The Virtues of Weightlifting

Here is a page from the Weightlifting Encyclopedia:

The truly remarkable abilities of Olympic style weightlifters are certainly due in part to genetic qualities of these athletes and to their outstanding physical condition. However, they’re also due in no small measure to the kind of training that weightlifters do: performing the snatch and the clean and jerk (C&J).

Almost any form of resistance training can improve an athlete’s strength, but the snatch and C&J are unique in their ability to develop strength and explosive power at the same time. And the benefits of practicing the Olympic lifts are hardly limited to developing strength and power. Here’s a partial list of other added benefits:

1. The mere practice of the Olympic lifts teaches an athlete how to explode (to activate a maximum number of muscle units rapidly and simultaneously). Part of the extraordinary abilities of the Olympic lifters arises out of their having learned how to effectively activate more of their muscle fibers more rapidly than others who are not so trained (in addition to having developed stronger muscles).

2. The practice of proper technique in the Olympic lifts teaches an athlete to apply force with his or her muscle groups in the proper sequences (i.e., from the center of the body to its extremities). This is a valuable technical lesson that can be of benefit to any athlete who needs to impart force to another person or object (a necessity in virtually every sport).

3. In mastering the Olympic lifts, the athlete learns how to accelerate objects under varying degrees of resistance. This is because the body experiences differing degrees of perceived resistance as it attempts to move a bar with maximum speed through a full range of motion. These kinds of changes in resistance are much more likely to resemble those encountered in athletic events than similar exercises performed on an isokinetic machine (which has a fixed level of resistance or speed of resistance throughout the range of motion).

4. The athlete learns to receive force from another moving body effectively and becomes conditioned to accept such forces.

5. The athlete learns to move effectively from an eccentric contraction to a concentric one (through the stretch-shortening cycle, which is the cycle that is activated and trained through exercises that are often referred to as plyometrics).

6. The actual movements performed while executing the Olympic lifts are among the most common and fundamental in sports. Therefore, training the specific muscle groups in motor patterns that resemble those used in an athlete’s events is often a byproduct of practicing the snatch and C&J.

7. Practicing the Olympic lifts trains an athlete’s explosive capabilities, and the lifts themselves measure the effectiveness of the athlete in generating explosive power to a greater degree than most other exercises they can practice.

8. Finally, the Olympic lifts are simply fun to do. I have yet to meet an athlete who has mastered them who does not enjoy doing the Olympic lifts. While making workouts enjoyable may not be the primary objective of a strength coach, it is not an unimportant consideration in workout planning. Athletes who enjoy what they are doing are likely to practice more consistently and to be more highly motivated than athletes who do not enjoy their workouts as much.

(Excerpted from The Weightlifting Encyclopedia by Arthur Drechsler. For more info see:


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