I'm going to try and focus on discussing Olympic Weightlifting for youths in this blog alot more. Many people may get Olympic Weightlifting mixed up with Weight Training, Powerlifting and going into the Olympics. When really it is none of these, so i'm going to explain what Olympic Weightlifting is.
Your questions answered
What is it? Olympic Weightlifting is a strength based sport which improves muscular strength. The name Olympic doesn't mean that you are going in the Olympics, it refers to the technique type which is commonly shown at the Olympic games. It involves the two main lifts which are the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk which I will discuss further in this post.
Why should I do it? Olympic Weightlifting can help strengthen not only muscle but also bones, this helps prevent osteoporosis. It is also know to improve and develop skills in other sports.
Who can do it? Olympic Weightlifting is suitable for all ages, however how good you can perform could depend on age. If you cannot complete the lifts correctly when you're older (stiff joints/ health issues) they can be adapted for you.
When can I do it? You can train whenever you like once you can lift correctly, but if you're still a beginner most gyms/ professional clubs won't let you lift unsupervised.
Where can I do it? Local gyms may offer Weightlifting classes or have platforms, however there could be age restrictions. Certified Olympic Weightlifting and Crossfit clubs will usually take up any ages.
How can I do it? If you want to start Olympic Weightlifting but don't know of any clubs or gyms which coach the sport, try searching online or the British Weightlifting website (if you're based in the UK) to find clubs near you.
The lifts: Clean and jerk
In Olympic Weightlifting, there are two main lifts. In my opinion, the easiest lift is the clean and jerk but the snatch lift isn't incredibly difficult, it can just take more time to master the technique. When completing the clean and jerk lift, you want to make sure that your hands are positioned on the bar in a narrow grip (about shoulder width apart). Before picking up the bar, take some deep breathes and squat down with a flat back to place your hands in this position. To check if you have a flat back, stand with your chest out, bum out and bend your knees. I personally prefer looking at the ground when lifting the bar off the floor, some people prefer to look at the ceiling. The first part of the clean and jerk lift requires the lifter bringing the bar from the platform and above their knees until it reaches their upper body. As the bar is moved up towards your chest, squat down whilst moving the elbows up. Once you've driven your body upwards from your squat, bend your knee and push the bar above your head. When you've finished your lift, lower the bar to your shoulders, hips and then (with a flat back) place the bar on the platform.
The lifts: Snatch
The snatch lift set up is in the same squat position but with a wide grip. Try not to have your grip too wide, as this can make the bar fall behind you. Lift the bar straight above your head whilst keeping it close to your body and not swinging the bar out and away. As soon as the bar is past your chest and going towards your head, squat down at the same time so that when you land in your squat, the bar is above your head. Then drive up from your squat and place the bar back on the platform.
What happens after you've learnt
Once you've mastered the technique of both lifts, you may be wondering what you can do now. In some sports, take gymnastics for example. In a sport like gymnastics, once you've mastered a skill you can learn more in that area. This isn't the case when Weightlifting. You'll mainly want to focus on how much you can lift whilst maintaining a good technique. There is still need for practice involving technique as without regular practice, you can fall back into old and unuseful habits which could prevent you from increasing poundages. Once you become good at Weightlifting, you might think about entering a Weightlifting competition. If you are still in school, the competition groups go based on body weight and school year. But for adult competitors. the groups are based on body weight and age. For example, the categories may range from 35kg to 75+kg depending on how old you are. If somebody was in the 58kg class and were in year 8, they wouldn't be against as year 9 who weighs the same or a year 8 who weighs lighter. In a competition, you complete 6 lifts overall (3 snatch and 3 clean and jerks) whilst increasing the weight of each lift. The three referees will determine whether you've failed or not depending on your technique or if you did anything incorrectly.
Benefits of Weightlifting
Weightlifting has benefitted me by helping me to grow muscle in all areas of my body. This has helped me to improve my ability to do pushups, situps and other exercises. The sport has even helped me to improve in sports I never knew I was good at such as swimming. I've also found that whenever i've had bad days, Weightlifting has helped me calm down and even tackle my mental health issues. You may not want Olympic Weightlifting to be your main sport as you could already have a main focus. But the sport is excellent to try and can certainly help you make progress across a wide variety of other sports. Weightlifting can help improve Canoeing, Kayaking, Climbing, Sprinting, Jumping, Boxing, Rugby, Bar work, Swimming and other sports which require muscular strength.
I hope that this post has given you a brief introduction to Olympic Weightlifting and has answered any questions you had. You can expect more posts about lifting highlighting the importance of technique and other areas for beginners. If you have any more questions, please leave them down below.
A 16 year old girl, fitness enthusiast and dedicated Olympic style weightlifter. I'm determined to live a healthy lifestyle and take care of my body whilst influencing other young people to do so. I never doubt my ability to achieve something; I just change what I'm doing until I succeed.