Workouts are essential to keep the body fit and fine. Here, in this article, I’ll focus upon the Olympic style weightlifting as a full body workout. Weightlifting is one of the oldest sports. It has always been present either as a measure of strength or sometimes just for the entertainment purpose. Modern Olympic style weightlifting originated about 100 years ago and since then it’s been modified constantly. Broadly, it is a combination of two lifts – snatch and clean & Jerk making your body push their limits in terms of strength, power, flexibility and that never give up attitude.
Strength mainly develops from the nervous system adaptation. And Olympic lifts are the best way to improve the nervous system adaptation because they constitute of complex lifts which involves larger muscle groups at a time in coordination with each other.
We’ll first focus upon the two major lifts of weightlifting and then we’ll go to the supporting exercises. But before that, a little talk over body-conditioning is required. Some minimum basic level of strength and flexibility is a must to kick start the Olympic lifts.
- Conditioning. Most of the people start from scratch, who have never done strength training before. If you’re one of them, don’t worry! Start from the push-ups. Do as many as you can, even if you can’t do a single push-up, try your best. If it seems impossible, bend your knees and take the support from the ground. Now do it! The next day, you have to do 1 more pushup than what you did today. Get to the number 30 in one go as quickly as you can. Next is pull-ups. If you can’t do a single pull-up, don’t get upset! Most people can’t. Keep trying, take support from a friend if you want, and try to make it reach 10 in one go. Finally comes the free-squats. They are relatively easy. 50 free squats for a beginner is good enough to finally start the Olympic lifts.
- Flexibility. More flexible the body, more easy will it be to regain the balance in case you’re falling. Flexibility adds up some strength to the body. Moreover, it protects the body from injuries. There are lots of stretching exercises to build-up your overall flexibility. Just keep one point in the mind. Don’t over-stretch the muscles or joints. Stretch slowly and gently and take it to the limits of no pain. Stretch just a little bit more after that limit and then gently reverse back to your original position. Usually stretching exercises are done after completing the weightlifting schedule for the day.
- Warming up. Warming up the body is very important. It enhances the blood flow in the vessels, increases the oxygen level in the body and prepares the muscles before the actual lifts.
- Focusing on the technique rather than going heavy. Putting in simple words, you can’t go heavy unless you learn the technique properly. Beginners should practice the techniques with small weights, say, an empty barbell without any weights. There are a lot of videos of pros of weightlifting available on YouTube. Notice how do they lift, pull, jump. Notice their speed and posture. And then try to mimic them. Improper techniques will prevent you from drawing out your maximum potential and they might return you an injured shoulder as well!
- Breathing. What do you need to lift weights? Energy! And breathing is what supplies you all that energy. Keep breathing, and you’re muscles will sustain the strain longer. Keep breathing and you’ll be able to produce more power.
Now, let us come to the two lifts:
The Snatch: One of the most complex movements. It’s you against the gravity. There is a loaded barbell kept right in front of you and you have to send it overhead in one single piece of motion. It is one of the most explosive movements with the lift being completed just in the fraction of a second.
Muscles worked out? All of what you have in your body!
You lift the barbell, your arms, quadriceps, lats and lower back gets involved.
You pull the barbell, your biceps, calves, traps and shoulders get worked out;
You send it overhead, again all of back, and shoulder power is used.
Moreover, in order to be in a stable position, all of your core is contracted giving a strong trunk support to keep the weight balanced overhead.
All in all, a good coordination between all the muscles groups is necessary. The weight has been lifted against gravity. We’ve won over the mighty gravity!
The Clean & Jerk: One of the true measures of strength. Olympic lifters could make out as high as 250kg overhead. Well, that’s three and a half men. Ever wondered how heavy that 5 kg bag you carried from the grocery shop felt? Clean and jerk, again activates all the muscles in the body improving the overall strength of the body. The lifter makes it overhead in two different motions. First is the clean. It involves lifting the loaded barbell from the ground and pulling it with enough power to get it at the shoulders. The receiving position is mostly a sitting posture and in order to get up, leg strength is very necessary. Next, with a pause, the barbell is pushed overhead with all the efforts you could put, and there it is: hold it for a few seconds, and your lift is complete!
Anyone can lift. We lift because it makes us strong, and strong is happy!
“Strength is a skill” – Dmitry Klokov
And like any other skills, it needs a lot of practice to develop.