Skip to main content

The Strength of Evidence Podcast – Episode 3 (Olympic vs Power Lifting)

By November 30, 2012January 11th, 2014The Strength of Evidence Podcast

Hi Folks!

Welcome to Episode #3: Olympic vs. Power Lifting. In this episode Jon and Bret discuss whether single leg training adds significantly to your total workout time, whether taking periodic breaks from training impairs long-term gains, and the often-debated argument of whether powerlifting training or Olympic weightlifting training is better for sports performance.



  • Intro and listener questions 0:00 – 6:48
  • New study of the month 6:49 – 13:33
  • Review research 13:34 – 1:03:30
  • Discussion (Commonalities & Differences, Advantages/Disadvantages, Different Sports/Positions/Actions, etc.) 1:03:31 – 1:23:22
  • Conclusions (Debates are fun…but we don’t really have to choose, we can do both, combined training is always best, but Oly lifting has the advantage for vertical jump) 1:23:23 – 1:25:25

Show Notes: Study of the Month

Comparison of muscle hypertrophy following 6-month of continuous and periodic strength training

  • 14 young males
  • 2 groups – continuous training, periodic training
  • Both groups performed 3 x 10 bench press at 75% of 1RM (2-3 min rest), three days/week
  • Continuous group trained 24 weeks in a row
  • Periodic group trained 6 weeks on, 6 weeks off (for 3 cycles)
  • Training loads reassessed every 3 weeks
  • Periodic group performed 25% fewer total training sessions and 33.5% less total training volume
  • Total improvement in muscle cross-sectional area of the triceps brachii and pectoralis major and in 1RM strength were similar between the continuous and periodic training groups
  • Periodic group would lose strength over detraining period but regain it quickly
  • 3 wk detraining periods don’t interfere with strength and hypertrophy over the long-haul


Comparison of Olympic vs. Traditional Power Lifting Training Programs in Football Players

  • 20 male college football players
  • 15 weeks, 4W/wk
  • Oly group, PL group
  • Phase 1 – same protocol (5 wks)
  • Phase 2 and 3 – specific protocol (10 wks)
  • Phase 3 included sprint and agility work
  • Both groups did squats and bench press
  • Powerlifting group increased more on bench, vertical jump power, and t-drill
  • Oly group increased more on squats, vertical jump height, and 40yd
  • Results due to programming freedom by authors?
  • Were these “typical” Oly and PL programs?

Effect of Olympic and Traditional Resistance Training on Vertical Jump Improvement in High School Boys

  • 27 male high school athletes
  • 12 weeks, 3x/wk
  • Oly group, PL group
  • 4 weeks – general training, 8 weeks – specific training
  • Both groups did many of the same lifts
  • Oly group did better on vertical jumps, squats, and power cleans
  • Results due to programming freedom by authors?
  • Were these “typical” Oly and PL programs?

Muscle Fiber Characteristics of Competitive Power Lifters

  • 5 National Level PL’ers with 10yrs experience, and 5 active male controls
  • Both groups around 5’10”ish, controls weigh 85kgs (187lbs), PL’ers weigh 102kgs (224lbs)
  • Controls – 22% bf, PL’ers – 17% bf
  • Controls jump 48cm (19in) with 4,186W of power, PL’ers jump 59cm (23in) with 5,438W of power
  • PL’ers on average bench 171kg (377lbs), squat 288kg (635lbs), and dl 284kg (626lbs)
  • PL’ers produce more force, power, relative force, and relative power on the squat at all speeds
  • PL’ers have more IIa and less IIb fibers and MHC content (shift)
  • Similar type I fibers and areas, smaller type IIb fibers in PL’ers
  • Type IIa fibers smaller in PL’ers???

Muscle Fiber Characteristics and Performance Correlates of Male Olympic-Style Weightlifters

  • 6 Weightlifters with 11 yrs experience, 7 controls (exercise science students)
  • WL’ers – 5’8”ish and 96kgs (211 lbs), controls – 5’10”ish and 77kgs (170lbs)
  • WL’ers – 20%bf, controls 17%bf
  • WL’ers – 123kg snatch (271lbs), 159kg clean & jerk (350lbs), jump 61cm (24in) with 5,377W of power
  • WL’ers train 5 sessions/wk for around 2 hrs
  • WL’ers have same amount of type I fibers, more type IIa, and less type IIb than controls
  • WL’ers have bigger type I and type IIa fibers and smaller type IIb fibers (and MHC content)

A Review of Power Output Studies of Olympic and Powerlifting: Methodology, Performance Prediction, and Evaluation Tests

  • Review Paper
  • Total average power in clean – 4191W, relative average power is 33.5W/kg
  • Total average power in second pull of clean – 6981W, relative is 55.8W/kg
  • Snatch power is similar to clean
  • Total power for jerk is 4570W
  • Deadlift 1275 (relative 12.7W/kg)
  • Squat power is half that of clean or snatch
  • Bench press is 343W (relative 4.6W/kg)
  • Average power for entire clean or snatch for elite males is 34.1W/Kg, for females it’s 21.8W/kg (63% of men)
  • For second pull, 52.6W/kg for men and 39.2W/kg for women (74%)
  • Squats and deads – 12W/kg for elite, 4W/kg for bench (women 60-70% of that)
  • Max power in squats, deads, bench estimated to be at around 80% of 1RM *recent research doesn’t support this
  • 75W/kg for vertical jumps with high jumpers
  • Interval time influences results

Explosive Exercises in Sports Training: A Critical Review

  • Review
  • Joint torque and muscle activation diminishes dramatically with explosive submaximal exercises that require deceleration (curls, bench)
  • Cadence on bench and squat doesn’t lead to different effects (3 studies they mentioned)
  • Slow better than fast for sprint kayaking, fast better than slow for speed maintenance in kayaking
  • No differences for slow or fast hip/knee flex/ext training for squats, sprint acceleration, or hip ext power.
  • Strength training equally as effective as plyos for VJ and power
  • “Contrarian” – needed in science
  • Outdated?


  • daniel kadlec says:

    thx for that!
    I’m currently writing my bachelor-thesis about how german soccer player are using/ should use O-lifts in their s&c program.
    all the stuff you mentioned will help me to argue for this type of lifting!

  • Joy says:

    Omigod! So relevant to me, THANK YOU!

  • This was a super interesting episode

  • Jeff Citro says:

    Bret, such killer material brutha! I’ll be applying all of this!

  • Roger says:

    Dear Bret,

    I am a strength training entusiast and biology researcher from Sweden. I have recently started with bulgarian split squats on my leg days and wonder what you think of how to place the elevated rear foot, dorsum or planum against the surface? I have seen both on the web but I have never seen anyone perform the excercise in sweden in any gym. I did it with dorsum down and I have severe delayed onset soreness after four days. Thank you for your efforts and reaching out to everyone through internet. I have learned so much.

    Kind regards

    • Bret says:

      Place the rear foot over a rounded surface (over a leg curl pad, etc.). One of my first videos on Youtube showed how I do this. My clients hated going back to normal after I closed my gym. Find that video and figure out how to do it in your gym, you’ll be glad you did! – BC

  • Eric says:

    The evidence presented in that last study are pretty much what I’ve concluded with regards to the idea behind the necessity of speed in strength training. I know many won’t agree. In fact, I know many will never agree. But, I think it’s quite important we start looking at with a very serious outlook. Carpinelli (which I know you mentioned Bret) in a paper very similar to the one you guys presented, concluded the same ( This document also presents some interesting ideas on a similar tangent (see the question: What is the best way to become explosive on the field? Should I do power
    cleans? Should I try to move the weight as fast as I can? – Interesting stuff as always though Bret!!!!

  • Carl says:

    A few points here. First how many olympic lifters include the back and or front squat? This is not hard for a strength coach to benefit when both are being done in the real world. How many powerlifters supplement with olympic lifts? Now a strength coach can have guys do plyos and multi throws and speed work, but in the weight room head to head powerlifts don’t have the same results in fiber adaptions as well as body alignments and mobility benefits. I have seen old guys in the 40s and 50s get mobile after years of desk jobs doing the weight lifts, but the power lifters on average need more.

  • Rich says:


    You commented on the need for speed in strength training but the links you provided, which are great by the way, seem to that into question. Are you saying that it needs closer examination or it’s a matter of exercise selection and load?

    The University of Toledo link had some interesting insights to offer. The comments on specificity reminded me of the “Simplifying Bondarchuk” article. Funny that all the reps of practices and games are great stimuli for the nervous system to learn but, as some EST gurus contend, these same reps aren’t enough for the metabolic systems to learn?

    • Eric says:

      Rich… I suspect we need, at the very least, to look into this farther… (I meant to imply in my original post that my conclusions were the same as those from the links I posted namely, that I believe we should seriously reconsider the so-called need for speed training in the gym). I believe that we often just do things and continue along that line based on appeal to tradition and authority, coupled with a fear of finding even but one black swans, prefering instead to continue accumulating as many white swans as possible… The fact that it seems apparent that specificity is needed, but that speed in the gym will never be anywhere near speeds achieved in the gym (in terms of degrees per second), seems to indicate that maybe the factors that make strength training an indispensable tool are still a bit misunderstood. Things get even blurrier when we try to extrapolate from the field of Olympic lifting and powerlifting since, in the latter, the “skill” is the same on the platform or in the gym. If we start with the premise that strength and conditioning should work in tandem with other spheres/areas of athetic training and performance, and maintain as a principal objective the reduction of risk of injury, there seems to be little reason to do “speed work” in the gym (again, unless your sport is O-Lifting or P-lifting). Skill work on the field, ice, court, mat, etc. should take care of that. And, the law of fiber recruitment, often misinterpreted, would also certainly seem to corroborate those observations.

    • Bret says:

      Good call Rich. We need more research on this. A couple of more recent studies in the past few months…one with bench press and speed if I recall correctly, showed an advantage with faster training. But in terms of strength plus plyos versus explosive strength plus plyos, I don’t think there’s an advantage either way. At least that’s what the Bruce-Low paper suggests.

Leave a Reply


and receive my FREE Lower Body Progressions eBook!

You have Successfully Subscribed!