Skill vs Capacity in the Olympic lifts – Am I strong enough?
Written By: Coach Liam
What is holding you back? Self-reflection is something that is often preached, however, as individuals It can prove difficult to objectively identify where our strengths and weaknesses lie. This article is going to provide you with an insight so that you can better identify where your strengths and weakness lie when it comes to the Olympic lifts. Within the Olympic lifts, we have two sides to the same coin ‘skill’ and ‘capacity’. Skill can be thought of as your technical ability. While capacity would be considered your strength. Together they make up your physical performance. We can think of this as a glass and a liquid. Your capacity (strength) is what makes up the size of the glass. Whereas your skill (technique) is the liquid inside of the glass. Let’s apply this analogy to the front squat and the clean. Your front squat is the glass, while your clean is the liquid within it.
Athlete A can front squat 100Kg and can clean 76.5Kg. This would suggest your glass is 76.5% full. This is a good amount of liquid in the glass. You are at no risk of the liquid overflowing or spilling out of the container. Additionally, you are in no need to immediately refill your glass, for the moment. This would be considered the ‘ideal’ situation where skill and capacity meet. However, adding more liquid may cause your container to overflow. Overflow in this sense would be considered; a missed lift, lifting with poor technique, the inability to lift more weight or possibly increased risk of an injury.
Athlete B can front squat 120Kg and can also only clean 76.5kg. This would suggest the glass is less full at 64%. While this may initially seem worse than athlete A there are some positives that can be drawn from this. Athlete B has a greater container size and with a greater container size has more room for additional liquid. Additional benefits can present themselves as less stress on the bodies connective tissues, muscular and central nervous systems when Olympic lifting. While there are some positives ultimately athlete B is lacking in skill compared to Athlete A.
Athlete C can clean the same 76.5kg as athlete A & B yet can only front squat 85kg. This would suggest their glass is 91% full. In this scenario the glass is smaller yet proportionally is fuller than athlete A and B. while this would suggest this athlete has greater skill (technical ability) the glass is nearly spilling over. Therefore, the athlete is now at greater risk of a missed lift, the inability to lift more weight, CNS burnout and increased risk of an injury.
While the above examples looked at the relationship between the clean and the front squat, research shows that a relationship exists between other lifts. The following chart gives you a good indication of how much you should be looking to lift in relation to your 1 Rep Max back squat.
This table is merely a tool and from these ratios, you can begin to filter your weaknesses into strength, technique or power. However, when looking at this table and subsequent ratios we must appreciate that they will not apply as well to athletes who have yet to achieve technically consistency. Additionally, we must also apply some common sense. In weightlifting, you must be mobile, stable and strong enough to receive weights in a good bottom position if you are calculating numbers based of a ¼ squat you set 10 years ago you will be comparing apples to oranges and will be left with an inflated opinion of your abilities or frustration at of your apparent lack of.
For example, if a lifter’s power clean and power snatches surpass their full clean and snatch, this athlete is either exceptionally powerful or has technical or mobility issues in getting under the bar into a full-depth receiving position. We hope this post will enable you to have a better insight into your own lifting capabilities.