News and Tribune

January 30, 2013

BELCHER: Why you should be practicing the Olympic lifts

Local columnist

— What comes to mind when you think of Olympic Weightlifting? If you’ve ever seen the sport, you’re probably picturing a large Bulgarian man in a tight singlet throwing around a barbell loaded with brightly colored weightlifting plates.

Now get that thought out of your head.  

Though often viewed as an obscure sport dominated by eastern European nations, Olympic weightlifting is one of the fastest and most effective methods for overall athletic and muscular development. Consisting of two lifts, the snatch and the clean-and-jerk, this often-forgotten training method is making a big comeback thanks to improved strength and conditioning programs and fitness trends such as CrossFit. 

You don’t have to be a high-level athlete to desire athletic development or practice the Olympic lifts. Almost every man, woman, and child could benefit from being stronger and improving their body composition. Through our experience, everyone from endurance athletes to weekend warriors have seen performance, movement, and body composition improve after properly incorporating Olympic lifts into their training program.

Before incorporating these lifts into your training program, here are 10 things you should know about Olympic lifting:

  1. Olympic lifting activates more muscle fibers more rapidly than any other training modality. 
  2. The core to extremity nature of both lifts improves athletic development in for almost any sport. 
  3. Olympic lifts are unmatched in teaching overall kinesthetic awareness and effective knee and hip extension - both are essential for athletic development and movement patterns throughout life.   
  4. Olympic lifting trains a greater number of the 10 general physical skills and abilities than any movement. These include, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, and accuracy. 
  5. The Olympic lifts take the whole body through a maximum range of motion (ROM). Performing these lifts properly forces practitioners to increase mobility and master proper ROM. 
  6. Olympic lifts can be performed at moderate weights for high reps in order to train cardio respiratory endurance and muscle stamina, or can be performed for low reps at high weights for pure strength, power, and speed development. 
  7. The Olympic lifts teach the body to properly absorb impact and help to increase bone density. This is highly effective in in helping to reduce injuries, and helps practitioners stay healthy and mobile later in life. 
  8. The injury rates in Olympic lifting are far lower than most traditional sports; including running. 
  9. Each Olympic lift can be modified into progressions (smaller movements) such as the power clean or the power snatch, which is more suitable for some sports and certain trainees with movement or mobility issues. 
  10. Find an experienced and certified Olympic weightlifting coach in order the learn the lifts. The olympic lifts are inherently technical and fast and should be learned via several smaller progressions.