Olympic Weight LiftingFrequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of Olympic weight lifting?
The biggest perk of Olympic weightlifting is that it’s fun – there’s no better feeling than being able to throw a heavy weight over your head.
But of course there are physical benefits – the snatch and clean and jerk are full body movements, so you train every single muscle group in one, which is almost unheard of from other exercises. Believe it or not, it’s even better than bicep curls.
The entire point of weightlifting is to move as much weight as you can from the ground to overhead, to achieve this you want to get your body in the ideal positions to produce enough power, and get under the bar as quickly as possible. So your coordination and speed will be tested on the daily.
On your journey you’ll also make heaps of mobility gains – you’ll have to be able to get in to some awkward looking positions like the front rack and the overhead squat to keep the bar as stable as possible. Plus the deeper you squat the more weight you’ll be able to lift. The flexibility required won’t come overnight, but by starting light and sticking to your training you’ll be able to pull off an ass to grass overhead squat in no time, and with plenty of weight above your head.
Not to mention it’s an overall great workout, because the movements utilise every muscle in your body you’ll burn heaps more calories than traditional strength training.
What are the different Olympic lifts?
Weightlifting consists of the snatch and the clean and jerk, I’m not sure who named them but I’m glad they did.
The goal of the snatch is to lift the bar from the ground to overhead in one smooth motion. It utilises a wide grip (collar to collar if you’re tall!), so the bar makes contact with your hips at full extension to get the most drive out of the bar. You then get under the bar in an overhead squat, stabilise it and stand up.
Clean and Jerk
The clean and jerk is two separate movements, in competition you have to take at least a small pause between them.
In the clean you lift the bar from the ground and catch it on your shoulders in a front squat. After standing up with it you’ll want to take a moment to get ready for the jerk.
The jerk consists of two elements, the dip ‘n’ drive, and the catch position. But the goal is to get the bar from your shoulder to overhead and stabilise it. There are several variations of jerk, the most common is the split jerk, but lots of people also use power jerks, and squat jerks if you’re a technical master.
Can I take supplements if I am competing as an Olympic weight lifter?
Olympic weightlifting is pretty much identical to powerlifting when it comes to nutrition needs, and also in terms of supplements. If you’re planning on competing then anything on WADAs list is completely off the table, but any other supplements comes down to personal preference.
Anecdotally, the “hyped up” effect you get from preworkout isn’t as much of an advantage in weightlifting, and can even occasionally be detrimental. Because of the technical nature of the sport you want to be as clearheaded as possible, and some preworkouts can really fog your brain in this regard. Caffeine does work wonders though.
For me personally, I don’t bother with any supplements, as there really isn’t a supplement stack you “have” to take to do Olympic weightlifting. But it entirely depends on your goals, if you’re genuinely wanting to make it to the Olympics then you’ll obviously want a few good supplements in your cabinet – especially stanozolol.
What Olympic weight lifting equipment should I use?
The beauty of Olympic weightlifting is it doesn’t take much fancy equipment to start – in fact as long as you have weights and a bar you’ll be able to perform the movements, but there is some specialty equipment that will really make a difference.
If you’re serious about weightlifting then you’re going to need a good barbell. Ideally you’d want a barbell that spins well, as the bar will rotate 180 degrees between being on the ground and being overhead. You also want a bar with medium to aggressive knurling, as grip is incredibly important.
You’ll be dropping the bar from overhead quite a lot, so it’s important to have weight plates that can absorb the impact. Bumper plates are designed for this very purpose, so you’re going to need a set. Traditional rubber coated plates are no good for dropping, as they’re likely to cut a hole in your floor if you drop them from overhead.
Squats are a very important accessory exercise in weightlifting, so a quality squat rack is key. It’s best to go for a half rack or squat stands rather than a power rack, so when you’re performing overhead exercises you can drop the bar without worry.
It may sound ridiculous, but past a bar and weights, shoes are the most important piece of equipment in weightlifting. If you’ve ever watched Olympic weightlifting you’ll notice they all wear a special type of shoe with a raised heel. Part of this is that the heel is solid so provides a stable base – which is necessary for you to remain stable throughout the movement (if you lift with running shoes you’re likely to break an ankle). Another aspect of shoes is the raised heel aids in your squat depth, so you can squat much deeper and it’ll feel like a much more natural movement.
I'm a beginner to Olympic weight lifting. Where do I start?
If you’re serious about learning Olympic weightlifting then your best bet is to join a club with a qualified coach.
The Australian Weightlifting Federation is the national governing body of weightlifting in Australia, and there are 8 state associations, which will feature a list of clubs on their respective website.
Just find a club near you and drop the coach there a message, they’ll be happy to have you!
If there are no clubs near you then you’re in for a much more difficult journey, with enough time on youtube it is possible to learn by yourself, especially if you take the time to record yourself and review the footage. There’s heaps of resources out there, including weightlifting forums where you can post form checks and ask more experience lifters advice.
What basic movements should I learn before I begin my Olympic weight lifting program?
The best way to learn the movements is to dive in with a coach, but if there’s no coach near you, or you’re not ready to join a different gym yet, there are still a few movements you can learn in your own time which will give you a head start.
Weightlifters use a special type of grip called hook grip, it’s done by wrapping your first two fingers around your thumb when you grip the bar. Hook grip is incredibly strong – possibly even stronger than mixed grip, which is necessary because of the amount of force involved in the lifts. It’s vital you get hook grip down pat, because without it you’ll be missing far more lifts than you’ll be making. It’s super easy to do, but it’s uncomfortable at first and does take some time to get used to, so the sooner you start using it the better.
There are a couple of vital movements in weightlifting, which again are uncomfortable at first so you’ll want to get used to them as early as possible.
For the snatch:
Overhead squat: This is by far the most difficult movement in weightlifting to get to grips with, so you’ll want to read up on it first to make sure you don’t injure yourself. But the basic idea is to perform a squat with the bar over your head (in a wide grip), while keeping the bar directly above your midfoot. It requires a lot of upper back and shoulder mobility, so don’t worry about getting all the way down on your first go. You just need to squat as far down as you can while staying stable – if you feel yourself getting a good stretch then you’re making progress.
Wide grip deadlifts: The snatch uses a wide grip so you can get in to the best positions, but using a wider grip requires a lot more upper back strength than a conventional deadlift grip, so again it’s good to get used to it.
For the clean and jerk:
Front rack: The front rack is a critical position in weightlifting, it really can make or break lifts, so it’s something you want to get used to! The aim of the game is to have the bar supported by only your shoulders and not your wrists, while still being able to grip the bar with your hands. Ideally you would be able to fully grip the bar with your hands, but even just a few fingers is good enough – provided you call still get your arms under the bar for the jerk you’re good. A lot of people mistakenly think the front rack is all about shoulder mobility, but it actually requires much more upper back and tricep mobility.
Front Squat: By far the best way to practice your front rack is by front squatting – the front squat is a critical element of the clean, so if you’re no good at front squatting you’ll be no good at cleaning. It requires a lot more hip and upper back mobility than a traditional back squat, as you’ll be in a more upright position. But once again, practice makes perfect so don’t worry about perfecting it on your first go.
What workout program can you recommend to someone new to Olympic weight lifting?
Here are two sample 3-day/week programs, one is for the basic movements/prerequisites for if you’re looking to start weightlifting and not sure if it’s for you, the other is for proper weightlifting movements.
Wide Grip Snatch Deadlift 4×3
Barbell rows 5×5
Back squat 5×5
Ketllebell snatch 3×8
Strict press 5×5
Front squat 5×3
Strict press 3×3
Behind the neck press (snatch grip) 3×3
Overhead Squat 5×3
Kettlebell Clean and Press 5×5
Muscle snatch 3×3
Snatch pull 3×3
Snatch push press 3×3
Back squat 5×5
Muscle Clean 3×3
Clean pull 3×3
Front squat 5×3
Split jerk 3×3
Push press 3×3
Snatch balance 5×3
Lateral raises 3×15
What makes your Olympic weight lifting equipment different?
There is heaps of generic gym equipment from no name brands flooding the market, but if you’re going to be smashing a bar into your pubic bone and holding it over your head, you’re going to want gym equipment you can trust.
All of our gym equipment are from high quality, reputable suppliers and it’s gone through genuine tests before it hits the market.
Competition level equipment:
We offer several weightlifting bars with grip markings meeting IWF specifications, so you won’t be surprised when you step on the competition platform. All of our ATX bars have also been tested in an independent German laboratory, and have been given genuine certification to be sold in the commercial European market. Australia doesn’t have any standardised tests for this type of equipment to be sold, but we all know how stringent the Europeans are.
All of our bumper plates have gone through a drop test – which basically means they’ve been dropped 10,000 times from 7ft high, and still held up just fine.
Similarly, all of our squat racks have the genuine load ratings in the listing, and all of them exceed the weight any reasonable person will be using it for.
If that doesn’t cut it for you, you can also read all of our reviews online.
Are Belts allowed in Olympic Weightlifting?
Yes! Belts are allowed for use in Olympic Weightlifting.
However, you cannot just grab your favourite gym belt and jump into a weightlifting competition.
First, there are a few major differences between the regular belts you would use for general strength training or powerlifting and Olympic Weightlifting belts.
Most International Sport Federations have a bunch of guidelines which Approved manufacturers must adhere to.
IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) compared to IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) is a tad more relaxed on the regulations and the only requirement for Olympic Weightlifting belts is that their width should not exceed 12 cm.
Differences between Olympic Weightlifting Belts and Powerlifting Belts
1. Width – maximum width for IPF approved belts is 10 cm, IWF – 12 cm.
2. Material – pretty much every single belt you will see in an IPF competition is going to be made from leather. While most Olympic Weightlifters prefer Nylon belts. And for a good reason, leather belts are quite STIFF. This makes them brilliant at providing support, but their downside is that they can be quite constricting. This is perfect for powerlifting where extremely heavy weight is moved using slow and controlled movements.
Olympic lifts are more explosive. Plus, there is far more movement involved in terms of range of motion and complexity. Olympic weightlifters need to sacrifice some support for speed and movement.
3. Tapered – most Olympic Weightlifting belts have a wider support at the back and narrower at the sides. This gives you the maximum freedom of movement – something you try to avoid in powerlifting.
4. Thickness – While both federations allow 10 mm or 13 mm thick belts. You will rarely see any Olympic Weightlifter using a 13 mm belt.
The general rule for using weightlifting belts is that you should only put one on whenever you are training with approx. 80% of your max weight. The belt won’t fix a bad form or compensate for weak core muscles. Invest more time into core training exercises and you will achieve better results than any training belt could provide.
Are Olympic Weightlifters Natural?
Olympic weightlifting is a highly competitive sport where you can compete for an Olympic gold medal. Plus, it is a support that relies heavily in strength and power. Using history as a guide, when these two elements are combined, there is a high chance that some athletes will not be natural.
To compete in International Weightlifitng Federation (IWF) events you need to be drug free. When you are competing, you are subject to drug testing, both in and out of competition. Despite these controls, it is human nature for some competitors to seek an “unnatural advantage”.
There are two limiting factors when it comes to any strength sport – how quickly we can recover from training and how many nutrients our bodies can absorb. Some are more genetically gifted and can both recover quicker and absorb significantly more nutrients from the same amount of food. Other hit a ceiling and no matter what they do they can’t go past it without some help from “Richard Gere”.
From the beginning of competition coaches and athletes realized that there is an advantage to be gained from taking PEDs. In fact, PED use goes back all the way to 776 BC. Ancient Greeks drank viscous opium juice and snacked on a few sheep testicles.
In modern times doping is a tad more sophisticated. Every single year there are new compounds being added to the banned list. This never-ending cat and mouse game have pushed a lot of opportunists to take designer steroids in order to avoid detection.
Designer steroids are manufactured to closely resemble existing known compounds, but with enough changes to ensure that their detection by WADA is far more difficult.
Many of these drugs are made in rather clandestine ways which are passed on to the athletes who become the guinea pigs. Naturally the more money is involved in the sport, the more complex the designer steroid will be.
But unlike the already tried and tested PEDs (thanks bodybuilders and cyclists), there is no long-term data to evaluate their safety and efficacy. We all know that longtime abuse of traditional steroids will destroy your natural hormone levels. Once you have done this you will most likely be known as “Limpy”.
But there is no way of knowing what sort of damage the designer steroids such as SARMs will do to your body.
The silver lining is that the testing methods are advancing rather quickly. Even if you pass a test today, a high-level athlete will have their samples stored. These may be tested some day in the future. The future tests may pick up these trendy compounds. Imagine the embarrassment of being crowned as the best one day, only to be labelled a cheater in the future.
You should be able to enjoy your training regardless of the discipline you have chosen to get into. End of the day it is not about what everyone else if lifting, but all about how you are feeling. If you are getting stronger and achieving the realistic goals you’ve set yourself, that is all that matters.
Do Olympic Weightlifters Bench Press?
There is no real reason for weightlifters to do bench press. Olympic weightlifting consists of two lifts: Clean and Jerk and Snatch.
These lifts require a lot of explosive power, speed, and technique. So, the athletes focus on these two movements and all the accessory exercises required to gain explosive power, speed and technique.
You might find an odd Olympic Weightlifter, who will throw in bench press into their training regime. But that is mostly done for general strength and muscle development, and it will never be the primary focus of an Olympic Weightlifter.
Does Olympic Weightlifting Build Muscle?
Weightlifting is brilliant at building muscle mass. You are using every single muscle group in your body to get the weight up above your head. This is perfect for building exceptionally strong legs, core, shoulders and back!
In saying that it is not the easiest sport to learn, it requires months and for some even years of practise to perfect it.
You will need great shoulder mobility, strong core and legs, mobile hips, and knees and most importantly patience to get into this sport.
Once you do get through the rather steep learning curve of nailing the technique, you will be able to enjoy the benefits which come with Olympic Weightlifting Training – explosive power, speed and most importantly strength which transfers to pretty much any sport.
Why are Olympic Weightlifters fat?
Most professional Olympic Weightlifters have extremely LOW body fat. Those who are competing in a specific weight class (excluding heavyweights), must maximize their bodyweight. And getting rid of fat allows more room for muscle.
Heavyweights or “Open” weight class athletes do not need to worry about missing weight. They can simply eat as much as they desire – the result usually is exceptional strength with an extraordinary power belly. These guys lift the most weight, hence they often get the most exposure. That is where the misconception of Olympic weightlifters being fat is created.
Take Lasha Talakhadze as an example – he is the all-time best Olympic Weightlifter. He can Snatch 225 kgs and Clean and Jerk a whopping 267 kgs! He stands at 1.97 cm tall and weighs 183 kgs and unlike Professional Strongmen he doesn’t look like he lifts at all.
A juiced-up body builder that looks like an Adonis would to be able to carry Big Lasha’s jock strap.
Do Olympic Weightlifters do Cardio?
Yes! Olympic weightlifter usually adds cardio to their training sessions. It allows them to both keep the bodyweight down but more importantly it can help to improve their overall fitness, endurance, and recovery.
Endurance and recovery are extremely important in Olympic Weightlifting. As the format of the competitions is completely different from Powerlifting where the athletes would have up to 10 minutes to rest in between lifts. As there are three rounds/lifts going from smallest to the heaviest. At the end of the last round, it goes back to the smallest weight.
Olympic weightlifters do not have such a luxury, as the weight on the barbell never decreases (unless you switch in between Snatch and Clean and Jerk). Because of this you might have to take your next attempt within 2 minutes of finishing the other.