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Introducing Our New Olympic Weightlifting Program: A Breakdown of What's Involved

We are excited for the introduction of our Olympic weightlifting sessions to the timetable at PERMA. With this new style of a more skills based strength class, we would like to provide a breakdown of how this new type of skill focused session will work, and set out the aims of the first block.

This article will explain...

  • What olympic weightlifting is

  • What the main focuses and progressions will be in the first training block

  • How the sessions will be structured, and how these sessions will benefit you

What is Olympic Weightlifting?

Firstly, understanding what Olympic weightlifting is and how it differs from more conventional weight training is an important step in beginning the journey of learning the lifts and including them within your training.

Olympic weightlifting is both a sport in its own right and a method of training used for strength and power development. As a sport, lifters compete to lift the most weight across three attempts each in two lifts: the Snatch, and the Clean & Jerk. These lifts both start with a barbell resting on the floor similarly to the start of a deadlift. They then both end with the barbell fully extended overhead.

In the snatch, this involves lifting the bar from the floor to overhead in one continuous motion, typically with a relatively wide grip on the bar. The Clean and Jerk involves two separate steps; the clean, where the lifter pulls the bar from the floor to their shoulders, and then the jerk, where the bar is further lifted from the shoulders to an overhead position. These lifts are typically done with a narrower grip more similar to a deadlift. Once overhead, the lift is judged on whether they have successfully been able to complete the lift fulfilling the criteria rules for each component part. They are given a score by way of a three light system, whereby white means success and red is failed, a majority score either way signifies a successful or failed lift.

As a training method, these main lifts and variations of, are often used to develop explosive power and strength both for direct or general sports performance benefits. Sports like CrossFit have popularised Olympic lifts and also incorporate many variations of the skill. These variations can include different starting or ending positions or perhaps used to reduce the complexity of a lift, and are incorporated to train the physical qualities of explosive power and strength.

Olympic weightlifting involves a different style of strength skill development than we typically see in more conventional weight training exercises like squats, hinges, pushes, and pulls. In weightlifting we are trying to accelerate a barbell at high velocities and express force quickly in an efficient and timely manner. The co-ordination, the ability to produce force, to contract and relax during different phases of the movements make this a unique training modality. These skills of course take time to learn but with practice, coaching guidance, and progressive programming, the Olympic lifts can be a fun way to incorporate different elements into a training program and challenging novel skill development in the gym.

What will the focus of this first block involve and how will we progress?

Whilst the main focus will initially be on the basics of position and understanding the flow of the movements, there will be some key variations and phases of the olympic lifts that we will start focusing on.

As accessory to these main lift variations we will work with other tools (such as kettlebells) to work on and practice positions that maybe more constraint with a barbell. This will build specific muscle and positional endurance, and work in some skill work under fatigue.

Progression will be based on these initial start points and the individuals involved. Time will be spent learning positions first, before adding transitions between positions, before adding load, before adding speed/power.

All abilities are welcome, and in a 1 coach to 4 participant format, we will make sure the session is tailored to the individuals needs.

How will the sessions be structured?

The sessions will follow the same general structure as the strength A & B sessions within the PERMA strength block. This will include a block A and B with main lift variations in each, and then a block C with kettlebell variations, flows, or some strength endurance work specific to the main movements of that session. Additionally, the training blocks will run alongside the strength block with new blocks being introduced every 8 weeks.

There will be an A and B session with some repeated movements and some changes between to allow continued practice of new movement patterns whilst also allowing a broader exposure to different positions. As a general overview...

Session A will include snatch positional work in block A, clean technical work in block B, and kettlebell overhead squat and clean & press in block C.

Session B will include clean positional work in block A, snatch technical work in block B, and kettlebell flows in block C.

What will you gain from these sessions?

Olympic weightlifting provides a novel and challenging way to incorporate a different type of weight training into your program. It is a training method that requires practice and patience, with some attention being paid to the smaller details and nuances of movement. Despite this, it is still a fun and physically challenging way to train that can achive great results in mobility and strength.

It is suitable for anyone and can be scaled to any ability, however it should be noted that those with some prior experience of barbell strength training would benefit from being familiar with some of the basic positions. It is advised that someone has exposure to strength and barbell training, but this does not mean you need to be at a highly advanced level to still learn and have fun challenging yourself with the olympic lifts.

From a physical standpoint, the Olympic lifts are a great way to build explosive power, mobility and dynamic strength. They require a unique degree of mobility and strength in a total body way, which are developed through the process of learning the lifts and their variations. 

They are used extensively in strength and conditioning for many different athletes across a wide range of sports, hoping to build more power and strength which can hopefully transfer to improved sport performance. For a generalist, it's a great way to keep training fun and learn new skills!

When is it on?

Weightlifting basics is on every Thursday at 18:00pm! See you there!

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