There are two official Olympic lifts: the barbell snatch, and the barbell clean and jerk. You may have seen people crank out rep after rep of these exercises at the CrossFit Games.
For a visual, think of the snatch as a deadlift, barbell shrug, jump squat and overhead squat performed consecutively in one fluid motion. The clean and jerk? A combination deadlift, upright row, front squat and push press. When it comes to developing speed, athleticism and total-body power, these Olympic-style workouts are practically second to none.
But unless you’re an athlete, do not try these at home.
“You shouldn’t attempt this without initial supervision,” says Singapore weightlifter Lewis Chua. The 23-year-old currently holds the national record for Olympic lifting in the 105+kg category, and is heading the judging panel for the fitness contest Elite 2015 that kicked off last weekend at Bugis Junction. The next round will be held in July 19, and will feature Olympic-style weightlifting. However, this is one workout you should get proper classes for, especially before you attempt to toss barbells the size of truck axles over your head.
Why? The main reason is that they are technically difficult to perform, says Lewis. Unlike bicep curls, which require little or no instruction to perform safely, these Olympian manoeuvres call for a qualified instructor like Lewis to teach you the nuances of each movement.
Otherwise, you’ll put yourself at risk of injury. In the worst case scenario, you could suffer a herniated (slipped) disk in your back, he explains. Nailing the technique will greatly reduce your risk of injury as the weights get heavier and the repetitions get more numerous.
Also, considering most of us—unlike athletes—spend much of the day sitting at a desk, in the car and on the couch, you’ll have to check if your body is ready. Lewis’ most basic test: you must be able to perform full body-weight squats comfortably. (You may want to also check if lifting heavy weights strains your heart.)
Then, if you really have to scratch that itch to perform Olympic lifts (they do look a lot cooler than most conventional exercises), it’s ok to try the moves with the bar alone—without the weights, Lewis advises.
On a similar note, you can vary your lifting speed for bigger muscles and keep your workouts interesting.