Olympic weightlifting is not just for the Olympians.The sport of weightlifting consists of two lifts (1) the snatch and (2) the clean and jerk. They are the only competitive weightlifting in the Olympics and for that reason; commonly called Olympic Weightlifting.
The powerful and explosive nature of the Olympic lifts makes them an excellent training modality for athletes in any sport. Now, due in large part to the increased accessibility and popularity of CrossFit, gym goers of all different ages and abilities are being introduced to the benefits of the Olympic lifts. Here is a description of the lifts and how they can benefit you!
The snatch, also referred to as: “the world’s fastest lift”, is executed when the athlete moves the barbell from the ground to overhead in one swift motion. A world class Olympic weightlifter has the ability to snatch over 400 pounds in less than 1.5 seconds!
You don’t have to be able to throw 400 pounds over your head to get training benefits from the snatch. The everyday athlete can use the snatch to develop speed, balance and coordination. In just this one movement, you are deadlifting, jumping, high pulling, pressing and squatting. It is the ultimate “full body exercise”.
The snatch can be done for multiple reps at a low weight or even paired with other exercises for a strength and conditioning workout. Variations that are common in CrossFit, boot camp or other fitness settings are the power snatch, dumbbell snatch and kettlebell snatch.
Watch this video from CrossFit’s Youtube Channel on the proper training for the snatch.
The clean and jerk, also referred to as “the world’s most powerful lift”, is executed by the athlete moving the barbell from the floor to her shoulders and then from her shoulders to overhead. While slightly slower than the snatch, athletes are able to move an even heavier amount of weight overhead. World class numbers in the clean and jerk top out over 500 pounds. Athletes use the clean and jerk to develop power and strength. Lower body, hip, core and shoulder strength are all developed with the muli-joint movement of the clean and jerk.
To me, this lift is even more applicable in real-world situations as it mimics the natural movement of how an individual might pick up and move any object- from putting a bag a kitty litter away in a storage closet, to moving firewood from the floor to the top of the wood pile, to picking up and lifting a child.
Just as with the snatch, the clean and jerk can be trained as a strength movement, practicing single repetitions with a heavy weight to build strength and power and also as a conditioning movement- moving a light to moderate amount of weight quickly for multiple reps.
Watch this video from CrossFit’s Youtube Channel on the proper training of the clean and jerk
The fact that these two lifts comprise an entire sport can give you an indication of the challenging and technical nature of the lifts. However, the snatch and the clean and jerk can be taught to and learned by anyone with an interest. The lifts are comprised of more fundamental movements, such as the deadlift, squat and press and can be broken down and taught in progressions. The best resources to finding a coach or program to learn the Olympic lifts can be found at your local barbell club or CrossFit affiliate.
Practicing the lifts is both mentally and physically challenging but there is a deep satisfaction to be had in learning a new skill and demonstrating proficiency. You might soon find yourself enthralled by this unique sport!