Building Strength for Olympic Weightlifting
Building Strength for Olympic Weightlifting: A Beginner’s Guide to Training for the Oly Lift
The olympic lift is one of the most popular exercises among powerlifters. It requires a great deal of skill and technique, but it provides tremendous benefits to your overall fitness level. If you are considering training with weights, then you need to understand how the olympic lift works and what its purpose is. You will learn all this in this guide.
What Is the Olympic Lift?
The olympic lift is a variation of the barbell deadlift. The difference between the two movements is that instead of standing up from a full squat position, you stand upright while holding onto a barbell (or other object) behind your back. This allows you to use much less momentum than if you were doing a traditional deadlift and still get enough leverage to pull yourself into place when pulling the weight off the floor.
The olympic lift differs from the conventional deadlift because you aren’t using straight legs; rather, you bend at the knees and hips. This helps increase stability during the movement and makes it easier to maintain balance. The olympic lift also uses a slightly different grip than a regular deadlift. Instead of gripping the bar directly above your hands like you would with a normal deadlift, you grab it with palms facing each other and wrap your fingers around it.
The reason you do this is to put yourself in a stronger position. By gripping the bar this way, your shoulders and upper back are in a more stable position. This allows you to pull yourself into an upright position without falling over from a weak back position. When you deadlift the traditional way, there is too much force on your lower back, which makes it easier to lose your balance or fall over.
This is less likely to happen with the olympic lift.
The Benefits of the Olympic Lifts
There are several benefits to using the olympic lift as part of your strength training routine. First, it’s very efficient. Many people do barbell squats without any problem. But many others struggle with the exercise because it requires a lot of coordination and balance.
The same is true for deadlifts.
But the olympic lift?
Anyone who can stand up can also perform this exercise. This makes it an ideal exercise for those who are elderly or have limited flexibility and balance.
Second, it trains your muscles in a slightly different way. While the squat targets your legs, and the deadlift targets your back, the olympic lift primarily targets your whole backside. This includes your hamstrings, glutes, lower back and upper back. While many people think that they only need to do squats and deadlifts to get a good workout, the olympic lift proves that theory wrong.
As long as you are strong enough to perform the movement with appropriate form and intensity, you will get a better overall body strength training effect.
Common Errors when Performing the Olympic Lifts
There are several common errors that people make when performing this exercise. The first and most obvious is using too much weight. While this may seem like a no-brainer to some, there are others who try to lift ridiculously heavy weights without the proper training or conditioning level.
When you use improper form, you not only risk getting injured, but you aren’t getting the full benefit of the exercise. As you might expect, this can lead to feelings of frustration and impatience, which might cause you to want to give up on the exercise altogether. Instead, take it slow and easy and focus on form and technique first, then gradually increase the weight over time as you get stronger.
Another common error is failing to maintain proper posture. Like many other exercises, your core must be strong enough to support your body as you are performing the movement. Your head, shoulders and back should always be in a straight line. If you find that you are leaning too far forward or backward, then you need to adjust your stance to compensate.
A third common error is stepping out of the proper foot position. When doing this exercise, you should have your feet about shoulder width apart with your toes pointing slightly outward. They shouldn’t be pointing straight ahead or too far to the inside or outside of your feet. Your heels should only move back and forth, and not too far in any direction.
Another common error is using too wide of a grip. Your hands should be spaced about shoulder width apart when gripping the bar. This allows you to get a better leverage for lifting the weight. If you try to grip the bar any wider, then you’ll find that your wrists aren’t strong enough to support the bar.
This will not only cause pain, but it will also put you at higher risk for an injury.
A final common error is failing to keep your knees slightly bent during the lift. Keeping a slight bend in your knees keeps them from locking and puts less strain on your lower back. This is especially important as you get closer to completing a repetition, because at that point all your muscles become more tense and fatigued. If you don’t have a slight bend in your knees, then the added tension is going to make it more likely for you to injure yourself.
Tips for Correctly Performing the Olympic Lifts
Maintain proper posture: Keep your back straight while bending at the waist and knees.
Keep your head, shoulders and back in a straight line. Don’t lean too far forward or backward as you perform the lift. Also, don’t twist or turn from side to side.
Keep your feet shoulder width apart with your toes pointing slightly outward.
Grip the bar so that your hands are spaced about shoulder width apart. Don’t grip the bar any wider than necessary or you’ll put unnecessary stress and strain on your wrists. Don’t grip it too narrowly either or you won’t be able to maintain control of the bar.
Hold the bar low on the heavier end. If you hold it too high up the bar, then it is going to be more likely to slip out of your hands as you are performing the lift.
Keeping your knees slightly bent, squat down and grab the bar just outside your legs. Your arms should be straight, but not locked as you lift the weight off the floor.
With the bar in the crooks of your elbows, carefully stand up while maintaining proper posture. Don’t twist or turn from side to side. Don’t lean forward, backward or to either side. As with all other exercises, your head, shoulders and back should all be in a straight line.
Once you are standing straight up, lift the bar by pushing with your legs and at the same time straightening your arms. Continue pushing with your legs and pulling with your arms until you’ve completed the lift. Your head, shoulders and back should still be in a straight line during this action.
Don’t jerk the bar off the floor by moving your arms and legs in unison or you risk injury. Jerking can cause the bar to slip out of your hands and put unwanted stress and strain on your lower back and knees.
As you lift the bar, keep your knees slightly bent. Don’t lock your knees as you lift or set the bar down because this can cause straining or injury. As with all other exercises, keep your knees slightly bent at all times.
Once you’ve completed the lift, slowly lower the bar back to the floor while keeping it as close to your body as possible.
If you are using the proper form when performing these exercises then you probably are going to feel a great deal of stress and strain on your muscles. This is normal and should not cause any concern unless it is extreme and causes you pain.
Your legs, in particular, are going to probably feel very tired and possibly even cramp up after you’ve completed a set. Be sure to stretch your legs well after each set so as to avoid cramping or injury.
Make sure that you aren’t eating too much before or after your training sessions. Eating a good meal about an hour before your training session will provide you with energy when you need it, but eating too much will cause you to feel lethargic and tired. In addition, eating a light meal within an hour after you’ve completed your training will give your body the nutrients that it needs to repair your muscles–but eating too much at this time will just sit in your stomach and cause discomfort.
If you follow these tips and techniques, then you should see significant gains in overall strength and endurance in as little as four to six weeks. Users have reported doubling their strength gains in as little as two months with this routine when compared to more traditional methods.
After the four to six week mark, you can either increase the difficulty of the routine (by adding weight, for example), or you can move on to another routine in the book. Users have reported remarkable gains after using this program for three to six months straight.
This concludes this guide. Thank you and good luck with your training!
Sources & references used in this article:
- Skill and masculinity in Olympic weightlifting: Training cues and cultivated craziness in Georgia (P Sherouse – American Ethnologist, 2016 – Wiley Online Library)
- Weightlifting pulling derivatives: Rationale for implementation and application (TJ Suchomel, P Comfort, MH Stone – Sports Medicine, 2015 – Springer)
- Ultimate Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide to Barbell Lifts—from Beginner to Gold Medal (D Randolph – 2015 – books.google.com)
- Building strength: Alan Calvert, the Milo Bar-bell Company, and the modernization of American weight training (KA Beckwith – 2006 – repositories.lib.utexas.edu)