Olympic Weightlifting is a barbell sport in which the athlete scores a total number of kilograms lifted by performing two lifts. These lifts are the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. The lifter gets three attempts per lift, starting with the Snatch. For example, if a lifter scores in the Snatch the following: 80 kg in the first attempt, 85 kg in the second and misses the third – only the best number counts. In this case, 85 kg. If the same athlete scores 100 kg in the Clean and Jerk, the total score would be 185 kg.
According to the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), to perform a Snatch “the barbell is placed horizontally in front of the lifter’s legs. It is gripped palms downwards and pulled in a single movement from the platform to the full extent of both arms above the head, while either splitting or bending the legs.”
This is considered the most technical lift of the three movements involved in Olympic Weightlifting competitions and generally the one taught first.
The Clean and Jerk – as the name hints – is a two part lift, and normally the heaviest of the two competition lifts.
According to the IWF, to perform a Clean, “the barbell is placed horizontally in front of the lifter’s legs. It is gripped, palms downwards and pulled in a single movement from the platform to the shoulders, while either splitting or bending the legs.”
To continue, the athlete recovers to the standing position from which to complete a Jerk. The IWF says “the athlete bends the legs and extends them as well as the arms to bring the barbell to the full stretch of the arms vertically extended.”
These days (2020) two styles of Jerks are popular. The Split Jerk, and the Squat Jerk. There are pros and cons to both styles.
In comparison with other strength sports, which develops maximal strength (powerlifting) or physique (body building), Olympic weightlifting increases explosive strength. Olympic style weightlifters are well known for their ability to jump high and move explosively.
Due to this qualities Olympic style weightlifting has become a staple training method for professional and other high level athletes of many sports.
Olympic Weightlifting is for everyone, no matter the age, gender or background. Weightlifting is one of the most complete sports available to us. It pushes us to learn and be better, to be stronger, more flexible, to have balance, to be coordinated. No matter the starting point, one can always see the changes. The lifter has better posture, is more toned and muscular than she/he was before training. Flexibility and stability improve, usually greatly.
Because of it’ technical complexities Olympic style weightlifting is better suited to those who are patient and enjoy the learning process. Some world class coaches would say that the first two years of consistent training is the beginner’s phase – we think any experienced coach would agree.
Weightlifting is a precision sport and it takes much work to master its nuances. A good coach-athlete team where the coach provides feedback and the athlete trusts and puts the work, is bound to see much success. An athlete that can’t be coached is a detriment to his club and teammates, creates a negative environment and everyone suffers from it. Olympic weightlifting requires a level of humility and camaraderie to produce results.
Learning the subtle techniques that are involved in the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk takes time and much repetition. Perfect practice makes perfect. This takes time and continuous consistent work. It’s easy to do it right once, but can you do it right every time? On the platform the lifter gets just one shot at an attempt. That can only be achieved with proper practice. Strength takes time as well, it’s a simpler process than learning how to coordinate a Snatch but it won’t manifest itself without consistent work.
Weightlifting is an individual sport and, in fact, many amateur lifters train on their own. However, most amateur lifters stagnate relatively quickly. A team environment, where teammates encourage, keep accountable and support each other delivers long term success. A team where the coaches are not shy to coach, guide and correct, where there is much work involved but a positive environment spawns from each individual’s attitude. Be a good teammate for your and everyone’s success.
The benefits of Olympic style weightlifting are only possible in a good training environment, where there is proper coaching that is not rushed or emotion based. When you visit a club pay attention to the culture, are the lifters focusing or just fooling around, are they chasing heavy weights with a lot of missed lifts?
A good coach will teach you to be conservative, show restraint and understand that longevity is what matters most. In an a good club, you will be learn technique first without skipping important steps just to satisfy a potential paying member’s ego. In this setting you will reap the full benefits of weightlifting and better your life for it.