Weight lifting

Olympic Weightlifting: Functional Resistance Training

Here’s something explosive to improve your speed & power – Olympic Lifting

Most gym based resistance exercise is orientated around basic barbell, dumbbell and machine movements with limited real life application and even less for sport specific improvement. At Pete Fraser Fitness we challenge our clients with lots of exercise variation and Olympic Lifting is a useful method to build functional power into a varied training routine.

Let Pete Fraser Fitness trainer Alex Philipp show you how to perform an Olympic lift and fill you in with the benefits.

Resistance training refers to exercise training modalities that involve exercising a muscle or a muscle group with some form of external resistance. Regular resistance training can increase muscularity and help combat the loss of muscle mass associated with the ageing process. These adaptations to the musculoskeletal system increase both strength and mobility which improve movement quality in both sport and everyday life. Resistance training has also shown to lower the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis by eliciting reductions in blood pressure and cholesterol production and augmenting bone mineral density.

Resistance training exercises can be categorised into isolation and compound movements. Whilst there is a place for isolation exercises, these movements activate only one muscle group crossing a single joint at a time. Compound exercises on the other hand are multi-joint movements that require the recruitment of several muscle groups at once. As the movement strategies used to perform compound exercises are similar to those accessed in sport and everyday life, compound exercises elicit more functional fitness gains.

One form of resistance training that involves various compound exercises is based on the sport of Olympic weightlifting. In Olympic weightlifting competitions, athletes hoist a barbell from the floor to an arms’ length overhead in two lifts known as the snatch and the clean & jerk. Athletic success in Olympic weightlifting is therefore dependent on high levels of strength and power. Due to the nature of the sport, Olympic weightlifting exercises are dynamic, whole body movements that activate all major muscle groups in a highly synchronised manner.

Whilst it takes a great deal of practice to master the full snatch and clean & jerk, athletes and exercisers can attain countless performance and health benefits by using a number of component lifts. Exercises such as the various pulling motions, overhead squats and power cleans are just some of the truly numerous weightlifting exercises that engage the entire body. By activating the entire leg, trunk and arm musculature through large ranges of joint motions, Olympic weightlifting exercises challenge both mobility and balance whilst eliciting extraordinary strength gains. The dynamic recruitment of the body’s largest muscle groups has the added benefit of maximising calorie expenditure and fat loss.

Here you can learn two of the fundamental Olympic Lifting movements: the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk.

  1. First up is the Snatch

The Snatch is a powerful movement consisting of rapidly lifting a barbell from the floor to an overhead position in one continuous drive. An elite lifter can perform this in less than 1 second.

How to do a Snatch…

  • Set-up : Feet hip width apart, bar positioned over the intersection between toes and foot (metatarsals). Bend ankles, knees and hips to lower body to the bar, place body weight over front of the foot and take a wide overhand grip. Hips higher than knees, shoulders over the bar and head forward
  • 1st Pull: Lift the bar to knees by straightening the hips, knees and ankles, maintain torso angle
  • Transition: Continue elevating the bar by extending the hips, raise shoulders vertically and bar reaches mid-thigh – touching the thighs or lower abdomen
  • 2nd Pull: At this point execute a powerful jump which accelerates the bar upwards. Contract the trapezius and quickly bend the elbows which remain above the bar
  • Catch: As the bar starts to loose momentum, rapidly lower the body under the bar and drop into a squat position. Quickly rotate your elbows forward and push up against the bar. The wrists, arms and shoulders form a solid line actively pushing up against the bar
  • Recovery: Push against the floor and extend the knees, pushing the hips back and stand up maintaining control of the bar


2. Second up is the Clean & Jerk

The Clean & Jerk uses all of the major muscle groups in the body to functionally lift a barbell from the floor to overhead. The bar moves continuously upwards while performing a powerful jump to lock the bar overhead. The recovery drives the bar up into full standing overhead position.

How to do a Clean & Jerk…

Many of the principles are the same for the Snatch above except for those outlined here:

  • Set-up: Hand-grip just wider than shoulders allowing the body to remain more upright. Feet hip width and bar over laces of shoes, toes forward or slightly outward. Drop onto the bar until thighs are parallel to the ground. Rotate elbows outward and lock them. Look forward
  • 1st Pull: Push away from the ground strongly keeping knees slightly bent
  • Transition: As per Snatch
  • 2nd Pull: Perform a powerful vertical jump but do not try to jump off the floor
  • Catch: The bar is pulled to the height of the navel and with the remaining momentum contract the trapezius, bend the elbows and pull under the bar at the same time as dropping down into the squat position. Bar is now received onto the shoulders
  • Recovery: As Snatch
  • Jerk Drive: Bend knees and ankles to descend keeping upright posture. Jump explosively upwards and shrug shoulders. Split feet while pushing
  • Jerk Catch: Lock elbows and steady in a strong lunge position
  • Recovery: Drive up to a standing position by straightening both knees and hips then steady bar overhead