Olympic Weightlifting is a historic sport that consists of two lifts: the Snatch, and the Clean and Jerk. These are movements used to bring a heavy barbell from the ground to an overhead position. Crossfit has popularized these lifts and anyone attempting the movements at a heavy weight should have a full understanding of how to do them properly. A common misconception is that other compound barbell exercises such as the deadlift, squat and overhead press are Olympic Lifts. They are not. However, certain variations are great assistance work choices for the Olympic Lifts (e.g. front squats for the clean portion of the Clean and Press). Here is a quick overview on the sport of Olympic Weightlifting and some useful resources on how to do it properly.
Firstly, I am by no means an expert on the subject. I took a certification course under the Varbanov School of Weightlifting half a year ago and have only recently started practising and working on the skill more seriously myself. I plan on building on my skills and pursuing a few avenues to get some more coaching and experience under qualified veterans. But as a beginner, I’ve done a fair amount of research and come across a number of resources I find useful. I’d like to summarize and share them here.
The Snatch and the Clean and Jerk are movements that primarily build power. Power is a function of Strength (how heavy is it?) and Speed (how fast does it go?). Since the Olympic Lifts require a great deal of speed to be performed correctly, the Lifts allow an individual to increase explosive power in these movements. While there are some transferable qualities of the Olympic Lifts such as CNS (Central Nervous System) activation, I would not recommend relying on Olympic-based training to increase performance in another sport. Olympic Weightlifting is its own beast and should be treated that way. But what a beast it is!
Now if you’re still wondering what these two lifts look like and how to do them, I will leave the explanations to Barbell Shrugged, who have put together two great overviews (as well as additional technique videos) on these movements.
They only have an overview of the Clean, so here is a quick Clean and Jerk first:
And now the Clean overview:
You may be excited to get started on your own. But before you do, here are some key points:
- Get a coach to learn from – This does not mean someone who just yells “tight core”… they need to coach you through how to tighten your Transverse Abdominis which may mean doing some basic mat exercises if that’s what’s necessary.
- Consider weightlifting shoes – Most experts will recommend investing in shoes if you are serious. As much as I love the “natural bare minimum” movement, humans are not designed to lift heavy shit overhead repeatedly. I recently bought a pair of high end shoes for a discounted price, so if you’re intrigued, Like our Facebook page and send me a message
- Make sure you are flexible enough for the movements and if you’re not, work on it every day – If you can’t get into a good Front Squat position, do not do Cleans. If you can’t do a decent Overhead Squat, do not do Snatches. The Olympic Lifts are advanced movements requiring thoracic spine mobility as well as flexibility in the lats and triceps to get the wrists into a good front squat rack position. Mark will be posting an article on essential stretches soon so look out for that.
I hope that clears up a few things on the subject matter. If you have any questions, give me a shout by either commenting below or on our Facebook page. Otherwise, if you have a bit of time, watch the Barbell Shrugged guys interview a supremely talented and often controversial American Olympic Lifter, Jon North. Peace.