If you feel it's time to push yourself beyond the basic fitness for beginners stuff, have I got the moves for you! Mastering just two Olympic lift moves could be just the thing you need to take your strength and power to the next level, and what better time to try it, now we've all been inspired by the eerily spectator-free Tokyo Olympics?
In short, mastering and regularly performing Olympic lifts will increase your athleticism, speed, power and strength. Even if you don’t go heavy with the weight plates, the intent of producing maximum force and power provides a strong stimulus to your muscles. Strong stimulus = big gains. Just make sure you get a pair of the best gym gloves before you start…
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"Olympic Lifts refer mainly to the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk – the two lifts performed in Olympic Weightlifting since 1896," explains Will McAuley, Strength & Conditioning coach at London’s West End performance-based personal training studio, PerformancePro (opens in new tab).
"They are highly technical lifts that require skill, co-ordination, power, speed and strength. Even if you have no plans to enter a weightlifting competition, you should be using these lifts, or their derivatives, in your training programme. The similarities between the exercises making up the Olympic Lifts will also help increase your Squat, Deadlift, and Overhead Press, as well as packing on serious muscle," Will adds.
- Best barbells – to do this workout, you'll need a barbell
- Having the best weights bench is also important. We've got your back, literally
- Want more variation: here's the best barbell workout we've tried
Before you start learning to lift like an Olympian
Bear in mind that lifting like an Olympian typically takes a long time to master and although there are just two moves listed below, they will take practice in order to nail the form and get the most benefit from each.
With that in mind, it works best to start with minimal weight. There is nothing wrong with practicing using just the barbell, as most professional bars will weigh 20kg without a weight plate attached – here's our guide to the best weight plates, incidentally.
If this sounds too heavy, you can get to grips with the various stages of each lift by using a broom handle or anything that represents a straight bar. Master the motion and then slowly increase the weight.
The bar starts on the ground and is lifted straight overhead in one fluid motion. To begin with, take a wide grip on the bar and stand up – it should be resting on your hip crease, so that if you lift your knee up, the bar doesn’t move.
Lower the bar to your knees, this is the hang position. From there, keep the bar against your body and powerfully jump up. You should feel the bar hit your hips as you leave the floor. Once you get the hang of that (excuse the pun), jump and pull the bar to just under your chin.
After a few reps of that, bring the bar back to the hang position, jump, pull the bar up and lock it out overhead. It may feel a bit clunky at first, but with a bit of practice you should get it feeling and looking like one fluid motion. That’s a Hang Snatch, to perform a full Snatch simply start with the bar on the floor.
The Clean and Jerk
The Clean and Jerk is comprised of two separate movements. During the Clean, the bar should start on the floor over your toe joints. Grab the bar at a similar width to the deadlift and bring your shins to the bar.
To begin, push through your feet and drag the bar up your legs. Once the bar reaches mid-thigh (this is the power position), jump just like you did for the snatch.
After a few reps, jump and pull the bar to just under your chin. Once you have the hang of that, put the bar on the floor, drag it up your legs to the mid-thigh, jump, pull the bar up your body and finish with the bar in the catch position: upper arm parallel to the floor, fingers on the bar with the weight resting on your shoulders not in your hands.
From here, you’re going to move on to a Jerk. With the bar on your shoulders, dip down into a quarter squat and jump in the air while pushing the bar overhead as hard as you can. You should land in a split stance position: feet shoulder-width apart, one foot forward and one foot back, in a sort of half-lunge position.
Finally, push off your front foot first, and then your back foot so that you’re standing straight with your feet under your shoulders and the bar overhead. It sounds simple but this will take some time to master.
Find out more about PerformancePro and the team at www.performancepro.fitness (opens in new tab)