Weightlifting had roots in Ancient China and Greece and was first introduced as a competitive sport in the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens. Since then, the sport featured in all Olympic Games with women events making their debut in 2000. (Source)
Have you been to wonder how Olympic lifters train? Do Olympic weightlifters train every day? The answer to this is that today, daily training regimes a necessity for Olympic weightlifters who compete at the highest levels. Training on a day to day basis has many advantages to a weightlifter. For one it helps the participant to polish up on their lifting technique on top of the obvious benefit of boosting strength and fitness levels.
Here’s all you need to know about Olympic weightlifting as a sport as well as the benefits of training daily for these athletes.
Olympic Weightlifting in Detail
Olympic weightlifting is a competitive athletic discipline in the Olympic program where participants attempt to lift a barbell loaded with weights from the floor to an overhead position using an explosive technique.
The snatch and the clean & jerk are the two lifts that athletes aim to complete. The snatch entails the athlete lifting the loaded barbell from the floor to overhead in a single explosive movement.
Clean & jerk combines two motions; first, the athlete lifts the loaded barbell off the floor to their shoulders then jerks it from their shoulders to overhead.
Clean and press used to be a lifting technique but was scrapped in 1972 by the International Weightlifting Federation because it placed too much stress on the lower back thus raising the risk of injury.
In Olympic tournaments, each athlete will have three attempts to pull off each lift. Then, the weight of two of their best lifts in each category is tallied and to determine the athlete’s total.
This tally is then compared to that of other participants, and the best score wins. The sport has different bodyweight categories for both males and females and participants are often grouped into classes depending on their body mass.
Generally, there are eight weight divisions for both genders starting from 56kg to over 105kg in males and 48kg to over 90kg in the female category.
For each weight class, all participants will compete in both lifts with the snatch competition taking place first then followed by the clean & jerk event. Throughout the tournament, the barbell is loaded with weight plates in 1 kg increments.
The competition usually has two judges and a single head referee all of whom apply the governing body’s rules and regulations to scrutinize each lift before awarding a successful or failed result.
If a weightlifter is unsuccessful on their first attempt, they have the option of reattempting the lift or moving on to a heavier weight. In case of a tie (when two participants lift the same total weight), the lifter with a lower body mass will be proclaimed as the winner.
Olympic Weight Training Frequency and Volume
Fitness experts will tell you the importance of having a day or two of rest after every workout. Indeed, most bodybuilders and powerlifters will often train for between 4 to 5 days a week with at least one day off schedule.
However, for most Olympic weightlifters, daily routines are no longer an option but a necessity. High volume, frequency training is essential especially for participants who are new to the sport.
The reason behind this approach is that the degree of technical skill involved in the lifts is far more complex than typical powerlifting exercises.
Indeed, to master the competitive lifts (snatch and clean & jerk), an athlete will often need to spend a lot of time in the gym. Training daily does not necessarily mean that each day will entail high volume workouts. Trainers do alter the volume and intensity of workouts to allow some degree of restoration.
The Bulgarian style regime is an excellent example of how athletes can rely on body modulation to achieve restoration even on daily workouts. Elite weightlifters often spend years conditioning their bodies for high volume and frequency training by adopting well-designed programs.
Another reason why Olympic lifters can afford to train daily lies in the nature of their workouts. Competitive lifts place a huge emphasis on neurological adaptation, unlike powerlifting and bodybuilding which are more morphological.
As a result, the Olympic trainer doesn’t have to dedicate a full day or days for tissue recovery between workouts.
Olympic Weightlifting vs. Powerlifting
The past decade has ushered in an era where weightlifting as a niche has gained more prominence in the fitness industry. Today, cross-fit programs are incorporating Olympic lifts and their variations such as the power clean, power jerk, hang clean and power snatch while powerlifting as a sport is now more popular than ever.
However, these two lifting forms do differ widely especially in technical aspects.
Olympic weightlifting focuses more on technique while performing the two ballistic lifts (snatch and clean & jerk). Core strength, speed, and mobility are the prerequisites of a successful Olympic lifter.
On the other hand, Powerlifting tends to be less technical and instead focuses more on pulling off the deadlift, squats and bench press.
Learning The Basics of Olympic Weightlifting
Elite athletes will continue to work with experienced coaches even after they have mastered the lift techniques involved in the sport. It’s highly recommended that new weightlifters week out qualified coaches when starting in the sport.
However, certified weightlifting coaches are not plentiful, and the few that exist are usually in high demand. Luckily, there are plenty of resources in the form of weightlifting books and videos that new weightlifters can use to hone the snatch and clean & jerk techniques.
Websites such as catalystathletics.com and scienceforsport.com also have plenty of free information on Olympic lifts and weightlifting posted daily.
Finding a gym that can accommodate Olympic weight training is just as important as finding a certified weightlifting coach. An ideal gym should sport proper barbells, bels, collars, plenty of bumper plates and weightlifting platforms.
Depending on where you live, you can find weightlifting clubs, affiliate gyms and qualified coaches on the USA Weightlifting website. All weightlifting competitions in the U.S.A are governed by USA weightlifting while the International Weightlifting Federation oversees global tournaments.
Benefits of Olympic Weightlifting
The most obvious merit of weight training the Olympic way has to do with how it influences an individual’s athleticism. Olympic lifting is essentially an enhancement of regular gym workouts such as deadlift, squats and shoulder press.
With that said, Olympic lifting is a great way for athletes to build speed as well as total body strength and muscle. Hoisting heavyweights at a quick pace demands that all your muscle fibers work together to generate the power needed.
Such quick bursts improve your overall speed and coordination. It’s no wonder then that more athletes from other sporting events are turning to Olympic weight training to gain that extra edge.
Olympic weight training results in an overall leaner, tighter body physique. Because the sport focuses on speed, coordination and the gradual buildup of strength, the result is an overall decrease in body fat and an increase in lean body mass.
When combined with proper dieting and nutrition, weightlifting can lead to the amazing physique as well as excellent cardiovascular health. Also, Olympic weight training is unique in that it involves full-body workouts.
The sport not only boosts your core; the upper back, arms, shoulders, glutes, and triceps all come in handy in hoisting the loaded barbell over your head.
Olympic weight trainers also tend to have a superior bone mineral density than the average person. Still, on bone health, the sport is particularly beneficial to women because they have a greater risk of osteoporosis compared to men.
Olympic lifting builds mental acuteness. Anybody can walk into a gym and pull off the deadlift; Olympic lifts, on the other hand, require time and skill to master.
Olympic weightlifters are always trying to refine their skills, and this act of continually seeking improvement brings with it a sense of accomplishment once success is realized. Finally, though hard to believe, Olympic lifting is one of the safest sports you can practice.
On average, weightlifting leads to 0.0017 injuries per 100,000 hours of practice – Source. This statistic pales in comparison to the 0.57 ration of track and field events.
Coaches also have a vital role to play in minimizing injuries in the sport. First-time athletes must focus on the basics of lifting before they can even think of loading weights to their barbell.
The fantastic book which I recommend is “Olympic Weightlifting for Masters” on Amazon.
Anyone with a high level of self-discipline and dedication, regardless of size and weight, can enjoy the benefits of engaging in the sport. Since the sport was introduced as an Olympic tournament, there have been winners from all around the globe. Today, more women are developing an interest in Olympic weight training as a sport.
Anthony Wall, an official at the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recently noted that the number of women defecting from CrossFit and other regimes into Olympic weightlifting has doubled since 2014. This trend is likely to continue as more people uncover the benefits of the sport – Source.
Please read my next article about “What Accessories Should I Use In Weightlifting?”
If you like this post? Don’t forget to share on Pinterest!