using olympic lifts for more muscle snatch

Using Olympic Lifts For More Muscle

As you scan your pass to your gym, you look forward to your workout, but not with the same fire that you used to have.
Your squat, bench and deadlift haven’t gone up in months.
Well, that’s not accurate enough. It really feels like the plates at your gym have been filled with lead instead of iron.


Your current routine seems about as exciting as watching paint dry. The thought of doing another hamstring curl has you considering taking up running as your fitness pastime.

Adding insult to injury, you haven’t gained any muscle size in months. The 15 year old volleyball girl training at your gym is gaining more muscle than you!

You’re still in love with going to the gym, and the process, but it feels like your gym experience is more stale than the bread that’s been sitting on your counter since last week.

How the heck are you going to inject new life into your routine, while still making progress?

What if you were to use exercises that got you strong, bigger muscle, and look cool as hell?

That’s exactly what we’re going to do. With the following exercises you’re going to throw a grenade into your current gym routine so you can finally see progress again.

If there is an award for coolest looking exercises, there is no question which exercises win.

The Clean & Jerk and Snatch are the kings of cool. Watching elite lifters put your max deadlift over their head is a humbling and inspiring moment.

Oh, and that’s just the women…

using olympic lifts for more muscle clean


Not only are they cool, but elite male weightlifters have some of the greatest physiques on the planet. Looking at a picture of Liu Xiaojun or Max Lang can show us that there is something for us to learn if we’re aiming to get that coveted six pack, boulder shoulders and a back that looks like a topographical map.

But when you think Olympic lifting, what’s the first thought that comes to mind?

Lower body explosiveness.

You don’t think that they’re great for your goal of building thick slabs of muscle on those meat hooks you call shoulders.

Thankfully for you, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

BUT, they can be used to build muscle if used properly.

Snatch and clean and jerk on their own aren’t great muscle builders.

Why? The time under tension is so low.

The amount of time it takes to complete the lifts is less than 2-3 seconds. Not the kind of time needed to build muscle. To really drive muscular hypertrophy, 15-25 seconds is an adequate time to build muscle. That’s about the time it takes to do 10 reps. Unless it’s squats. Then that time turns into a minute.

Instead of heavy singles, we’re going to either do 1 of two things:

  1. Break the Snatch or Clean & Jerk into pieces that will help develop rowdy amounts of strength and muscle. These exercises are used to improve technical flaws, but, thankfully for you, they’re also going to be used to build muscle.
  2. Utilize complexes. Complexes are where you do 2 or more exercises without putting the bar down. An example is doing a full clean plus a front squat. Your muscles are going to be under tension the entire time, meaning that you’re going to stimulate your muscles more than doing each lift on their own.

With these two small changes, not only will you gain muscle, but this could spark a new love for the gym.

With a new love for the gym you’ll get more engaged, hit more PR’s in your other lifts, and, plain and simple, gain muscle. After starting to incorporate more Olympic lifting into my routine, I ended up hitting a 20lb PR on my deadlift. So there’s a good chance you will too.

So before you dive head first into the olympic lifts, a couple things.


I know you’re hot stuff, and you might be the strongest in your gym, but these exercises aren’t for the faint of heart.

Don’t think just because you can deadlift the equivalent of a honda civic you’re able to slap on 225lbs for these exercises. Do them properly, then add weight.  Make sure you don’t get into a position that is going to injure you. This looks like a rounded back, hyperextended lower back in the jerk or push press or achy shoulders because you are pushing them to a range of motion you haven’t earned.

Can you get into the positions necessary? Do you have the adequate overhead mobility and ankle mobility to do an overhead squat pain free? What about the hip mobility to get into the start position of a deadlift? What about the Thoracic mobility to hold the bottom position of a front squat?

If any of these are an issue for you, then you’re going to want to work on your mobility, and find alternatives while you improve your weaknesses (eg put your barbell on blocks, etc.)

Know that these exercises take YEARS to master. Don’t worry about if they aren’t perfect. Get proficient so you won’t hurt yourself, then keep learning and getting better.

Time to get bigger.

Snatch Grip Deadlift to Knees (hamstrings and back)

Oh boy. If there is an exercise that works on upper and lower back strength, hamstring and entire posterior chain exercise better than this one, let us know. Because this exercise is a doozie.

By placing your hands wide in a snatch grip, you use even more of your lats to stabilize your upper body and not let your lower back round. Instead of just shortening and lengthening of your lats in a pull-up or lat pull down, your lats are just gonna have a constant burn. You don’t get this kind of strength and muscle building in many other exercises.

When you pause at the knees, you focus on the extension of your legs first. Which will fire up your hamstrings and quads in a way you haven’t felt in a long time. Not only that but at the top of a deadlift or squat, you take some of the tension out of your legs.

This exercise keeps that tension.

This movement shortens your quads and lengthens your hamstrings, getting an accumulation of tension and local blood flow essential for building tree trunk legs.

Clean + Front Squat (Leg development)

If you struggle to get enough volume for your lower body to actually see your legs grow, this will help that in very short order. This is a great exercise because not only do you access your explosive muscle fibers by performing the clean, but you end up continuing to get more leg muscle by doing more front squats.

How many reps do you do? Well, How big of legs do you want?

Go lower weight, and do more reps, do a little more weight, and do less reps. Plus, you can only squat what you can clean so you’re never going anywhere near your max. Perfect for building those chicken legs you’ve been complaining about for the last few months.

Hip Clean (Traps, traps, traps)

All the shrugs in the world will not compare to the size you will put on your traps when you start doing these exercises. The reason for this is because you’re training your traps through the full scapular elevation.

Being able to pull the bar up to your shoulders aggressively and with speed is the thing that’s missing in a lot of guys training programs. Then your lower and middle traps end up stabilizing the weight in the front rack position.

At a weight that’s heavy enough, you have to drive with your legs, then shrug and continue to pull up so that you end up pulling yourself under the bar.

You will have your shoulders in the shrug position until the bar comes in contact with your shoulders.

So do these. Get strong, powerful, “I can take on anything” traps with this exercise.

Clean, Press, Push-Press and Jerk (shoulders)

By doing 3 different variations of overhead lifting, you’re going to need a couple new tee’s to show off them new shoulders you’re sporting.

We’re using these exercises from no leg drive to full leg drive. By doing that, you’re getting strong using 3 different speeds of lifts. All the while increasing that time under tension. For each complex you’re essentially doing 3 reps. So if you’re supposed to do the complex 5 times, you’re actually getting 15 individual reps.

A complex you thought only worked to develop power has just turned you into a potent muscle builder.

Putting It All Together

Now, it might look like I threw a barbell, olympic plates AND the complete kitchen sink at you with these exercises. How would you put these into a useable program?

Since these are quite technical, you’re going to want to put them at the beginning. You’ll be mentall fresh for them, and they’ll prime your body for the rest of your muscle building workout later.

Here’s a few ways to use these in your program.

Workout 1

Hip Clean: 3×5 sets. As heavy as you can with great technique.

Clean + Front Squat: 1+3 x 5 (The plus just means your’e going to do the second exercise before putting the bar down)

Lunge: 4×12

Sled Drag or Push: 3×45 seconds

Workout 2

Snatch Grip DL Pause at the knee: 4×5 sets

Clean+Press+push press + Jerk. 1+1+1+1x 5 sets

KB strict press 3×8-10

Farmer Carries: 3x 1:00min

Like any exercise, you’ll see that these aren’t the only exercises you’ll do in your workout. One exercise or complex won’t completely transform your body, strength, and fitness. They might create a giant spark for your workout, but you need to fan that into a raging muscle building fire with the rest of your workout.

Sometimes our muscles need novelty. Doing quality exercises you’ve never done before are sure fire ways to stimulate those old muscles you thought were at their max, and see your overall enjoyment improve too.

The Olympic lifts will do just that. By utilizing complexes and different parts of the lifts mentioned above, you might just spark new growth to old muscles you didn’t think could grow any more like your shoulders, traps, and overall leg size.

Use and abuse these workouts and exercise variations.

Your new muscle awaits.

About the Author

Linden Ellefson is a personal trainer and online coach from Calgary, Canada. When he's not drinking coffee or playing with his dog, Taco, he's helping 30-40 year old guys get in better shape than they were in college. Find out more at