Olympic weightlifting is an ancient sport who's origin dates back to the 19th century. It was featured at the 1st Olympic games in Athens, Greece in 1896 and since then, has evolved into one of the most pure tests of strength and power for men and women worldwide.
There are two Olympic lifts tested in competition today, the 2-handed clean & jerk, and the snatch. The clean & jerk is, actually, two separate lifts combined into one event. The "clean" portion of the lift involves moving a loaded barbell from the floor to a standing position with the bar on the shoulders in the "front rack" position. The "jerk" is moving the bar from the front rack to a locked out position overhead. The snatch is moving a loaded barbell from the ground to a locked out position overhead, all in one movement. These two lifts constitute and entire sport and take many years to master. As you can imagine, there is much more than meets the eye.
For the first 100 years of the Olympics only men competed in the sport of weightlifting. It wasn't until the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney that women began competing however, today, you see almost an equal number of men and women represented in the Games (there are 8 male weight classes and only 7 female weight classes). While almost every country that trains olympic weightlifters sends female athletes to compete, Chinese women have dominated the sport from the very beginning. Anthropometrically, the prominent body type found in China (short height & limb lengths) lends it self well to olympic weightlifting. Additionally, the Chinese begin training kids as early as 3 years old to become Olympic champions. They take this sport, and every sport for which they compete for the Gold medal, very seriously. They definitely know a thing or two about building powerful, mentally tough athletes. Their results speak for themselves.
"I JUST WANT TO BE SKINNY. WILL WEIGHTLIFTING MAKE ME SKINNY?"
Yes and No. If you want to be "skinny" (skin, bones, & soft muscles), this is not the activity for you. If you want to be lean, tone, and the strongest you can possibly be pound-for-pound, then you definitely want to incorporate olympic weightlifting into your training.
With the exception of the super-heavy weight class, Olympic weightlifters are some of the most lean athletes of any sport. It's important to note that the athletes are not performing these lifts at a light weight and in high repetitions. They are not performing them as part of a circuit or before doing some aerobics. They are not trying to "feel the burn". They are loading a barbell with weight near their max potential output and performing one rep. If successful, they load more weight and perform another rep. This is what "high-intensity" training really is. This type of high intensity training activates all parts of the muscle and requires the greatest amount of neuromuscular coordination and function of any weightlifting movement, period. Additionally, it has been proven that the energy expenditure (calories burned) of weightlifting athletes is comparable, over time, to an athlete of similar mass and body composition performing circuit style resistance exercises. CrossFit and other bootcamp style training programs that have incorporated olympic style weightlifting into their circuits have good intentions, but many practitioners do not know how to apply it properly. As a result, many people experience injury, adrenal fatigue, let alone, develop a lot of bad habits that are hard to break down the road.
"OK. WELL, WILL IT HELP ME LOSE WEIGHT FASTER?"
If your body composition is such that you have more fat than you need, olympic weightlifting training is one of the best methods for burning fat. Not only do you get the high energy expenditure, comparable to that of "high intensity interval training", but you build lean muscle mass at the same time. From a hormonal perspective, lifting weights helps your body produce testosterone (yes, ladies, you have it) and hGH (human growth hormone). Each of these hormones are necessary to build muscle and burn fat. The more lean muscle you have (tone), the greater the number of calories your body will burn at rest. If you are overweight because you have excess body fat, you will lose weight fast.
I don't want to promise everyone reading this article that you're going to lose weight because you may not. You may actually gain weight because, as you know, muscle weighs more than fat. But, do you really need to worry about what the scale says if you are wearing jeans a couple of sizes smaller and everyone is complimenting you on how awesome your guns look...? NO. The scale does not define you. Olympic weightlifting gives you the definition you want.
"WILL OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING HELP KEEP MY BONES STRONG?"
Absolutely! Olympic weightlifting places the greatest amount of demand on our bone structure when compared to squats, deadlifts, or presses (leg, shoulder and bench). Just as our muscles get stronger the more we use them, our body will produce more bone and draw in more calcium to our existing bones to make them more dense the greater the stimulus. The power output in the clean, jerk, and snatch movements is greater than in any other weightlifting movement due to the high rate of speed at which the weight is moved, and the distance the weight travels (ground to overhead). The higher the power output, the greater the perceived intensity by our brain. The higher the intensity, the greater the resulting adaptation.
Post menopausal women are more susceptible to develop osteoporosis due to the decrease in estrogen levels as they age. Olympic weightlifting is proven to not only produce stronger bones in limbs, but to greatly improve spinal density as well. Additionally, olympic lifting requires a tremendous amount of balance and strength. The stronger and more balanced we are, the less likely it is we will fall. Many women sustain hip injuries and bone fractures later in life because of poor balance, brittle bones, and weak muscular support. Olympic weightlifting will help improve all these issues at once.
For best results, women should begin weight training long before menopause but it’s never too late to start. Studies have shown that women in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s that did weight bearing exercises 2-3 times per week showed an increase in strength, balance, and bone density.
"WHERE CAN I LEARN TO PERFORM THE LIFTS PROPERLY?"
You're asking the right question and you've come to the right place. At Ternion Athletics, we train beginner, intermediate, and advanced level athletes on the Clean & Jerk and Snatch. In the early stages of development we teach our students how to establish proper weightlifting posture first, and work to establish the mobility necessary to achieve the end range positions required for each lift. We begin using little to no resistance and slowly work our way up to more challenging weights as our technique improves. By focusing on range of motion and neuromuscular coordination in the beginning, we help restore basic human function and set the stage for exceptional function and performance later on. With the untrained beginner, we work to develop a broad level base of conditioning, strength, and skill in other weightlifting movements that will help build core stability and support our future training demands.
If you are curious to see what olympic weightlifting can do to transform your body, contact us about setting up a free consult and training session. We offer morning, mid-day, and evening training times, one-on-one or in small groups.