Learn About Olympic Lifting
In Depth: Olympic Weightlifting
Our In Depth series explores the different forms of exercise, workout methodologies, and sports that are out there. We will focus on the main aspects as well as ways to start your journey and path. As always this is just a precursor of knowledge and if you want to start a new sport it is always a good idea to speak to your physician.
What is Olympic Lifting?
Olympic weightlifting is known by many names actually. The official name for it is just weightlifting, but the years have made the term much more broad. You may hear is called Oly lifting, or just Olympic Weightlifting. Olympic weightlifting is comprised of two main lifts. The Snatch and the clean and Jerk. These lifts incorporate the entire body and are a great foundation of strength both explosive and time tested. Modern Olympic Weightlifting actually reached a surge in popularity due to new methods of functional fitness that incorporate the lifts into daily workouts.
The snatch is one of the more difficult lifts in Weightlifting. It begins from the from the floor with arms wide on the bar and in one swoop the athlete brings the bar to an overhead position while maintaining locked out arms. In comparison to the clean athletes tend to lift much less weight in the snatch than they can in the clean and jerk. The snatch is much more technical and even an inch of error can make you miss an entire lift.
Most people have probably seen a clean at some point. It is a much more popular movement, as well as being easier to teach. Many people however are only seeing a person perform something called a power clean (which we will go more into depth as the article continues). The clean starts from the ground, the athlete pulls the bar to their hips, much like a deadlift, and then scoops under the barbell to then front squat the weight upwards. This movement in fast and involved the legs and traps to get the bar high enough for the athlete to "catch" or receive underneath.
The Jerk while looking pretty simple tends to be more difficult to learn than the clean and sometimes even the snatch. While it looks as basic as a strict press or push press there is much more technique to it. All of which is hard to demonstrate in one article. There are two methods to the jerk and you may have seen both of these before. There is the split jerk where the athlete assumes a quarter to half lunge stance to receive the bar and then slowly walks in back up until both feet are shoulder width apart. The split jerk allows you to lift more weight, but takes a little more technique than the Push or Power Jerk, which brings us to our next form of jerk. The Push or Power Jerk, both names for the same movement. The push jerk as I like to call it, is similar to a push press. You engage your hips and legs by doing a semi-quarter squat to explode the weight off your front rack as your hips hit extension you then perform another quarter squat to receive and stand up the bar (this is what sets it apart from a push press).
The clean and the snatch all require the athlete to hit a full depth squat to be considered a true lift. There is a method of these movements called a power movement. A power movement does not require the athlete to hit full depth in their squat. They are programmed into most workouts to help develop speed and power. If you can power clean or power snatch the weight then it should be no issues to full clean or snatch. Typically athletes feel more comfortable with the power movements, because they require less technique and this is fine. It is important to get comfortable with all aspects of weightlifting.
Weightlifting is daunting. It is new, hard, and finding a teacher is pretty hard depending on where you live. I started my journey out by finding a CrossFit gym that would teach me Olympic weightlifting. I actually got my weightlifting cert about a year later. If you want to start off and do not want to leave your current gym or workout at home then I highly recommend practicing the movements with a PVC pipe and then sticking to power movements for a while. Incorporate front squats and overhead squats to build a foundation. Do that for 16 weeks and then attempt to try light weight full cleans and snatches.
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