Olympic Lifts

Olympic weighlifting

Weightlifting competition consists of two events, namely ‘Snatch’, and ‘Clean & Jerk’. There are total three exercises involved in Olympics lifts that need to be learned and mastered individually, these are:

  1. Clean
  2. Jerk
  3. Snatch

The thorough understanding of the principles and mechanics of Olympic lifts is a very important element of learning. It includes the development of a capacity to employ the maximum force from the ground to move the bar up, and then use the inertia of bar to move under it in the correct positioning. Also, it is of great importance to acknowledge that even though the Olympic lifts are learned in segmented portions, they need to transition flawlessly and performed as a single movement during the competition. Slight mismatch of timing can make it ‘No Lift’ and potentially render you disqualified.

Segmentation: Snatch & Clean

The most convenient and logical way to segment Snatch and Clean is to divide the pull into 3 phases:

  1. First Pull: Lifting the barbell from the floor up to mid thigh level or slightly up. This phase is performed under control without any jerking motion.
  2. Second Pull: Pulling the bar from mid thigh level into the full extension. This phase is performed explosively.
  3. Third Pull: During this pull, the athlete pulls himself into a proper receiving position from a fully extended position.

The technique work involved in the Olympic lift has been highly debated in the strength community. Some experts stress upon the need of greater strength levels to maximize the performance while others insist that faulty technique can’t be compensated with more strength. The truth is that both technique work and strength are mutually dependants. The only way higher degrees of strength can be expressed for maximal performance is through efficiency in technique. Neither can be neglected at the cost of other.

Coaching the Olympic Lifts

There is no single learning progression of Olympic lifts that’s applicable to all the lifters. The reason is the individual differences, variation in technique, learning, and availability of time. And the success of Chinese, Russian and Bulgarian weightlifters indicates that the absence of a common progression factor is not at all important. But still, it’s noteworthy that all of the successful lifters stick to the same sound basic technical principles.

Not only the coaching style is different with different coaches, the basic lifting technique also varies. If we ignore some of the basic lifting errors and mistakes, there are basically hundreds of permutations and combinations of the ‘proper’ coaching techniques. For any of the detailed Olympic lifting system out there, there is at least one successful weightlifter in the world who violates it completely.

That being said, the purpose of this article series is not to negate the other systems but to prescribe an ‘easy to learn’ system which may be individualized by any lifter trying to get efficient in weightlifting. The basic purpose is to improve the understanding of the basic guiding rules and principles which will enable any lifter to apply different applications of lifting in a logical manner. Your own experience will guide you and provide the most basic feedback required for your performance.

The Olympic lifts are complex exercises and they demand an extreme amount of focus and precision in execution. Patience and discipline are the virtues that will take you far in the sport of weightlifting. So don’t fall for shortcuts or try to run before you learn to walk. A comprehensive approach is always the best whenever dealing with a complex situation.

From the desk of Dr. Dharam Pal

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