Why You Should Be Doing Olympic Weightlifting!
Picture the following: It is your first day ever inside a gym and you start doing some curlz for the gurlz. With a corner of your eye, you see a jacked dude warming up with twice the weight of your one rep max. You walk up to him and ask him for advice on getting strong. The dude will more than likely recommend you a typical powerlifting-esque based routine which is usually either the Stronglifts 5×5 programme or Wendler’s old school 5/3/1 programme.
Both of these lifting programmes are awesome, proven and if followed correctly will no doubt add you serious size and strength. However, today we will not be talking about either one of those two. In this article, we shall be discussing the often overlooked, and thanks to the modern day plague that is Crossfit, been given a bad rep.
The bareback basics of Olympic lifting is based on two complex exercises/lifts; the clean and jerk and the snatch. Both of these lifts require some serious fine tuning and trial and error methods before getting perfected or putting some big poundage on the bar.
Clean and Jerk
The main goal is getting under the bar as soon as possible and lifting it above your head. It sounds stupid simple but it’s not. The c&j can be broken down into 4 parts. Part 1: deadlifting the bar off the floor 2. bouncing the bar with your hips and thighs up to your neck and dropping down into a front squat position 3. front squatting the weight back up, catching your breath and doing last second technique adjustments 4. push pressing or split jerking the weight above your head. See now why I told you that it’s everything but simple?
Now this one is a bit easier, technique-wise, but holy crap is it more difficult to perform. In the snatch lift, there is only one goal and that goal is getting the barbell from the ground to the sky quickly with the shortest range of motion possible. This time you grab a very wide grip on the bar and lower your back all the way down with your chest sticking out. Then you do a snatch grip deadlift and bounce the bar with your kwadz and hips all the way up while squatting your body upwards. To perform this exercise in a single motion requires a bit less work then on the c&j lift but it will burn your energy out and test every single muscle in your body. If you have a weak spot, this lift will find it and kill it.
To be good at Olympic lifting requires a LOT of practice. A lot of stubborn, frustrating trial and error repetitions that will drive you nuts! Luckily, there are accessory exercises that can and will help you master these killer workouts.
This is a classic plyometric exercise that will work on your explosiveness. Which is the key thing in Olympic lifting, shifting the barbell from the ground to the sky as fast as possible. For that, you need to work on dem fast twitching muscle fibers and get those hips loose as a goose. Start from a small height and gradually work your way up to bigger and bigger heights to master that “BOOM! goes the dynamite” movement that is specific to Olympic lifters.
The late great Icelandic Strongman, Jon Pall Sigmarsson once said: “there is no reason to be alive if you cannot do deadlift” as he was deadlifting a 1000lbs back of a carthweel wagon. And he wasn’t wrong, don’t even bother with fitness or weight lifting if you don’t plan on incorporating deadlifts in your routine. When it comes to helping the specific task at hand(mastering c&j and snatch) they don’t get any better than the deadlift. Deadlift in itself is an awesome muscle and strength building exercise and as you can see in the videos Olympic lifting requires quite a bit of that. It also helps that the bottom part of the lift is essentially deadlifting the weight.
Same as the deadlift, compound lift on every serious lifter’s to do list. It will work your entire lower body and will help you when you shift the weight to your neck and have to absorb the weight with a squat.
This is a variation of the common back squat…in case you mistook it for a bench press variaton. Anywho, this is excellent for getting a feel of being in the clean position of a lift. It will work your core, back, legs and glutes. It’s a must do if you are serious about getting strong, not just strong for Olympic lifting, strong in general.
Now, if Olympic lifting isn’t your thing; use it in reverse! Instead of using the accessory exercises to better your Olympic lifts, use your Olympic lifts to better your other lifts. Once you zero in on your technique then it’s just a matter of progressive overloading. The lifts will test your cardio, test your endurance and your strength. Which then helps you with other stuff you are working on.
Heads up though…I suggest you either film your lifts to correct your form or find a guy that can help you in the learning process. If you’re still interested in doing Olympic lifting and are now googling PTs who are good at them, I suggest either find a good Olympic lifting gym or, and I am dreading my words even thinking about writing this, go to a CrossFit gym. PTs tend to get pricey and they will spend at least a month with you to focus on technique before even putting a barbell in your hand, which can and probably will get very frustrating. Olympic lifting based gyms are your best pick but not that many of those around and as much as I despise everything CF related, they put a giant emphasis on compound lifts and Olympic lifts. Make sure to find the best damn CF gym there is and the second they start giving you WOD’s with fish-out-of-water pull-ups and kipping handstands tell them to fuck off and find a better gym.
There’s a lot of stuff here to be learned and you certainly don’t wanna end up on a gym fails video on Instagram with a barbell collapsing on your neck. So if I’ve managed to convince you to give the Olys a try, prepare for a very long a frustrating road of learning but once you get a hang of it, you’ll be hitting beast mode FAST.