Olympic weightlifting is one of the world’s most enduring sports, but what is it that has attracted competitors for thousands of years?
Tracing its roots back to ancient Greece and China, weightlifting was one of the seven sports that made up the programme of the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. Apart from three Olympic Games – 1900, 1908 and 1912 – the sport has featured at every Games since the beginning. Women’s events were added to the programme for the first time in 2000.
Now people across the world have discovered that weightlifting offers a path towards a complete range of fitness and strength attributes.
Quite simply, Olympic weightlifting can completely change one’s holistic levels of strength and fitness. Developing on the more basic gym lifts – such as the squat, deadlift and shoulder press – Olympic weightlifting has no equal for developing speed, flexibility and coordinated, total-body strength and muscle.
The core strength and mobility that is developed by the sport means that Olympic lifters have some of the highest vertical leaps of all athletes.
The speed of the movement requires Olympic lifters to recruit every fast-twitch muscle fibre. These type IIb fibres, which fire anaerobically, are also associated with sprinting, which is why the fastest people in the world use weightlifting to gain that extra edge.
CONTROL AND SKILL
While we can perhaps all instinctively walk into a gym and perform a deadlift, it takes a long time to master the intricate technical aspects of Olympic weightlifting.
In competitive weightlifting the two lifts are the snatch and the clean and jerk. The objective of the snatch is to lift the barbell from the ground to overhead in one continuous motion.
The clean and jerk, as its name suggests, is made up of two movements. First the barbell is lifted from the floor to shoulder-height. During the jerk the lifter raises the barbell to a stationary position above the head, finishing with straight arms and legs.
Both lifts demand coordination, flexibility and complete concentration. The technical aspects of the sport go a lot further in developing mental and motor skills than regular free-weight lifting.
If combined with plenty of whole food nutrition and sound recovery you can build amazing fitness conditioning, superior cardiovascular conditioning and skills and physique to back it up. Weightlifting boosts the core, as well as the glutes, upper back, triceps and grip.
Although Olympic lifting will grow the muscles, it is a misconception that performing the Olympic lifts will make an athlete appear muscular. If a weightlifter appears muscular, he or she is usually performing hypertrophy exercises on the side. Professional weightlifting is a sport dedicated to power and control, not aesthetics.
Because of the controlled nature of weightlifting, and the fact that experienced coaches play such a crucial role, injuries are rare in the sport. Indeed, weightlifting is actually considered one of the safest sports with just 0.0017 injuries per 100,000 hours of participation. Track and field athletics, as a comparison, has 0.570.
A SPORT FOR EVERYONE
Olympic weightlifting is a sport that can appeal to everyone, with weight categories ranging from 56kg to 105kg-plus for men, and 48kg to 75kg-plus for women. So no matter what you’re size, with dedication and discipline you can experience all the amazing health benefits Olympic Weightlifting has to offer.
Athletes from all over the world have become weightlifting champions, with gold medals being handed to competitors from five continents at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.