different possible routines.
The first option is this 3 day per week option:
Monday or Tuesday
Snatch: 10×2 (10 sets of 2 reps) working up to your “work” weight (ie. It should feel hard, but NOT be a max) in 4 or 5 sets and sticking with the same weight for the rest of your sets.
Clean and Jerk: 10×1 done the same way as the Snatch
Front Squat: 5×5 working up to one heavy set of 5
Chin ups: 3x 8-12 (use an assist machine if necessary or stretch bands)
Abs: 3 sets
Wednesday or Thursday
Snatch: Same as Monday
Clean and Jerk: Same as Monday
Front Squat: 3×3 @ 75% intensity, this is a “light” squat day
Chin ups: 5×5 up to a heavy set of 5
Abs: 3 sets
Snatch: singles to a “max”. I don’t really mean a max, I just mean up to what feels pretty darn heavy for the day but still with VERY good form.
Clean and Jerk: Single, Same as snatch
Front Squat: Single, Same
The second option is the 5 day per week option. Basically it just splits the Monday and Wed workouts in half and does each over a 2 day period to allow for shorter workouts.
Clean and Jerk: 10×1
Front Squat: 5×5
Back extentions: 2×20
Chin ups: 3×8-12
Clean and Jerk: 10×1
Front Squat: 3×3
Back ext: 2×20
Clean and Jerks: Single
Front squat: Single
A beginner could thrive for a number of months on a routine like this. The emphasis being: work primarily on FORM with the Olympic Lifts, and then push up the numbers on your monday squats. The chins are also important. They work all of the primary antagonists to the upper body muscles at work in the Jerk. If your antagonists aren’t strong, then the “protagonists” won’t be either.