Do you wonder how some coaches continually produce top lifters, while others never seem to develop champions? Over the past 2 decades Glenn Pendlay has continually produced champions. While other coaches gripe about a lack of talent where they live, Glenn moves across the country and somehow finds and develops lifters wherever he goes. From Donny Shankle and Caleb Ward in Wichita Falls, Texas to Jon North and Spencer Mormon at CalStrength in California, to Travis Cooper and James Tatum at MDUSA in South Carolina Glenn has consistently produced over and over again.
Programming for squats and deadlifts (as well as presses and push presses) is a little different than programming for snatches and clean and jerks. On the olympic lifts progress tends to come in spurts and it is rarely steady and consistent. On the slow lifts, every beginner should go through a long period of linear progress. Linear progress is easy to program, just do a little bit more every workout, or every week. But the weightlifting movements are hard to program that way. Lifts like the snatch and clean and jerk demand that you practice them with some minimum intensity to ensure the technique is similar to what is used on a maximal attempt in competition. I believe this minimum intensity is somewhere between 80 and 90% for practice to be useful, but the closer to 100% you get, the more useful the practice is. This is not the case with lifts like the squat or bench press, which can be practiced with much less weight and still done with technique that is very similar to what needs to be used with a maximum weight.
Because of this, programs for powerlifters usually have much more steady weekly increases than weightlifting programs. A bench press program can start with 60% of a lifters maximum and steadily increase 5 of 10% each week, usually while dropping reps per set. That is easy, it makes sense, and it works. In weightlifting we are forced to start with with a higher intensity to make sure we are lifting similarly to how we will be lifting a maximal weight in competition. But, the weight you can successfully lift on an exercise like the snatch it way more variable than on an exercise like the bench press. On an exercise like the bench press you can either lift the weight or you can’t. You are rarely, if ever, going to miss a bench press because of bad form. On the other hand, You can have a good day snatching and make 5 singles in a row with 100kg and make them all easily but 2 days later not be able to make a single lift with 90kg because your form is jut a bit off.
I still think there is room for linear programming in weightlifting, but it has to be modified quite a bit. As a weightlifter, you can and should work hard to increase your strength in the slow lifts like squat, bench press, deadlift, press, and push press. Programming for these lifts should have a fair amount of linear progression. Of course it will have to work around the snatch and clean and jerk training. You will have to modify your strength work when you are close to a weightlifting meet, for instance. It would be difficult to do your best effort on clean and jerk when you made PR on the squat earlier in the week.
Even when you have no important meet in sight it is important to think about what days of the week you are squatting heavy, and what days you are doing heavy weightlifting movements. It would probably not work to have your heaviest squat workout on Friday, then try to max your clean and jerk on Saturday. I usually program the heaviest day of olympic lifts on Friday, and the heaviest squat day on Saturday. There is another squat day on Monday, a front squat day on Wednesday(front squats are easier to recover from than back squats) and if deadlifts are done, they are usually done early in the week on Monday or Tuesday or done on Saturday, the day after the heaviest day on the weightlifting movements. This weekly schedule ensures that even when we are pushing the slow lifts hard, we are as recovered as possible when it is time to go heavy on the snatch and clean and jerk.
This interplay between the slow lifts and the competitive weightlifting movements is probably the most difficult part of programming for weightlifting. You have to figure out how to prioritize the snatch and clean and jerk enough to ensure that you continually make progress from a technical standpoint, as well as continually getting stronger on the slow lifts. Technical progress in the weightlifting movements and progress on exercises like squats, front squats, deadlifts, and pressing are both required to become the best weightlifter you can be.