The Benefits of Olympic Weightlifting
The Benefits of Olympic Weightlifting.
The London Olympics have been and gone and most of us were left in awe at the feats of the athletes (I say most of us as there were a few who went abroad because the Olympics were going to be such a bore yah!). The games demonstrated a vast array of skills and talents. What was also acknowledged was the many hours that these elite athletes put into plying their trade by practicing their sports and the associated skills as well as the time devoted in the weight training rooms getting stronger, faster and more powerful.
Strength is hugely important not only to to the obvious: Weightlifters, Shot Putters, Judo Competitors, Sprinters etc, but also to middle distance runners, swimmers, tennis players and nearly every other athlete at the Games. When Mo Farah moved to the USA which was part of his road to double Olympic Gold success this summer (a reminder in case you were one of those abroad) one of the first things the coaching team addressed was his lack of strength. Despite being a middle distance runner Mo hit the gym and he hit the weights hard! Mo wouldn’t have been the only one, weights in gyms would have been getting thrown around for the last four years just like they will be for the next four years.
"But hold on", I hear you say, "Mo wasn’t bulging with muscle, neither were the divers or plenty of the other athletes I noticed!". That’s right Mo wasn’t doing arm curls, lat raises or cable cross overs instead was likely Snatching, Clean and Jerking and Squatting. They were all doing movements that helped improve their athleticism and made them more powerful.
Snatch, Clean and Jerk and Squat!
Some of you may have watched the Weightlifting at the Olympics and you may have become familiar with the two competitive lifts known as the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. The lifts that the weightlifters competed in are used by athletes all over the world. The reasons why these lifts are used is because they are so beneficial for so many reasons. Some of the benefits are as follows:
they increase speed and power
they improve coordination
they are sport specific
they have structural benefits
they are functional
they are ’Bang for Buck’
improved skill and accuracy
The Snatch is where an athlete picks a weight (up to 2x bodyweight) up from the ground and lifts it overhead in one uninterrupted movement in less than a second. Performing this movement develops speed, power and explosiveness.
The lifts occur with the athlete standing on their own two feet, supporting their own body weight and moving external loads this is essentially a definition of functional strength. Because every joint in the body is being used they help to greatly develop coordination.
In most sports where you are standing the application of force whether it’s running, jumping, throwing, punching, or lifting is begun by applying force into the ground though the body and out through the upper extremities. The lifts known as the Olympic Lifts are all about applying force into the ground (ground reaction force). The Olympic Lifts also train Motor patterns that are transferable to most athletic actions, this is highlighted by a position in the lifts known as the power position. The Power Position refers to the angle of the torso relative to the legs when the bar is at a particular height from the ground. This position is similar to what occurs in most sports, everything including running, jumping and throwing as well as punching and hitting a tennis ball.
It’s from this ’power position’ that the action happens both in weightlifting and sport specific movements. It is here that triple extension occurs, this is where the ankle, knee and hip extend rapidly producing massive amounts of force. Triple extension is then followed very closely by triple extension of the same joints. This fast turnover is again very sport specific, think of a sprinter where one leg triple extends as the other triple flexes.
One of the benefits mentioned above is that the lifts are ’Bang for Buck’ this statement means you get a lot of value for your money so by performing these exercises you are doing a lot of work. Part of the reason is that every joint in your body is moving therefore so is every single muscle in your body! Because every joint and muscle in your body is working the lifts require coordination and are also awesome exercises for developing it.
The Olympic Lifts aren’t necessarily ’show exercises’ like the bench press or arm curl, they are more ’go exercises’ which develop speed, power and explosiveness. However the lifts have huge aesthetic benefits as they develop the muscles of the hip, spine and upper back- you don’t see weightlifters with poor posture! Developing better posture and having better structural balance will help with all training goals including building muscle, losing fat, running faster, jumping higher....
The Olympic Lifts and their variants are extremely beneficial exercises and should be part of everybody’s training irrespective of goals. I could write about their benefits forever however I need to go lift something. Go find a club or gym that offers instruction in weightlifting NOW! You’ll even find out about another benefit that I haven’t mentioned above- picking stuff up and putting it above your head is a heap of fun!!
I’ll be running a Learn Olympic Weightlifting Workshop at Gymbox Bank on the 3rd November, between 12:30pm and 15:30pm. The cost is £50 for GymBox Bank members. Non Bank members will have to pay gym entry as well as the workshop fee.
For more information please contact BJ at firstname.lastname@example.org www.rulestrength.com