Weightlifting , also called Olympic weightlifting or Olympic-style weightlifting, is a sport in which participants attempt a maximum weight single lift of a barbell loaded with weight plates. The two lifts currently competed are the clean and jerk and the snatch. The compound word "weightlifting" is often used incorrectly to refer to weight training. In comparison with powerlifting, weightlifting requires more power because the lifts must be executed more quickly and with more mobility because of a greater range of motion during the lifts. While there are relatively few competitive Olympic lifters, the lifts and their components are commonly used by elite athletes to train for explosive and functional strength.
The Olympic lifts
The sport of Olympic weightlifting consists of two lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk. In both, the lift begins with the barbell on the floor and ends with the lifter standing erect with the barbell held steady over his head with arms and legs straight and motionless.
In the snatch, the lifter must lift the barbell from the floor to over their head in one continuous movement. The lifter attempts to accelerate the bar vertically as fast as possible (the pull), then "jump" under it into an overhead squat position (the drop). The lifter then executes the concentric portion of the squat to complete the lift.
The clean and jerk has two major components. The clean portion consists of the pull, the drop, and the front squat. The jerk consists of the dip, the drive (together called the quarter jerk), and the split (or the squat or catch). The lifter first "cleans" the barbell from the floor to an intermediate position, "racking" the bar against their chest in a front squat then stands up in the concentric portion of the front squat. The lifter then rapidly pushes the barbell vertically and separates his legs either front-to-back or side-to-side to get under the bar and straighten his arms. The lifter then works his legs back together to complete the lift.
In competition, three judges oversee the successful completion of the lift. Once a competitor has met the requirements in their opinion, each judge shines a white light. When at least two white lights are shown, the lift is regarded as successful and the competitor may return the bar to the platform. If the competitor fails to achieve a successful lift in the opinion of a judge, a red light is shown. The bar must be lifted to at least knee level within 60 seconds of the bar being loaded or the lift does not count. If the competitor is making two consecutive lifts, then they are permitted 120 seconds for the second lift.
A third lift, the "clean and press" or simply "press", was practiced in the Olympics until 1972. The clean and press differs from the clean and jerk, in that the weight is pressed directly up from the chest with the arms only, while remaining standing, while the jerk uses the legs' power to assist the arms part of the way up, followed by the body sinking downward into a split or squat to complete the extension of the arms, before once again standing. The press was eliminated due to the difficulty in judging whether the lift was performed correctly: lifters were bending so far backward as to turn it into a "standing bench press".
Requirements of weightlifting
Weightlifting requires power, technique, flexibility and consistency. A weightlifter's strength comes primarily from the legs, specifically the muscles of the quadriceps and posterior chain, and secondarily the back, anterior core, and shoulders. Weightlifting is a full body activity, but these muscles receive emphasis over the others within the body. Weightlifters need not necessarily be heavy, as they compete by weight classes.
The inherent mechanics of weightlifting favors the physical characteristics of short people, similar to the manner in which basketball favors tall people. The effort of lifting a weight is "work done" and is the product of weight x distance. Weightlifting does not measure work done. It is easy to imagine that a very short person could snatch to 5 feet (1.5m), and a very tall person to 8 feet (2.4m). A very tall lifter's chest could exceed a short lifter's jerk, meaning they have already done more work just by lifting to the chest. Nevertheless, many taller people have been successful at lifting, as indeed, have some shorter basketball players.
Relative exercises compared to a lift
A lifter can typically lift more for each component parts of an Olympic lift than they can for an Olympic lift itself. The figures below are an example for a 150 kg clean and jerk for a typical experienced lifter:
- Clean: 160.0 kg
- Jerk: 160.0 kg
- Clean Pull: 195.0 kg
- Front Squat: 195.0 kg
- Back Squat: 210.0 kg
- Deadlift: 240.0 kg
- Snatch (relative): 120.0 kg
The competitive sport is controlled by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). Based in Budapest, it was founded in 1905.
Competitors compete in one of eight (seven for women) divisions determined by their body mass. These classes are currently: men's: 56 kg (123.5 lb), 62 kg (136.7 lb), 69 kg (152.1 lb), 77 kg (169.8 lb), 85 kg (187.4 lb), 94 kg (207.2 lb), 105 kg (231.5 lb) and 105+ kg, and women's: 48kg (105.8 lb.), 53 kg (116.8 lb), 58 kg (127.8 lb), 63 kg (138.9 lb), 69 kg (152.1 lb), 75 kg (165.3 lb), and 75+ kg. In each weight division, competitors compete in both the snatch and clean and jerk, and prizes are usually given for the heaviest weights lifted in the snatch, clean and jerk, and the two combined.
The order of the competition is up to the lifters—the competitor who chooses to attempt the lowest weight goes first. If they are unsuccessful at that weight, they have the option of reattempting that lift or trying a heavier weight later (after any other competitors have made attempts at that weight or any intermediate weights). Weights are set in 1 kilogram increments (previously 2.5kg increments), and each lifter can have a maximum of three lifts, regardless of whether lifts are successful or not.
The title Best Lifter is commonly awarded at local competitions. The award is based on the lifters' Sinclair Coefficients, which calculate strength-to-weight ratio of the lifters. Typically, the winner of the heaviest weight class will have lifted the most weight, but a lifter in a lighter weight class will have lifted more in proportion to his bodyweight.
- Andrei Chemerkin (Russia) - Olympic gold (1996), Olympic bronze (2000)
- Vasily Alexeyev (USSR) - 80 world records, Olympic gold (1972, 1976)
- Tommy Kono (United States) - 26 world records, Olympic gold (1952, 1956), Olympic silver (1960)
- Galabin Boevski (Bulgaria) - current and all time 69 kg world record holder, and current best record lifter.
- Hossein Rezazadeh (Iran) - current super-heavyweight world record holder, Olympic gold (2000, 2004)
- Pyrros Dimas (Greece) - Olympic gold (1992, 1996, 2000), Olympic bronze (2004)
- Naim Suleymanoglu (Turkey) - Olympic gold (1988, 1992, 1996)
- Kakhi Kakhiashvili (Greece) - Olympic gold (1992, 1996, 2000)
- Halil Mutlu (Turkey) - Olympic gold (1996, 2000, 2004)
- Norbert Schemansky (United States) - Olympic gold (1952), silver (1948), bronze (1960, 1964)
- Ronny Weller (Germany, East Germany) - Olympic gold (1992), silver (1996, 2000), bronze (1988)
- Nikolay Pechalov (Bulgaria, Croatia)- Olympic gold (2000), silver (1992), bronze (1996, 2004)
- Leonid Taranenko (USSR) - Olympic gold (1980), silver (1992)
- Stefan Topurov (Bulgaria) - first feather weight to lift three times his body weight (180kg clean and jerk in the 60kg weight class at the 1983 World Championship in Moscow)
- Tara Nott (United States) - Olympic gold (2000)
- Yurik Vardanyan (Armenia) - Olympic gold (1980), light-heavyweight record holder since 1980
The total record in the men's 56 kg class is 305 kg, in the 105+ kg class it is 472.5 kg. The current official record for the clean and jerk in the men's +105 kg class is held by Hossein Rezazadeh of Iran, who clean and jerked 263.5 kg (580.9 lb) at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics. He snatched 213.0 kg (469.6 lb) in September 2003 at Qinhuangdao. Rezazadeh scored a record total of 472.5 kg at both the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2004 Athens Olympics. The current record for the clean and jerk in the women's 75+ kg class is held by Gonghong Tang of China, who lifted 182.5 kg (402.3 lb) at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.
Due to the restructuring of the competitive weight classes that took place in 1993 and 1998, the following lifts are no longer recognized as the official world records. However, these remain the highest figures ever posted in competition. Yevgeny Sypko lifted in the Druzhba Cup Meet, on March 4, 1990, at 130.65kg and snatched 216.5kg (477.3 lb), the highest competitive snatch in history, although it is not recognized as a world record because the meet wasn't officially drug tested. However, it did count as a Soviet Record. The heaviest 'official' snatch of all time is 216.0 kg (476.2 lb), lifted by Antonio Krastev of Bulgaria in 1987. That year Antonio's training produced a world record exceeding snatch of 222.5kg (490.5 lb). The heaviest clean and jerk of all time is 266.0 kg (586.4 lb) lifted by Leonid Taranenko in Canberra, Australia on November 26, 1988. In the same event, Taranenko set a world record of 475 kg (1047.2 lb) in the total.
The Sinclair Coefficients are used as a tool to devise rankings of weightlifters across different weight classes.
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