Learn the Olympic Lifts

When I started lifting, the sport of Olympic lifting was king and all the other lifting sports were snickered at for attracting oddballs.

It was January in Utah and as I looked out my garage door, I saw another blanket of snow layer my driveway. As soon as I finished lifting, I would march back into the house, change shoes and scrap the path clean again.

I have been banging plates and lifting weights since the first Nixon administration. When I started lifting, the sport of Olympic lifting was king and all the other lifting sports were snickered at for attracting “oddballs.” Then came the machine age and these expensive and profit heavy behemoths slowly elbowed out barbells and dumbbells out of the gyms (now spas, fitness centers, and “heavens”) and into the cellars and garages. So, that is why, in snowstorms, my neighbors peer out their frosted windows, look at the steam roaring out of my nose, shake their heads, and go back to watching “Must See TV.”

What Are The Advantages Of Olympic Lifting?

Why do the Clean and Press, variations of the Snatch, and the Clean and Jerk provide not only a complete workout but complement any training program?

Let’s Look At Four Reasons:

First, the most surprising aspect of Olympic Lifting is its effect on the cardiovascular system. A few years ago, Doctor Michael Stone studied the cardiovascular benefits of Olympic Lifting. He was shocked to find the improvements made by this form of training. But why? It is a simple matter of the length of the movement of the bar.

In a wrist curl, the bar may move four inches. In a Clean and Jerk, the bar moves from the floor to overhead, upwards of seven and a half feet! Every muscle in the body is used, including all the support system. A tough set of Snatches leaves the lifter heaving for breath, sweating in streams, and the heart racing. All this without even having to go the track!

Second, the human body is built in one piece. By lifting the bar from the ground to overhead, the entire body is called into act. As one begins the slow process of adding weights to the Olympic Lifts, the entire body compensates by getting bigger and stronger.

One of the first areas most novices to Olympic Lifting discover is the whole chain of muscles from the gluteus and the spinal erectors to the trapezius. Shirts begin to fit funny as the muscles of the upper back grow to accommodate the pulling movements. What muscles do the Olympic Lifts build? All of them.

Third, it is difficult to overtrain or go too heavy on the Olympic Lifts. Certainly, it is possible, but because of the movement from floor to overhead, there is little room for forced reps, overload techniques, or any form of cheating. There is no bench, no rack, no supports. A lifting partner can’t stick his hand on the bar and make you squeeze out an extra rep.

Olympic Lifting demands discipline in choosing weights within your abilities. But, the payoff is worth it. The feeling of hoisting bodyweight from floor to overhead for the first time remains a treasured memory years later.

Learn more about intensity building techniques.

Fourth, Olympic Lifting workouts don’t take very long. A solid workout of 5-4-3-2-1 or twenty singles can take less than half an hour. Working the entire body, as well as the cardiovascular system, the Olympic Lifts are very taxing. It would be hard to imagine ten sets of ten with bodyweight in the Olympic Lifts. It is hard to imagine one set.

If time is pressing, take a warm up weight and Clean and Press it for ten. Add some weight, and do five. Add some more and do three. Then, keep adding smaller plates and knock off as many singles as you can, until you can’t. Workout over.

When your garage is warming up to freezing because of the steam off your body, you will understand the importance of short, quick workouts. When you can do bodyweight in all three of the lifts, look in the mirror. You will understand the importance of the Olympic Lifts.

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