Aug
21

Squat more, Lift more: Olympic lift ratios

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IMG_3761

My 200kg PR.

I have said it here and many other places that “squatting is the life blood of Olympic lifting.” As your squat goes so do your lifts.

I should be clear, the primary part of your program should consist of the competition movements or a variation, probably 60% or more of your total reps, but the remainder of the program will be a lot of squats, with just a small amount being pulls of some sort and pressing.

A certain level of technical competence is required for the “squat more, lift more” motto to be in effect. For me this is seen when my lifters have been in a few competitions, but in general after an athlete has been in the gym for a year or more. We have to remember that lifting is a skill and that skill has to be learned well for strength to carryover to the platform.

Olympic lift Ratios

The squat is so important that many coaches have established exact correlations between your squat, both front and back, to your competition lifts. The tried and nearly true Olympic lift ratios.

The ones we live by are as follows.

Front squat= 85% of back squat max

Clean and Jerk= 85% of front squat max (or about what you can front squat for 3 reps).

Don’t believe me?

Here are the numbers for one of my junior lifters.

Back squat, 130kg
Front squat, 112 (86% of back squat)
Clean and Jerk, 96k (85% of front squat)

He is right on, I am a little off (my numbers are below).

Back squat, 200kg
Front squat, 170kg (85% of back squat)
Clean and Jerk 151kg (88% of front squat)

It should be noted that prior to my last cycle I was front squatting in the neighborhood of 155kg, and was struggling to make cleans above 145kg. As right as rain, when my front squat went to 170kg, I was nailing anything and everything above 150kg in the clean.

What if you want to squat more weight?

What if you’re a guy like me that knows that the limiting factor to your lifts is how much you can squat? Then what?

There are a bunch of programs out there that work, Smolov and Hatch come to mind, but both of those are serious investments in time. I didn’t have the time nor the desire to go through a squat cycle that made me hit the gym for hours on end just to squat.

No, this program is much simpler.

Squat to start every Olympic lifting training session. Rather than starting with the clean or snatch, spend time under the bar and in the rack to begin each session. When the squats are finished, then proceed with your weightlifting session just as normal.

If the day calls for 85% snatches, hit em, after you squat.
If the day calls for max clean and jerks, do em, after you squat.

Here is a sample of what squatting first might look like each week and basically what I did last cycle to put 20kg on my back squat, and 15kg on my front squat.

Monday:
3×5 Back Squats (straight sets at 75-80% of 1RM)
Then snatch, clean and jerk your face off.
Wednesday
3×5 Front squats (straight sets at 75-80% of 1RM)
Then snatch, clean, and jerk your face off
Friday
(week 1) Work up to 5 RM in Back Squat in fewest sets, (week 2) up to 5RM back squat (then -10kg, -5kg, max again)x1, (week 3) work up to 5RM back squat (then -10kg, -5kg, max again)x2, (week 4) work up to 3RM Back Squat.
Then, well, you know start snatching.

I should mention that this was not my idea. My coach, Chris Cleary, put this program together and it had some really unexpected benefits. Not only did my squats go up but my snatches and clean and jerks that followed always felt extremely light, at least for the first couple sets. Something to be said about post-activation potentiation and definitely something I will explore more.

Conclusion

Once you are at a certain technical level, the fastest way to improve in the snatch and clean and jerk is to make your squat go up. This fact alone means that the ratios of back squat:front squat:clean and jerk hold very true. Keep in mind, the majority of any good Olympic lifting program is the competition lifts and variations. After that, you better be squattin.

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  • Nathan Lee Jordan

    What would you say the correlation is between someone who is not an Olympic Lifter. I will use myself as an example. My best squat is 385 but I lack the mobility, proficiency, and have not been properly exposed to Olympic lifting so my best Clean and Jerk is only 200 pounds. I am currently working on my mobility. Do you think someone should have a certain FMS score before they start doing lots of Olympic lifts?

    • The biggest things we pay attention to in terms of “clearance” for Olympic lifting is the Trunk stability push up. Looking for 2 or 3 there, shoulder mobility, it should go without saying, is important for the clean and snatch catch position.

      Like I said though, the correlations will become more firm once you have a certain level of proficiency. So right now you know you aren’t there, but as your lifts improve technically you will see these numbers getting closer and closer.

      • Nathan Lee Jordan

        My shoulder mobility is terrible but getting better. I am doing band pull aparts, band halos, internal and external rotations, and swimming a little. Are there any other things you think I should be doing on a regular basis to improve my shoulder mobility?

        • Sounds like you are on the right track. If you are able to find a qualified ART professional they may be able to help you speed the process of gaining proper mobility in the shoulder.

  • Brandon

    Can you explain “(-10kg, -5kg, max again) x2”

    Are you decreasing weight and going for max reps?

    • Yes of course. Decrease weight, but go for the same number of reps. So in this scenario, lets say you squat 160k for 5 reps as your 5RM, then squat 150k for 5, 155k for 5, and then 160k for 5 again.

      • Wilfred

        do i do all that twice since sit says “x2”? cause there is also a “x1”

  • Leon Mata

    can you give some examples of what you would do for sn and c&j your face off?

  • Kyle Horne

    Wil,

    Thanks so much for your work.

    In regards to the 85% back to front squat ratio, is this strictly for high bar back squats? Ex football player here, so lots of squats on my training but rarely high bar.

    Thanks so much,

    Kyle

  • Justin

    Hey Brandon,
    So after slipping a disc in my back I was out of lifting for a few years and have been progressing from being only able to deadlift like 135lbs. My back squat is probably back up to around 315lbs, my front squat 265lbs, clean 215lbs, snatch 185lbs, and deadlift 385lbs. I spent much time building my back squat back up which helped my snatch but didn’t really do much for my front squat and consequently didn’t do much for my clean. I am planning on doing a high volume front squat program to really that up but I am worried that it won’t go up since it is already about 85% of my back squat. So do I need to focus on back squatting first? This stuff gets kind of confusing. Thanks

  • Cludzy Masta

    Very interesting. I happened to be doing a variation of this strategy myself. Your 150KG++ c+j is very powerful!!! That is like my maximum deadlift atm =P