A popular training split for Olympic weightlifters is a 3-day program, one that allows for flexibility in the training schedule and can pair well with the demands of family, school, work, and other priorities.
So, what is the best 3-day Olympic weightlifting program? While there is no such thing as “the best” program, a great program should at least include the snatch, clean, jerk, back squat, front squat, and some type of pulls 2-3 times per week. Programs should take into account a lifter’s abilities, training age, recovery, and weaknesses to best maximize training success.
In this article, I’ll lay out a sample 3-day Olympic weightlifting program geared for beginners and intermediate lifters (and maybe some advanced lifters who need an intro training cycle).
I’ll also provide valuable insight into the development of a program, what factors to consider, and how to progress a program to increase complexity, loading demands, and continually challenge yourself to improve.
If you want to take the guesswork out of programming altogether, then I suggest using the Fitbod app, which will design your weightlifting program based on your logged training data. The workouts will adapt to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. There are also over 600 exercise videos to show you how to perform each movement properly.
Programming for Beginners vs Intermediate and Advanced Lifters
Below are a few key factors to consider when programming for beginners vs intermediate and advanced lifters.
BEGINNERS OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTERS
When working with beginners, it is essential to develop proper speed qualities and timing of the lifts, rather than emphasizing loads on the bar. For example, being as explosive as possible when you drive the barbell off the floor and ensuring your ‘catch position’ is well-time with your arms and legs for both the snatch or clean and jerk.
Without establishing these explosive and fluid movements, beginners will ultimately be limited throughout their evolution as a lifter. The further they progress, the harder it will be to make fundamental changes to their technique.
This is probably one of the biggest issues beginner lifters and coaches make. So, be sure you to progress steadily so you can develop maximal speeds, build perfect positions, and establish sound timing and technique.
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INTERMEDIATE AND ADVANCED OLYMPIC WEIGHT LIFTERS
As a lifter progresses, they can then start to add loads and volume. It is important to understand that as a lifter progresses, while they do get stronger, they also have increased stress placed upon them (compared to the beginner).
Despite what some may think, more advanced lifters (due to the overall loading stress they are subject too), should be monitored more closely for neural fatigue. Overall training volume and higher intensities (relative to overall potential) when poorly programmed and monitored, can result in devastating long-term injuries and chronic fatigue.
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Sets, Reps, Intensity, and Total Training Volume Recommendations
When programming, whether it’s a 3-day program or 6-day, coaches must vary the training variables to maximize results.
Below are three distinct phases, each serving a purpose in the overall development and long-term success of the lifter. It is important that each phase be progressed so that it seamlessly transitions into the next. Ideally, a lifter would have one week of recovery between phases to minimize injury and allow recovery.
Again, if you’re interested in using the Fitbod app for your weightlifting workouts, it automatically adjusts future workouts by taking into account your recovery by using your logged training data and rate of progression.
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During this phase, the overall training volume is built so that a base is established. A variety of movements are included, overall intensities (% of max) are lower, and sets and reps are at the highest they will be in successive phases. The goal here is to build muscle, develop conditioning, and refine movement.
In this phase, the program often decreases some overall training volume and in turn increases intensity (% of max).
Heavier relative loads with low to moderate sets and reps allow the lifter to properly train their nervous system, increase strength, and allow the connective tissues to adapt to the heavier loads and stress. Recovery becomes even more important as heavier loads are being used.
Additionally, it is imperative that the technique does not diminish under heavier loads. If so, either decrease sets and reps (if the technique breakdown is due to fatigue) or lighten the weight.
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This phase is often reserved for more advanced lifters and is used leading up into a competition or a test event where you want to build to your max.
This phase is often short, consisting of a maximum of 4-6 weeks, sometimes as short as 2-3 weeks. During this phase, intensity is high, sets and reps are low (1-2 sets of 1 rep), and recovery is of the utmost importance.
Additionally, most accessory exercises are removed to not impede recovery from heavy, hard training.
If a lifter is not competing or testing their strength, they can often move into a restoration phase and recycle back into an accumulation phase.
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This phase can last 1-2 weeks or 6-8 weeks, all depending on the level of intensity of the previous phases, training age of the lifter (more advanced lifters may need longer times to restore themselves after a hard peak cycle), and event calendar.
During this phase, the Olympic lifts themselves may be trained less frequently, more foundational fitness and conditioning practices can be used, and the athlete is allowed to partake in more “fitness” type training; like machines, pick-up basketball, light running, etc.
In doing so, you allow the lifter to refocus their mental side of training, find the joy in training (after a hard peak, many advanced lifters may suffer “burnout”), and allow their body to repair.
Related Article: Jeff Nippard’s Full-Body Program Review
Sample 3-Day Per Week Olympic Weightlifting Program
Each workout below will train both the snatch, clean, and jerk every session to maximize exposure and technique training. Additionally, squatting will occur twice per week, with upper body accessory lifts mixed in. Each workout should take roughly 60 minutes, excluding a general Olympic weightlifting dynamic warm-up (before) and light stretching (after).
Each exercise is followed by a set, reps, and intensity progression.
For example, in the first movement of day one, the lifter will perform 4 sets of 2 reps. In the first week, the lifter will use 65% of their max snatch. In the second week they will use 68%. In the third week they will use 71%, with the fourth week being a deload of sorts, in which they will use the same loading they used in week one, 65%.
This is a program that can be used by all levels and is considered an accumulation phase.
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Power Snatch + Overhead Squat: 4 sets of 2 reps @ 65-68-71-68%
Hang Clean: 3 sets of 3 reps @ 70-73-75-70%
Back Squat: 4 sets of 6-8 reps @ 65-70-75-65%
Snatch Pull: 3 sets of 2 reps @ 90% for all weeks
Military Press: 3 sets of 8 reps @ challenging load, progress every week by 5-10lbs
Muscle Snatch: 3 sets of 3 reps @ 50% of snatch max for all weeks
Block Clean: 4 sets of 2-3 reps @ 70-73-75-70%
Snatch Deadlift: 4 sets of 5 reps @ challenging load, progress every week by 5-10lbs
Push Press: 3 sets of 5 reps @ 60%, progress 5-10lbs every week
Pull Up 3 sets of 8 reps @ challenging load, progress every week by 5-10lbs
Hang Snatch: 4 sets of 1 rep @ 70-73-77-70%
Clean + Jerk: 4 sets of 2 reps @ 70-73-77-70%
Front Squat: 4 sets of 3-5 reps @ 75% of clean and jerk max
Romanian Deadlift: 3 sets of 6-8 reps @ 70% of clean and jerk max
Lunge 3 sets of 8 reps per leg @ challenging load, progress every week by 5-10lbs
HOW TO PROGRESS EACH WEEK?
As discussed above, you can progress the main movements by simply increasing the amount of weight on the bar. This corresponds with the % of maximum in the exercise prescriptions above.
It is key to recognize that if the speed and technique diminish as the weights increase week to week, this is NOT ideal. If this is the case, work with the same weight as the previous week, and challenge yourself to do the movements with more precision and power rather than increase the weight.
NEVER sacrifice form and speed for weight.
Related Article: 3 Day Workout Split For Beginners (For Muscle Gain & Fat Loss)
IS IT OKAY TO NOT INCREASE THE WEIGHT WEEK-TO-WEEK?
There are many variables you can look at to determine if you are progressing in performance. Many lifters fail to recognize this and often end up lifting with progressively worsening technique and slower speeds as the weight increases.
The weight should increase only if technique and speed stay constant week to week.
WHAT DO YOU DO AFTER THIS PROGRAM?
When completing a program, in this example a 4-week workout plan, you should not simply jump ship or change every single aspect of the workout. Rather, a good program will systematically progress so that the tweaks are small yet noticeable, often swapping in some exercises, leaving others, and changing sets/reps/volume.
Program hopping is a term coaches give to someone who constantly jumps from one short term program (4-8 weeks) to another, with zero focus on the long term progressions/phases and how one short term program is built with a longer-term program in mind.
If you find yourself jumping program to program without long term success, it may be time to commit to a structured training program like what you’ll get on FitBod.
Best Olympic Weightlifting Exercises for 3-Day Programs
Below is a comprehensive listing of the most vital exercises to be included in any Olympic weightlifting program. It is important to note that not all movements are on this list, and there are a wide range of exercises that can benefit an individual lifter based on their goals.
The below snatch movements are essentials for all levels of lifters and serve various purposes. For lifters who struggle with technique of the floor, blocks and hangs can be used to train the snatch while also working on pulls to help reinforce better positions off the ground.
Hang Power Snatch
Block Power Snatch
The below clean movements are essentials for all levels of lifters and serve various purposes. For lifters who struggle with technique of the floor, blocks and hangs can be used to train the clean while also working on pulls to help reinforce better positions off the ground. Additionally, using power movements paired with front squats can be a great way to transition someone into a full clean (squat).
The below jerk movements are essentials for all levels of lifters and serve various purposes. Improving footwork, vertical dip and drive mechanics of the legs, and various receiving positions (push, power, split jerk) are all essential to develop optimal jerk technique and strength.
Squatting is an essential strength movement for Olympic weightlifting. It is important that lifters do so with the hips down, chest up, and use the quadriceps and glutes primary. Other forms of squatting like box squats, quarter squats, and low bar back squats are NOT essential in Olympic weightlifting and should be used sparingly, if at all.
It is key to develop proper extension in the snatch and clean. This can be done by developing strong legs and back muscles in the pull of the lifts.
Hang Snatch Pull
Hang Clean Pull
Clean High Pull
Accessory exercises are a great way to add additional training volume, add muscle mass, and address any movement imbalances and muscle asymmetries.
Integrating 1-2 of these movements per day can be a great way to also support progress over time and minimize injury (assuming these exercises are done correctly and programmed properly).
As the phases progress into intensification and peaking phases, accessory movements are often taken out or significantly decreased to allow for greater recovery from heavier lifts, squats, and pulls. It is important to note that this is a very abbreviated lis
t of accessory movements.
Snatch Push Press
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A 3-day Olympic weightlifting program can be used to develop beginners and competitive level lifters alike.
Depending on the overall abilities levels and recovery abilities of the individual, daily workouts can vary from a few movements to 6-8 exercises per day.
In the end, every program should include snatches, cleans, jerks, squats, and pulls to cover all basis of Olympic weightlifting, with the addition of accessory movements to help address any muscular imbalances, weakness, and movement disorders.
It is important to remember that proper technique and speed qualities of the movements trump loading most times of the training year, so having a trained coach who can offer feedback is essential for overall development.
About The Author
Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.
Mike has published over 500+ articles on premiere online media outlets like BarBend, BreakingMuscle, Men’s Health, and FitBob, covering his expertise of strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, fitness, and sports nutrition.
In Mike’s spare time, he enjoys the outdoors, traveling the world, coaching, whiskey and craft beer, and spending time with his family and friends.