Chances are you are going to fail. That’s right I said it. January 1st is just a few weeks away and many of you are going to make New Year’s resolutions and the odds are stacked against you. Just Google it if you don’t believe me, but I’ve got a way to make sure that you stack the odds in your favor and it’s probably something you’ve never heard before; DO OLYMPIC LIFTS .
Everybody wants something fun and challenging, and of course, everybody wants results. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “I can’t do those movements, they are too complicated!” or “I need a coach to do them!” Well guess what? You can learn these movements in just minutes a day if you break them apart. In just minutes you will be getting instant results.
The secret no one ever told you is that these movements are very simple if you break them into parts and get strong at certain positions.
Just remember learning to tie your shoes. It seemed so complicated until you broke it down into pieces. But, don’t worry I’m going to get exactly how to break the Olympic lifts into parts in just a few seconds. Aside from all the awesome stuff that adding in weightlifting—the snatch and clean & jerk you already know will do, it’s also going to accelerate your fat loss even though it may seem you are working less. (Seriously, aside from the heavyweight division both male and female, have you even seen a fat Olympic lifter?)
Personally, I have been mixing and matching powerlifting styles with a sport that’s been my passion and life for the past 5 years: Olympic weightlifting. The sport, which is probably the least popular of all the strength sports, consists of 2 movements: the snatch and the clean & jerk.
At the University of Northern Iowa, while obtaining my Masters in Kinesiology, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Beijing to train with professional athletes alongside my coach, former Chinese Olympian, Jianping Ma. China is a world power in Olympic weightlifting, and if you want to know how hardcore the Chinese are at Weightlifting just type in “Chinese weightlifting” on YouTube and take a look at the six year old crushing weights.
The power outputs of the weightlifting movements are so off the charts they may even be strong enough to smash Donald Trump’s ego although it hasn’t been put under scientific scrutiny. Because of these incredible power outputs Olympic lifts are used in every sport to get athletes, well, more athletic… Faster, stronger, and more explosive. The snatch and clean and jerk tends to produce some of the leanest athletes you will ever see due to the high threshold muscle activation. These movements need to be learned correctly and progressed slowly, but once you get the correct motor pattern, the snatch and clean & jerk become great tools to help achieve any goal you want in the gym.
Being in Beijing and seeing these professionals work with the bar an endless amount of time really opened up my eyes. What amazed me most is these guys didn’t even care how much weight was on the bar. I think everybody, including myself constantly worries how much is on the bar, these guys did something very different; they focused almost exclusively on technique. It actually didn’t even matter if that bar was empty. It’s no wonder why they look so flawless when they lift. There is no secret to their success. Every movement they do is done to perfection. Personally, after years of training and studying my personal bests are a 275-pound snatch and a 300-pound Clean & Jerk at a bodyweight of 177lbs.
But who cares about power production, I want to lose fat and look like a savage! Yeah, yeah, like I said before, there is a reason why anyone who snatches and cleans tend to have little or no fat. The lifts use the entire body in synchronization with a high neuromuscular output; this requires a high energy cost even when training with a barbell. Due to this high muscle activity, caloric expenditure can be as much as that of running a marathon (Stone et al., 2006). The high energy cost due to this type of lifting increases the ability of the body to use and burn fat and is why individuals who train with Olympic lifts tend to have a high amount of lean muscle and low body fat percentages. Convinced yet?
Whenever I am training everyone always gives me crap for taking a lot of rest between sets, but guess what? It’s exhausting! It wears you out! It’s a great workout!
Let’s break Olympic lifting down to its simplest form. Both the snatch and clean & jerk involve bringing a loaded barbell overhead into a locked-out and stable position. Basic biomechanics tells us that the further away a weight is from your body, the less stable that position becomes. It’s no secret that bringing the bar above the head in one fast movement (snatch) or two (clean and jerk) demands a high amount of stability throughout the body as a whole system to accomplish the lift. This not only requires a great amount of balance and coordination, it also requires the ability to move in a smooth manner, rapidly stabilize, and absorb impact. In these instances, properly learning how to “catch” (decelerate and stabilize) a barbell overhead can clear up a lot of these problems as long as they are progressed correctly.
Not only will doing the snatch, clean & jerk, or their variations build lean muscle, burn fat, and improve performance, it will help correct imbalances and help you move better overall. You need to do things right or else they won’t work. It requires grit, it is super fun, and it keeps your workouts interesting. You will feel amazing and everything you have been doing or will do in the future, will feel much better. Watch a few of the videos below to show you how to get started with just a dowel or broomstick and I’m going to teach you how to clean faster than the New Year’s sanitation crews at Times Square!
Stone, M, Pierce, K, Sands, W, and Stone, M. Weightlifting: A brief overview. Strength and Conditioning Journal 28: 50-65, 2006
by Ross Curtis
Ross Curtis is a Staff Coach at Halevy Life.
Ross holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science and a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology, both of which were earned at University of Northern Iowa. Ross is not only an accomplished athlete in weightlifting (Olympic Lifts), track and field, and football — but also a highly qualified coach, holding both Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and USA Weightlifting (USAW) certifications.