Olympic weightlifting is an athletic discipline in the modern Olympic program which includes an athlete attempting to lift a maximum weight of one rep with a barbell with weights on each end. The main two lifts are called the “Snatch” and the “ Clean and Jerk.” Each athlete receives 3 attempts for each exercise to try and get the maximum weight, then highest average total of the two highest lifts is recorded.
Compared to other strength sports, which only test limit strength, Olympic lifts tests athletes for explosive strength. The lifts are executed faster, and with more mobility and a greater range of motion during the movement than other strength movements. When properly performed, the snatch and the clean and jerk are both dynamic and explosive while still having the appearance of being graceful, especially when viewed from a recording at slow speed. Here these two compound exercises are explained simply.
The snatch is not a beginners’ movement – it’s a highly technical movement which should be taught by an experienced Olympic lifting coach, though these are the basic parts broken down.
- Place feet shoulder width apart with barbell resting right above your toes.
- With a palms-down grip, bend the knees while keeping the back flat and grab the bar using a grip wider than shoulder grip. Bring hips down and make sure the body drops as if you were sitting down in a chair. This is the starting position.
- Imagine the floor as a moving platform, and push with your feet while simultaneously starting to lift the barbell keeping it close to your legs.
- As the bar reaches the middle of your thighs, push the floor with your legs and lift your body into a complete extension in a explosive manner.
- Lift the shoulders up and back like you are doing a shrug as you bring the bar up while lifting the elbows out to the side, and keeping them above the bar for as long as possible.
- In a very quick and powerful motion, get your body under the barbell when it has reached a high enough point where it can be controlled and drop while locking your arms and holding the barbell overhead as you assume a squat position.
- Finally, rise up out of the squat position to finish the lift. At the end, both feet should be in line and arms fully extended holding the barbell overhead.
The Clean and Jerk
- With a grip slightly wider than shoulder grip, set a tight starting position – feet approximately hip width and toes turned out slightly with the weight balanced evenly across them, knees pushed out to the sides inside the arms, back arched completely, arms straight and elbows turned out to the sides, head and eyes forward, and arms vertical when viewed from the side.
- Push with the legs against the floor to begin standing, maintaining approximately the same back angle until the bar is at mid to upper thigh.
- Continue aggressively pushing against the floor and extend the hips, keeping the bar close to the body and allowing it to touch the upper thighs as the hips reach extension.
- Once the body is extended, pick up and move your feet and into the squat stance as you pull your elbows up and to the sides aggressively to begin moving yourself down into a squat under the bar.
- Bring elbows around the bar quickly and into the “clean rack position” as you sit into the squat. Use the rebound in the bottom of the squat to help stand back up and to the standing position as quickly possible.
- Adjust into the jerk rack position, catch a breath of air, and balance toward the heels. Bend at the knees only, keeping the trunk vertical, and drive against the ground with the legs to push the bar up.
- After finishing the upward drive with the legs, equally lock out the arms and drop underneath the bar, splitting the feet into the split receiving position and putting the elbows in a locked position with the bar overhead.
- Keep bar stable and locked overhead until you’ve recovered to a full standing position.
The Benefits of Olympic Lifting
There are some benefits to performing and practicing Olympic weight lifts: they increase power, jumping ability, sprinting speed, body composition, and flexibility.
Although many athletes don’t want to necessarily compete in these sort of events, many athletes still perform these exercises as a normal routine, because of the number of benefits associated with these lifts. Using multiple muscle groups to perform lifts burns more calories, and allows growth, because of the stress placed on the body.