Olympic weightlifting is a strength sport that revolves around 2 lifts, the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. The two lifts are explosive, technically demanding, and physically demanding. Today we’re going to go into 3 benefits of weightlifting. In my opinion Powerlifting and Weightlifting need to switch names because the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch develop more power than the lifts utilized in the sport of powerlifting.
The lifts are highly technical meaning that small errors can mean the difference between a make and a miss. These small errors test the mind and the ability to mentally make the lift before being able to actually approach the bar. These lifts also aren’t just for the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. These movements generate benefits that translate across to all athletics helping athletes become stronger and more resilient for the sport of their choice.
Benefit 1: Power Development
Power mathematically is the application of force (mass times acceleration) times velocity. For those who don’t understand calculus and physics it can be simplified as the energy to move an object quickly. Olympic Weightlifting revolves around creating power in the human body. We move a large amount of mass very quickly from the ground to overhead, in the case of the snatch.
This power development forces some pretty awesome changes into the overall well being of the body. Olympic weightlifting trains the body to use more High Threshold Muscle Fibers (also known as fast twitch), the strongest types of muscles in the body. To be able to activate these muscles weightlifting also trains ligaments in the joints to be come stronger. Stronger ligaments not only move things easier but are also less prone to injury.
Though not a direct traditionally thought of “core” movement these lifts place a lot of demand on the abdominal muscles for stabilizing and securing the body in a variety of positions through the lift. As this core strength develops it allows for more effective power utilization through the body.
Benefit 2: Mental Toughness
The snatch is one of if not the most technical lift in the gym, followed by the clean and the jerk. This technical difficulty combined with the physical difficulty of moving any weight anyway creates an unique catalyst for training the mind. Not only is there mental toughness developed by facing difficult tasks repetitively, research has also shown that resistance training improves cognitive function!
Pulling against heavy weight is difficult in the first place even when you make lifts. Approaching the bar and manipulating the weight puts significant stress on the body and the brain’s natural reaction is to avoid significant stress. The concentrated effort to continually and progressively approach this difficult situation develops a toughness to approach hard things.
Additionally, when you reach the point where you miss a lift it is overwhelming to the system. We train how to miss lifts safely so there is no physical injury; however, the miss itself can be scary. The scariness of the miss can affect the ability to focus for the re-attempt. Weightlifting encourages the mental toughness to face the fear and complete a technically challenging task.
Finally, there is evidence and methods being developed to help utilize weightlifting as a method of healing the mind from traumatic responses in clients with PTSD. These methods utilize mindfulness grounding exercises in connection with the barbell to encourage reconnection and awareness with the body.
Benefit 3: Athletic Development
Olympic Weightlifting bridges the gap between speed and strength from other lifts. The explosiveness and micro-adjustments made throughout the lifts translate in athletics to the ability to react quickly to other stimuli as well.
The Olympic lifts also train balance and coordination throughout the movement and especially as the weight settles into its final position. The ability to receive the weight and control the positioning translates into resilience in other sports with the ability to stay steady while dealing with dynamic force changes on the field.
The positions found in Olympic weightlifting require a lot of mobility. The low squat “catch” position of the clean and the snatch require hip and ankle mobility. Then the overhead position of the snatch and the jerk improves shoulder mobility and helps create a large range of motion.
Circling back to power development, the explosiveness of the movements translates to benefits in sprinting, jumping and agility drills. The triple extension of the ankle knee and hip is fundamental to all sports where jumping is used.
Finally muscle and tendon development from weightlifting reduces injury and allows for more longevity on the field.
Olympic weightlifting is a dynamic and fulfilling sport on its own. Its benefits extend past the platform and outside of the gym.