Date: 02 Aug 2012 · Author: admin · Category: HEALTH & FITNESS
With the Olympic Games now in full swing, and us all becoming experts in disciplines in which we had no previous interest (I constantly criticize the air rifle participants), let’s talk about the sport that seems to have garnered the most new interest to date: Olympic lifting. I’ve had more tweets and messages than I can count over the last few days from people telling me what this 55kg Asian woman just snatched and that 64kg Columbian athlete just cleaned and jerked. Unlike with air rifle shooting, I do have a good understanding of the Olympic lifts. Here are a few pointers to help you better understand what they are, and how they’re performed.
There are only two Olympic lifts, the snatch, and the clean and jerk. The clean and jerk is the oldest lift, dating back to the 1800′s, while the snatch was introduced relatively more recently.
The snatch involves taking a weighted barbell from the ground, to an overhead position with locked out arms and legs. This is a highly complex movement, with the explosiveness required to drive the bar off the ground to a position where one is able to duck under it with extended arms, being unparalleled in sport.
The clean and jerk involves two separate movements. The first is to pick the bar up off of the ground to your shoulders, and the second is to then press the bar to an overhead position, once again with straight arms ands straight legs, both in a locked out position.
The key to understanding Olympic lifting, and indeed the skill behind it, is the following:
1) the athlete always starts off in a deadlift position, this being the most effective position with which to lift an incredibly heavy weight off of the floor;
2) once the athlete has the bar moving in an upward direction (notice how close the bar is to their body the entire time), the athlete will then simulate the exact same motion as required in a vertical jump- they will violently drive their hips upward, thereby extending them, and also drive up onto their toes, all the while staying connected to the ground.
3) the bar will then be traveling much quicker than the deadlift portion of the lift, and this is the key point in Olympic lifting- the athlete has moved the bar to one point, and will then move himself under the bar as quickly as possible. The athlete will in no way try to manipulate the bar into a position, but rather moving himself under the bar and into a strong position. As an aside, this is where most beginners battle the most, as they tend to want to pull and move the bar with their arms, when in actual fact the arms are only used to stay connected to the bar, hence the saying , “when the arms bend, the power ends.”
4) The strong position mentioned above, involves falling (literally- that’s why you hear that smacking sounds of the soles of their shoes on the ground) underneath the bar, and catching the bar in a front squat rack position, ie: with their elbows high, and the bar resting across their deltoid muscles (for the clean), or performing the same fall, but instead catching the bar at the bottom of an overhead squat position, arms locked out.
5) from this position the athlete will squat the bar up, and as such would have moved the bar from the ground to their shoulders, or overhead, depending on what lift they are performing.
Take a look at how these athletes are built, the power in their legs, the definition in their shoulders and arms, and ask yourself why you haven’t ever sought out a gym or trainer who can teach you to Olympic lift. If you play sport on any level, you should hang your head in shame, and then ask yourself the same question. The power this movement develops in your hips will change you as an athlete. There are very few sports that require no hip drive or hip movement- try throwing/kicking a ball with just the use of your arm/leg, and you’ll understand the importance of strong hips. These lifts make you stronger quicker, more explosive, powerful and defined. So why aren’t they practiced more widely?
We wonder the same thing every day.
Watch the video we made with Mens Health on how to perform a clean: