This discussion will not die, so I will poke at it a bit more. US weightlifters need to get stronger
. This is the refrain repeated endlessly from many outside the weightlifting community. From inside the community, the response is essentially a unanimous agreement in principle - of course in a strength sport athletes need to get stronger. Where the argument really exists is with regard to what exactly that means and how to achieve it.
First, weightlifters compete in the snatch
and clean & jerk
. That's it. Nothing else matters at all. While it may be interesting to know a certain lifter has a huge squat or has done some other weird feat of strength outside of this, it won't change his competitive results - he either snatches and clean & jerks more or less than the next guy.
What individuals with little steeping in weightlifting seem to be unable to understand is how specific the needs of weightlifters really are. It's exceptional in its specificity with regard to strength, especially from the perspective of someone who works on building strength in a very general sense for non-strength athletes. If you work only with football players, it probably seems like more strength in any form = better potential performance, and this is largely true because football players don't have a perfectly specific manner of expressing strength in the sport. This is not the case in weightlifting.
A great example that I've seen come up numerous times is the idea that getting stronger in the press will improve the jerk
. To be fair, a lifter must have adequate upper body strength to support larger and larger weights overhead, but supporting a weight is much different than putting it there. Most female weightlifters are great examples of this - the typical gal is not at all good with pressing strength, yet will be able to jerk huge amounts of weight (I coach a 59kg woman who can jerk 116kg and jerk recovery 165kg, but who couldn't press a pillow case full of cotton balls). It's normal for female lifters to have much larger jerk:press ratios than men. What this comes down to is simple: a conviction that striving for better press numbers as a primary goal in order to improve the jerk demonstrates a lack of understanding of the jerk. Of all the possible jerk accessory exercises available, the press is possibly the least helpful (again, this doesn't mean the press isn't a valuable exercise).
The last thing I'll mention is the notion that ever-increasing numbers in basic lifts like the deadlift will necessarily drive improvements in the snatch and clean. Certainly there is a relationship between these lifts, but it's not that straightforward. Generally speaking, a lifter with a bigger deadlift will out clean and snatch a lifter with a smaller deadlift - but only when we're talking about large differences. Moreover, weightlifters who never actually deadlift in training are often capable of huge deadlifts - so which is driving which?
Some argue that beyond the beginner level, the snatch and clean & jerk can't drive increases in strength. This is utter nonsense that can only be genuinely believed by someone who has never actually snatched and clean & jerked heavy weights. A powerlifter with a 600+ lb deadlift who snatches 180 lbs will feel that snatches are extremely light and will not understand how snatching could possibly make one stronger. In this case, he is right - he's snatching 30% or so of his best deadlift. But seasoned lifters are better at putting their available strength to use in the lifts, and as a consequence, their classic lifts are much greater percentages of their top strength numbers. For example, a lifter may snatch more like 60%+ of his best deadlift - a much different prospect than 30%.
This is not to say that doing the snatch and clean & jerk exclusively is the best method of improving strength for weightlifting. The point is that discounting the ability of the classic lifts to build weightlifting-specific strength is a product of having no understanding of weightlifting.
Do lifters need to push their squats? Of course - I don't know any who don't. This is constantly returned to by folks as well - if lifters would just train the squat harder, they would get stronger, and their lifts would go up. The funny part is that I don't know any lifters who don't push their squats. This is some weird notion that has gained traction outside the weightlifting community. My assumption is that those claiming this is what's going on, and claiming to have interaction with lifters who report this is happening, are actually talking to brand new lifters (or individuals who go to train with good lifting coaches a few times). In these cases, these coaches are likely spending most if not all the time with these individuals working on the snatch and clean & jerk, and likely with light weights much of the time, because these individuals need to learn how to snatch and clean & jerk before they can do much else. To see this as reflective of that coach's actual training programs is absurd.
Most of you reading this would have to change your underwear if you saw the squatting my better lifters do - usually 4-6 days/week, sometimes twice daily, and not necessarily with low volume. The idea that weightlifters in the US just fiddlefart around with baby weights and technique work their whole careers is absolutely ridiculous.
To be clear one last time, I'm in no way suggesting that strength isn't important for weightlifting, or that continuing to improve strength isn't necessary for long term improvement in the snatch and clean & jerk - of course it is. My point is that a weightlifter needs to develop very specific strength - in the positions and motions necessary for the snatch and clean & jerk, and over-emphasizing very basic strength motions like the deadlift are isn't the best way to do it.