09 Jan How To Get Started With Olympic Lifting: Is It Right For You?

Olympic LiftOlympic weightlifting is an incredible strength skill. While the popularity is gaining favor, should you consider the Oly’s as a part of your programming?

It really depends on your training goals and what you’re trying to accomplish.

It’s great for the sport that the Olympic lifts are gaining popularity in the fitness community, but are these lifts appropriate for everyone?

I don’t think so and I’ll explain why.

First, there are 2 authentic Olympic lifts contested in competition which are:

  1. the barbell clean and jerk
  2. the barbell snatch.

There are many variations of these such as hang cleans, power cleans, push presses, and hang power snatches, among others that are progressions to the barbell clean and jerk and the barbell snatch.

You don’t begin olympic lifting by learning barbell snatches right out of the gate, obviously.

You’d begin with the progressions and movement prerequisites that would lead up to the performance of a snatch.

If you’re like me, you always want to get better and be stronger. It’s human nature.

Olympic lifting will make you better and more explosive.

Why should you consider the O-lifts if you’re not doing them already?

The biggest 2 reasons are simply to improve athletic performance and to improve strength and conditioning for a new level of “functional” fitness.

Keep in mind, there has to be a certain degree of mobility, strength, coordination, and motor programming before properly performing these lifts though.

Let me tell you what I’ve discovered with Olympic lifts.

Olympic lifts are phenomenal for strength, power, flexibility, improved motor programming, conditioning, improving athletic performance, and a list of other benefits.

They are challenging, rewarding, and very humbling.

They are also exceptional for developing explosive hip and knee power and to improve motor skills specific to athletic movements.

But, minimizing injury is the primary goal of every training program.

The O-lifts are surprisingly safe, despite the picture above.

Yes, they are VERY safe, when you get great coaching, understand the proper progressions, and possess the baseline skills.

It’s all about getting great coaching and understanding how to go through the progressions, assuming you have the mobility and stability standards to perform these lifts.

With that said, if you are doing O-lifts or are considering doing them, the BIG question is does the exercise match your goals?

Is your primary goal fat loss?

Well, I’m sure you realize that barbell snatches for time are not the best exercise for this (seriously).

There are much better exercises for fat loss that don’t require the technical proficiency and skills that is required with the snatch.

Is your primary goal is to improve athletic performance and explosive power?

Then, the O-lifts are a great match for your goals.

Honestly, these are questions I ask myself as I continue progress with my own training.

As these lifts are emerging in popularity, you must be honest with yourself and be sure they match your goals and you have the requisite mobility, stability, and strength to safely and effectively perform them.

Yes, these lifts are very technical, but again are surprisingly safe with proper assessment and instruction.

The benefits with these lifts can be quite dramatic when you learn how to do them properly, especially for developing explosive power and better kinesthetic awareness.

After many years of training with barbells, I finally got started in the O-lifts.


First, I’m intense about always learning how to move better and move stronger.

I’m also obsessed with helping other people learn to move better because many people simply do not move well.

With that said, the O-lifts totally fit my goals and match my own criteria for training and performance.

My journey to rediscover my own physical potential was renewed when I discovered kettlebells.

And, it’s been non stop ever since.

At this point, I’m on a continued journey to be stronger, fitter, and perform at the highest level I can.

There are many reasons why this is important to me.

But, the point I want to make is that these lifts are technical, challenging, and extremely physically demanding.

My goal is to help educate you, as to whether these lifts are appropriate for you.

They may or may not be.

They are wonderful lifts, if they match your goals.

And, after all of my years and diverse experience in weight training, performance enhancement, and injury prevention, my opinion is that these lifts are not appropriate for everyone for the reasons I mention.

The benefits are outstanding, but to say that everyone should be performing olympic lifts would be irrational.

In contrast, should everyone be performing a deadlift at some level?

I would say yes, but that’s an entirely different topic.

The O-lifts are very powerful total body exercises that deliver outstanding results.

But, they are not for everyone.

Should more people do them?

Should YOU do them?

If they match the goal, if you have the requisite mobility, and if you get the proper coaching, then yes, absolutely.

Challenge yourself to progress to new levels.

But, always, always ask “does this exercise match the goal for me?

The answer is either yes or no.

It does or it does not.

One more thing to consider.

If your goal is absolute strength, then you must include squats, deadlifts, and presses into the program.

Performing the Olympic lifts without these pure strength lifts will leave a gap in your absolute strength gains, since the O-lifts are more for explosive strength and power than they are for absolute strength.

What’s the best way to get started?

Well, I’d recommend the great book by Greg Everett titled Olympic Weightlifting for Sports.

This book is excellent because it’s a very simple, concise guide on the benefits and applications of the O-lifts.

It also provides a systematic progression to work through, which is very important for safe and effective training.  This book is essentially everything most people need to get started the right way with Olympic lifting, with flexibility drills and even a sample 12 week program design.

Olympic lifts are great for many reasons, but make sure they are a fit for you and your training goals.

Scott Iardella, MPT, CSCS writes about strength training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff! Subscribe at RdellaTraining.com/join and get a FREE Report and Resource Guide.
  • shneur
    Posted at 14:37h, 15 January Reply

    what is your opinion on the benifits of barbell/olympic weight lifting vs kettlebells? I am interested in barbell/olympic weightlifting and just trying to find out the pros and cons

    • Scott
      Posted at 20:24h, 15 January Reply

      I think there are tremendous benefits of both barbells and kettlebells. They are similar, but different and each has it’s advantages. It all comes back to what results you want. Olympic lifting is fantastic, but it requires a high degree of learning, as does proper kettlebell training. The advantage of the barbell is simple, you can go heavier since you can load the bar. So, for absolute strength and maximum muscular hypertrophy, the barbell is a great tool. Again, it all depends on your training goals. Both methods are outstanding, in my opinion.

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