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Weightlifting is a sport which is often referred to as Olympic weightlifting in the United States to distinguish it from bodybuilding or powerlifting. Basically, weightlifting is made up of two lifts: the clean & jerk and the snatch. The snatch involves lifting of the barbell all the way to overhead from the floor in just a single movement. Clean & jerk, on the other hand, involves the weightlifter picking the barbell from the floor all the way to the shoulders which is referred to as the clean and thereafter the barbell is lifted from the shoulders to overhead and this is called the jerk.

In a typical weightlifting competition, every weightlifter is given 3 attempts in both the clean & jerk and the snatch. The weight an athlete is able to lift is added to each of his bests to create his total weight and wins.

The Snatch

The snatch as a CrossFit training exercise equips weightlifters and prepares them for the lift in the competition. It does this by working on their technique, speed and strength as well as other qualities required for the lift. Other CrossFit athletes who may not be in active competition can use the snatch to develop speed, power, mobility, and precision.

Programming the snatch differs based on a number of factors including the athletes timing, needs, and the focus of the program. The sets are usually anywhere between 1 and 3 reps at 70 to 100%. You can also use the snatch for speed or technique training at lighter weights as well as power and strength training at moderate weights. Weightlifters typically perform snatches at least 2 to 3 days each week. It is recommended to use protective gear like weightlifting wrist wraps, elbow sleeve, and compression knee sleeves.

Snatch Variations

Just like any exercise, snatch has its set of variations which include power snatches, hang snatches, and block snatches. When performing these variations, you may use straps if you find them appropriate or go for the hook grip. Based on your preference, you may also go for no-hook grip.

Clean & Jerk

This is the second lift after the snatch. Just like the snatch, clean & jerk is also contested in Olympic weightlifting. As pointed out above, clean & jerk is done in two stages. The first stage which is called clean involves lifting the barbell from the floor up to the shoulders. The second phase known as the jerk involves lifting from the shoulders all the way to overhead.

The main purpose of doing clean & jerk is to help you as a weightlifter to train technique, speed, and strength which are invaluable for your lift competition. When programming clean & jerk, you should consider factors such as your proximity to competition in terms of time, your specific needs, and the focus of the program at that particular time.

Like the snatch, clean & jerk is done in sets ranging from 1 to 3 reps anywhere between 70 and 100%. At lighter weights, the clean can be used for speed or technique training. At moderate weights, you can use this exercise for power and strength training while at heavy weights, clean & jerk can be used for strength training and testing.

There are also variations in clean & jerk which include power clean & jerk, hang clean & jerk, and clean & power jerk.

It is always advised to use protective gear, especially when starting out and learning the lifts, as form and weight develop stronger protection may be needed. Basics include weightlifting wrist wraps, and compression knee sleeves as a must, other gear is based on the user themselves.

Learning Weightlifting

The best way for you to learn and master the snatch and clean & jerk is to work with a weightlifting coach who is fully qualified. Unfortunately, weightlifting coaches and gyms are quite few especially in the United States so weightlifters are advised to find weightlifting clubs and coaches on the USA Weightlifting website.

If you are a new weightlifter and for some reason, you can’t find weightlifting coaches within your locality, you can bank on videos and books to help you learn the clean & jerk and snatch. You will also be introduced to supplemental lifts such as the front squat, back squat, push press, and press.

The CrossFit gym you go to for weightlifting should have the appropriate equipment such as proper barbells and bumper plates as well as weightlifting platforms. If you want to compete in Olympic weightlifting in the United States, you must first be a member of the USA Weightlifting. The good news is you don’t have to be a coach or a member of a club or team for you to enroll here.

Weightlifting Mistakes New Athletes Make

Having looked at the workouts above and what is required to execute properly, it is also important to look at some of the mistakes newbies make so that you don’t fall into the same trap.

Getting Ahead of Yourself

This is one of the common mistakes new weightlifting athletes make. A good example of this is going heavy on weights without practicing and mastering a perfect form with lighter weights. The snatch is usually performed by bringing the barbell in one fluid movement from the ground to the overhead position. However, if you cannot maintain a flat back at the beginning position, executing this movement can be detrimental to you. The first thing is to ask your coach to assess your form and allow them to recommend progressions for a lift.

Going Heavy Daily

Your body needs sufficient time to recover and if you go heavy daily, you are not doing yourself a favor. Lifting is not recommended beyond 4 days in a week. The pattern should be heavy lifting, heavy lifting, then light lifting. When doing light lifting, your priority should be on speedwork and technique. Even if you are an experienced lifter, this pattern can help you enhance your strength as well as movement efficiency.

Not Eating Enough

CrossFit diet is one of those topics that cannot be discussed enough. You need to take enough, meaning food quantities need to be adequate irrespective of what you are eating. Your focus should be on quality food and consistency. If you are not sure of how you should eat, a dietician can test your resting metabolic rate and determine how you should take your foods to maximize your gains.

As you get into weightlifting, your attitude will probably be the single most important element that will dictate your success. In the gym, you will see people who are more qualified than you are and others who may be under you in terms of performance. That notwithstanding, the box is more of a community than a structure and your approach matters a lot.