22 Nov Unlock New Gains with Olympic Lifting
If I was asked about my greatest fitness discovery of 2019, it would have to be the greatness of Olympic lifting. While I’ve always known about Olympic lifts, only when I started doing them did I realize their complexity, as well as the immense benefits they could bring if incorporated into an existing workout regimen. So what are Olympic lifts, and what makes them so special? Well for starters, these lifts work out pretty much everything in your body at the same time!
Full Body Engagement
Olympic lifts are two techniques – the Snatch, and the Clean and Jerk (C&J) – employed in order to hoist a (usually) heavy weight overhead. What makes them so great? That might have something to do with the fact that they engage most of the major muscles in the body at the same time.
In both the snatch and the Clean and jerk, you begin by pulling the weight off the ground, which engages your quads, your core, and your posterior chain (your hamstrings, glutes etc. all the way to your upper back). Some lifters also employ their biceps to help pull the weight through with brute strength, though many prefer to drive primarily with the power from their quads. At the point where you transition the weight from waist level, you get a burst of power from your calves as well.
In the case of the Clean and Jerk, you stabilize the weight with your shoulders, core and quads when you catch it, before driving it overhead with their explosive power and stabilizing at the top. With the snatch, the weight transitions in mid-air from above your waist to over your shoulders as you dip under to catch it. Here, the core, shoulders, quads and all their stabilizers are called into action at once. So within the two Olympic lifts, you’ve worked out most of your major muscles!
Explosiveness and Power
What you’ll quickly notice about the Snatch and Clean and Jerk, is that you can’t just muscle the weight up. You might be able to at first, but once the weight gets heavy, it’s all about explosiveness and technique. Athletes are forced to drive from the legs/hips and make use of the generated force to power the weight up. Continuously training these movements builds up explosive power in the body, which is very beneficial when playing sports that require bursts of power from the legs, such as American football, and jumping sports like volleyball and basketball.
Nervous system conditioning
Olympic weightlifting movements take only seconds to execute, but in those seconds there are countless variables that determine the outcome of your lift. In fact, the key points of the lifts only take milliseconds, and at this point it’s not just your muscles working hard – your brain and nervous system are working overtime. From the point where the weight leaves the floor, your mind has a million things to work through in order to ensure your body pulls the weight high enough, gets under the weight quick enough, and is coordinated enough to catch the weight without losing balance. It’s no mean feat, but repeated training strengthens the mind-body connection, leading to increased intermuscular coordination and getting better at utilizing the body as a whole.
Have you ever seen people with muscles in places you never thought people had muscles? Olympic weightlifting engages most of the main muscle groups, but especially hits the deltoids and trapezius, as well as the whole posterior chain. Additionally, it engages several supporting/stabilizer muscles that aren’t usually targeted during isolation workouts, so these muscles get a lot more pronounced than usual. Combine that with the right conditioning, and let’s just say that when the shirts come off at the beach, someone with a fair share of Olympic lifts under his/her belt is bound to get more than a few looks. I mean, has anyone SEEN the Chinese Olympic lifting team? 10/10 aesthetics is an understatement!
It’s hella fun!
Yes, fun! Anyone that plays a sport or is a fitness buff can relate. The feeling a runner gets when they beat their best 5k time is the same rush a weightlifter gets when they beat their previous Personal Best. And because of the complexity of Olympic lifts, there’s always something to improve upon that could take you to the next level; a slight change in foot positioning could be what better stabilizes you at the bottom of your snatch; dipping just a bit lower before your split jerk could be what helps you hoist those extra kilos over your head. There are countless variables that determine the outcome of an Olympic lift, and whenever a lifter manages to turn any of those variables into a constant, it’s a big win that motivates you to push yourself even harder!
Important closing notes!
Olympic lifts definitely come with a smorgasbord of benefits, but they are complex movements performed with heavier weights than one would normally lift. So if you’re new to Olympic lifts, only perform them under the guidance of a coach, and in a gym that’s equipped to handle them (because not many gyms have bumper plates that you can slam on the ground after every set of snatches). Stay safe, and happy lifting!
For anyone that needs motivation to get started with Olympic lifting, here you go!