FREE SHIPPING AT $125

0

Your Cart is Empty

October 03, 2022 11 min read

Olympic lifts are based on the movements performed by Olympic weightlifting participants. Anyone can include Olympic-style weightlifting in their workout routines without actually competing. Executing Olympic lifts with proper form can help you gain muscle mass and build strength and power.

What are Olympic lifts?

Olympic Lifter - Image from Shutterstock

 

Olympic lifts use the weightlifting movement patterns used by lifters in the Olympic Games. The two official lifts are the snatch and the clean and jerk performed to move a heavy barbell from the floor to overhead.

 

 

The Snatch:The snatch involves the lifter moving the barbell in one continuous movement from the floor to the overhead position. The athlete lifts the weight from the ground, using a wide grip, then catches it overhead with straight arms while in a deep squatting position. From the squatting position, the lifter emerges in one fluid movement to standing up straight, completing the lift with the weight above their head.

The Clean & Jerk: This exercise has two distinct components. For the clean phase of the movement, the lifter uses a shoulder-width grip to pull the weight from the floor and then catches it in a front squat position. The jerk phase of this lift involves the athlete jumping into a split stance while pressing the weight up overhead until the straight arms are locked out. To complete the lift, the athlete must bring the back foot up to the same plane as the front foot.

These lifts and about 50 other “assistance” lifts are used by bodybuilders, powerlifters, strength builders, CrossFit trainers, and even fitness trainers to change their training routines while still developing speed, coordination, strength, and power.

Variations of the Olympic lifts provide a full-body workout because they activate muscle groups across your body, including the lower back, quads, glutes, hamstrings, triceps, and delts. Some prefer versions without the squatting movement. They incorporate the power snatch or the power clean into their strength-training programs.

Beginners are advised to practice the simpler variations like snatch pull, high pull, or clean pull, and work their way up to Olympic lifts.

Furthermore, novice weightlifters should seek technical assistance until they master the basic movements. It is always safer to start small and gradually work your way up to the heavy-weight plates.

Moreover, it is essential to warm up with several repetitions of other compound exercises like pull-ups, bench presses, lunges, deadlifts, or back squats to ensure the upper body and lower body muscles are ready for what comes.

6 Best Olympic movements to include in your workout routine

The list of “assistance” lifts is long, with numerous variations, in both movements and names. Here we will list the six most popular Olympic movements, some suitable for all, and others for intermediate and advanced lifters.

1. Power Clean

Suitable for all level lifters

Power Clean – Image from Shutterstock

 

Starting position:

Stand with your feet hip-width apart over the barbell. Squat down with your shoulders over the bar and your trunk neutral and braced. Grip the bar with your hands spaced just wider than your feet.

  1. In a movement similar to the deadlift, use your legs to help you drive the barbell up while keeping it as close to your body as possible.
  2. Once the bar passes your knees, extend your hips with an explosive movement and use your momentum to carry the barbell up.
  3. As soon as your hips are fully extended, use a quick movement to drive your body under the barbell and while you’re back in a partial quarter squat, catch the barbell at the shoulders in the front rack position. Your elbows should be as high as possible.
  4. To finish the lift, slowly lower the barbell to your hips, absorbing the weight with bent hips and knees before lowering it to the floor while maintaining a braced trunk throughout.

2. Front Squat

Suitable for all level lifters

Front Squat – Image from Shutterstock

 

Starting Position:

Lift the barbell off the rack and hold it with a loose grip in the front rack position while maintaining high elbows and a proud chest. Step away from the rack and firmly place your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart while maintaining an upright, braced posture.

  1. Create a tight chamber in your trunk by taking a deep breath. While ensuring your knees don’t fold in, slowly sit back into a squat.
  2. With a proud chest and elbows held high, squat to a depth where you can still maintain an upright posture.
  3. To finish the lift, squeeze your glutes to drive you up and out of the squat into a fully extended position.

3. Squat Clean 

Suitable for Intermediate to Advanced Lifters

 Squat Clean – Image from Shutterstock.

 

Starting position:

With your feet planted hip-width apart, stand over the barbell. Squat down and grip the bar just wider than your feet, with your shoulders over the bar and a neutral, braced trunk.

  1. Use your legs to help you drive the barbell up while keeping it as close to your body as possible, similar to the power-clean lift.
  2. Once the bar passes your knees, extend your hips with an explosive movement and use your momentum to carry the barbell up toward your waist, while immediately driving yourself under the barbell and into a full squat position, identical to the front squat.
  3. To finish the lift, maintain an upright, braced trunk while you drive the barbell up until you are fully extended.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell to your hips and absorb the force of the weight with your hips and bent knees.

Variations of the Clean Lift 

  • Clean Deadlift — The clean deadlift is a pull variation with a controlled speed into a standing position rather than a complete extension onto the balls of the feet like the clean pull.
  • Hang Clean — Hang cleans are cleans that are performed with the bar starting 'hanging' in front of the body instead of on the floor.
  • Clean Pull — The clean pull involves three movements from lifting the barbell off the floor, and then up to your waist with the explosive force created when your bent knees are straightened.
  • Block Clean — The block clean should be performed identically to the clean except that the bar begins resting on blocks instead of the floor.
  • Tall Clean — The tall clean is an abbreviated clean variation in which the pull under the bar is isolated.
  • Clean & Press — A double movement: Press, as the knees bend when you clean the bar, quickly straighten them and use this energy to press the bar overhead.

4. Push Jerk

Suitable for Intermediate to Advanced Lifters

 Push Jerk – Image from Shutterstock

 

Starting position:

Place your feet firmly about hip-width apart, with the bar crossing mid-foot above your feet, and grip the barbell firmly with your grip slightly less than shoulder-width.

  1. With your elbows close to your body, pull the barbell to just above your shoulders.
  2. Bend your knees to lower your body into a half-squat position.
  3. Press through your heels to create an explosive push to lift the weight over your head as you stand up.
  4. Pause before you slowly lower the bar back down to the starting position.

Variations of the Jerk

  • Split Jerk: Receiving the bar in a split stance position.
  • Power Jerk: In essence, a power jerk is a quarter-squat with the bar in a front squat position, followed by a quick drive out of that squat – Infrequently used in competition but common in training. 
  • Squat Jerk: Receiving the bar in a full squat – not common in competition (it's a rare method for athletes to use, and if they don't use it in competition, they usually don't in training either). 

5. Power Snatch

Suitable for all level lifters

 

Power Snatch – Image from Shutterstock

 

Starting position:

Place your feet hip-width or slightly wider apart. as you stand over the barbell. Squat down with your shoulders over the bar, and with an upright and neutral trunk, grip the bar in a very wide overhand grip.

  1. Drive the barbell up with your legs (similar to a deadlift), and keep the bar as close as possible to your body.
  2. As soon as the bar passes your knees, extend your hips explosively to create the momentum to carry the bar up.
  3. When your hips reach full extension, immediately drive your body under the barbell, and with your elbows high, catch the barbell in an overhead position. Maintain the braced trunk throughout.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell down to your hips while absorbing the force of the weight through your bent knees to safely return the barbell to the starting position.

6. Squat Snatch

Suitable for Intermediate to Advanced Lifters

 Squat Snatch – Image from Shutterstock

 

Starting position:

Place your feet hip-width or slightly wider apart. as you stand over the barbell. Squat down with your shoulders over the bar, and with an upright and neutral trunk, grip the bar in a very wide overhand grip.

  1. Similar to ‘Power Snatch’, drive the barbell up with your legs, and keep the bar as close as possible to your body.
  2. As soon as the bar passes your knees, extend your hips explosively to create the momentum to carry the bar above the waist while immediately driving yourself under the barbell and into a full squat position.
  3. Your receiving position when you hold the barbell securely overhead with extended arms should be a full squat.
  4. To finish the lift, drive up through your knees and hips while maintaining an upright, braced trunk until you are fully extended.
  5. Slowly lower the barbell down to your hips while absorbing the force of the weight through your bent knees to safely return the barbell to the starting position.

Variations of the Snatch

  • Hang Snatch — Instead of starting with the barbell on the floor, the hang snatch starts with the lifter holding the barbell in a chosen hang position, most often mid-thigh, knee, or right below the knee.
  • Block Snatch — The block snatch should be performed identically to the snatch except that the bar begins resting on blocks instead of the floor.
  • Snatch Pull — Similar to the power snatch, but the barbell is not propelled overhead. Instead, after reaching hip height, the barbell is pulled up to chest height with your arms holding the bar close to your body.
  • Snatch Deadlift —The snatch deadlift is a pull variation with a controlled speed into a standing position rather than a complete extension onto the balls of the feet like the snatch pull.
  • Overhead Squat — The overhead squat is typically used in Olympic weight lifting settings and is used as a form of progression to other explosive overhead exercises.

 

Rules to stay safe

Olympic lifting in all its variations poses multiple injury risks. Even the scaled-down varieties are challenging and demand a lot from your body in ways unlike traditional fitness workouts and weight training.

Whether you are participating in Olympic weightlifting programs or doing lifts as part of strength or fitness training, it is crucial to follow the following safety guidelines.

  1. Olympic-style lifts are demanding, and to prevent over-taxing your muscles, limit your Olympic lift training to three times per week.
  1. You need a good strength base to handle Olympic lifts, so it’s best to supplement Olympic lift training with regular weight training. You will need to master basic gym exercises like deadlifts, squats, and military presses.
  2. To be successful and injury-free doing Olympic lifts, you will need strong back muscles. Both the snatch and the clean lifts require strong shoulder muscles, and they demand a lot of pulling power from your muscles. Therefore, include plenty of back training in your workout routines. Those muscles are strengthened when you do lat pulldowns, rows, and pull-ups, and they play significant roles in your success at Olympic lifting.
  3. Although Olympic lifts might seem to be all about power and strength, they require excellent mobility and flexibility. For example, if you focus on bench presses all the time and neglect stretching your chest, the lack of pectoral flexibility will cause you difficulty finding a clean overhead position. Make a point of including foam rolls in your weekly workouts, and don’t overlook the importance of stretching your pecs, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.
  4. The best form for Olympic lifts results from practices that don’t necessarily involve a barbell. To build the range of motion (ROM) required for strong Olympic weightlifting movements, it is a good idea to include a series of resistance band exercises to increase mobility and flexibility in your hips and shoulders.
  5. Beginners should take it slow and avoid being overeager. They should never disregard the importance of warming up. Once your muscles are warm, start with the basics of Olympic lifting by practicing the basics of with a wooden dowel or a PVC pipe until you’ve mastered the technique.
  6. The next level should involve practicing the basic movement sets with the bar alone —standard weights for men are 45 pounds and 35 pounds for women. Many of the exercises are challenging, even with just the weight of the bar. When you feel comfortable and a trainer or another professional in the gym can confirm that you are ready, you can begin adding weights — 5-pound intermittent plates are a good starting rate of increase.

BENEFITS OF OLYMPIC LIFTS

Olympic lifts offer numerous health benefits.

  • Targets Full Body: Olympic-style lifts work the whole body from the legs, glutes, core, arms, upper back, lower back, and shoulders. Using muscles from head to toe to execute these lifts results in improved coordination, more true strength, power, and explosiveness.
  • Improve Mobility: Mobility is essential when doing Olympic lifts because you're using muscles throughout your body while moving through a wide range of motion. Moving a weight through this ROM while under control keeps the joints fresh and limber but strong. Olympic weight lifters aren't only super strong but also incredibly flexible.
  • Improve RMR:RMR is the rate at which the body metabolizes (burns) calories while the body is at rest. Both men and women have noticed an increase in their resting metabolic rate with weight lifting, and incorporating it into your routine can also help you lose more weight than cardio alone.
  • Lose Fat: Olympic lifts engage multiple muscle groups, often in explosive movements, which is why you burn loads more calories performing them than other less explosive exercises. For example, 10 reps of biceps curls don’t leave us half as winded as 10 reps of power cleans. Hence, Olympic lifts are great for building lean muscle, burning calories, and enhancing full-body strength.
  • Improve Bone Density: As you perform Olympic lifts, you put exceptional stress on your legs, spine, hips, and arms. In reaction, your body responds by producing new bone growth and improving bone density. This is crucial as we age to help prevent bone fractures and osteoporosis.
  • Get More Explosive: Explosive movements are essential in performing Olympic lifts, and the most effective way to improve your explosiveness is by performing Olympic-style lifts. Other compound lifts such as deadlifts,  overhead presses, and squats do not provide the same explosiveness.
    To perform successful Olympic lifts, speed is vital, and to perform, your body recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers. That is also the reason track and field athletes include Olympic lifting in their workouts – explosive power helps them to run faster and jump higher.
  • Reduce Injury risks: If you maintain the proper form while doing Olympic lifts, they can significantly reduce the risk of possible future injuries. These full-body movements will improve your flexibility, mobility, stability, strength, and balance. In addition, they work multiple joints, and regular performance of these movements will help you move better during everyday life activities, with fewer chances of twisting an ankle or throwing out your back.
  • Better Posture: The posterior chain of muscles on the backside of your body plays a significant role in Olympic lifts. By strengthening the posterior chain, you create more stability and balance that helps alleviate problems with the posture that typically result from spending hours on end sitting behind your desk.

 Muscled man - Image from Shutterstock

 

Final Thoughts

If you want to add some power and strength to your workout, Olympic lifts can be better for this type of training than most other exercises. However, it takes hundreds, and maybe  thousands of hours to master Olympic lifts,  so patient and start with the more basic lifts if you’re not already an experienced Olympic lifter.

Nutrition

Nutrition will always play a crucial role in fitness and strength building. Along with proper nutrition, many lifters rely on muscle-building supplements. Supplements are precisely that—they don’t replace lifting weights and healthy meals. Instead, muscle-building supplements are boosters that can impact your strength training and maximize your gains

However, the massive amount of available muscle-building supplements can be overwhelming for most strength trainers who are first-time buyers of supplements.

Whey protein powder takes the crown when it comes to bodybuilding supplements, and for good reasons. It is rich in leucine, an amino acid that plays a vital role in stimulating rapid muscle protein synthesis and absorption of protein by the body.

In other words, the muscle-building process is kicked off immediately, then provides everything the body needs to get the strength-building job done quickly and easily.

Pack on lean muscle and support strength levels, without unnecessary carbs by supplementing with a high-quality protein such asWhey-PRO.It comes in Hot Cocoa, Blueberry Muffin, Banana Pancake, Strawberry Cheesecake, and seven more delicious flavors which you can find here.