I thought I knew a lot about fitness before I tried olympic lifting.
I mean fitness has been my life for the past 6 years. I had spent the last 5 studying everything there was to know about it as an undergrad and getting my personal training certification.
But with most things in life, there’s always more to learn and experience is usually the best way to learn.
The two months I spent olympic lifting expanded my knowledge of fitness, but my biggest takeaway goes beyond just exercise.
What is Olympic Lifting?
I’m about to admit something embarrassing.
I thought olympic lifting was just something they did at the Olympics.
Ya know, the really massive guys in a onesie screaming as they lift hundreds of pounds off the ground?
I mean, I was partially correct. It is an event in the summer Olympics.
My guess is that most people don’t really know what olympic lifting is, so let me give you a brief rundown.
Olympic lifting consists of two lifts performed on a platform: the clean and jerk and the snatch.
Now before you wrinkle your nose and say, “That’s it? Two lifts make up a whole sport?” let me assure you that these two moves are the some of the hardest maneuvers known to man and require more focus, strength, stability, and power than any exercise I’ve ever attempted.
I get the chills just thinking about them.
Seriously, I could watch snatch videos all day and not get bored.
Oh, and the clean and jerk is pretty cool too.
D I S G U S T I N G 2+1's (clean, jerk, clean) at stupid heavy percentages brought to you by I Forgot How To Jerk Today ? but I can clean today… And I can fight… So it almost worked the same ? #thanksdandan #iactuallylikeit thanks for the push boos ? @tonythaii @zmosbarger #whoshungry #TeamTSwizzleConcepts #SaturdayNightTurnUp #wutarepounds
In competition, you have to make a classified weight and you get three attempts for each lift. It’s pretty intense and requires daily practice and dedication. Competing in this sport is not for the faint of heart.
A Beginner’s Olympic Lifting Routine:
During my two months as an olympic lifter, I trained two days each week focusing on the clean and jerk movements one day and snatch on the other.
Exercises included front squats, back squats, push press, strict press, overhead squats, shrugs, high pulls, pull ups, and of course variations and the actual movements themselves.
At the beginning, I just used a PVC pipe to practice the C&J and snatch so I could get the movement and foot placement down first. I then got to use a bar and slowly started adding weight.
That’s when things got real, and incredibly fun.
What I Gained From Olympic Lifting
1. I learned the value of having a coach.
Ever since I got certified as a personal trainer, I made the prideful mistake of thinking I never needed my own coach.
I had coached several clients and friends in the gym with fantastic results, myself included, thank you very much.
Well, I was wrong. Very wrong.
Truth is, anyone can greatly benefit from a trainer or coach. Even professional trainers.
My coach taught me things I already thought I already knew, like how to squat perfectly, how to breathe correctly, even how to push myself to my max.
Simply put, she made sure I gave my best each time I stepped on that platform. She taught me to not be afraid to try the next weight up. To WORK.
Turns out that’s how you improve the fastest.
2. I had Increased focus for my workouts.
Olympic lifting requires way more focus than the average workout.
Before I started with OL, I was going to the gym regularly but I had been doing essentially the same workouts for so long, they lacked any focus or excitement
Enter in OL, and all of the sudden I had to focus on a million things at once: My foot placement, my posture, flexing some muscles while relaxing others, my breathing, my grip, my balance. It really taught me how to be mentally and physically aware during my workout. It made training exciting again!
3. I got stronger.
I was really surprised how much strength I built in so little time, and I surprised myself with strength I never knew I had.
Sure I had set PRs in some of my weight lifting classes in college, but I blew most of them out of the water with olympic lifting.
You see, with OL your goal is to basically rip as much weight off the ground as possible. Of course, you safely and slowly build up and score PRs along the way. But that constant aiming for more weight really pays off as far as those strength gainz goes.
4. I could FINALLY do a pull-up.
Remember how I mentioned that fitness has been my life for the past 6 years? Well so was attempting to get a solid full range of motion pull-up.
I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I have dreams where I can bust out reps on reps of pull ups like it’s no big deal.
It’s not that I never practiced and tried hard to get my pull-ups in the past, but I always seemed to lack sufficient strength in my upper body.
That is until I tried olympic lifting.
My wise coach had me practice pull ups with bands at the end of practice. No matter how exhausted I was. Plus it turns out all that shrugging, pulling, jerking, and snatching built my strength up enough that I can now FINALLY do not just one, but five consistent pull ups.
That’s what I call a literal dream come true.
The Big Takeaway
I was stuck in a bit of a workout rut before I tried olympic lifting. I wasn’t enjoying my workouts, I wasn’t progressing. I was bored!
Olympic lifting was new and intimidating, but just the thing I needed to get me motivated again.
Stepping out of your comfort zone is important, and not just for personal growth but also for physical growth.
The body is excellent at adapting to the stress we put on it during exercise. That’s why running get’s easier, the 20lb dumbbell starts to feel lighter, and why progress halts.
This adaptation principle is the reason why so many trainers tell you to mix up your training routine, so you keep progressing!
But perhaps more importantly, trying new types of physical activity whether it be rock climbing, swimming, or olympic lifting allows you to find activities you enjoy. And what you enjoy is what you’ll stick with.
The unfamiliar can be pretty scary, but overcoming that fear is what makes trying new things so rewarding.
Try new things. Be adventurous. You’ll be healthier and happier for it!