I just spent an hour and a half listening to a podcast based on scientific research to once and for all determine which method of training is superior, Olympic lifting or powerlifting. I waited eagerly through the show as they ran through six old research articles before rendering their decision. They basically decided that it depends. It depends on your situation. I have to respectfully disagree.
Before I give my opinion I must expose my own biases. I am a former competitive weightlifter; I trained and competed in Olympic weightlifting for quite a few years in the 1990’s. I still enjoy the lifts and follow the sport. I also enjoy the sport of powerlifting; I trained and competed briefly in the late 1980’s. I also trained at Westside barbell with Louie Simmons back in the mid 1990’s. I am very comfortable with both methods of training and use elements of each in my programs. So I feel more than qualified to comment on this subject.
So back to the question. Which is better powerlifting or Olympic lifting? First of all I think this is a stupid argument. They are only as good as the coach coaching it. If you suck at coaching Olympic weightlifting the results you get will suck. If you try using powerlifting or Westside methods and don’t know what the hell you’re doing you will get garbage results, period. I’ve seen many coaches with a CSCS certification through the NSCA or even a certified USA weightlifting club coach do a lousy job of coaching the Olympic lifts. I personally know a college strength coach who tried to implement Westside barbell methods after reading a couple of articles, his efforts produced disastrous results. If you don’t have experience with these methods and you still decide to implement them with your athletes or clients, you’re insane.
I could spend hours going over the good and bad of each method, but that’s not my intent here, maybe some other day. The point I am trying to convey is this; the better method is the one you can coach safely and efficiently to your athletes or clients. Learn the lifts if you are going to use the lifts. Coach your ass off with what you know while learning and practicing the other methods you’re interested in. You can’t coach a snatch if you can’t perform one; same thing goes for the deadlift. So the answer lies in the hands of a competent coach. Without great coaching the best of methods are useless.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that both Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting are individual sports that take a great deal of time and effort to learn let alone master. The better training method does not depend on your situations or the athletes you coach and train. The most important considerations are, can you coach the lifts correctly and can you create the proper progression for the exercises. These to sports have some great methods that will produce tremendous results in the hands of qualified coaches. Coach what you know and coach it relentlessly.