Beginners should do LOTS of competitive lifts with moderate weights. To us, moderate means as heavy as can be done with consistently good technique and a low percentage of misses, whether it is 75% or 95% of max. Most workouts are started with snatch and clean and jerk, and in most workouts beginners do at least 20 snatches and 10 clean and jerks. We aren't afraid to try new maxes whenever they seem possible, but try to do it within a framework of lots of lifts, few ugly lifts, and fewer misses.
We believe in doing all 3 squat variations normally done by weightlifters (front squat, back squat, and overhead squat), most weeks doing at least one workout of each style. We focus on the back squat for strength building, and concentrate on good position in front squatting and overhead squatting. We also do 'unusual' strength exercises, exercises designed not only to strengthen, but to condition and toughen. Exercises like dumbbell and barbell clean and press (each rep includes a clean and a press), walking lunges, kettlebell work, and strongman type training. We believe the training of beginners is a three-fold process, learning efficient technique on the competitive lifts, increasing strength, and conditioning the body to handle the increased training that will be required as a more advanced lifter.
Our training programs for beginners are simple. A sample weekly workout for a first year, 12-13 year old lifter could look like this:
- 20 snatches
- 10 clean and jerks
- 3 sets of 3 front squats
- 2 sets of 10 dumbbell clean & press
- Snatch to roughly 95%
- Clean and jerk to roughly 95%
- 5 sets of 5 squats
- Walking lunges, 2 sets of 40 yards each
- 20 hang snatches
- 20 hang clean and jerk (could alternate jerk and power jerk)
- 3 sets of 5 overhead squat
- 3 sets of 10 bent press with kettlebell
We try to end each workout with some low-back and abdominal work, and some jumping exercises. For this, we use a glute-ham bench, a reverse hypermachine, lots of bands and medicine balls, and Plyo Boxes.
We don't believe in a lot of 'formal' periodization for beginners. The strength, technique, conditioning, and abilities of beginners are changing at a rate that makes planning difficult. We have found the best way to periodize a beginner is to simply shift focus over time from one part of training to the next (This holds true for intermediate and advanced lifters).
Immediately after one competition and looking forward to another in say, 3 months, one of our lifters may spend the first month focusing on conditioning exercises. The snatches and clean and jerks and squats will still be done, but the majority of the energy of the workout might go to the walking lunges, the kettlebell exercises, the clean and presses, and the various glute-ham raises, reverse hyperextensions, and ab work that ends the workout.
The next 4-6 weeks may be spent with the emphasis on squatting. Like the previous month, the workouts still start with snatches and clean and jerks, and heavy weights are lifted in these exercises when possible, but the emphasis of the workouts is pushing the different squat variations to new maxes. Workouts end with lowered volumes and intensities of general strength work like clean and press, and lowered volumes of lower back and ab work.
The last 2-4 weeks before a meet, the emphasis shifts to the competitive lifts. Squatting and other strength work is decreased, so that the lifter comes into each workout fresh and ready to do their absolute best on the competitive lifts.
It is important to note that the workouts throughout this time would look pretty much the same on paper. The sample workout shown above could show a week, 3 months prior to competition, or a week's workouts only 2 weeks out. We don't stop doing any strength exercises before a competition, and we don't stop doing the competitive lifts in the 'off season', we just shift where we really 'push' and focus our energy.
So there it is. A simple program that pushes the kids continuously, is simple to understand and follow, and not only builds the total, but prepares the body for more frequent, more intense later training.