Do you feel like your workout routine is getting stale? Do you see strapping men and women at the gym lifting barbells loaded with plates and squatting ass-to-grass, and think, “I should do that too.”
Well, you probably should. But first, you must know what that is. Those strongmen and strongwomen are doing resistance training in the form of Olympic lifts.
What is resistance training?
Resistance training is founded on the principle that the body will resist force when compelled to do so. Resistance exercises are, therefore, those that cause muscles to contract against any external resisting force — these could be your own body weight or objects like dumbbells and barbells, weight machines, or resistance bands.
Resistance exercises are what you need to be doing if you want to tone your physique, increase your endurance, and strengthen your muscles. Incorporating Olympic lifts into your program is great if that’s what you want to achieve. Olympic lifting entails maximum effort for a few bursts of quick, concise, and explosive force. Do it with the right technique and you're sure to reap fantastic rewards.
The benefits of Olympic lifting
Here are just some of the benefits of incorporating Olympic lifting into your routine.
It utilizes the entire body – The two types of Olympic lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk, involve a full range of motions aimed at lifting the maximum weight at a rapid speed using a barbell. For instance, to do a clean and jerk, bend over and grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip. Then lower your hips into a squat position, making sure to keep your back and arms flat. Lift the bar to your shoulders, pause (the “clean”), and then '”jerk” the bar upward while keeping your arms straight.
That gives you a full-body workout in (ideally) a 30-minute session, particularly hitting the arms, back, and shoulders. What’s more, doing a snatch and/or a clean and jerk requires a seriously strong core as much as it improves it.
It helps increase lean body mass – Unlike bodybuilding in which muscles are forced to grow, Olympic lifting instead focuses on improving coordination and speed, gradually building strength and creating lean muscle. It also helps reduce body fat.
It improves endurance – Incorporating a snatch or a clean and jerk (or both) sessions in your routine improves your high-intensity exercise endurance. In time, you’d be able to recover faster and do more challenging exercises and more intense sessions.
Key considerations when incorporating Olympic lifts into your routine
Olympic lifts are great but they’re not for everyone. They are especially not for those suffering from serious back injuries. Keep these in mind before incorporating it into your routine:
You need to learn key skills
In particular, you need to be able to hinge, squat, jump, and land. If those movements sound foreign to you, you may need to consult with someone who can explain or demonstrate how to execute them.
It’s also highly recommended to strengthen your back and shoulders to keep them from being injured when you lift. Key to achieving a strong back are exercises like pull-ups, lateral pulldowns, and rows. It also wouldn’t hurt to hone your skills at military presses and deadlifts before you venture into Olympic lifting.
Balance is key
The benefits of Olympic lifting are hefty, and it’s understandable if you want to do only Olympic lifts to improve muscle strength. But as in most training programs, doing a variety of routines is essential.
Know your limits before you test them
It’s actually one of the safest resistance exercises that you can do — provided you do it correctly. If you’re a beginner, two nonconsecutive days or no more than three times per week is best. These workouts are highly invigorating yet fatiguing, so getting adequate rest in between training days is imperative.
And as a beginner, you may want to keep your program simple. It may be called Olympic lifts, but you are not competing in the Olympics. Gradually add loads and increase reps or sets based on your skill and progress.
Olympic lifts can certainly spice up your routine and sculpt your physique as no other exercise can. But if you’re not able to do the deepest squats or lift heavy, don’t rush. Olympic lifting requires skills and ample preparation. Better yet, ask one of our friendly, expert coaches to better understand whether you should incorporate it into your routine, how to maximize it, or simply to get started. Send us a message today.
About The Author
Founder & Training Director
Layn has spent his life immersed in the worlds of fitness and physical performance. As an athlete, he’s completed multiple endurance events such as the Texas Bandera 50k Trail Run, Austria’s Ironman 70.3, and the Alaskaman Extreme Ironman. He’s been coaching since 2008 with certifications in USA Weightlifting Level 1, CrossFit Level 1, Strong First L1, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine.