Power Training Without Olympic Lifts

Olympic lifts too complicated? Try these three safer power exercises from STACK Expert John Cissik.

Justin Verlander performs an Overhead Med Ball Throw.

Power is critical for virtually all sports skills. It's the reason why you can sprint, jump or throw a ball. Needless to say, it must be a focus of any training program.

One of the most common ways to increase power is with Olympic lifts, such as the Clean, Snatch and Jerk. (Read Master the Hang Clean in 4 Steps.) Olympic lifts are extremely popular exercises; but they might not be appropriate under some circumstances—such as if an athlete lacks sufficient experience, proper coaching or the necessary equipment.

Below you will find three non-Olympic lifts that effectively build power.

Jump Squat

This is a proven power-training exercise. It mimics the triple extension movement of an Olympic lift without the need for a complicated catch. Plus, Jump Squats don't require much weight to be effective. To start, use the barbell only.

  • Start like you would for a Back Squat. (Learn proper Squat technique.)
  • Sit back into a quarter squat so your knees are at a 135-degree angle.
  • Without pausing, extend your hips, knees and ankles to jump straight up as high as possible.
  • Land with your weight on your heels and your hips pushed back so that your glutes and hamstrings absorb the impact.

Coaching Points

  • Progress to 30% of your Back Squat max over several months. This number will change as your Back Squat improves.
  • Focus on the speed of movement, not amount of weight lifted.
  • Don't get into a rhythm. Each repetition should be distinct and performed at max effort. This is not like performing a set of barbell curls.
  • Land by pushing your hips back, and avoid thrusting your knees forward or together when you land.

Speed Squats

Instead of performing a Squat with a goal of lifting more weight, this variation focuses on lifting a lighter weight as fast as possible. It's a great way to transfer the strength you develop with your Squat into power you can use on the field.

  • Start like you would for a Back Squat.
  • Sit back into a quarter squat so your knees are at a 135-degree angle.
  • Immediately extend your hips and knees to drive up out of the squat.
  • Perform as many reps as possible in ten seconds.

Coaching Points

  • Start at 30% of your Back Squat and gradually progress to 50%.
  • Adjust the weight as your Back Squat improves.
  • Keep your weight on your heels and sit your hips back during the Squat.
  • Do not let the bar come off your shoulders.
  • Focus on the speed of movement, not the amount of weight lifted.

Overhead Med Ball Throw

This exercise is used extensively to train the vertical jump because of how closely it mimics an Olympic lift. In fact, the movements are nearly the same except you can toss the ball overhead, limiting the impact on your body. To perform this exercise, stand with your back to the course.

  • Stand up tall with your chest out, shoulders back and feet slightly wider than your hips.
  • Hold a medicine ball in front of you.
  • Quickly lower into a quarter squat by pushing your hips back, and swing the med ball between your legs.
  • Without pausing, jump as high as possible while throwing the med ball up and behind you as far as possible.
  • Retrieve the med ball and perform the next rep.

Coaching Points

  • Throw the medicine ball for distance, not height.
  • Triple extend through your hips, knees and ankles.


There are two approaches you can use to add these non-Olympic lifts into your program. You can choose one exercise to perform at the start of a workout—for example, Jumps Squats on Monday, Speed Squats on Wednesday and Med Ball Overhead Throws on Friday. Or, you can perform all three exercises in one power-focused workout.

In general, perform each exercise for three sets of five to ten reps. Focus on speed and technique. Rest for one to two minutes between sets.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock