Free 4-Week Olympic Weightlifting Program | The Weightlifter's Almanac (2023)

Even with more DIY weightlifters than ever before it’s still a challenge to find good, simple training programs online. Most of the training programs that you see on the internet are complicated, full of percentages, and take hours to complete. They’re not suitable for the average lifter.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Training doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.

Take this guy for example. That’s Frans De Haes.

Free 4-Week Olympic Weightlifting Program | The Weightlifter's Almanac (1)

Frans won gold in weightlifting at the 1920 Summer Olympics and set a world record in the Clean & Jerk in the lightweight division in 1922. If Frans was able to look like this back in 1920 – without a complicated training program – then it’s just as possible for the average weightlifter to look like this today.

Here’s a free, easy-to-follow 4-Week Olympic Weightlifting Program that is intended to fit the training needs of the general public. This program is a basic training template for those athletes who enjoy the sport of Olympic weightlifting and want to use it as a building block for their training. You can follow this program at home with minimal equipment or at any gym with a barbell and bumper plates.

Skip the description and jump straight to the 4-Week Training Program

Program Description

The Four-Week Olympic Weightlifting Program is a four-day-per-week, repeating, four-week program. There are four different training days that repeat for four weeks – each training Day 1-4 is unique and different than the other days but every Day 1 looks the same for all four weeks.

To keep things simple, track your numbers each week and try to add weight every week rather than change movements from week-to-week.

Training Goals

The goal of the training program is to improve strength, power, speed, and overall physique using the Olympic lifts and other strength-building exercises.

The program is intended to make progress in the lifts while keeping the science and percentages to a minimum.

It’s meant to be something for DIY weightlifters to follow at-home while continually making progress and enjoying their training – it’s not intended to replicate an elite-level training program or to replace in-person coaching.

To achieve the goals of the program, the training alternates between sessions of Olympic lift variations and volume-base squatting with Olympic weightlifting accessory movements like overhead squats, clean pulls, and push presses making up the bulk of the training.

Other well-known strength building exercises like barbell lunges, rows, and pull-ups are also used to improve overall strength and physique.

Training Sessions

Each training session takes roughly 60-90 minutes to complete and all sessions follow a similar pattern: 4-5 total exercises per session, beginning with the most complex/heaviest lift and working down to less physically taxing exercises. Every training sessions ends with core work.

If you have to shorten a training session for any reason, it’s best to eliminate exercises from the end of the session rather than from the beginning.

You will see far more benefit spending 30 minutes on the back squat than you would rushing through five exercises in the same amount of time. It’s quality over quantity when you’re short on time.

The training week is laid out into four days, each with a distinct focus:

Day 1 – Snatch

Day 2 – Back Squat

Day 3 – Clean

Day 4 – Front Squat

Each training session has a main focus (Snatch, Back Squat, Clean, Front Squat) and 3-4 accessory exercises built around that focus.

For example, a squat-focused day would start with the squat and then progress through a series of exercises that benefit the squat like barbell lunges, stiff leg deadlifts, and calf raises.

Exercise Selection

The exercises in the program are chosen for their 1) sport specificity, 2) muscular benefit and 3) the relatively little amount of equipment required to perform them.

There are thousands of exercises that could fit into this four-week program – feel free to adjust them to your specific training needs. These exercises target well-known weak areas in most Olympic lifters and can generally be done in a garage with basic weightlifting equipment.

The majority of the exercises used in the program are compound exercises known for their strength-building ability, things like: pull-ups, presses, and squats. Then there are a few smaller, single joint exercises used for specific muscle groups that are commonly weak or important in the sport of Olympic weightlifting, like: upright rows, calf raises, and triceps extensions. And then of course, abs.

If you’re unable to perform any of the exercises for any reason (like missing equipment) you can always substitute for a similar exercise.

For example, if the program says dumbbell but you only have a barbell available then perform the closest barbell variation of that exercise.

Aim to copy the intended movement as closely as possible but feel free to adjust as necessary to fit your training.

Sets and Rest

Exercises are laid out in Sets x Reps: 5 x 2, 3 x 25, 3 x 30 sec, etc.

5 x 2 means 5 sets of 2 repetitions, not including warm-up sets (generally anything under 80% in perceived effort level is considered a warm-up set). 3 x 30 sec means 3 sets of 30 seconds either a) holding the position (side planks) or b) performing the exercise (Russian twists).

Lifters can choose when and how to add weight during the sets.

Some lifters prefer to climb in weight, using each set as a stepping stone towards the final “max” attempt while others prefer sticking to the same, challenging weight for all of the sets. In this program it’s up to the lifter to choose which style works best for them.

It’s also a matter of personal preference whether or not lifters “max out” for any given exercise – for example, use the 5 sets to work up to the heaviest set of 2 possible. Some lifters will feel comfortable with the risk that goes along with attempting max weights while others would rather complete the reps in a challenging but controlled manner – in this program both are correct.

As for rest periods, we recommend 90-180 seconds of rest in-between sets. This allows for maximum recovery without the risk of cooling down and losing muscle elasticity or explosiveness.

The 4-Week Training Program

Day 1

ExerciseSets x Reps
Power snatch5 x 2
Hang squat snatch4 x 2
Push press4 x 3
Pullups3 x 10
Crunches3 x 25

Workout Description

The training week begins with the most complex and difficult exercise in Olympic weightlifting, the Snatch. Power Snatches start the week off with simplicity – maximum speed, minimal risk of injury, and easy mental cues.

Next, heavy technique work that targets the specific, dynamic “jump under” of the Snatch – the most challenging portion of the lift.

Finally, compound, vertical pressing and pulling exercises strengthen the all-important shoulders and lats. And every training session ends with ab work.

Day 2

ExerciseSets x Reps
Back squat5 x 5
Single leg deadlifts4 x 8
Seated goodmorning3 x 8
Calf raises3 x 15
Knee raises3 x 15

Workout Description

The focus of Day 2 is building strength that will carry over to the Olympic lifts through the king of all strength-building exercises, the Back Squat.

Volume-based squatting is used over one-rep max attempts in the Back Squat in order to reduce the risk of injury, specifically to the lower back.

Next, unilateral leg work to help with strength imbalances and then a targeted lower back strengthening exercise.

The final movement targets the first link in the jumping chain, the calves.

And of course, the training ends with ab work in the form of hanging knee raises.

Day 3

ExerciseSets x Reps
Squat clean5 x 1
Clean pull4 x 3
Strict press4 x 8
Clean-grip upright row3 x 15
Side planks3 x 30 sec

Workout Description

Day 3 moves back to the Olympic lifts with a focus on the Clean.

Heavy Squat Cleans are the epitome of pulling exercises because the weights are heavy enough to be challenging but light enough that maxing out rarely poses a risk of injury, unlike maxing out a deadlift or overhead squat.

Volume-based Clean Pulls target the first phase of the clean.

Then, more shoulder and back strengthening with controlled pressing and pulling exercises.

And, as always, the workout ends with core work – this time targeting the commonly weak side muscles: obliques, glute medius, and quadratus lumborum.

Day 4

ExerciseSets x Reps
Front squat5 x 2
Split jerk4 x 2
Barbell reverse lunge3 x 8
Triceps extensions3 x 15
Russian twists3 x 30 sec

Workout Description

Day 4 ends the training week with another heavy squat day, this time focusing on the Front Squat.

Heavy Front Squats are used because they correlate best to the Clean.

Then, heavy Jerks are on the schedule followed by the second unilateral exercise of the week, barbell lunges. This old-school strength building movement builds leg strength while also helping to improve the recovery of the Jerk.

Finally, direct triceps work for overall elbow health followed by the core exercise of the day.

Adding More Training

There are a number of ways to add more volume to the program for those that are looking to increase the training.

The first way to add volume would be to increase the number of sets, reps, or exercises on any given training day. The challenge is being careful not to dilute the overall effort by adding too much volume in one training session.

The other way to increase volume would be to add another training day, or two, to the program. There are a number of ways to do this and the possibilities are endless.

Here are a few ideas of extra training days that could be added to the program:

  • Olympic lifts – add another session using the same template
  • Squat or pull – build strength in the weakest portion of your lift
  • Cardio – maintain a general level of cardio
  • Muscle imbalances – fix imbalances or build up the weakest muscles
  • Recovery/flexibility – stretching, rehab drills, and recovery techniques

After the Program

Once the program is complete it’s time to de-load and retest the lifts.

Use the next week to test your fitness by lowering the training volume and intensity and retesting the lifts. We recommend choosing 3-5 of your favorite exercises to test before and after every training program as a way to gauge the efficacy of the program.

Most Olympic weightlifters would use the Snatch and Clean & Jerk as testing movements but other exercises could be: Back Squat, Front Squat, Power Snatch, Strict Press, or Pull-up.

As usual, it’s up to the individual lifter to choose the movements that work best for them.

If you enjoyed the program then run it back. Keep the same template but change the exercises to fit your current strengths and weaknesses. Every four weeks, deload and retest. Rinse and repeat. The trick is to find something that works for you and stick with it.

Check out some of our other articles about programming:

  • Free 5-Day Olympic Weightlifting Hypertrophy Program
  • 4-Week General Olympic Weightlifting Program
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