We are at a time in the fitness industry where if you are apart of a good gym, box, or garage, you probably know what the Olympic lifts are and you probably perform them at least on a weekly basis in some variation. Hopefully if you perform them you have asked yourself what are the Olympic lifts good for and why do we do them; and hopefully you have come to a conclusion similar to the following.
The Olympic lifts, especially the snatch, are hands down 2 of the most explosive and power producing movements in all of sport. Maybe more importantly to the average person who says they don’t care about producing more power; the Olympic lifts over time help to develop a high level of inter-muscle coordination. Basically what happens is you are able to better recruit the correct groups of muscles to allow you to perform basic physical functions safely and more effectively. For example being able to keep your core tight and knees pushed out slightly on a squat so you don’t lean forwards off your center of gravity (your feet) and drop the barbell on your head smashing your face into the ground. Bottom line the Olympic lifts help you move better. You walk better, lift things better, eat food better, and probably even sleep better, just a whole lot of better and efficient movement being developed by the Olympic lifts.
We understand what the Olympic lifts do, but you’re still not interested because you just want to crossfit. This is a great choice that will produce some AMAZING results but, when you ask your coach what you should work on to become stronger, or to make getting through the WOD’s easier they’re probably going to tell you to work on doing some kind of full body movement under load with a barbell in order to create a positive stress on your muscles to become more elongated and thicker in diameter aka hytroperphy. In return you might ask what is the best exercise I can do for this to happen? The answer isn’t seated preacher curls, though they have there place. The most common answer should be a mixture of squatting, pressing, deadlifting, and the Olympic lifts. You will see results by doing at least 2 of any of the above mentioned movements but, the reason you won’t see maximal results towards your fitness goals is if your don’t train using the Olympic lifts. None of those movements are fast, and when you want to move better you can’t always train slow. The Olympic lifts once again work your entire body while teaching your to move faster and more efficiently. The heavier the weight gets to more out of your comfort zone you become. And when you do more work under load you burn more calories and break down more fat while increasing muscle hypertrophy basically hitting any and all fitness goals you may be working towards. Since I know you like to think because you’re reading my articles you are probably going to ask what about cardio? Tell me how you as a person apply more force to something? You make your muscle fibers thicker in diameter through some kind of strength training and recruit the proper muscles and push against the object. Lets say in this case you want to apply more force to the ground by pressing your foot against the pavement harder. What do you do every time you lift a weight off the ground? You press your foot into the ground, while squeezing your back and entire posterior chain lifting your torso into a standing position. If you wanted to run faster you might want to learn how to apply force to the ground more efficiently so you can also run further, while using less strides, could be helpful. So while you don’t need to make them your main focus everyday, when you want to become stronger you will want the Olympic lifts and there accessory movements as a staple of your workout.
Now lets talk about Olympic weightlifting and younger athletes. Same things apply, but now we are talking about an undeveloped person physically. If you watch most young athletes under the age of 17 put a barbell overhead for the first time you’ll notice there bodies kind of act like noodles, and go all over the place in ways bodies don’t look like they should move. So to teach proper movement and develop basic motor functions improving a young athletes inter-muscle coordination is a must! One of the best ways to do this is by using extremely light weight and focus on slow controlled full range movements like the overhead squat, front squat, and the Olympic lifts! By being able to do this athletes are better able to protect themselves from commonly occurring sport injuries such as sprained ankles, and torn ligaments of the knees; to which I might add is happening at an alarming rate among younger kids due to lack of physical preparation. Of course there are numerous other ways to become physically prepared for sport but if the athlete has the opportunity Olympic weightlifting is among the most effective.
Lets say your kids really aren’t all that into sports or you are a person who doesn’t want or see the point in competing against other people. Olympic weightlifting is perfect for you; just consider it like a barbell yoga. It’s a very Zen type of activity which requires a high level of concentration and focus on breathing correctly. Doesn’t that sound calming already? Like yoga Olympic weightlifting is all about technique and your flexibility as a person. Also like yoga the more you practice the better you move and the more centered you feel and become as an individual human being. Essentially when you get down to it weightlifting is about moving around the barbell in the most efficient manner, and when you do that you become like the water moving around the rock in the stream, you flow.
Lets go to the other end of the spectrum and say you are a highly competitive person Olympic weightlifting is also for you! No matter your age there are local, national, and even international competitions which you can lift at and qualify for. This can become the weekend hobby or it can be a lifetime pursuit. There are many masters lifters who continue to compete into their 70’s and 80’s on the international level. If you think that you’d like to compete but are worried you won’t medal or qualify for anything then I think you have missed the point of weightlifting and I politely ask you to reread the previous paragraph. The only person you end up being in competition with is yourself; yes it is normal and healthy to have training partners or friendly rivals who you try to best, butt at the end of the day the only thing that allows you to grow as a person through weightlifting is besting yourself. Eventually once you practice your “barbell yoga” enough and become the best possible version of yourself the winning of medals and the qualifying for meets falls into place as it should.
So if you may have thought weightlifting isn’t for you, I ask you to try thinking of it in a different light. Weightlifting is a tool that can help aid you in pursuit of all of your fitness goals. If you happen to take a specific liking to weightlifting it can also serve all of your needs as an effective life outlet. Weightlifting can be competitive, it can be calming, it can even be centering. Weightlifting is whatever you need it to be, kind of like Batman.
Written by: Nic Scudamore – Lift heavy, lift often, dream, and repeat.