John Davis Olympic Training

Background

"There is no secret to training on the press—or any other lift, for that matter. It merely requires a little patience, a little imagination, and a good deal of sweat (above all else) with as heavy a weight as you can handle." - John Davis

Although John Davis, Olympic Lifting legend from the 1950's, has been quoted as saying there is "no secret" to his training, studying Davis' workout can be very instructive. If you are familiar with the way bodybuilders or powerlifters workout, you will immediately notice that this is very different from either of those. Some points to note:

* The workout is (not surprisingly) centered around the major Olympic lifts.
* There are some power lifts thrown in, but Davis never trained with the deadlift.
* There are no isolation exercises.
* Davis does not use a split routine like bodybuilders would, preferring instead to concentrate on training for one particular Olympic lift for a week at a time.

Below is Davis' basic workout. Poundages have been replaced with approximate percentage of 1 rep max. Naturally, he did not workout the same way all the time. Variety is important for continued improvement. However, there is also some variety built-in to this workout.

Press (Clean and Press) Workout

(eliminated as of the 1972 Olympics)

Exercises Sets Reps %1RM
Press 2 6 40%
Press 1 3 54%
Press 1 3 60%
Press 2 3 74%
Press 1 8 82%
Press 8 2 87%
Bench Press 5 3 ?
Squat 5 5 ?
Deep Knee Bends 3-5 10-15 ?

Snatch Workout

Exercises Sets Reps %1RM
Snatch 2 6 43%
Snatch 1 3 47%
Snatch 1 1 65%
Snatch 1 1 74%
Snatch 1 1 79%
Snatch 8 2 79%
Bench Press 5 3 ?
Squat 5 5 ?
Deep Knee Bends 3-5 10-15 ?

Clean (Clean and Jerk) Workout

Exercises Sets Reps %1RM
Clean 2 6 43%
Clean 1 3 47%
Clean 1 1 65%
Clean 1 1 74%
Clean 1 1 79%
Clean 8 2 79%
Hang Clean 1 6 34%?
Hang Clean 1 6 38%?
Hang Clean 5 5 48%?
Hang Clean 5-8 2 63%?
Bench Press 5 3 ?
Squat 5 5 ?
Deep Knee Bends 3-5 10-15 ?

Training Protocol

  • This is a high volume workout. Work your way up to it.
  • Training to failure is not safe with Olympic lifts.

Training Schedule

  • Train on each lift for one week at a time, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Sources

  • Joe Weider's 1950's booklet "Weider Olympic Course". Note it is assumed above that what Davis calls the Hang Snatch is what Weider calls the Hang Clean, and the term Hang Clean is used because it seems to make more sense since it's part of training for the Clean.
  • Davis gave more details in a 1993 Iron Master Interview. Poundages from this article were converted to percent of 1 rep max (based on a 343lb press, 317lb snatch, and 400lb clean).
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