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.
3×5 Back Squats (straight sets at 75-80% of 1RM)
Then snatch, clean and jerk your face off.
3×5 Front squats (straight sets at 75-80% of 1RM)
Then snatch, clean, and jerk your face off
(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.
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.