There are many sports that involve lifting heavy things. Powerlifting, strongman competitions, the highland games, and the shot-put are all sports involving heavy weights and objects. The sport of Weightlifting is the only sport done with a barbell that is performed at the Olympics. Olympic weightlifting (or oly for short) involves two events, the clean and jerk and the snatch. Both events requires the athlete to lift a barbell from the ground to their shoulders and then overhead (clean and jerk), or directly overhead from the ground (snatch). The lifter needs to move the barbell and themselves at very high velocities to execute the task successfully. This is different than most heavy lifting sports as they use relatively low velocities when compared to weightlifting. You might ask, “Joey, I don’t plan on being an Olympic athlete, why would I want to do Olympic weightlifting?”. A proficient weightlifter has explosive speed, highly coordinated motor patterns, strength, and an exceptionally strong core. These are all qualities of a balanced fitness program.
These characteristics are some of the key components of becoming more athletic. Regardless if you are trying to improve your squash game, or be able bring the groceries inside the house in a single trip, barbell lifting – weightlifting specifically – will benefit you greatly. The core strength that weightlifting develops is unrivaled. The word “functional” strength is thrown around the fitness world all the time. Weightlifting truly develops functional strength and power. Functional core strength is developed with the large amount of overhead activity and movements with high weights away from the body’s center of gravity. While functional hip strength is developed with the quick powerful hip extensions performed throughout each lift.
When determining the training program of an athlete it is important to look at the requirements of the sport. Most sports require speed, strength, power, and agility. These are all components of oly lifting. For example, when was the last time you saw a sprinter leisurely stride out of the blocks during a 100m dash, or when can you recall you have seen a fighter slowly lift his leg to kick an opponent. We must train explosive to become explosive. This is not to say that a proper strength phase of training is not necessary. I am saying that these are all pieces of the puzzle that need to be properly assembled. The incorporation of hypertrophy, strength, and explosive training methods will create a more complete and effective athlete.
Lastly I want to touch on that slow moving sprinter or lame kicking fighter. In the off chance that you do see this happening, it is probably due to an injury. It is common for many athletes to have hamstring and knee injuries. Olympic lifting places a heavy demand on the hamstrings and develops their size, strength, and power. This is important for two reasons. The first reason is that a having stronger, more highly trained group of knee flexors (hamstrings) will resist fatigue more greatly than a non-trained group of knee extensors. This resistance to fatigue will reduce the risk of tearing during movement. The second involves the knee and ACL. The hamstring plays a substantial role in stabilizing the knee and preventing the tibia from sliding from beneath the femur often resulting in an ACL tear. Thus, a more highly trained hamstring can help prevent injuries to the knee. In regards to your shoulders, the overhead lifting develops stability in the shoulder and also helps prevent injuries.
If you have any questions regarding barbells, powerlifting, or general fitness, please contact personal fitness trainer Joey Cole at Jcole@sacng.com.