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6 Basic Weight-Lifting Moves

New to the gym? Pick up a set of weights and start lifting. Try these six basic moves that will boost your metabolism and build muscle.

Note: Before starting a weight-training routine, start with lighter weights and consult a personal trainer to make sure you perform the exercises with proper technique.

More: Survival Tips for Your First Time at the Gym

The squat is one of the most efficient exercises for a total-body workout. It focuses primarily on the lower-body with the front squat variation focusing on the quadriceps and the back squat variation focusing on the glutes and hamstring. The exercise can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells or your own bodyweight.

Bench Press

Perhaps the most prevalent exercise in the gym, the bench press is the best exercise for a full-chest workout. The exercise can be performed with a barbell on a bench, dumbbells on a bench, on machines or even on a Swiss ball for added resistance to your movement. Variations include a standard bench press, incline press and decline press among others.

More: Which Is Better: The Push-Up or the Bench Press?

Deadlift

The deadlift, like the squat, is another exercise that works your entire body while focusing on the entire core. By performing this exercise with a barbell, you will be able to gain strength in your lower back and perform other exercises with heavier weights.

Power Clean

The power clean is similar to the deadlift, but is performed with much less weight. It focuses on the lower body, back and deltoids. While it used to be performed with a barbell, most trainers today incorporate kettlebells for maximum movement in your workout.

Rows

In order to work your back even further, bent-over rows should be incorporated into your workout. You can perform these two-handed with a barbell or one-handed with dumbbells.

More: How to Get a Solid Workout With the Rowing Machine

Pull-Ups and Dips

Two of the most effective exercises in the gym require only your bodyweight. Pull-ups work your back, shoulders and biceps while dips work your chest and triceps.

More: The 7 Best Exercises for a Full-Body Workout

Stay in shape in a fitness class.

Barbell exercises

While everyone’s training routine is a little different, as are their overall fitness goals, there are some things that appeal to all gym-goers. Effective exercises that make you stronger without having to spend hours in the weights room definitely fall into that category.

We’ve assembled seven such exercises below, and when you scan down to read them you’ll see that they’re all barbell exercises. That’s because the barbell is your best friend when it comes to building strength and size in an efficient manner.

The Benefits Of Barbell Exercises

“When you’re strength training, the best tool you can use is the barbell,” says personal trainer Tom Wright. “Nothing else comes close. Lifting for strength requires multi-joint exercises known as compound lifts, which create tension through different muscles and movement patterns, and they stimulate thousands of nerves all of which are a part of getting stronger.

“No other equipment allows such dramatic improvements in overall strength. Start out using a weight you’re comfortable with, increase the load every week and watch your numbers fly up.”

How And When To Use These Exercises In Your Training

You’ll find our seven top barbell exercises below, but you shouldn’t just hit the gym and knock them all out in order as your punishing new workout routine. It’s important to be smart when incorporating heavy barbell lifts into your training to get the maximum benefits and avoid any risk of injury.

“Because these movements recruit a large number of motor units and provide a big stimulus to the central nervous system, I always put them at the start of training sessions,” says Wright. “Generally you pick two of these exercises as your main lifts, such as squat and deadlift for a lower-body session, or bench press and barbell row for the upper body.”

Of course, we don’t mean you should dive straight in at the deep end with your main lifts. Prepare with this gym warm-up first, then do warm-up sets with an empty barbell, progressively adding weight until you’re at your target weight.

You can also do a set of moves that hit both the upper and lower body in one session.

“This upper/lower style of training can allow you to get more work done in a shorter amount of time because less recovery time is required when you move between body parts,” says Wright. “Another benefit of this method is increased heart rate as the body pumps blood from one area to another, leading to a higher metabolic rate and increased fat burning.”

Here are the seven barbell exercises you need to know about. Click the link in the bulleted list below to jump to that entry.

The Magnificent 7

  1. Bench Press
  2. Bent-Over Row
  3. Deadlift
  4. Back Squat
  5. Overhead Press
  6. Lunge
  7. Power Clean

Bench Press

Essential form: Start with your arms locked and the bar above your chest. Press your shoulders into the bench, plant your feet on the floor and squeeze your glutes. Bend your elbows to lower the weight to your chest, then press back up to the start.

Targets: chest, triceps, front shoulders

If you want to build an impressive upper torso then the bench press is king. “A trifecta of pecs, shoulders and triceps makes this compound pushing movement, along with the deadlift and squat, one of the true tests of strength,” says Wright. “This lift also allows you to load up your triceps with more weight than you could lift on assistance exercises such as dips or press-downs.”

Beyond The Chest

The bench is all about your pecs, right? Wrong. “It requires a lot of pushing power, which means that to join the big boys you’ll need a strong upper back too,” says Wright. “Make sure you control your shoulder blades by keeping them fixed on the bench. This tension will keep you in a stable position on your big lifts and stop you moving around. If you’ve ever seen a powerlifter bench they use this to the extreme, lifting their hips clear off the bench and planting their feet, squeezing their muscles tight from their shoulder blades all the way down their back to the floor.”

Be Single-Minded

If you have strong chest muscles but you’re weak in your shoulder stabilisers, you’ll struggle to lift a serious amount of weight on the bench press. To maintain good shoulder joint health and give yourself the best chance of going big, try this assistance exercise. “A great variation for bench press is the single-arm dumbbell press,’ says Wright. “It requires immense shoulder control as well as a strong core to stay balanced. If you think you might have one side stronger than the other then throw this in once a week and your imbalances will soon become a thing of the past.”

Use Your Body

Being able to control your own bodyweight is often a great way of laying the kind of foundations that will allow you to lift some significant weight when you use external resistance, such as a barbell. “The best assistance exercise for bench press would be dips or a close-grip pressing exercise that works the same muscles in a slightly different movement pattern,” says Wright. “Once you can perform ten controlled bodyweight reps start to add some weight either with a belt or by holding a dumbbell between your feet.”

Bent-Over Row

Essential form: Hold the bar with a shoulder-width grip, bending your knees slightly, then bend at the hips until your torso is at a roughly 45° angle to the floor. Pull the bar up to touch your stomach and then lower under control. If you’re moving your upper body to shift the bar, the weight’s too heavy.

Targets: biceps, lats, core

You should be spending the same amount of time training your back as you do your chest, and the key move is the bent-over row. “The barbell row is a great way to develop a strong upper body and add size to your back, and it’s the only exercise to work all the different muscles that make up the rear of your torso,” says Wright. “The move requires not only a strong pull but also the ability to keep yourself fixed in the bent-over position, which takes strong spinal erectors – technically part of your core muscles.”

Keep Your Shoulder Blades Engaged

If you want to lift a decent weight and activate the target muscle groups effectively, your start position is incredibly important. “You should always initiate the row by ‘setting’ your shoulder blades,’ says Wright. “To do this, pull them back and down by squeezing the muscles between them and expanding your chest, then let your elbows follow through to your sides. Think of your hands as hooks – they are simply there to hold the weight, not to pull it. You can even try a thumbless grip. This will engage your lats and help you get a better contraction in the muscle.”

Use The Right Muscles

It may not seem like a complicated move but there are some common mistakes that you can avoid. “The first is not pulling with the back and instead using too much biceps,” says Wright. “You must first activate the muscle you want to use and then move through the full range of movement. Secondly, loading up the bar with too much weight will cause you to lose form, and decrease the range of movement. Performing reps too quickly can also hinder progress. Remember, time under tension should be approximately 40 seconds for muscle growth, so control the weight and keep the tension on the muscles.”

Underhand Tactic

Once you know how to do the move perfectly, you can begin to play around with variations to get a different training effect. “If you’re looking to build your lats – your big back muscles – in particular try using an underhand grip with a narrow hand placement because this will target your lats and lower back,” says Wright. “As well as greater lat recruitment, it also uses more of the biceps too. Rows have been shown to be more effective for building your lats than even lat pull-downs.”

Add In Dumbbell Rows

Want to get even better at rows? Then do this assistance move. “My favourite assistance exercise for the barbell row is the braced dumbbell row,” says Wright. “Place one hand on a bench and take a wide stance with your feet, bracing through your trunk. Let the dumbbell hang down, then pull back and up so it travels along a curved path to the bottom of your ribcage. Rowing with one arm allows greater range of movement and is also great for developing your obliques and core.”

Deadlift

Essential form: Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, grasp the bar with your hands just outside your legs. Lift the bar by driving your hips forwards, keeping a flat back. Lower the bar under control – though once you get up to really heavy weights, it’s OK to drop your final rep.

Targets: whole body

If you’re looking for raw strength then the deadlift is the move for you. “It’s a posterior chain builder, working the muscles on the rear of your body to pull the bar from floor to hip,” says Wright. “The deadlift will allow you to move more weight than any other barbell exercise, so use it to develop your overall strength and power.”

Brains And Brawn

Deadlifting is all about brute strength executed with sound technique. “Although pulling weight off the floor may sound simple enough, there are actually quite a lot of things you can get wrong,” says Wright. “Poor technique lets down the majority of deadlifters in your average gym, and can cause serious injury. When setting up for your lift you want to remember to pull your shoulders back and your chest out, locking down your shoulder blades. This creates tension in your back that will help prevent you from rounding the lower back or having your hips come up too early. Your goal is to drive the hips towards the front wall, so lean back into the lift and squeeze your glutes hard while pressing through your heels in to the floor.”

Hard And Fast

Even if you’re a beginner you’ll quickly progress to having at least 100kg on the bar. And when it start getting serious, you don’t want to lift with suspect technique. “If you find you’re struggling to perform this lift with good technique, then start with some rack pulls – which means setting the bar up in a rack around 30cm off the floor,” says Wright. “You’ll develop the strength in a shorter range of movement.” And if you’re finding that you’re having to grind out every rep, you may want to work on your speed of lift.

“To help build your deadlift speed, work on heavy kettlebell swings. By firing your hips forwards against the weight of the kettlebell you’ll build stronger glutes and hip drive, supercharging your deadlift power.”

Back Squat

Essential form: Take the bar out of the rack with it resting on your rear shoulder muscles. Take two big steps back and stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly out. Keep your spine in alignment by looking at a spot on the floor about two metres in front of you, then “sit” back and down as if you’re aiming for a chair. Descend until your hip crease is below your knee. Keep your weight on your heels as you drive back up.

Targets: quads, glutes and hamstrings

Walk in to any serious gym and the one question you will always be asked is, “What do you squat?” Like it or not, your strength will generally always be judged on the squat numbers you can put up. “People new to lifting fixate on bench press but the truly strong guys will go straight below the belt,” says Wright. “The reason the squat is a great measure of strength is because it works both lower and upper body at the same time while connecting the two with a strong core.”

No Half Measures

If you’ve spent any time in gyms you’ll probably have seen people loading up the bar and doing half reps in the squat rack. They might be pleased with themselves but they’re wasting their time. “A proper squat requires the hips to come down at least until they’re level with the knees,” says Wright. “You’ll hear the phrase ‘past parallel’ and this refers to the thighs being in line with the floor. Fail to go deep enough and your muscles won’t get the stimulus they need to get bigger and stronger. Work on your mobility for five to ten minutes before any squat session –this will give you extra depth, making a huge difference to your results as well as helping you to avoid injury.”

Whole Body Benefit

While the squat is primarily a legs exercise, the upper body is also involved and becomes increasingly important the heavier the weight you’re trying to lift. “An easy way to improve your squat is to make sure your back is tight and your chest is high,” says Wright. “Grip the bar and pull it down on to your shoulders. Raise your chest and push your elbows forwards. This will give you a stronger platform for the bar to sit on and means less work for your core and legs to do. You’ll be surprised at the difference this makes.”

Add In Bulgarian Split Squats

An imbalance of strength between your left and right sides is likely to lead to poor movement patterns and, ultimately, injury. Doing an exercise that develops strength unilaterally will help guard against that. “Once you have done your squats, move on to some Bulgarian split squats,” says Wright. “Holding a pair of dumbbells, take a split stance with one foot ahead of you and the other behind, and place your back foot onto a bench.

Perform a split squat by lowering your back knee while keeping your front shin vertical. This will develop your leg strength as well as balance and is an excellent assistance move for the back squat.”

Overhead Press

Essential form: With your feet shoulder-width apart, position a bar on your upper chest, gripping it with hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your abs, glutes and quads as you press the bar straight upwards. Pause at the top, then lower. You may find you lift more weight by wrapping your thumbs around the same side as your fingers, to keep your forearms in a more favourable position.

Targets: shoulders, triceps

Hoisting a heavy weight above your head is a true old-school test of strength. “The overhead press requires strength and balance as well as shoulder mobility and stability,” says Wright. “This exercise will create bigger delts as well as a strong back – plus greater overhead strength, which will transfer over to the bench press.”

The Only Way Is Up

Pressing the weight directly overhead, rather than slightly in front of you, is key to going heavy. “When performing the overhead press remember that the weight should be over your centre of gravity, passing through your head, the top of your spine, your hips and your ankles,” says Wright. “Keep these in line by squeezing your abs and glutes and pushing your head through once the bar has passed your nose. You’ll also add about 10% to your lift by simply keeping your core tight – so squeeze those glutes!”

Protect Your Neck

A good overhead press relies on good mobility and that means being able to retract your shoulder blades and push your elbows through so that they are directly under the bar. To help develop that ability, try starting the move with the weight behind your neck. “Once you have mastered the military press (with feet together) you can try the behind-neck press,” says Wright. “The same rules apply, only you begin with the bar on your back. This variation will work your rear delts and back more, but you’ll need to drop the weight by around 30% and take a slightly wider grip.”

Add In The Landmine Press

Your shoulder joints are delicate because they are freely moveable and involve a group of small stabilising muscles called the rotator cuff. The upshot is that it’s easy for something to go wrong, particularly when you’re tired. “To improve shoulder health and stability, perform the landmine press after your overhead work,” says Wright. “Wedge one end of a bar into the corner of the room and perform a single arm shoulder press. Remember to stay strict and allow your shoulder blades to move while keeping your abs tight.”

Lunge

Essential form: Stand with a barbell resting on the back of your shoulders. Retract your shoulder blades and keep your back upright and core braced throughout. Take a big step forwards and lower your body until both knees are bent at 90˚ before pushing back off your front foot to return to the start position.

Targets: quads, glutes and hamstrings

The barbell lunge is an excellent lower-body builder because it allows you to apply heavy loads on to a single leg in a dynamic movement. “This exercise has many variations and can be used to target many different muscles of the lower body,” says Wright. “It is one of the most under-used movements for developing athletic ability.”

Tight Trunk

Although the lunge is primarily a lower-body move, the fact the weight is on your back puts the force through your trunk. “The tighter you can keep your trunk, the more stable you will feel and the more powerful you will become,” says Wright. “Try to make yourself as tall as you can, pulling your abs in and shoulders back, then lunge forwards. Short lunges will load the quads, whereas a longer stride will place emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes. If your ankle is flexed and your knee’s forwards you are loading the front of the leg, if not then you’re working your posterior chain.”

Reverse To Progress

If the standard lunge is rare then the reverse lunge is virtually an endangered species. Doing the move in reverse has a host of benefits, including improving your proprioception (your body’s ability to sense its own position, develop balance and co-ordinate movements). “If you struggle with lunges it may be to do with tight hip flexors or ankles, so the reverse lunge is a great progression,” says Wright. “The same principles apply but it allows you to drop your hips backwards and step back up, which will help you to improve up to the full walking lunge.”

Take A Long Lunge

Doing any form of lunge will help to improve your athletic ability because it’s a heavy compound exercise that involves an unstable unilateral movement. There are, however, ways you can perform it so that you get an elite-level benefit. “To develop power and speed I perform longer lunges and drive up through my front heel, engaging my glutes,” Wright says. “Without stopping at the top I allow my hips to continue forward in a natural arc into the next lunge. This is much more like a natural gait when running, and it helps keep tension in the core and build strength and power.”

Power Clean

Essential form: Start with the barbell on the floor, holding it with a shoulder-width grip. Drive through your heels to lift it off the floor, then explode up as it passes your knees, using the momentum to help pull it up to chest height and “catching” it on your chest. Pause for a second, then drop or lower the barbell for the next rep.

Targets: whole body

This is the one move in the series dedicated to increasing power and speed. “The power clean has been used by athletes for years to improve their performance on the field,” says Wright. “Building power requires improving speed against resistance, and a power clean allows you to develop full-body power by combining a deadlift and a hang clean.”

Warm Up Properly

You should place the power clean at the start of your session – but that doesn’t mean you walk straight out of the changing room, stick a couple of 20kg plates on the end of the bar and get lifting. “Make sure you are warmed up properly and your shoulders and lats are mobile to allow you to get under the bar quickly,” says Wright. “Being able to get in the front rack position quickly is key. The speed of the middle section is what will make or break your lift, so think about fast execution of the hip drive or ‘second pull’ and explode upwards, keeping the bar close to your body.”

Hang Clean

If you usually train while wearing tracksuit bottoms and aren’t too bothered about growing tree-trunk legs, you can do the hang clean variation of the move which involves starting the move while holding the bar. The other benefit of that version is that it improves your grip strength, which can, in turn, have a positive effect on your power and squat clean ability. “The hang clean, where the bar originates from the hips rather than the floor, is ideal if you want to focus solely on the upper body,” says Wright. “It’s also a good progression up to a power clean.”

Power Through

Power cleans will place a huge energy demand on your body but that’s no excuse to slack off once you’ve got to the end of your last set. “The two movements I like to use in the same session as power cleans are box jumps and thrusters,” says Wright. “Box jumps will improve your speed and power, while the thruster is like a continuum of the movement because it involves going from a front squat to a shoulder press. Thrusters in particular help to connect all the pieces of the puzzle by strengthening the connection between lower and upper body.

Photography: Glen Burrows; Model: Tom Wright

Why You (Yes, You) Should Be Doing Olympic Weightlifting

We think it’s pretty safe to say that by now, we all know strength training is good for you. Even mainstream gymgoers will typically agree that while, yes, cardio can be a great way to improve your health, ignoring full-body resistance training puts you at a greater risk of back pain, osteoporosis, arthritis, a ton of metabolic diseases, and even depression — particularly as we age.

What I don’t understand is why people haven’t taken this to its logical conclusion: the sport that undoubtedly gives the most bang for your buck in terms of improving strength, speed, power, cardiovascular health, balance, and function. I’m talking about the insanely healthy sport of Olympic weightlifting.

“I Have No Idea What You’re Talking About.”

It’s two fancy ways of bringing a barbell from the ground to over your head: the “snatch” and the “clean & jerk.” During a competition or a workout, the snatch is performed first as it’s generally considered to require more finesse, while the clean & jerk comes second as it’s generally considered to require more raw power. An athlete’s clean & jerk is almost always heavier than the snatch.

They look like this.

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Although the movements are over in a couple of seconds, the training required to hit challenging weights with good form needs you to use just about every aspect of your fitness — there are simply no other exercises that deliver so many benefits at once.

“We are all crunched for time,” says Mike Gattone, the Assistant Technical Director at USA Weightlifting, the country’s official weightlifting governing body. “When you do a big multi-joint movement like Olympic lifting or associated movements you’re squatting, you’re deadlifting, you’re hip hinging, in a sense you’re rowing, you get good upper back stability work, overhead strength, shoulder stability, pressing movement. You hit a lot of functional movement with very few exercises.”

Each of the exercises requires a pull from the ground, which lights up the core and the entire posterior chain (hamstrings to upper back), but the quads are worked in the squat while the shoulders and arms are used to whip the bar overhead.

Studies have also suggested that a few months of “weightlifting” (that word refers to the sport of Olympic weightlifting, and don’t let anyone use it differently) improves resting heart rate, blood pressure, and VO2 max, areas of health that are typically targeted with “cardio” workouts. Have your cake and eat it, too.

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But besides the potential time-saving aspect, weightlifting requires tremendous explosiveness, speed, mobility, and balance. That means it transfers to just about any sport — weightlifters have some of the highest vertical jumps of any athlete — and it contributes to fitness and longevity in ways that many other exercises don’t.

“If you’re laying on a machine doing a leg press, you’re building some muscle and getting some bone density,” says Gattone. “But you’re not getting that kinesthetic development you get when you have to learn how to punch against the floor, make a bar and your center of gravity go up together, to contract some muscles and relax others at the same time. Those are really important for human function.”

As we age we also lose fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are important for quick reactions to the unexpected — say, slipping and falling, the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in the elderly. That’s why speed is an underrated component of fitness and it’s why the explosive nature of weightlifting is an excellent way to keep you fast and strong into old age.

Of course, it’s also responsible for some of the most bangin’ bods in the Olympics, and hypertrophy, or bodybuilding exercises, are strongly encouraged among weightlifters to develop new muscle, improve symmetry, and increase neuromuscular stimulation of tissue. That means the aesthetic results alone will keep you coming back for more.

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“Can Anyone Do the Exercises?”

Snatches and clean & jerks require strength, but above all they require excellent mobility to get into the positions and maintain correct form. That’s why the sport is so great for your posture, joints, and injury prevention. Building toward that level of mobility is one of the reasons hitting your first full snatch and gradually increasing the weight is so satisfying: it takes work to get there.

But training is far more than just the two main lifts, and there’s always a more basic version of any exercise as you improve your mobility. Accessory movements are varied but they include plenty of your familiar favorites like squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and planks, along with more explosive movements.

“I understand that not everyone walking down the street can do a full snatch or a full clean, so I’m also talking about aspects of the lifts. It could even be a good clean pull or clean pull from the knees, depending on what the person’s hip mobility is like,” says Gattone, describing versions of the “clean” (the pull of the barbell from floor to shoulders) with smaller ranges of motion. “If a lot more people could just do a squat with a barbell overhead, man, what it would do it for posture, hip health, and overhead stability.”

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In short, there are levels of expertise like there are in any skill, and as is the case in martial arts and most other sports, there’s no shame in being novice or intermediate: you’re always committed to getting better, even at the expert level. And “better” is something you can actually measure.

“Everything is in your control, because it’s an individual sport and you can clearly see your progress as you add kilos,” says Phil Andrews, CEO of USA Weightlifting. “You don’t really know that in a team sport like hockey, when you’re relying on other people. It’s ‘can you lift it or can’t you?’”

While it’s a great way to compete against yourself, competing against others is always an option if you so choose. It’s an unfortunate misconception that this is only a sport for gigantic people — weightlifters are split up by weight category, which go as light as 48kg (106lb) for women and 56kg (123lb) for men. And don’t be intimidated by the world class athletes you see during the Olympics. Just like pick-up basketball is different to playing Kobe Bryant, there are nearly endless levels of expertise and age in which you can compete in weightlifting, so you always have an entry point if you want test the skills you’ve learned.

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“Don’t You Need Coaching for This?”

OK.

This is a “yes, but” answer. Yes, but every sport and just about every exercise needs coaching.

“If I decided I wanted to run the Chicago marathon and I just went out and started distance running tomorrow, I’d have shin splints and orthopedic issues,” says Gattone. “I mean, I have no idea about running mechanics or programming. Do I just run as far as I can? Jog one mile and walk another? You need someone with some base of knowledge.”

If you answered with, “I didn’t need anyone to teach me how to run,” or “I didn’t need anyone to teach me how to do a back squat,” to be honest, if you’ve never had anyone qualified look at the way you run or lift, you’re probably not doing it that well. Modern life has caused us to unlearn these natural movement patterns and most of us need coaching in when to hip hinge in a squat, how to not overstride when we run, and other seemingly basic exercises.

You don’t need to be coached for every weightlifting workout for the rest of your life, but at the very least you should see a coach to get your mobility and form looked at. Remember, the more easily you can hit the the positions, the healthier your movement is. Weightlifting exercises cause such a phenomenal cascade of head-to-toe benefits that the body seems to be crying out for them, and they do deserve to be performed in a way that brings the most benefits and has the fewest drawbacks possible. Don’t you deserve it?

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“Where Would You Find a Coach?”

To find a qualified, USA Weightlifting-certified coach, you can simply head to Team USA’s “Find a Club” page. Plug in your city and zip code and you can select from a list of local clubs.

If there’s nothing in your area, Gattone says your next best bet for learning the movements is a CrossFit® gym. Although they only slot Olympic weightlifting movements among several other types of exercise (like gymnastics and high intensity interval training), the coaches usually have a solid grasp of technique.

Andrews is also a fan of remote coaching, noting that there are plenty of experts who will write programs and critique your form from afar. Mash Elite Performance, California Strength, and Waxman’s Gym are all solid options for coaching and training routines.

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Lift Off

Olympic weightlifting is not just an Olympic sport with a big Eastern European fanbase. It’s an extension of the body’s most natural and favorable movement patterns, a salve for our aches and pains, a one-way ticket to aesthetics city, and it’ll make you feel and look stronger and more confident. Try weightlifting.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured image via @mattiecakesssss on Instagram.

Editor’s Note: Seb Ostrowicz of Weightlifting House had the following to say after reading the above article:

“As well as the many physical benefits that we receive from weightlifting, an often overlooked benefit comes from the mental side of lifting weights. The first, and maybe most important is bravery. Bravery is needed for pulling under constantly increasing weights, moving faster and more accurately each time. The second is patience, needed for training day after day in similar movements, often taking weeks, months or even years to make progress.”

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Benefits of Olympic Weightlifting

18 Aug Benefits of Olympic Weightlifting

Posted at 12:17h in by Jaclyn Santamaria

Olympic weightlifting is classified by two major lifts, known as the snatch and the clean and jerk. This form of lifting is performed in the Olympics, given its name. These lifts require full-body range of motion in order to lift the barbell from the ground to overhead. Although these two movements are very technical, there are many benefits associated with Olympic weightlifting. Whether your goal is to improve strength, alter body composition, or improve your sport performance, the snatch and clean and jerk are beneficial for more than just weightlifters.

Increase Speed & Power

The snatch and clean and jerk are two very explosive movements that require triple extension of the ankle, hip, and knee. Training these movements recruit fast twitch muscle fibers, which give you speed, power, and explosiveness. This same movement pattern can be seen across many sports. Want a higher vertical jump or a faster 40-yard dash? Start training the barbell.

Injury Prevention

The Olympic lifts require full range of motion, which exposes connective tissues, tendons, ligaments, and muscle fibers to various angles and greater resistance. Unlike bodybuilding, the Olympic lifts train the body to move in a functional way. It can learn to protect itself from a variety of forces and activities to prevent injuries. Isolation movements may cause imbalances, are often misused by athletes, and can be counter-productive to athletic performance. Ditch the leg extension machine and start training the chain properly.

Increase Strength

Apart from the powerlifts, Olympic lifts are one of the best ways to strength train for sports. They allow for additional overload in a manner that is similar to the movements required in other sports. They stress a wide range of muscles to achieve a balance between the musculature of the front and back of the body, and develop core strength like nothing else.

Mobility & Flexibility

Catching the barbell overhead engages many stabilizer muscles of the front and back and promotes dynamic and static flexibility. Lifting regularly will help you learn how to better absorb force when catching the weight and increase your mobility.

Physique

Olympic lifting regularly will result in aesthetic benefits. Their explosive nature is one of the best ways to shock the metabolism and burn body fat. Since they are multi-joint movements, you will naturally achieve a balanced musculature unlike isolation exercises. These lifts also allow you to increase strength without bulking up or gaining weight due to their neuromuscular properties. This one goes out to you ladies! Building strength does not always mean bulking, so quit ignoring the barbell and start lifting it.

Sources

5 Reasons Athletes Should Train With Olympic Lifts

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Most athletes have an exercise routine tailored to their particular strengths. Cross country runners spend a lot of time working on stamina and speed, and their workout routines involve primarily going for runs. Basketball players focus on workouts that target their legs, coordination and reflex times. Ice skaters need to focus on balance, strength in their legs and a long and lean physique. Although not every athlete is trying to be a bodybuilder, all of them can benefit from adding Olympic lifting to their repertoire of exercises.

RELATED: The 5 Most Common Olympic Lifting Mistakes And How to Fix Them

Weightlifting is often seen as the domain of bodybuilders who beef up, not performance athletes. And although resistance development may be on everyone’s list of skills, there’s nothing quite like Olympic lifting for athletes trying to improve their performance. Everyone can benefit from a good session of Olympic lifting.

1. Increases your force capability

Olympic weightlifting’s greatest benefit is its ability to help an athlete develop greater force capabilities. Strength training in general is ideal for developing force, which propels the most basic of an athlete’s capabilities, but nothing develops force across muscle groups as effectively as the Snatch. This exercise involves grabbing the bar and bringing it above your head in one clean movement, then rising back up and standing tall before dropping it. It’s intense and it helps build massive strength, as well as coordination and balance. Other Olympic lifts produce similar results.

RELATED: How Olympic Lifts Increase Speed

2. Increases running start force

For runners, whether they focus on cross-country or sprinting, starting speed can be a critical component of their success on the field. Similar things can be said for speed skaters and other athletes whose strength in their legs affects their performance. Luckily, weightlifting does wonders for your starting strength.

In a 2004 study, Olympic weightlifters improved their starting speed more than power weightlifters; and in multiple incidents, Olympic weightlifters have shown that they can either keep up with or surge ahead of sprinters in the opening phase of a race from sheer starting force alone. These opening seconds are crucial to sprinters in particular, and the strength you develop in your legs through Olympic lifting can be invaluable in a race.

3. Makes you more flexible

The classic method of improving flexibility is to incorporate stretching into an exercise routine. However, studies have found that weightlifting is even more effective than stretching for improving flexibility. This is because the range of motion required in lifting is great enough to do the stretching for you, and the muscle development does not in any way inhibit flexibility. A classic Olympic lift, like the Snatch, requires you to jerk a heavy bar up and down, bending down for full Squats and otherwise pulling your muscles in multiple directions. After completing a move, you feel a pulling sensation in all your muscles—that’s the flexibility development the activity offers. It’s particularly good for your knees, because bending and squatting builds up your thigh and calf muscles.

RELATED: A Beginner Olympic Lifting Program

4. Improves your vertical jump

This is a benefit basketball players in particular can gain from Olympic weightlifting. They can promote massive improvements in their jumping capability, bringing them higher to the basket and helping the score more points. This is a result of the flexibility and force development offered by Olympic lifting. Studies show, like in running, that Olympic lifters improved their jump more than power lifters, and their jump and speed improved in significant ways. The study also found that Olympic lifters benefitted more broadly than power lifters. The explosive power developed by Olympic weightlifting makes a significant difference in the height and strength of your vertical jump.

5. Burns fat and builds muscle

One of the most misunderstood aspects of bodybuilding is what it does to your physical appearance. Women worry about bulking up, men worry about losing flexibility and everyone worries about becoming a lumbering bodybuilder.

Although it’s true that Olympic weightlifting can help build muscle and burn fat, it doesn’t have to be a significant amount. Your training can incorporate only the muscle development you need and no more; bodybuilders do not accidentally achieve their size through a few extra lifts each session.

Olympic lifting is a valuable tool for all athletes, although it may not look it on the surface. It is so beneficial for building up force capabilities that it can be integrated into any athlete’s regimen for improved performance in the gym and on the field.

Photo Credit: Tara Moore/Stone/Getty Images

Human Performance Blog

Another reason to perform full Olympic lifts would be the required range of motion to reach the final positions. The power derivatives, where the bar begins on the floor and is caught at a position above parallel, also develop strength and power qualities, as well as coordination. However, the mobility required to perform power movements is not nearly at the level that is required in the full movements. The hips and knees are required to go through a greater range of motion to catch the bar in the full squat, while the thoracic spine and shoulders must also go through greater ranges of motion to keep the torso as vertical as possible.

Strength. We all want it, but some want it more than others. The full Olympic lifts are not easy to learn, nor are they easy to coach. However, one of the benefits of performing squat snatches or cleans over the power derivatives is the development of strength. Am I saying that these movements are the best for developing max strength? No. What I am saying is that the squat derivatives are better than the power derivatives. The athlete can handle more load in the squat versions, and this also teaches them to move quickly under heavier loads. Of course, this is all dependent on the movement efficiency of the athlete.

Many coaches all throughout the nation work with physical-specimen athletes every day. The problem? Many of these athletes, while excelling physically, do not ever master their psychological performance. Training to lift heavy weight over your head in less than a second or two can be extremely intimidating to many people, including these physical specimens. The amount of concentration and grit needed to grind through these movements is most always misunderstood. “Oh, lift that heavy weight over my head? Sure thing.” People have no idea of the preparation involved for those couple seconds. However, should an athlete overcome these psychological decrements, they will surely excel further than they would have otherwise.

What are the risks of full weightlifting movements? Yes, an athlete could be injured, but this is very unlikely if they were prepared by a competent coach who taught them the proper technique before loading the bar too heavy. There is no evidence that weightlifting training causes excessive injury. There are actually more incidents of injury in sports such as basketball, football, and gymnastics. The injuries that are present in weightlifting are usually due to maximal performance.

Olympic Weightlifting — How To Do A Barbell Snatch

Olympic weightlifting—snatches, cleans, and jerks—is enjoying a recent surge in popularity, and I am so excited!

As a guest author, I’m happy to share this incredible sport with the Girls Gone Strong community. I’ll be contributing a series of articles about Olympic weightlifting, in which I’ll help you understand each lift, and show you how to get started if you’ve never done them before.

My aim is to help you navigate some of those initial challenges and address common questions beginners have, so that you can be on your way to becoming faster, stronger, and more powerful.

A few words of caution: you might fall in love with Olympic weightlifting.

From the first time I threw the bar over my head I was hooked. I absolutely loved the challenge of the movements and loved feeling strong and powerful. I tried to get others to join me, but it was a tough sell.

Back in 2000, the year I started competing, not too many people had even heard of the sport. At big events like the Nationals or the Olympic Trials, the only people in the stands were significant others, parents, and other competitors.

In the gym, I frequently had to explain how my sport was different from bodybuilding or powerlifting. Even finding a place to train when traveling was nearly impossible.

Fast-forward more than 15 years, and now it seems everyone is interested—finally! These days you’re likely to find a gym full of bars, bumper plates, and platforms nearly anywhere you go.

In this first article, I want to introduce you to the snatch.

Often referred to as the most athletic movement in sport, the snatch requires and develops so many desired attributes. Strength, speed, and power certainly top the list, with core and overhead strength, mobility, and kinesthetic awareness and control not far behind.

And let’s not forget the benefits that aren’t physical. Lifting a personal record snatch is empowering.

It requires you to step outside your comfort zone, believe in yourself and go all-in. Who wouldn’t benefit from doing that more often?

While I’m going to provide some guidelines to performing the snatch, I absolutely recommend getting some in-person coaching to learn the lifts, either individually or in a seminar. The snatch is complex and nothing can replace hands-on, live training with an experienced coach.

Master Your Foundation

Before learning to snatch, be sure that you are prepared in the following areas:

1. Mobility and stability

Many people talk about the mobility requirements of the snatch – especially shoulder, thoracic spine (upper back) and ankle mobility. While in many cases this is something that needs work, I also often see women who are already mobile and instead need to work on their stability, connection, and control to prepare to support the bar during the lifts.

2. Connection of pelvis to ribcage

Supporting the bar overhead requires a solid connection in a body that can work as a unit. Most people focus on preventing the back from rounding in the pull or in the bottom of the squat. But arching the lower back too much is just as bad, and I see it just as often. Work to keep the top of the pelvis and the base of the ribcage aligned throughout the entire lift.

3. Preparatory movement proficiency and basic strength

Deadlifts, squats, and especially overhead squats are great foundational movements. Not only do they build the strength necessary for weightlifting, they also help teach the proper movement patterns that will carry over when you learn to snatch.

4. Failure

There is a lot of failure in weightlifting, especially in the snatch. Physically, you need to learn how to get out from under a lift that goes wrong. It’s also a great lesson to be able to learn from the failure/missed lift and move on—hopefully, to come back stronger and with success.

Master your positions and transitions

There are key positions and movements throughout the snatch that when hit properly, set you up for a successful lift. Practice these positions and movements regularly with light weight – even just a PVC pipe! They should also be reinforced in every lifting warm up.

The “power position”

Perhaps the most important body position to master when learning weightlifting is what is known as the “power position”. Different coaches call it different things, but this doesn’t change its importance. This is one of the first things I teach someone learning the lifts.

The most explosive portion of the lift happens from this position. People often miss the power position when performing the snatch. Practice this position as much as possible – you want it to become automatic. You should always hit this power position right before exploding to finish the lift.

To find your power position:

  • Stand holding a bar in front of your thighs and be sure you can wiggle your toes
  • Hold the bar with your snatch grip – far enough apart so that the bar is sitting in the crease of your hip.
  • Open your chest, pulling your shoulders down and back – referred to as “setting your back”—making sure to keep ribs and pelvis aligned.
  • Keep your shoulders directly over the bar and your arms relaxed
  • Keep your torso vertical and bend your knees. Be sure the bar doesn’t move down the thighs
  • Your legs should be bent about 30-45 degrees – you should feel as if you could jump from this position.

5 key snatch positions and movements

A well-performed snatch is fluid, fast and explosive. Hitting big lifts relies on moving through these key positions consistently:

1. Start position

  • Bar is at mid shin level (the height of the bar with bumper plates set on the floor)
  • Feet about hip width apart, your mid-foot under the bar
  • Knees are bent with hips higher than the knees, shoulders higher than the hips
  • The chest is lifted and the back is neutral, head up
  • Arms are straight but relaxed – the pull actually comes from pushing with the legs

2. Lift off – from start position to just above the knees

The movement from the floor to just above the knee should be controlled. This is the set up for the lift – the acceleration and explosive power come later on.

  • Push with your legs to bring the bar up and in toward your knees – the legs will straighten out slightly
  • Maintain your chest and back positions, keeping the shoulders over the bar
  • Hips and shoulders move upward at the same time, maintaining the same angle
  • Arms stay straight throughout this movement
  • Bar should remain close to the legs and not drift out in front of you
  • Don’t rush the lift off – remember, explosion comes later

3. From above the knees to power position

  • After the bar passes the knees, the knees quickly re-bend to prepare to explode
  • The torso now becomes upright
  • The bar accelerates up your thigh into your power position
  • Arms are still straight

4. Power position to finish of the pull

  • In the power position, push with your legs explosively, as if you were jumping
  • At the end of your explosion, shrug your shoulders to help transfer the force to the bar and begin your descent under the bar
  • At this point, the bar will continue to move upward due to the force of your explosion – do not pull the bar up with the arms
  • Keep the bar close to the body and elbows high

5. Catching the bar overhead

  • Time the “catch” of the bar by receiving the weight of the bar on straight arms overhead at the same time your feet hit the ground in an overhead squat position.
  • Maintain a solid, connected body position and push into the bar to create a solid overhead position with an upright torso
  • To perform a power snatch, you will catch the bar in a semi squat (thighs at parallel or above then return to a stand
  • To complete a full snatch, descend into a full overhead squat position and then return to a stand

Final Notes

There are so many benefits to be gained by adding the Olympic lifts to your training program. However, your overall success will depend on your movement efficiency and technical proficiency in the lifts as well as how solid your foundation is. I strongly encourage you to seek out personal instruction if you want to learn and develop your Olympic lifts.

Place extra emphasis on the pre-requisites, positions, and technical basics before challenging yourself with full movements and heavier weights, and this solid technical foundation will greatly improve your success.

Weight Lifting, Weightlifting or Olympic Weightlifting?

Officially, the sport is called weightlifting. However, at least in the United States, weightlifting is an obscure sport and activity, so the term weightlifting is rarely adequate to distinguish the sport of Olympic-style weightlifting from powerlifting or bodybuilding, or even from weight lifting in the gym for fitness and strength. This is why the term Olympic Weightlifting is so often used rather than simply weightlifting.

What Is Olympic Weightlifting?

The sport of weightlifting consists of two lifts: the snatch and the clean & jerk. In the snatch, the weightlifter lifts the barbell from the floor to overhead in a single movement. In the clean & jerk, the weightlifter lifts the barbell first from the floor to the shoulders (the clean) and then from the shoulders to overhead (the jerk).

In a competition, each weightlifter has three attempts in the snatch and three attempts in the clean & jerk. The weight of the best of each lifts is added to create the weightlifter’s total, and the best total wins.

Olympic Weightlifting for Sports

The Olympic lifts, the snatch, clean and jerk, as well as variations such as the power snatch, power clean, power jerk, hang snatch, hang clean and more are often used by athletes to develop strength and explosiveness to improve performance in their sports.

How Do I Learn the Olympic Lifts?

The best way to learn the snatch and the clean & jerk is to work with a qualified weightlifting coach. Unfortunately, there are few weightlifting coaches and few weightlifting gyms in the US, so this is not always an option for new weightlifters. You can find coaches and weightlifting clubs on the USA Weightlifting website or view our affiliate gyms or certified coaches.

For new weightlifters who can’t find local weightlifting coaches, there are weightlifting books and videos available that can help you learn the snatch and clean & jerk, as well as supplemental lifts like the back squat, front squat, press, push press and more. There is also a lot of free information on weightlifting and learning the Olympic lifts on the internet. This website has a lot of free weightlifting articles and videos.

Where Do I Train for Olympic Weightlifting?

Finding a gym that allows Olympic weightlifting and has the appropriate equipment, such as weightlifting platforms, proper barbells and bumper plates, can be nearly as difficult as finding a qualified weightlifting coach. You can find weightlifting clubs on the USA Weightlifting website or view our affiliate gyms or certified coaches.

Where Can I Find Olympic Weightlifting Training Programs and Workouts?

Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches contains information on designing weightlifting training programs as well as many sample programs. Catalyst Athletics also posts a daily weightlifting workout and weightlifting programs on the website.

How Do I Compete in Olympic Weightlifting?

In order to compete in Olympic weightlifting in the US, you need to be a current member of USA Weightlifting. You do not need to have a coach or be a member of a weightlifting team or club. You can find weightlifting competition schedules for your area both on the USA Weightlifting website and through your LWC.

It’s a good idea to talk to a weightlifting coach or weightlifter to learn how weightlifting competition works. You can also get all the necessary weightlifting competition information in Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches.

How Do I Start an Olympic Weightlifting Team?

Weightlifting teams are governed by USA Weightlifting. You can read all about starting your own weightlifting team in this free article.

What Are the Governing Bodies for Olympic Weightlifting?

All weightlifting competition in the US is governed by USA Weightlifting, and internationally, by the International Weightlifting Federation.

Rules of Olympic Weightlifting

When I first started Olympic Weightlifting I had no idea what the rules were and could not find them anywhere on the World Wide Web… So I simplified them for you in this brief summary below, I hope you enjoy it!

Olympic Weightlifting consists of the Snatch and Clean & Jerk, two beautiful moves that take skill and time to perfect. The Snatch got its namesake just as the move is preformed, by “snatching” the weight off the ground in one smooth motion. The Clean & Jerk use to be called the “Continental & Press”. The lifter would roll the barbell up the body, resting it in various spots along the way until it finally made its way to the shoulders and then, with pure might, strictly press the barbell overhead. Over the years, lifters began perfecting the moves to make them the most efficient as possible.

The competition rules for Olympic Weightlifting are fairly simple. For both moves, you have 1 minute to pick the bar up off the floor. Once you begin the lift, the bar must continue in an upward motion. For the Snatch, you have to have locked out elbows (no press out) and no other part of your body may touch the platform (some lifters get so deep in the squat that their but touches the floor). With the Clean, again, no other part of your body may touch the platform and your elbows cannot come in contact with your knees while in the bottom of the squat. In the Jerk, you cannot have any deviation in the elbows (no press out) and no other part of your body can touch the floor (sometimes a back knee makes contact).

A lifter gets 3 attempts at each lift, always starting with the Snatch. You cannot increase in weight until the lift is made and you receive at least 2 out of 3 “white lights”. Three judges view the movement and vote with a “good lift” or “no Lift” and once control is shown at the end of the lift, you must wait for their call before you drop the bar from over head. Once the lift is good, you can then go up in weight by no less then 1 kilo (2.2085 lbs.). If you do not make any of your Snatch attempts, that is called a “scratch” and you are out of the competition.

Weightlifters are after a big Total, that is your heaviest Snatch and Clean & Jerk numbers combined. So if your Snatch is 72kgs and your C&J is 92 kgs, that is a Total of 164. There are also weight classes, (8 for men and 7 for women) and masters categories. Weigh in happens the day of the event and can make or break lifters plans. Cutting too much weight can leave you weak and you may miss lifts that you usually nail.

Olympic Weightlifting is a large part of CrossFit and even if you don’t plan on competing in a Weightlifting meet, good movement is important to keep you safe and make you as efficient as can be at moving large loads long distances. I am always cautious when doing the Olympic Lifts in a CrossFit WOD. I make sure to hold my self to the above standards as to not put improper movement in my body even though the clock is ticking…

Last night, my friend and mentor Mike Rickett was in town to teach some personal trainer certification classes, and asked if I’d be interested in working out with him while he’s in town. Mike is the guy I go to with all of my fitness questions. He has trained everybody from high school athletes to world-class Olympians, so I knew I was in for something that would kick my ass. When he told me we were only going to do four exercises and be done in 25 minutes, I couldn’t wait to see what the hell we could do that would destroy me in such a short amount of time. Welp, 25 minutes later, my shirt was drenched and sweat was literally pouring off my face in buckets. What the heck did I do that has me sore all over today? This is how sore I am; my forearms hurt every time I type word in this damn blog.

Olympic Lifting

To borrow from this Men’s Health article: “Olympic lifts, as they’re called, have no equal for developing speed, flexibility, and coordinated, total-body strength and muscle.” Sounds good to me! Also, Olympic lifters, on average, have the highest vertical leaps of all athletes. Ever wanted to dunk a basketball? This is what you need to be doing. Every single muscle in your body will be worked to lift more weight than you’ve ever lifted, in a much quicker fashion. Also, because you’re doing all of these exercises with such speed, you’re recruiting every Fast-Twitch muscle fiber, which has the greatest capacity for increased size and strength (you can read about fast twitch vs. slow twitch muscles here). I have no desire to look like a heavyweight Olympic lifter, but the thought of lifting tons of weight, becoming more powerful, faster, stronger, and have the ability to jump much higher sounds freaking awesome.

The Routine

We did the Jerk, the Clean, the Snatch (stop laughing), and then the Clean and Jerk. For almost all of these exercises I was just using the bar (45 lbs) because I wanted to make sure I could get the form down properly before attempting with serious weight. Mike told me for some of these exercises it will take a good year before I have the form down perfectly. I’ve never left a gym more excited or sweaty than last night. I did 4 sets of each exercise, for a total of 8 reps. I made sure to err on the side of caution by just doing exercises with the bar until I got the form down properly.

The Jerk, The Clean

These are generally done together for the “clean and jerk,” which is explained below, but the two movements that make them are called the clean (picking up the bar from the ground and bringing it up to your shoulders), and the the jerk (pressing the weight from your shoulders over your head). Now, don’t think of these movements as just a dead lift, and then a shoulder press. Speed and form are of the utmost importance in these exercises, allowing you to lift crazy amounts of weight in just a few seconds. We warmed up with these to get my body used the movements so I could do the next two exercises (which are done in the Olympics).

The Snatch

Think of the snatch as a deadlift, barbell shrug, jump squat, and overhead squat, all done in one motion. Sounds complicated? It is, which is why you should watch the video below. If you’re going to attempt this on your own, study this video over and over again and do it with a very light weight until you have the form down properly. Keep your abs contracted the ENTIRE TIME so you don’t mess up your back. A strong core is crucial.

The Snatch

The Clean and Jerk

This is another one of those exercises that works your entire body in just a matter of seconds. Think of this one as a deadlift, upright row, front squat, and push press all done in a few seconds. Also complex, so this video below is a great resource to show you how to complete one properly. Sorry for the ads that show before the video, but it’s worth it:

The Clean and Jerk

After 4 sets of 8 reps for each exercise, I was exhausted and excited. After some dynamic stretching (an absolute must after lifting weights), I was ready to drink 8 gallons of water and eat an entire cow. No wonder most Olympic lifters eat like 8000 calories a day and have probably 5% body fat. I realize these are super advanced moves, and unless done with 100% proper form can result in serious injury, so attempt them at your own risk. If you are interested in getting started with Olympic lifting, I’d recommend asking your gym if there is a coach in the area who can give you a lesson so you start out on the right path. If you’re worried about injury, follow this workout to get most of the benefits without the huge risk of messing up your body. Stick with it, and eventually you might even be able to do something like this:

HUGE lift

I got a long way to go before I can lift like that guy, but you gotta start somewhere, right?

-Steve

How to Start Olympic Weightlifting Training

Photography Glen Burrows; model Tom Eastham

A change might be better than a rest – at least when it comes to training. If you’re in a rut, the experts at Coach’s sister title Men’s Fitness have assembled everything you need to know to give something new a try. First up: Olympic Weightlifting.

Olympic Weightlifting 101

What is it?

Training and competing in the two Olympic lifts: the snatch (where the bar goes from the floor to overhead in one move) and the clean and jerk (where you “clean” the bar to your shoulders, then push-press it overhead and drop underneath it). Competitive lifters get three attempts at each to post a combined total for both.

What’s it best for?

“Although I compete, I first learned the lifts for developing power for other sports,” says strength and conditioning coach Alex Adams. “It’s essentially jumping with weights, so it improves not only strength but speed and rate of force development.”

What are its limitations?

It’s not exactly entry-level. “To do the full lifts safely requires very good mobility, flexibility and balance,” says Adams. “This shouldn’t put people off – practising the positions is a great way to improve knee and hip flexibility.” But forget the cardio until you’re experienced. “Fatigue reduces rep quality, so Oly lifts aren’t great for metabolic work until you’ve learned your technical limits.”

The outside view

“Olympic lifting is very technical and to be good requires a lot of practice,” says powerlifter Tom Hamilton. “If you get bored easily, it isn’t for you. The benefits are clear though – it builds strong, powerful physiques, requires a good level of flexibility, gives you clear targets to work on and can be fun.”

Instant expertise

Learn the hook grip

Tuck your thumb under your first two fingers. It hurts but it works. “It secures the bar much better and leads to higher loads lifted in the long term,” says Adams. “Anyone who lifts should use it.” It’ll also help you improve your deadlift.

Know your power hangs

“The terminology is fairly simple: power variations are lifts caught in a half squat or higher,” says Adams. “Cleans and snatches can be done from the ‘hang’, meaning that you don’t start from the floor – but you could start anywhere from knee to mid-thigh, depending on what you’re working on.”

Don’t say “squat clean”

“That’s a CrossFit thing,” says Adams. “In reality, every full squat or clean should be caught at full squat depth – otherwise it’s an indication that you could be lifting more.”

You’ve made it when…

You can clean and jerk your own bodyweight. “That’s my initial benchmark, but you’re doing well if you can then progress to snatching bodyweight,” says Adams. Want to compete? Standards are high: to qualify for a English national competition you’d need to total 239kg as an 85kg lifter.

Build Power Session

“Most sessions will begin with snatch or a snatch variant,” says Adams. “It takes the most speed to execute so it comes when you’re freshest. I usually do both lifts on the same day but vary the exact exercise to limit the crossover and fatigue. Most sessions will have a heavy squat or pull but rarely both. Assistance work like pressing, rowing and back and abs comes last.”

1 Snatch pull

Sets 5 Reps 2

It’s easier than the full snatch, but still a great power generator. Set up with the bar on the floor and your hands fairly wide. Drive up, and bump the bar off your hips as you shrug it slightly upwards. Drop, reset and go again.

2 High hang clean

Sets 4 Reps 2

Start with the bar in your hands, with a shoulder-width grip. Bend your knees slightly, then do a small jump as you explosively bring the bar to your shoulders.

3 Front squat

Sets 4 Reps 3

Take the bar out of a rack with it resting across the front of your shoulders, supporting it slightly with your fingertips. Squat down with your weight on your heels, and drive back up.

4 Bent-over row

Sets 3 Reps 8

Bend forward at the hips, and pull the barbell to your sternum. Pause, then lower.

5 Hanging leg raise

Sets 3 Reps 10

Hang from a bar with your legs straight. Bring them until they’re at 90˚ from your torso, pause and lower.

What is olympic lifting?

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