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What Is Olympic Weightlifting?

When I talk about weightlifting, I am referring to the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. This sport consists of two competition lifts: the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk. If these are two movements you’ve never heard of or you are wondering why the bench press isn’t there, I have a brief history lesson explaining why for you!

A Little Background

Tommy Kono - Olympic Weightlifter for Team USA Melbourne 1956
Tommy Kono – Olympic Weightlifter for Team USA Melbourne 1956

Weightlifting was included in the first modern Olympic games in 1896. While it looks a little bit different than what we see today it is still mostly the same sport. The original placement of Weightlifting was as a field sport during the Track and Field portion of the programme.

One of the most striking differences between these early Olympic games and today is that the competition lifts were separated into two categories: lifts with one hand, and lifts with two hands. In our modern era, the concept of lifting a barbell with only one hand is definitely something that we don’t see every day! These lifts are also the main reason why you will see a center patch of knurling on a competition barbell.

After 1928, the one-handed lifts were removed from competition completely, and later in 1972 the clean and press was removed because of difficulties in judging the event. After reducing down to two competition lifts, the sport started to look a lot more like what we see today with one important distinction. It was a men’s only sport in the Olympics until the year 2000. While many women trained and competed in the sport long before this time, the inclusion of women weightlifters in the Olympics was long overdue.

Enough of the history lesson, let’s get down to business with why you should try out Olympic Weightlifting.

Reason #1: Olympic Weightlifting is Fun!

While there are only two competition lifts, there are many variations to these two lifts to keep things interesting. We also squat, deadlift and press quite a bit to prepare our bodies to lift progressively heavier and heavier weights. Combine this with additional accessory lifting and conditioning, and you have a really well-rounded way to help you meet your goals.

Competition is where I think the most fun happens in this sport! Personally, I spent a lot of time preparing for my first weightlifting meet because I wanted to be the best I could be. Looking back at my experience, I wish I had signed up for a meet sooner simply because it was so much fun. Yes, it can be a nerve-racking experience to lift in a competition setting, but the larger community of people that are in the sport are extremely welcoming so that it can make the nervousness fade away.

If you’re lucky enough to train in a team setting (either in person or virtually) you have an excellent chance to meet new people while training. I’ve met some of my best friends through this sport and I know my life would be very different if I hadn’t started down the path as a Weightlifter.

Reason #2: Resistance Training Has Many Benefits

The obvious benefit is being able to build muscle and get stronger. As we age or chase our weight loss goals, bone density can become a concern. After my first big weight loss milestone, I broke my foot doing something as mundane as jumping rope. Because the training is dynamic and requires the use of the whole body, new bone growth can be stimulated by this type of training.

Are you an athlete who is in high school, college, or maybe just a weekend warrior? If you are, I am sure that you’d like to produce more force while playing your favorite sport to be faster, jump higher, throw farther, or just feel more powerful while you play. Training the Olympic lifts has been proven time and time again as a way to boost sports performance in many of the aforementioned areas.

Mobility and flexibility are often areas that people in the United States struggle with as they age. Staying mobile as we age is a surefire way to continue living independently, and is a key component to this type of training. I’m not saying that learning to Snatch, Clean or Jerk will keep you out of the nursing home forever, but it will probably help you keep some independence longer.

Reason #3: Olympic Weightlifting is an Efficient Way to Work Out

Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels

While equipment has been difficult to come by during the pandemic and gyms may or may not be open, if you have access to a barbell and some bumper plates, you can train the two main competition lifts and perform a variety of assistance exercises.

Since training for the sport of Weightlifting is both a multi-joint and full-body workout, we wouldn’t need an ab machine, a thigh machine, a glute machine, etc. to accomplish a full-body workout. Training to pick up heavy things from the floor and secure them overhead is a great way to build back and core strength.

Are you Ready to Try?

Ask anyone that knows me personally and they’ll tell you that I deeply love the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, and I hope that this post inspires you to give this often-forgotten sport a chance. We’ve taught hundreds of people here at Icehouse Fit both competition lifts and we’d love to teach you as well. If you’re interested in joining one of our Olympic Weightlifting Academies, or working 1-on-1 with a coach, reach out to us at info@icehousefit.com or send us a text message at 701-645-5706.

Jeremy Gruensteiner

Jeremy Gruensteiner

I have always enjoyed helping people, but wasn't always sure what that would look like as a career. I found Icehouse, became certified as a coach, and after my first experience coaching I decided that I wanted to leave my career in technology and make it my purpose to help people transform their lives. When I am not coaching in the gym, I can be found traveling to compete as an Olympic Weightlifter or trying out new strength sports.

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