It’s never too late to get serious about weightlifting, and this kind of Olympian feat can be achieved safely and effectively with the right knowledge. You don’t need to aim for a gold medal. You don’t even need to have gone anywhere near a barbell before – but you need to be willing to learn. Learn the basics of olympic lifting, nail your technique and reap the rewards through practice.
What is Olympic lifting?
Every single muscle in your body will work together to perform an Olympic lift – in a much quicker fashion than any lifting you may have done before. Competitive lifters train and compete in two types of Olympic lifts: the clean and jerk (where you sweep the bar up to your shoulders, then lift it overhead and drop underneath it) and the snatch (where you move the bar from the ground to overhead in one move).
What are the benefits of Olympic lifting?
Speed, flexibility, coordination, total-body strength and muscle gains. Olympic lifting can be challenging, but it will lead to a lean, sculpted and powerful physique. You’ll burn more calories, stimulate muscle growth and create more explosiveness in all your lifting efforts. It’s an ideal training technique to use if you want to be strong and healthy – without Arnold Schwarzenegger bulk.
Where do I start?
As with all technical sports and fitness endeavours, Olympic lifting requires a great deal of determination and practice. If you give up quickly, this isn’t the training for you. If you’re willing to put in the hard work, here are 4 tips to get you started:
1. Work on your form first
It’s all about form. If the way you’re doing it is wrong, you might be able to move the heavyweight, but you’re going to get hurt. Practising perfect form begins before you even lift a barbell: increase your range of motion by doing resistance band exercises first. This will boost flexibility in your shoulders and hips and is crucial when it comes to lifting. From here you can learn the ‘hook grip’ and determine your power hangs.
2. Work out your weight
It’s tempting to overload if you’re confident you can pull it off, but beginners should start off with a weightless barbell alone, adding five-pound plates when your form has evolved to get used to overhead lifts.
3. Don’t limit your reps
If you’re overhearing anyone in the gym talk about their ‘one rep max’ at this point, block your ears. You should be aiming for a higher amount of reps (around 10 to 15) with lower weights at this point.
4. Start with a snatch
When you’re progressing with Olympic lifting, you’ll likely be starting with snatches, or snatch variants. Try a snatch pull (which is more accessible than a full snatch): stand with the barbell on the floor and your hands reasonably wide. Bring the bar up and bump it off your hips as you move it slightly upwards. Drop, quick rest and repeat.