Olympic lifting is a barbell sport focused specifically on the clean and jerk and the snatch. These are among the most difficult movements to master and as such, they require lots of practice to execute them optimally. But what is Olympic lifting in CrossFit?
This discipline primarily focuses on the clean and jerk and snatch. As defined by CrossFit, the 10 skills of fitness are accuracy, strength, cardiovascular endurance, stamina, power, speed, coordination, flexibility, balance and agility. These skills are largely covered by the Olympic lifts and as such, practicing them makes a lot of sense.
However, there is more to it than just that.
One of the goals in CrossFit is to quickly move large loads across long distances and as such, focusing on Olympic lifts became a no brainer. The lifts provide great value to CrossFit and deliver some of the greatest transfer to the majority of the other movement vocabulary in CrossFit.
Even individuals who do not have dreams of becoming Olympians can benefit from the power, strength, coordination, balance, and mobility involved in this technique.
CrossFit has two main goals, and one is achieving GPP or general physical preparedness. This essentially means preventing feebleness and sickness as we get older. It also involves taking the body into a state of wellness, health, and fitness. The other main goal of CrossFit is to serve as a sporting discipline to enhance the physical prowess of high-level athletes.
Achieving GPP involves choosing movements that are designed to promote the precise neuromuscular response. The moves must also be relevant to the previously mentioned 10 skills of fitness; hence the inclusion of the Olympic lifts.
The Role of CrossFit in Amplifying Weightlifting
CrossFit has amplified the awareness to Olympic weightlifting. Some individuals mistook bodybuilders for wrestlers, and this was mainly because the similar competition outfits were confusing.
Thanks largely to CrossFit, many individuals now know the difference and can perform or describe the lifts with varying levels of competence. USA Weightlifting (USAW) has reason to be thankful for the level of exposure it has received for the CrossFit phenomenon.
Making more individuals aware of weightlifting has successfully put money in the coffers of the USAW. This is because more CrossFitters, who are looking to add credibility to their resumes, undertake USAW coaching courses. Also, it has provided some coaches with new athletes.
These tangible benefits can be quantified and measured almost as objectively and clearly as the weight of a barbell can be quantified.
Olympic Lifting Training Sessions
Training sessions for Olympic lifting primarily focus on instructing and enhancing technical execution of the clean and jerk and the snatch. Only auxiliary and Olympic lifts are practiced during the sessions.
Persons with little to no previous experience with this type of lifting may be required to join private coaching sessions if technical work and overall training is beyond what can be achieved during the training session.
The Complexity of Olympic Lifts
Olympic lifts are not extraordinarily complex. Where technical complexity is concerned, there are some gymnastic moves that far surpass the clean and jerk and snatch.
No reasonable argument exists that can prove that Olympic lifts are equal as it relates to the difficulty involved in executing the wide collection of advanced gymnastics moves. However, Olympic lifts are still technically difficult compared with other movements in the CrossFit program.
This takes into consideration the development of what is viewed as an excellent technique. This does not merely involve lifting a barbell from the floor and getting it in an overhead position in any fashion (this can be accomplished by just about any CrossFitter in just one day).
Therefore, the clean and jerk and snatch lifts deserve their recognition as it relates to technique development to deliver the expected effects of training.
The Role of the Nervous System in Health and Fitness
The nervous system plays a crucial role in attaining health and fitness. This is because it is the channel through which the brain sends a signal to the rest of the body. These include the vital organs, muscles and right down to a cellular level.
The optimal function of the body is heavily reliant on the nervous system having the ability to send quick and precise signals back and forth from body to brain and vice versa. As individuals age and can sustain these signals, the more possible it is for us to remain in a state of optimal health, with the capacity to react swiftly.
The nervous system can be trained to send quick, accurate signals by becoming knowledgeable about intricate motor patterns and ensuring the neuromuscular response is developed. Watching an Olympic lifter during a competition, you might marvel at the speed at which they can move.
Perfecting movements like the clean and jerk and the snatch develop speed, power, and strength in the whole body. Training at the speed at which muscle fiber (rate of force development) can be developed is the main technique of training the nervous system. The objective is to train movement to a level of unconscious competence.
At that point, conscious learning is no longer required, and the movements become an instant reaction. This is the point at which elite Olympic lifters have reached in their sport.
They have instant reactions to the bar, and the process becomes unconscious. The aim of Olympic lifting in CrossFit is not necessarily to create elite athletes but to consistently strive to achieve a level of unconscious aptitude in movement.
If continual training is done to arrive at this level, the nervous system can, in some instances, become so proficient at translating messages that the brain can be bypassed completely. It is vital and even lifesaving to have the ability to react swiftly throughout life.
For example, if you are walking and you slide on some ice, the first thing that would happen is that you would use your hands to balance you. This reaction is not conscious; it is a reflex produced but the nervous system. The longer the ability to react can be maintained, the longer a certain quality of can be sustained.
Learning and performing complex motor patterns can assist in preventing the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia and overall deterioration of brain function.
For most athletes, the ultimate goal is developing speed and power. For example, tennis, boxing, and football require a quick reaction from the athlete to create a powerful movement.
Also, the athletes are required to spend a significant amount of time on their forefoot; the tennis player spends a lot of time on his or her toes, and the same is also true for the boxer. Additionally, we tend to jump, run and react on our forefoot and not on the heel.
High-Rep Olympic Lifting
The risk to an athlete is linked to performance above his or her competences and poor technique. Many individuals involved in CrossFit believe that if a person’s technique during a session is outstanding, it is a sign that he or she is just not pushing hard enough. However, a breakdown of form is a necessary result of the intensity level they are encouraging.
In cases like these, the intensity is not caused by poor form. The culprit is a lack of technical proficiency. This problem is simply intensified by the fatigue that is integral to a conditioning workout.
It is important for CrossFitters to learn and develop a lifting system initially. Having a greater foundation in technique will enable the athlete to carry out the lifts safely and a lot further into the world of fatigue into which he or she will venture over and over again.
More importantly, that technique will enable the lifts to deliver better the athletic characteristics that are being sought.
Developing True Speed and Power
In spite of popular belief, traditional heavy weightlifting, which primarily focuses on developing muscle hypertrophy, is not a wide-ranging method of developing superior athletes.
Overtraining of utmost strength, while using slow resistance and heavyweights, hinders the capacity to carry out complex motor tasks. This is typically the most technical stage of sports development.
Overusing maximum force could cause your precision to regress by allowing prime movers to overdevelop in a linear pattern. Simply put, the slower the movement and heavier the weight, the less efficient and slower the muscle movement and contraction become.
This weakens the capacity to develop the speed and power required for the majority of sports. Essentially, moving the way you train becomes “muscle memory.”
As can be seen from the previously mentioned information, for true power and speed to be developed by athletes, they will have to learn how to balance their training effectively. This is done by using intricate motor patterns that call for fast and precise reactions.
From a GPP point of view, complex movement goes a far way towards having longevity and optimal health. As such, plyometric work and Olympic lifts are well loved in CrossFit.
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