Anybody will tell you that olympic lifting is awesome. For some of us it's just not an option because of body issues or convenience. If all you want is fitness, go with kettlebells and StrongFirst. Then again, if you have a good coach, that's chance to learn something.
Each day I would focus on one of the lifts, either snatch or C&J, followed by squats. I would usually do snatch followed by back squats and the next day C&J followed by front squats. These combinations seemed to go together naturally, given that you're already dropping into a front squat in the C&J. That's it - I kept it very simple. In terms of reps, I would rarely if ever go above three for the lifts themselves. I'd stick mostly with singles and the occasional double. Doing the lifts really is a chance to "practice" the lifts. Lots of singles with a challenging but doable weight will hone technique as well as build strength. Work up to a challenging weight and then keep hitting single reps.
For back squats, I would work up to a challenging triple, sometimes a single. But the single was never an all out max - just whatever felt very heavy for that day. For front squats, the limiting factor is the ability of your upper body to hold the bar in a good rack position. For this reason, sets of 5 get very difficult. Stick to sets of 3 reps, and also work up to a challenging single for the day if you are up to it.
The good thing about the lifts is you can practice them every day, especially if you have access to bumper plates and can drop the bar after each rep. Eliminating the eccentric reduces muscle damage. Some days I would just practice one of the lifts and not do squats.
I would argue that the lifts are worth learning even if all you want is "fitness." While I like KBs a lot, and yes swings are a great way to maintain some conditioning while Olympic lifting, buying pairs of KBs can start to get very expensive. I have a pair of 32s that I enjoy, but only one 40. If I need a pair of 40s, I can load my bar to 80 kg and get the same results.
I have recently started it myself, mainly as a method for developing speed and power for kickboxing, but also cos i love the lifts and always have.
i originally did the UKSCA foundation level 1 and the strength and sports conditioning courses, which give you a good grounding in them, and have now found a O lifting club in my city, Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK, where i train in the club.
I also manage to train on my own in my garage and on the rig i work on.
as for workouts, its all based around the two lifts as you can imagine, very technique based at the moment, as O lifting is all about technique and speed, but dont let that worry you despite using light weights at the minute i have found the crossover into my other training kettlebells, kickboxing etc has been noticable, so have my pad men and sparring partners lol!
so just get started with your coach and be prepared to be embarrased by using just the bar, and you will no doubt find some muscles you haven't noticed before...... as Dan John has said try an hour of snatches and tell me which muscle that works in the morning!
if you have a coach who can teach the lifts well, take advantage of the opportunity. I rarely perform the full classic lifts these days, but i use variations of them in every training session. ex: snatch high pulls may very well be my favorite exercise even though my goals revolve around powerlifting.
It's fun stuff for sure, but it can be tough on the body, especially if you've had pre-existing injuries.
I'd find a USAW coach and get the technique down from him/her.
But ditto what Matt said: If you're older and have high mileage, you'd be better served by kettlebells. Olympic lifting is a young man's sport.
Also, think about this for a second: How strong and powerful do you have to be to Clean and Press a pair of 48kg KBs? How about doing it 10 times? Make that your goal and all your speed and power issues will be taken care of.
(As an aside, NOTHING has the pure thrill to me of heavy Olympic lifts. Of course me writing that probably just emotionally negated everything I wrote before. :-] )
Let me first say that I have purchased some of your products so I obviously respect your views (and I don't wanted to let you know that I'm a customer so you don't totally ream me on my post, ha ha). I don't totally agree that older guys should avoid Olympic lifting. The Masters lifting scene is becoming somewhat vibrant. Yes, we have our aches and pains, and many of us go up there and do the power versions of the lifts (I can squat clean but I still power snatch). I've found that doing the lifts has improved my mobility and flexibility, which is important in my case because I find mobility and flexibility work to be fiercely boring. I like killing two birds. And I experienced renewed strength gains from the lifts, not to mention gobs of power and explosiveness. These are qualities that we lose as we age. Yes, KBs can do these things but the barbell allows for a smoother progression.
Having said all that, yes the lifts will give you a beating. I've had my share of dings. But that's any sport. Marathon runners always seem to complain about something. Right now I am focusing more on KB workouts and taking a break from the heavier stuff. Think I'll do another round of Kettlebell Burn Extreme. That's a tough workout you have there.