One of the hot debates in the Olympic lifting world has always been the usage and implementation of “bodybuilding movements.” Weightlifters and weightlifting coaches will get hot very quickly when these movements and their practicality to the sport are mentioned. I’m not talking about behind the neck snatch grip presses or push presses from the front. Most would agree the utility of these exercises is massive and the carryover to the sport is not debatable. The movements I am talking about includes pull-ups and chin-ups and bicep curls and bench press and incline dumbbell press and movements such as these that seem to fit into the “Globo gym” bodybuilding realm. The question that is often debated is do these movements have a place in the sport of Olympic weightlifting and are they beneficial for certain lifters?
The debate surrounding these movements stems from a question of practicality and fuctionality. Do movements like the benchpress put lifters at risk for adverse mobility in the shoulders or potentially put their shoulders at risk for injury? Do movements like the bicep curl of the chin up ultimately create mass that is not useful for the sport of weightlifting? These are all questions that deserve a response and at the bare minimum deserve some time spent thinking about them.
Many Olympic weightlifting coaches hold to a very strict programming model that allows for snatch, clean and jerk, and squats in their various forms. These types of programs will avoid any auxiliary movements that are not specifically the primary movements of the sport. On the other side of the spectrum there are coaches who employ and utilize up to 100 different types of movements for the purpose of making the athlete well-rounded, athletic, and ultimately better at the sport of weightlifting. These coaches would argue that ignoring the utility of multiple movement in the sport of weightlifting is to ignore highly useful tools in their tool belt.
However both sets of coaches would have something to say about bodybuilding movements and their place in the sport. There are many coaches in both camps who would argue against these movements as many would argue they put lifters at risk and waste time and energy on building muscle in areas that are not of high priority in the sport. However, there is another camp of coaches. I tend to reside in the this camp. These coaches don’t ignore these movements and will not immediately throw them out because of their stereotypical image. I believe these movements have a place. Sure a very specific and minimal place in the sport but certainly a place. I am a great example of the necessity for these movements. My shoulders are far from muscular and my back certainly could use some muscular development. Movements like the reverse butterfly fly, the weighted chinup, or dumbbell bench pulls are extremely useful in building muscle and later strength in my upper and lower back. Furthermore the bench press, incline dumbbell bench press, and all of the similar chest exercises provides balance in the shoulder and also shoulder girdle strength for me. It is extremely important for me to build muscle in both the posterior and anterior sides of my shoulder as the loading and volume I employ overhead does take a toll on those joints. All of the muscular development around that joint however serves to protect the shoulder and support that volume.
That leads me to a final point. These movements are absolutely useful and serve a purpose for the Olympic weightlifting. They are to be used at the right time and in the right amount in order for this purpose to be realized. These types of exercises should not function to give lifters maximal power in the pull-up or benchpress or chin up but instead should serve as muscle building exercises. High reps sets for 2-3 total working sets work to create hypertrophy in the muscle which creates size which creates protection. Furthermore, these types of exercises have a very specific time that they should be used in your program. It doesn’t make sense to be bench pressing one week out from a major competition. By this point the muscular development work does not serve to benefit your lifting. This type of work should be done very early on in your program and serve to support the major exercises. They should always be done at the end of a day’s work as to not take energy and focus away from the major lifts but ultimately they should be completed. To ignore them is to ignore potential growth and potentially take away elements that could prevent injury.
My stance on the movement is simple, use them wisely and use them in order to support your lifting. Do not ignore them just because others in the community may be doing so. That being said make sure they are movements that will not create injury for you specifically and furthermore make sure they’re movements that will be ultimately beneficial for your training. If you already have a great amount of size in your shoulders then maybe it’s not the best idea to try and develop more. Make sure you use them wisely and they certainly can be beneficial.