One of my favorite but often overlooked Olympic events is weightlifting. Olympic lifting is different from other strength sports like powerlifting and bodybuilding. Olympic lifting has a rich history with many celebrated athletes participating and setting records that we can’t even imagine. Let’s take a closer look at what Olympic lifting is.
Early Olympic Games included lifting in a group of events that would become track and field. It wasn’t until early 20th century games that it was its own event. Throughout history weightlifting has been dropped, added, and modified into the event we can watch today. Lifters would compete regardless of weight class up until the 1932 Games in which athletes were divided into several weight classes. Athletes of all sizes and nationalities compete in the event. It wasn’t until the 2000 Games that women were able to compete. Today, the sport is open to anyone.
Olympic lifting consists of two lifts consisting of a maximal weight. The lifts are the Clean & Jerk and the Snatch. Each athlete is allowed 3 attempts to lift the most weight they can in each lift. Lifters can win by lifting the most weight in their individual weight class. The lifts themselves are extremely explosive moves which involve an equal amount of strength, explosiveness, and mobility to perform.
That being said, Olympic lifting is not for everyone. When an athlete wants to start Olympic lifting, they must first go through a long process of mobility, flexibility, as well as general strength training. Olympic lifts are extremely technical and takes years to perform correctly. Athletes in the Games make these lifts look graceful and explosive through years of practice and proper execution. The reason for writing this article is that I realize not many people are aware of this event and the goal is to educate people. The reason behind this lack of knowledge is that there aren’t very many programs in the US for Olympic lifters to thrive. Very few gyms are equipped for Olympic lifting and even fewer have coaches with enough expertise that can guide an athlete in the right direction. As someone who knows the basics of the lifts it is very difficult to analyze a lift in the moment just because the lifts are done so quickly and there are many fazes to the lift.
However, Olympic lifting does have its place in training. An average person would need a certain degree of mobility to start lifting in this manner. Athletes can benefit from Olympic lifting in their programming just from the explosiveness alone. In fact, Olympic lifting builds athleticism from an increased power output. Performed CORRECTLY, Olympic lifts can carry onto the field an increase athletic potential. Eccentric strength (in this case decelerating a bar and catching it) is emphasized in Olympic lifting. Anyone can pull a bar but catching it is another skill set in and of itself. Plus it’s fun to lift this way and the sense of accomplishment is worth it to a client as well as a trainer.
If you want to switch up your training and make progress in your fitness journey, try Olympic lifting. Research before you try and start light. Olympic champions had to start somewhere too. I encourage people, even if you don’t intend on doing any of this lifting is to watch videos of people doing Olympic-style lifts. It is fun to watch and will surely leave you inspired.