How Is Olympic Weightlifting Scored

Weightlifting is an interesting sport, and many people love to watch lifters perform the different lifts in weightlifting Olympic competitions. Both men and women participants usually take part in the intense competition, and the winner is announced in the end.

The question that most spectators ask is how is Olympic weightlifting scored? Every competition has got three referees who judge the game. Different players are categorized depending on variables approved by International Weightlifting Foundation.

Different countries have participants come in to represent their nation, and the winner is determined by performance as well as evaluation by referees.

Simple rules guide the competition that allows referees to communicate with the participants. As a spectator, knowing the rules helps you understand how the game works.

History of How Weightlifting Was Scored

The history of weightlifting as an Olympic dates back to 1896 when it was first introduced. Weightlifting was part of track and field, and the inclusion of this sport in the Summer Olympics was on and off up until 1920.

After it was admitted in its own right, an event criterion was established to determine how competitions were to be monitored.

At the time, there were no weight divisions, just one-hand, and two-hand weightlifting. This criterion is very different from the one used in today’s Olympic weightlifting arena.

In 1932, three weightlifting divisions were established and they include;
• The press
• The Snatch
• Clean-and-jerk
The press was later eliminated in 1972 leaving the snatch and clean-and-jerk which are the divisions that are still currently used. Women officially began competing alongside their male contestants in Sydney’s 2000 Olympic. Women, however, have weight class different from those of men.

Current Olympic Weightlifting Rules

The rules used in Olympic weightlifting are standard and recognized internationally. The International Weightlifting Federation recognizes all the rules and affirms that they are the ones to be used in every weightlifting competition.

Even though on the surface the winner is the individual that succeeds to lift the heaviest weight, there are other variables and considerations that referees consider when determining the winner.

In Olympic weightlifting, you could be termed the strongest and still not be the winner. The Olympics administration approves the approach referees take in determining the winner. Participants are to understand the rules of the sport and follow them.

i. Judging Rules

Every participant is allowed to attempt to lift each weight three times. There are usually three referee judges regulating during Olympic weightlifting. When a participant successfully lifts weights, a white button is hit by referees, and a white light goes off to show it was a successful lift.

However, if a lift is deemed unsuccessful or invalid, the referees hit a red button, and a red light goes off to show it was unsuccessful. The official value for each lift is the highest score for that lift.

When collecting the total value, the highest score for the snatch lift as well as that of the clean-and-jerk are combined to arrive at a final score. The individual with the highest score becomes the champion of the Olympic weightlifting competition.

Weight Classes

Participants take part in the Olympic weightlifting competition based on weight class categorization. Each weight class can admit only two participants from each country. There are qualification standards participants pass to be able to participate in a given weight class.

In case there is a large number of entries for a given weight class, the group is further sub-divided. One group will be for the best performers while referees estimate the weights the other group can lift.

The collection of the final results involves combining the two groups for ranking. The person with the highest score wins Gold, the first runner-up gets silver, and the second runner-up wins bronze.

ii. Equipment Rules

Men and women have different barbells that they use for the competition. Men use a 20kg barbell while women use a 15kg barbell. Each barbell has two collars, both weighing 2.5kg. By the way if you are interested, an excellent choice of 15 kg and 20 kg barbells you can find under this link on Amazon. 

There is color coordination for the discs so that participants, referees, as well as spectators can have a mutual point of communication. Color coordination brings order into the sport because otherwise, referees wouldn’t know how much a weightlifter lifted.

• Red — 25kg
• Blue — 20kg
• Yellow — 15kg
• Green — 10kg
• White — 5kg
• Black — 2.5kg
• Chrome — 0.50kg
• Chrome — 0.25kg

The barbell should be loaded from the lowest to the highest weight. Once the weight loaded has been announced, it is not to be reduced to a lighter weight. The minimum progression after a good lift is 2.5kg.

• Timing

For the game to progress swiftly, there is a timing scheme used by referees to guide participants through their performance. Each participant has one minute to begin an attempt. An alarm goes off when the participant has 30 seconds left to perform a lift.

Once a participant is called to a platform, they are not to spend too much time contemplating or their lifts will be invalid. In case a weightlifter is performing two successive lifts, he or she has a two-minute break after the first lift. A warning signal goes off when 90 seconds have elapsed.

• Weight Divisions

For every Olympic weightlifting event, men have eight weight divisions while women have seven. Men lift 56kg to l105kg or higher whereas women lift 48kg to 75kg or higher. The official Olympic unit is kilograms, and all weights are calibrated as such.

Each country gets two participants to represent them in each weight class. There are Olympic qualification standards that every participant has to pass to take part in the competition.

The round weights attached to the bar range from 2.5kg to 25kg and because there is a color code, the audience, as well as referees, can determine which weight has been attached. Two weight clasped collars of 2.5kg are attached to each bar.

iii. Lifts

The acceptability of a lift is acknowledged by the judging panel when a participant success in two out of the three lifts for each weight. White light is used to denote an acknowledged lift while a red light indicates that a lift was invalid or unsuccessful. Each participant has three attempts for each weight.

• Clean-and-jerk

This lift begins with the barbell on the floor, and the participant grabs the bar with two hands. The weights are then pulled up to the participant’s chest as he or she squats down. The lifter then steadies at a standing position, and then in a slip stance, presses overhead.

• The Snatch

This lift can is distinctive from the clean-and-jerk due to its early overhead movement. The movements of this lift start from the same position as the clean-and-jerk despite it being different.

The distinguishing factor is the participant ducks under the bar and throws it overhead while maintaining a squat position. The lift is finished in a standing position with the barbell still overhead.

• Variables and Technique

The technique for both lifts is very demanding. Participants have to practice intensively for months before they can master their movements. A weightlifter requires exceptional flexibility and balance especially if they plan on participating in a competition.

Every participant aims to lift as much as they can because this is factored in when determining the champion of the Olympic weightlifting competition. An athlete’s ability is tested when they take part in such intensive competitions. Other factors that get factored in for every Olympic weightlifting competition;

• Age
• Gender
• Height
• Flexibility
• Length of arms
• Bodyweight

Age, gender, and body weight are used in the categorization of participants. Optimum height, flexibility, and other extremities determine if a participant will rise to the top. There are age categories as well as weight classes that divided participants into different groups.

There is a criterion used in the elimination of variables and arriving at the champion of the competition.

iv. Sinclair Formula

Sinclair formula is a mathematical term used in Olympic weightlifting competitions. It is a formula that helps referees determine the winner of the competition. This mathematical equation was developed in 1978 by one Roy Sinclair.

The equation has you determine the winner by answering the question; how much more a weightlifter should be able to lift if he or she weighted more. This is a method of equalizing the strength of weightlifters especially if there is a tie so that the winner can be singled out.

Sinclair’s equation is recognized by the International Weightlifting Foundation and approved by the Olympic administration. How the formula works is the athlete’s total is multiplied by the Sinclair coefficient to arrive at a final score.

The athlete’s score as mentioned earlier is the combined maximum of snatch and clean-and-jerk lifting scores. Sinclair’s coefficient represents a participant’s body weight, and women have a coefficient different from that of men.

The coefficient was arrived at based on general math, statistics, and logarithmic functions.

Different weight classes also have different coefficients as participants have different capabilities. This coefficient can be used to compare relative strengths from participants in different parts of history. The existence of Sinclair’s formula has made analyzing Olympic weightlifting competitions possible.

Methods used to equalize the strength of participants before Sinclair’s equation came to play were rudimentary, and they didn’t encompass every aspect of the participant’s capability.

With Sinclair’s equation, it is possible for a weightlifter to be the strongest but still not be the champion in a competition. IWF’s calculator is used to calculate the scores of the participants.

This calculator is always being updated to ensure the results it gives are relevant and accurate.

How to Become an Olympic Weightlifter

Every weightlifting champion began from somewhere because to scale to the top; you have to start from scratch. To become an experienced weightlifter who qualifies for Olympic competitions, you have to put in work and have a positive mind.

Weightlifting can be quite demanding, and without perseverance, you might opt-out.

The first thing you need to do is find a coach, preferably one certified by the national weightlifting association and approved by national-level referees.

Ensure you do your research to get the best out of your workout sessions. When your coach demonstrates the right movements, you can master them faster if you know about them.

Once you have technique and skill, you’ll need to join the national Olympic team so that you are in a position to compete with other participants.

Also, consider joining weightlifting clubs so that you connect with other athletes. Networking will help you achieve success. Being a member of the national weightlifting association enables you to have access to useful information and stay updated on the sport’s current rules.

You and your coach should draw up your competitive path and put to make it a reality. To advance to international competition, you’ll need to compete at a sanctioned location, move up to state-level competitions and then to national competitions.

Putting in work and focusing on your goal as a competing weightlifter helps you achieve success.

Make sure you interact with other competitors and find out their regime. Be adaptable to change and new workout schemes so that you improve your balance and be more flexible.

Participating in a competition is rewarding even if you don’t become the champion because you get the opportunity to showcase your skills and techniques.


Weightlifting is an interesting sport and knowing how it is scored helps you understand it better. Lifters need to put in months of practice so that they master their movements to participate in a weightlifting competition.

The techniques used to accomplish lifts during an Olympic weightlifting event are demanding, and a lifter has got to have balance and be flexible to pull them off. Both men and women can participate in an Olympic weightlifting competition.

There are weight classes in which each participant falls in. Each country is to be allowed two participants for each weight class. Many variables come to play when determining the champion of the competition.

Sinclair’s coefficient helps referees fairly judge the sport and accurately determine the winner. The champion goes home with gold; the first runner-up gets silver and the second runner-up bags bronze.

Please read my next article about “What Accessories Should I Use In Weightlifting?”

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How Is Olympic Weightlifting Scored

Tomasz Faber

HI, MY NAME IS TOMASZ, and welcome to my site I’m a weightlifter, and I’m very much interested in health and fitness subjects. Throughout a few years of my weightlifting training, and diet experience, I managed to make my body much, much stronger, as well as build endurance and athletic figure. I live in London, UK, where I enjoy my weightlifting more...

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