Weightlifting when said to the average gym goers brings up images of most likely curls, bench press and other upper body exercises. However, this is incorrect! Weightlifting refers to the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. Most individuals do not participate in weightlifting because of a lack of knowledge about the sport, fear of the weights (nobody wants a crushed head), and lack of resources (place to train, coaches, etc.). Realistically speaking though, weightlifting is an extremely safe sport and the only injuries that occur are due to negligence and those rare unavoidable accidents. Many people also confuse weightlifting with powerlifting, but they are two separate categories. Powerlifting involves measuring how much one can lift in the bench, deadlift, and squat. Olympic weightlifting measures how much one can lift in the Snatch and Clean and Jerk.
Many people will also think that bodybuilding is weightlifting, but again that is an incorrect assumption. Bodybuilders do not focus on athletic performance, but instead focus on how their muscles look and how symmetrical their body is. What most people do in the gym is weight training. Weight training is a broad term that involves anyone who lifts weight just for health reasons with no particular sports goal in mind. Many times these individuals will be the ones doing peripheral exercises such as curls, triceps kickbacks, leg extensions, etc.
Weightlifting is regulated by the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation). Unlike powerlifting there is only one federation so there is no dispute about who truly won the weight class.
Overall, Weightlifting is an extremely safe sport that many individuals worldwide enjoy participating in recreationally and in regulated competitions.
Weightlifting is a sport rich in history that spans over three centuries, the 19th, 20th and 21st century. In 1896 weightlifting appeared in the first Olympic Games, however in the next Olympic Games in 1900 it was left out. In 1920 it was declared officially part of the Olympic Games. That same year the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation)
was formed. In the very beginning there were no weight divisions and the lifts were one handed and two handed lifts. The one handed lifts were with dumbbells and there were nine different lifts that competitors could compete in. In 1928 the one armed lifts were cut from the program and the lifts were the snatch, clean and jerk, and the press. However, the press was short lived and was dropped in 1976 due to controversies about how it should be judged. Then in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games women were finally granted a role in the competition.
The description of the lifts below are very brief and do not get into the technical aspects of the lifts. The descriptions are just meant to give a general idea of how the olympic lifts are preformed. Eventually there will be a detailed analysis of the lifts with accompanying pictures for each sequence. Ultimately the best way to learn the lifts is through an experienced lifter or coach. Be sure to check out the Benefits section to see why you should participate in the enjoyable sport of Olympic weightlifting.
The snatch is the first lift performed in competitions and each competitor has three tries to make a successful attempt. If the lifter fails for each attempt then they "bomb out" and that means they cannot participate in the clean and jerk portion of the event because they failed to make a successful snatch attempt. This also means they cannot medal. The snatch is a more technical lift than the clean and jerk. Some people coin the snatch as the "fastest lift in the world" because is takes under 1 second to get the bar from the platform to overhead. A basic explanation of the snatch is the lifter will get a wide grip, for some this is almost to the collars of the bar, and will establish their grip, usually a hook grip. Then the lifter will start the initial drive which comes from the hips, gluteal, and quadriceps muscles. The bar will proceed upward and the torso will stay roughly at the same angle when the lifter set up. The lifter will then extend their body when the barbell reaches their pelvis. This extension will create enough force that it will propel the barbell upwards while the lifter drops underneath to catch the barbell. Then the lifter will recover and stand up with the barbell.
The clean and jerk is the second lift of a competition and a lifter has three attempts to successfully complete a lift. However, if the lifter bombed out on the snatch portion then he cannot attempt a clean and jerk. Like the snatch the lifter has three attempts to complete a successful Clean and Jerk. The Clean and Jerk is considered the ultimate test of strength and power for a lifter. The Clean and Jerk is broken into two parts (the Clean and the Jerk), but is still classified as one lift. The clean begins with a grip that is a little wider than shoulder width; this is mainly dependent upon the lifters preference. Then the pull begins which almost mimics a deadlift, but it is not technically a deadlift. The barbell will proceed up the body until it reaches about mid thigh for some, this is again mainly dependent on the size of the lifter, and at mid thigh the lifter will extend his body (triple extension) propelling the barbell upwards. As the bar is moving upwards the lifter will descend underneath the barbell and flip the wrists so the arms are almost parallel to the floor. The bar will then be racked across the clavicles and shoulders and will create what could be considered a shelf for the bar. The lifter will be in a front squat position and they will stand up with the barbell. That completes the clean portion of the lift.
The jerk immediately follows the clean. The lifter will bend their knees and dip and then straighten their legs propelling the barbell upwards. The lifter will push slightly with their arms and will be also pushed underneath the bar. The slight arm push is responsible for pushing the lifter underneath the barbell along with the lunging of the legs for the split jerk. There are numerous types of jerks, the split jerk, the power jerk, and the squat jerk. The most common type of jerk is the split jerk. Regardless of which version of jerk the lifter uses the lifter has to hold the barbell overhead with locked arms. If a lifter tries to push the barbell like a military press the lift will be disqualified. The photo below is of a split jerk.