Benefits of Olympic Weightlifting
The benefits of Olympic weightlifting are truly endless, olympic lifting focuses on coordination and speed, building strength and explosive power.
Olympic weightlifting is probably the best way of lifting to mimic the way you use your body in real life. It involves, strength and power and really gets all your joints working in all the movements.
If you can do Olympic lifts you will be exercising so many muscles that you’ll actually save a bit of time in the gym because you don’t have to do all the muscle workouts using machines, dumbbells, straight bars etc.
Additionally, if you like powerlifting, Olympic lifts make your powerlifting exercises so much easier because they are an all round movement involving strength that naturally makes the deadlift, squat and bench press so much easier.
An important note here, the two Olympic lifts require much more technique than any of the three powerlifting movements, so you really need to get the Olympic techniques correct before you move up in weight, otherwise you will either hurt yourself or destroy the gym.
Both of these lifts require significant time to get right and you must work with someone who has learned the technique. We do not advocate trying to learn Olympic weightlifting on your own, unsupervised or at home.
Many gyms won't even let you perform the lifts because of liability issues and potential damage to the gym. This article is just to provide some insight to the lifts and may actually be useful in preventing someone trying this at home after they watch the next Olympics in Tokyo 2020!
That said, here’s a bit about the history, technical notes so you can better understand the next Olympics at Tokyo 2020, the benefits, and two of the most famous lifters of all time.
The earliest 'modern' Olympics were held in 1896 and during the early part of the 20th century they were held intermittently.
In the 1920 Olympics held in Antwerp, BelgiumWeight competitors were all grouped together for competition. It was not until the 1932 Olympics held in Los Angeles, California that weight classes were introduced and competitors divided into five classes.
Since these early years the sport has changed moderately with more technical assessment of the lifts and an increase in the number of weight classes with the number of weight classes for men now standing at 8 and ranging from 56kg (123 lbs) to +105kg (+231 lbs).
The two lifts which make up this discipline presently are the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk. Up until 1972 the latter was called the Clean & Press but was replaced by the Clean & Jerk because of difficulties by the judges in accurately assessing the Press. Athletes had started to push with their legs and bend backwards, instead of strictly pressing the weight overhead.
It was not until the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia that an official Olympic competition for women was introduced.
- To begin place your feet shoulder width apart with the barbell resting right above your foot.
- Bend at the knees and keeping the back flat, grip the bar (palms facing down) wider than shoulder width. Then bring the hips down and make sure that your body drops as if you were going to sit on a chair. This will be your starting position.
- Start pushing the floor with your feet, simultaneously start lifting the barbell keeping it close to your legs.
- As the bar reaches the middle of your thighs, push the floor with your legs and lift your body to a complete extension in an explosive motion. Remember the snatch is a continuous motion must be executed quickly.
- Then in a shrugging motion begin to lift your shoulders back as you bring the bar up while lifting your elbows out to the side and keeping them above the bar for as long as possible.
Now for the tricky part, in a very rapid and powerful motion, you have to position your body underneath the barbell when it has reached a high enough point where it can be controlled (don’t try and get under the barbell to early or you will hurt yourself). Drop while locking your arms and holding the barbell overhead as you assume a squat position.
- The final stage of the movement is rising up out of the squat position once you have stabilized. At the end of the lift both of your feet should be on line and arms fully extended holding the barbell overhead. Once you have stabilized this position you may drop the barbell.
The Clean and Jerk
- To begin, place a barbell on the floor close to the shins, grip the bar just outside the legs with an overhand or hook grip. Lower your hips focusing the weight on the heels, keep your back straight, head facing forward, chest up, with your shoulders just in front of the bar. This will be your starting position.
The clean and jerk is made up of multiple stages, begin the first pull by driving through the heels, extending your knees. The angle of your back should remain the same, and your arms should stay straight. Move the weight with control as you continue to above the knees.
- Now for the second pull, the main source of acceleration for the clean. As the bar approaches the mid-thigh position, begin extending through the hips. Then in a jumping motion, you should accelerate by extending the hips, knees, and ankles, using speed to move the bar upward. The arms should still be extended, so many people make the mistake of almost trying to curl the bar up, do not do this as you will tear your bicep. If performed correctly, there should be no need to pull through the arms to accelerate the weight
- As you achieve full extension, begin to transition into the third pull by aggressively shrugging and flexing the arms with the elbows up and out. Once you have reached peak extension, rapidly pull yourself down, whilst rotating your elbows under the bar.
- You will now receive the bar in a front squat position, you really need to focus on getting the bar as high as possible and your body as low as possible to make receiving the bar easier. The bar should rest on the protracted shoulders, lightly touching the throat with the hands relaxed. Continue to descend to the bottom squat position, this will help with recovery.
- Now get back up! You should then return to a standing position by driving through the heels, keeping your torso upright and elbows up.
- Now onto the second phase, the jerk, this is the part where you raise the weight above your head. Standing with the weight resting on the front of the shoulders in the front squat position, begin with the dip. With your feet directly under your hips, bend the knees without moving the hips backward. Go down only slightly, and reverse direction as powerfully as possible.
- To create as much speed and force as possible drive through the heels, and be sure to move your head clear out of the way as the bar begins to leave the shoulders.
- At this stage as the feet begin to leave the floor, the feet must be positioned into the receiving position as quickly as possible. In the very brief moment your feet are not actively driving against the platform, you will be driven down as you push the bar up. The feet should be split (some don’t split but we won’t go into that - this is the traditional technique), with one foot forward, and one foot back. Receive the bar with the arms locked out overhead and return to a standing position.
Key Benefits of the lifts
Better posture through working your core, posterior and shoulder muscles. Both the Snatch and Jerk work your shoulders extensively and force you to have your back straight to ensure a successful and safe lift.
- Quicker reflexes, especially with the Snatch as it is one fluid movement.
- Better coordination as your entire body is working to get everything right at exactly the right time. The Snatch is the most demanding for coordination here as you have to get your footing right.
- Greater overall strength will improve because you are literally working every muscle in your body to get that bar up there. Many people just do Cleans as part of their workout routine because it is such a great overall strength movement without the riskier Jerk movement.
Explosive power because they are fast and require all your muscles to work together in one powerful move. The Snatch, Clean & Jerk all produce this explosive power and you will be amazed at your overall strength gains.
- A sense if immense satisfaction because to get these movements right requires a great deal of discipline. You need to continually recognise, and correct as needed, your technique.
Two weightlifting legends
Hossein Rezazadeh (+105kg class), Iranian, (12 May 1978 - )
Considered the greatest weightlifter of all time by many. He is a two-time Olympic champion, four-time World Weightlifting champion, and five-time Asian champion and often referred to as the strongest man in the world.
Snatch: 213kg 2003 Asian Championships; 14 September 2003
Clean & Jerk: 263.5kg; 2004 Olympic Games (WR); 25 August 2004
Snatch + Clean & Jerk: 472.5 2000 Olympic Games(WR), Sydney Australia on 26 September 2000
Vasily Alekseyev (Super Heavyweight class), Russian (7 January 1942 – 25 November 2011)
A Russian powerhouse who dominated the super heavyweight class throughout the 1970s, and attained 80 world records and 81 Soviet records. First person to achieve 600kg on the three lifts(press discontinued since 1972), and 400kg on the two lifts.
Snatch: 190.0 kg (419 lbs) on September 1, 1977 in Podolsk
Clean & Jerk: 256.0 kg (564 lbs) on November 1, 1977 in Moscow
Snatch + Clean & Jerk: 445.0 kg on 1 September, 1977 Podolsk
Clean and press: 236.5 kg (521 lbs) on April 15, 1972 in Tallinn