Understanding Movement Complexity

It’s well known that the Olympic lifts and associated variations are a staple in improving athletic development. However, professionals in the field of sports performance implement the Olympic lifts with the wrong level of athlete. For a novice level athlete, Olympic lifts need to take a back seat to the more fundamental movements like Front Squat, Dead Lift variations, and posterior chain based movements. These fundamental movements can be viewed as prerequisites to Olympic lifting. In other words, it’s like trying to learn Calculus before you learn Algebra. It just doesn’t make sense!

Now imagine you have a group of novice athletes that just walked in your College weight room after a long summer of scarce training and limited high velocity movement. Or, if you’re in the commercial setting, imagine a College or High School level athlete walking in your facility for the first time and you have no clue about their training history. In both the College and commercial setting, you have a limit on the amount of time that you can dedicate to training, so you need to use your time wisely!

The question becomes: Do you want to take 60 minutes to TEACH or to TRAIN? Every professional in the field of sports performance should know that the learning curve for an Olympic lift is much steeper than the learning curve for a Front Squat. Therefore, it’s important to implement easily learned movements early in the training process and save the difficult movements for later.

Below is a sample list of fundamental movements and the associated complexity.

Bench Press-Easy

Pull up-Easy

Front Squat-Moderate

Back Squat-Moderate

Romanian Dead Lift-Hard

Dead Lift (Ground)-Hard

Clean (Full)-Very Hard

Snatch (Full)-Very Hard

In the preliminary stages of a program, implementing movements that rank as “Easy” to “Moderate” are going to help create a bigger training stimulus earlier on in the process. Once the easy to moderate lifts are learned, the use of more advanced techniques and lifts can be used.