Since my first ever Weightlifting meet is coming up in about a week and a half, I thought it might be a good time for a post on what exactly this sport is. I think this’ll be pretty useful, as there are often misconceptions when I talk about Weightlifting. If you actively participate in Weightlifting, this information will not be super interesting, but may be useful for explaining things to your family and friends.
In Weightlifting (WL), there are two major competition movements: the snatch and the clean and jerk. Whoever named them did not predict that years later your adolescent maturity level would have you laughing at how sexual they sound, but hey, here we are. In the snatch, lifters move the bar from the ground to the overhead position in one fluid motion. That means no stopping or changing direction; once the bar has left the ground, it must go into an overhead position smoothly. Chad Vaughan demonstrates an efficient way to do this (and the way in which it is generally achieved).
The other movement, which is actually two movements in one, is the clean and jerk. Here, the lifter moves the bar to their shoulders in a front rack position, then moves it into an overhead position. Again, both movements must be continuous. Here’s Chad demonstrating again:
There are actually two different kinds of jerks that lifters use. In the above video, the split jerk is used. Its name comes from the fact that the lifter’s legs split when they move into the final position. Lü Xiaojun (-77 kg, China), who is probably the technically best Weightlifter in the world, uses the more efficient (though much more challenging) squat jerk.
You can see that he finishes in a squat position and doesn’t split his legs. This requires significantly more mobility than a split jerk, but is more efficient in that it engages the most powerful muscles in concert, unlike the split. It’s also just so goddamn pretty! Here’s Lü snatching, because it’s just amazing to see such a graceful feat of strength:
You can probably tell from these videos that WL is incredibly technical. It requires strength, a lot of speed, and metric butt load of coordination. The movements are explosive and happen very quickly. Weightlifters are constantly working to improve their technique because better technique means more efficient lifting. Efficiency is a key factor when you’re using your body as a literal catapult. In competition lifters will lift 6 times in total: they get 3 snatch attempts, and 3 clean and jerk attempts. The highest total achieved is scored against other lifters in the same weight class to determine who wins. In the case of a tie the lifter with the lower body weight wins. Some meets also give prizes for highest snatch and clean and jerk alone. Afterward, everyone goes and stuffs their faces together.
Like any weight class-based sport, many different body types are represented in WL. For men, the classes range from 56 kg:
to 105+ kg:
So there’s a huge diversity in bodies in the sport.
That’s usually the primary misconception I encounter when I talk about WL. It is not bodybuilding! Weightlifters don’t typically train their bodies to look a certain way; rather, we train movements which translate to the snatch and clean and jerk. These movements are generally focussed around developing strong posterior chains (the muscle chain from your ankles up to your trapezoids) and quadriceps muscles. We don’t necessarily have ripped abs or bulging biceps, but boy can we squat a lot. Of course, some weightlifters do look like bodybuilders:
Dmitry Klokov (-105 kg, Russia) is proof that you really can have it all if you work hard and believe in the power of friendship (also, if you grow up in a Russian Weightlifting training camp).
Another misconception that I sometimes encounter is the idea that Weightlifting and Powerlifting are the same/similar. In Powerlifting the competition lifts are the Deadlift, Squat, and Bench Press. Typically powerlifters don’t do any explosive movements (which makes the name “Powerlifting” a bit of a misnomer), whereas WL is all about explosive strength. The deadlift and bench press are used in some training systems in WL, but are not what I would call core movements of the sport. I haven’t done a bench press in about a year! The one commonality between the two sports is the squat. However, powerlifters do something called a low-bar squat, whereas weightlifters use the high-bar squat in their training. So, really, there’s not a whole lot that’s similar between the two aside from the fact that they’re both strength sports.
There we have it! Consider yourself primed. I’ll definitely be posting about my own training in the near future and I’ll certainly recap my meet, about which I’m very excited and somewhat nervous. Now you’ll hopefully be able to follow along with some idea of what I’m talking about.