So you’re thinking about starting Olympic lifting….hell yeah! Olympic lifting is an amazing sport in itself but it’s also an amazing training tool to compliment any explosive sport. In the US, the sport of Olympic lifting has grown exponentially over the last 5-8years. Having said that I still get a ton of people who think I’m referring to squatting, benching, and deadlifting. To be clear that is power lifting; another great strength sport but a complete apple to oranges comparison. Olympic lifting consists of 2 lifts; the snatch and the clean and jerk. Just 2 lifts, it must be so simple to master just 2 lifts, but you will soon realize Olympic lifting is a game of millimeters not inches.
It is important to note that Olympic liftings massive arc of growth over these years has come directly with CrossFit’s same growth. So most of the people I’m talking to in the article are coming from a regular Crossfit class and are thinking of moving to strictly a barbell program probably at their same gym. There are very few gyms that are strictly Olympic lifting. However, that is beginning to grow as well. If you have never done front squats, overhead squats or a push press then I honestly recommend doing Crossfit for a few months at a good box to get some good experience and the basics down.
So now you’re all set to actually start your Olympic lifting career and you’re so excited….at least at first. I always warn my new lifters that this is not for the faint of heart. My goal of course, is not to scare them away but they need to know that there are going to be good days and bad. You see, Olympic lifting is much more than just being big and strong. You have to be fast, flexible, and very explosive….oh and still strong on top of all that. When you’re talking about pound for pound, Olympic lifters are some of the strongest strength athletes on the planet. There are guys that have clean and jerked TRIPLE their bodyweight. Squatting that alone would be impressive but we’re talking about a full clean and jerk in competition, it’s beyond impressive.
Now you have your program and maybe you’re a few sessions in and you begin to notice it seems to be a lot of similar movements over and over. If you have a good coach he will change weights, rep schemes, tempo, add pauses, and recovery work but it will always pretty much revolve around the main lifts, squatting, pulling, and pressing to some degree. So you have to be very disciplined and know that yes you did squat yesterday but…you’re probably going to again today. The weight, reps, and position of the bar (front, back, or overhead squat) may change but squatting is a very important part of Olympic lifting so if you don’t like it, either don’t bother starting or learn to like (love) it.
In recap, start your Olympic lifting career and be ready to work on perfection. You need to be in perfect positions at all times in order to be safe and strong, which will take practice and more practice. Be ready to brush off the bad days and cherish the good. It takes many reps to develop the strength in your connective tissue, muscles around your joints, not to mention get them all to fire together, seamlessly, and at the right time. When watching someone perform a snatch you may think yeah he picked the weight up and just kind of jumped it up and pulled it over his head. When in reality, the athlete is shifting their weight and changing angles all at very precise times in order to use strength and leverage to benefit them as much as possible. Bruce Lee, a true master of his craft said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, I fear the man that has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Co-Owner, Noble CrossFit