If You Only Had Time for One Lift




By Jim Schmitz

U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team Coach 1980, 1988 & 1992
Author of Olympic-style Weightlifting for Beginner & Intermediate Weightlifters Manual and DVD

If You Only Had Time for One Lift

I know everyone probably has his favorite lift or several favorites, and not only could you probably not choose just one lift, but also you would probably think it impossible to narrow down your workout to just one lift. Let’s say for some reason you only have time for one lift. Which should it be? My recommendation would be power clean and military press/push press/power jerk.

With the PC & PP or PJ you are getting a pull, a quarter squat, and a push; plus if you do five reps or so, which I recommend, you are getting cardiovascular work as well. Since this lift isn’t as technical as the snatch or as stressful as squats, you don’t need to thoroughly stretch and warm up as you would for them, thus saving time.

A very brief time doing arm circles, body twists and circles, and a few free squats should warm you up.

Begin with an empty bar and do 5 PC’s and 5 military presses, that’s one PC followed by one MP for 5 total of each.  Next:

• start light for a set of 5 x 5 PC’s and MP’s;
• add weight and do 5 PC’s, 2 MP’s, and 3 PP’s;
• add weight for another 5 PC’s, but this time, do 5 PP’s;
• add weight and do 5 PC’s and 2 PP’s followed by 3 PJ’s; and
• finally, add weight and do 5 PC’s and 5 PJ’s.

Your weight selection should be conservative, with your last set being hard but not an absolute maximum.

There are many variations of this routine that you can do and get pretty much the same benefit. One is to do all your PC’s from the hang, either from the thighs or below the knees. Two, you can mix up your PC starting position, doing some reps from the platform, some from the thighs, some from below the knees. Three, you can do all your PC’s, then do all your MP’s, PP’s, and PJ’s. Four, one set can be all MP’s, then the other all PP’s and the rest all PJ’s. Five, you could do some squat cleans as well if you wanted. It’s up to you; I prefer the routine I outlined above, but you do what feels good and works for you.

And that should be it, 5 sets of 5 reps, not counting the empty bar set. If you stretch for 3 minutes and allow no more than 2 minutes per set, including changing weights, doing the lifts, and catching your breath, you should be finished in 15 minutes. This could be the proverbial 15-minute workout that Charles Atlas, of dynamic tension fame, extolled about 80 years ago.


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Jim Schmitz’s gold-medal articles on weightlifting and weight training are regularly featured in MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength Athletes.

Take advantage of what Jim Schmitz, absolutely one of the best American coaches in the sport, can teach you in his
Olympic-style Weightlifting for the Beginner & Intermediate Weightlifters Manual and DVD.

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