Everything You Need To Know About Olympic Weightlifting

by USA Weightlifting

Everything You Need To Know About Olympic Weightlifting

Olympic Weightlifting is the pinnacle of all competitive Weightlifting. As its name states, it is the type of lifting that is used for competition in the Olympics and is a universal sport enjoyed around the world. But what exactly is Olympic Weightlifting, and what does it entail? In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know about Olympic Weightlifting.

When Did Olympic Weightlifting Originate?

Using our strength to lift and move things has been a central part of human life since we began walking, but competitive Weightlifting as we know it is a fairly recent development. In fact, the modern form of Olympic Weightlifting didn’t come around until 1972. The sport was first introduced to the Olympics in 1896 as a part of the track and field competitions. However, it was then left out of the 1900 Olympic games, brought back for the 1904 games, and then left out of competition again until the 1920 games when it was admitted as its own permanent event.

What Lifts Are Used in Olympic Weightlifting?

While early Olympic Weightlifting contained three different lifts, one of them (the Press) was dropped from competition in 1972, leaving behind the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk (C&J) as the only two lifts used in Olympic Weightlifting events. Here’s a look at the lifts involved in the Olympic Weightlifting routine:

  • The Snatch - The Snatch is the first event completed in Weightlifting competitions and involves lifting a barbell—which weighs 15 or 20 kilograms on its own—with both hands from the floor and extending it arm's length above the head in one swift motion.

  • The Clean and Jerk - The Clean and Jerk is the second event completed in Weightlifting competitions and involves lifting the barbell overhead with two motions. This lift is not as swift as the Snatch, but it is the lift where the most weight can be lifted. Here are the two motions:

  • The Clean - The first motion is the “Clean,” which brings the bar up to the shoulders, where the lifter pauses.

  • The Jerk - The second motion is the “Jerk,” which uses the legs and the arms to raise the bar overhead, where the athlete holds it until the buzzer is sounded by the official.

The reason these two lifts are used in Olympic Weightlifting is that they are two of the most difficult lifts to perform. They not only require strength throughout the whole body, but they also require proper technique and form.

What Are the Olympic Weightlifting Weight Classes?

Anyone can compete in competitive Weightlifting as there are competitions for everyone, no matter their age. However, in the Olympics, there are standard men’s and women’s competitions with adjusted bodyweight categories. Here are the Olympic Weightlifting weight classes:

  • Men

    • 61kg

    • 67kg

    • 73kg

    • 81kg

    • 96kg

    • 109kg

    • +109kg

  • Women

    • 49kg

    • 55kg

    • 59kg

    • 64kg

    • 76kg

    • 87kg

    • +87kg

What Are the Olympic Weightlifting Records?

Olympic Weightlifting records mark the highest weight successfully lifted by athletes from each weight class using the Snatch, the Clean and Jerk, and the combined weight. These records continue to be broken as athletes push what their bodies are capable of through training regimens. Since there are records for each weight class, we’ll share the highest weight records for each category in both the men’s and women’s competitions as of August 2022:

  • Men

    • Snatch: 216kg - Behdad Salimi Kordasiabi (IRI) - Rio 2016

    • Clean & Jerk: 263kg - Hossein Rezazadeh (IRI) - Athens 2004

    • Total: 473kg - Lasha Talakhadze (GEO) - Rio 2016

  • Women

    • Snatch: 151kg - Tatiana Kashirina (RUS) - London 2012

    • Clean & Jerk: 187kg - Zhou Lulu (CHN) - London 2012

    • Total: 333kg - Zhou Lulu (CHN) - London 2012

What Does an Olympic Weightlifting Training Program Entail?

Training for Olympic Weightlifting requires a lot of time, dedication, and hard work. Following an Olympic Weightlifting Program helps athletes maximize their gains and prepare their bodies for competition. While there are only two lifts used in Olympic Weightlifting, it’s incredibly important not to train only using those two lifts. A complete and wide-ranging workout program will ensure that you strengthen all of the different parts of your body.

You can train for Olympic Weightlifting on your own, but it’s a good idea to train using Olympic lifts no more than 3 times a week. You should also still continue to strength train with other lifts and exercises, like standard squats, military presses, and deadlifts. If you are serious about competing and winning, you will want to find a coach who will guide you through the necessary training. It’s best to find a coach who is certified, as they will be experienced and give you the best chance for success.

USA Weightlifting aims to strengthen the weightlifting community at every level—from amateurs up to the Olympic Team. We believe that weightlifting is everyone’s sport, and through it, we can strengthen individuals, communities, and our country. We are dedicated to keeping the sport clean, safe, and focused on challenging individuals physically to help build strength within.

We are committed to building a diverse, inclusive, and safe space for everyone, and we continue to work to remove barriers to entry and encourage personal growth and transformation for all.

Our work also goes beyond the athletes, as we aim to educate the educators. Through the development of coaches and technical officials, we are constantly working to ensure excellence throughout the sport.

We rely on the support of donors like you to expand access and education for the sport, so consider making a donation today! You can also learn more about Weightlifting and Team USA, or consider bringing weightlifting to a school near you!

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