Those Magic Little Lift Ratios

Ratio Pic EditedOver years of training weightlifters, we’ve found that lift ratios can serve as powerful tools for planning and prediction.

Lift ratios help us plan by uncovering a lifter’s imbalances. We use them in our coaching system to prioritize problems and influence programming.

Lift ratios also help us predict what a lifter is capable of lifting on meet day. They enable us to translate certain training data into a meaningful forecast for planning attempts or predicting results.

Here, in more detail, is how we use lift ratios for both purposes.

Planning Training
We determine how well-balanced (or not) our lifters are by evaluating the ratio of certain special exercises compared to the snatch and clean & jerk. Weaknesses in the special exercises reveal weaknesses in the competition lifts. We address the weaknesses with well-planned and targeted programming.

Which lifts?
The special exercises we consider include: back squat, front squat, overhead squat, clean, jerk, power snatch/power clean, snatch/clean from blocks above the knee, snatch/clean from the hang below the knee, and seated press.

We consider these exercises because, among other things, they meet three criteria:

  1. They are well-correlated with performance in the snatch and clean & jerk. As such, they have reasonable diagnostic and predictive value.
  2. They can improve bioenergetics (i.e. the production and utilization of energy).
  3. They can improve technique by improving power/motor potential at any given position.

Which Ratios?
The ratios we use are derived primarily from Russian weightlifting literature*. We use them as the Russians did: by comparing current lifter bests in the special exercises to bests in the competition lifts. We compare each lifter’s results to the ratios of an ideal, balanced lifter. Perfect correspondence to these ideal ratios implies our lifter is well-balanced. Deviations from these ideals reveal areas that may need priority attention in training.

Here are the ratios we use:

Snatch = ~80% of C&J Seated Press = 55% of C&J
Overhead Squat = 105% of Snatch Clean = 102% of C&J
Back Squat = 135% of C&J Power Snatch /Clean = 80% of Full Snatch/Clean
Front Squat = 115% of C&J Snatch/Clean from Blocks Above the Knee = 95% of Full Snatch/Clean
Jerk = 105% of C&J Hang Snatch/Clean from Below the Knee = 95% of Full Snatch/Clean


If you need a quick tool to determine your lifters’ current strengths/weaknesses and to guide your upcoming programming, consider using ratios like these.

Predicting Performance
In addition to identifying weaknesses and planning training, we also use ratios to predict a lifter’s readiness/capability for an upcoming competition. We do this by identifying the lifter’s current max in one or more of the special exercises and dividing by the target ideal ratio. This gives us a good idea of the lifter’s current competition capabilities.

(Warning: Math below)

For example, to predict snatch capabilities for an upcoming competition, we identify the best result from the current mesocycle for each of the four special snatch exercises and we plug it into these formulae:

For any given exercise:

Sp = SEm/SEn
(where Sp = Predicted Snatch, SEm = Special Exercise Maximum, and SEn = Special Exercise Norm (i.e. Ideal %))

For use with multiple special exercises, we derive the SpAverage by adding the Sp result from each individual exercise and dividing by the number of exercises considered:

SpAverage = (SpEx1 + SpEx2 + SpEx3 + SpEx4)/4

Here’s an example for a hypothetical lifter with the following current max lifts:

OHSquat (OHS)=110kg

Power Snatch (PS)=95kg

Sn. Bl. Above Knee (SBL)=110kg

H. Sn. Below Knee (HSN)=100kg

What can she snatch?

From the numbers immediately above, we can determine first what each special exercise predicts for the snatch:

Sp=SEm/SEn

Sp(OHS) = 110/1.05 =104.7kg

Sp(PS) = 95/.80 =118.8kg

Sp(SBL) =110/.95 =115.8kg

Sp(HSN) =100/.95 =105.3kg

Then we average these individual predictions to obtain an average prediction:

SpAverage = (Sp(OHS)+Sp(PS)+Sp(SBL)+Sp(HSN))/4

so…

SpAverage = (104.7+118.8+115.8+105.3)/4 = 111.1kg

So our lifter appears ready to snatch 111kg.

Using ratios in this manner gives us a rational and repeatable method for forecasting what an athlete is capable of lifting.

Of course, when dealing with biological organisms and their reactions to stress, there will always be an inherent level of unpredictability. We can mitigate some of this unpredictability through careful analysis of the known variables. Lift ratios are among the known variables.

Used wisely, lift ratios can help coaches make better decisions for lifter training and competition planning. We hope the information above will help more coaches do so.

* Including:
• Determining Physical Preparedness of Weightlifters For Competition, V.G. Oleshko in 1980 Weightlifting Yearbook
• Modeling Speed Strength Preparedness of Weightlifters by Mikhailyuk and Bashkirov in 1983 Weightlifting Yearbook

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If you’re interested in learning more tidbits from our coaching methodology, check out our recent series, 30 Days of Technique.

If you’re a coach and you’d like to get certified in our methodology, check out our new coaching certification course.

NOTE: We are just about to launch our very own online lift ratio calculator. You can plug-in your numbers (or your lifters’ numbers) and derive an analysis to help you diagnose weaknesses and plan training. It’s totally free. If you’d like to be among the first to access the calculator, sign-up here.