While anyone could benefit from training with an Olympic weightlifting program, Olympic weightlifting is a highly specific sport recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As an Olympic sport, it requires precise technique, speed, and power while executing the movements. This is why it’s crucial to train right.
In this article, we will share with our readers the science behind advancing in Olympic weightlifting, explain how Olympic weightlifting differs from other types of weightlifting programs, and go into some of the health benefits of taking up an Olympic weightlifting program.
In our opinion, the best Olympic weightlifting programs are the Olympic Weightlifting Template for those looking to specifically improve their Olympic lifts and the SuperTotal Template for those who’d like to combine elements of Olympic weightlifting with powerlifting.
|Olympic Weightlifting Template
|-Barbells -Bumper plates -Chalk -Jerk blocks -Squat stands
|-Barbells (Powerbar & weightlifting bar) -Rack -Bumpers -Steel plates -Bench -Blocks
|Workouts Per Week
|Advanced lifters (6+ months of experience)
|Advanced lifters (around 12 months of experience)
Olympic weightlifting is a demanding sport that requires precise speed, form, and technique, and if any of these elements are out of balance, it could result in injuries. The Snatch and the Clean & Jerk in particular put a lot of pressure on a trainee’s joints, especially around the hip. Over time, the joints may adjust to the loaded pressure, but the key is to train correctly.  The movements themselves are executed quickly, which means that an inexperienced trainee may not have enough time to gauge whether their form is proper before they perform them, which could be dangerous.
Apart from this, most lifters will have varying levels of fitness, experience, and baseline strength. It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect the same performance and progress from everyone, and with a sport as demanding as Olympic weightlifting, a personalized approach could greatly aid trainees in developing the right form and technique necessary to perform the lifts.
If you’re looking for a team with previous experience in training Olympic weightlifters, look no further. Here at Barbell Medicine, we employ the help of health and sports experts from many fields, including licensed doctors, dietitians, and personal trainers. Our science-based approach to nutrition and training is backed by evidence, and we adjust your personalized program according to your changing needs. We continually measure our clients’ development and we are always on call if any assistance is needed.
Not only that, we’ve also got a growing community of fitness enthusiasts training with us. If you can’t take our word, hear out what they have to say. Log onto our forum or follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to join our community of fitness enthusiasts and see what others have to say. You could also check out our YouTube channel, where we keep our viewers up to date with the latest developments in sports science.
- Olympic Weightlifting Template
- SuperTotal Template
To achieve the best results with an Olympic weightlifting program, a trainee must be aware of their current fitness level and personal preferences. Keep in mind that Olympic weightlifting is a competitive sport where the main goal should be to challenge oneself and break personal records.
This is why we recommend our Olympic weightlifting programs to more seasoned trainees who would like to focus on improving strength in the Olympic lifts. For trainees who are just starting, we recommend completing our Beginner’s Template and following that up by training for nine to twelve months to build the required amount of strength to take on these programs in advance.
If none of these programs seem to provide quite what you’re looking for, reach out to us for a personalized Olympic weightlifting program, which we can design according to your needs and preferences.
The Olympic Weightlifting Template by Barbell Medicine is a strength-focused program for advanced lifters with more than six months of experience in strength training. Being a specialized template, it is designed for individuals who would like to hone their skills in Olympic weightlifting.
This 12-week strength program includes a six-day workout week, divided into four days of full-body strength training and up to two days of general physical preparedness (GPP) exercises, one day being an anaerobic interval workout day, and one being an aerobic workout day, both including accessory exercises such as upper back, trunk, and arm work.
As it is a program designed for advanced lifters, we do not recommend those who have just started lifting to follow this program. We recommend beginners complete the Beginner Template and follow that up with the Strength I or General Strength and Conditioning Template before starting this program.
If you’d like to go with something a bit more challenging and improve your skills in both Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting, then Barbell Medicine’s SuperTotal template is the right one for you.
This template is designed for advanced lifters with at least 12 months of lifting experience. It balances out powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting training in an evidence-based program that is based on work done with professionals in both areas of weightlifting.
The SuperTotal Template is a 16-week-long program divided into three training blocks. The exercise selection is completely customizable, giving lifters total control of the lifts they do. The program’s volume and intensity are also adaptable to the trainee’s current fitness level and preferences.
This program includes a six-day workout week divided into four days of resistance training and two days of conditioning and GPP training. The training will include exercises to improve strength in both the Big Three (bench press, squat and deadlifts) and the Olympic lifts (the clean and jerk, and the snatch). While we could say it is the perfect program for general strength enhancement, if you’d like to focus solely on Olympic weightlifting, we recommend that you go with our Olympic Weightlifting Template instead.
In essence, Olympic weightlifting is a sports branch where lifters perform a few overhead lifts speedily, in compliance with Olympic standards. The two common lifts associated with Olympic weightlifting are the clean and jerk, which entails picking up the weights from the ground to shoulder height and then lifting them higher to an overhead position, and the snatch, which entails going directly from a low squat position to an overhead lift. Both of these movements require the overhead lift to be done swiftly and explosively, with a focus on correct form and movement progression.
Make no mistake, Olympic weightlifting programs are not only pursued by professional athletes. Lifters could follow this type of program for a variety of reasons, such as genuine interest in the sport or their desire to enhance their physical condition for other types of sports and improve strength. In fact, Olympic weightlifting programs may be a great strength-building alternative for those who don’t want to be confined to compound lifts while training. All-in-all, Olympic weightlifting is faster, more explosive, and could be considered more exciting than doing 30 consecutive bench presses.
While they differ from many strength-training or powerlifting programs, Olympic weightlifting programs are an excellent choice for individuals who are looking to improve their strength. Let’s look into a few ways in which Olympic weightlifting can help you achieve your strength goals.
Much like most other strength training methods, the whole body must be engaged while performing Olympic weightlifting movements. Especially when performing the clean and jerk and the snatch, multiple muscle groups are put into action, such as the core, legs, and a combination of upper body muscles. Engaging multiple muscle groups consecutively during training helps a trainee build on their overall strength. This can be observed in a 2018 study that looked into the increase of overall strength produced by Olympic weightlifting and traditional weightlifting in rugby players, in which the subjects who did Olympic weightlifting achieved better results than those who didn’t. 
Lifters must continually overload their muscles to keep breaking personal records in Olympic weightlifting. That’s why this type of sport utilizes methods of progressive loading, which in turn triggers muscular adaptation, allowing the trainee to put up against higher levels of resistance over time and building their overall strength. 
When an individual goes through a specific kind of training, certain physiological changes occur in the nervous system that aid in enhancing motor skills to execute the movements more easily. This is what we refer to as neuromuscular adaptation, and it is a crucial component of building strength. 
Olympic weightlifting helps individuals improve their strength, but also has the added benefit of helping muscles build force for more explosive movements.  The need to keep putting up against more resistance and having to build the necessary force to perform lifts allows trainees to be able to recruit their muscle fibers more effectively over time.
Most sports require some degree of core strength to participate in, and Olympic weightlifting is one of those that rely on core muscles.  Due to the nature of the movements and the core engagement necessary to execute them, Olympic weightlifting could be a great management tool on your core recovery days.
However, we should probably mention that Olympic weightlifting exercises should not replace your ab days, and should be used as a supplementary element rather than a core exercise.  Additionally, while most Olympic weightlifters look jacked, Olympic weightlifting is not an ideal option for those who are trying to grow muscle mass, as the lifts don’t trigger the mechanisms of hypertrophy to a maximum level. This is mainly because Olympic weightlifting movements engage the whole body as opposed to a single muscle group. Maximum mechanical tension is necessary while engaging a muscle group to trigger muscle hypertrophy. However, in Olympic weightlifting, believe it or not, a lifter’s legs and core do most of the work, while their arms mainly act isometrically.
As we’ve mentioned, Olympic weightlifting is all about the right form and technique. Learning these key factors may not come easy if you have to do it alone. The right guidance offered by a professional trainer may do wonders if you’re aiming to excel in this sport, and it will also help you significantly reduce the risk of injury.
Following an Olympic weightlifting program will have the obvious benefit of helping lifters build Olympian strength, but that’s not all. Those who follow an Olympic weightlifting program will be able to enjoy the health benefits that many weightlifters do, as well as some additional ones. Let’s explore a few.
Olympic weightlifting targets muscle groups in the whole body, including legs, glutes, core, back, and shoulders. Combining the contractions of these muscles with swift and explosive movement can help individuals build strength faster.
Olympic weightlifting programs are great for improving one’s overall athletic performance, making them popular among athletes competing in different sports branches [8,9]. This is mainly because Olympic lifts help build strength and speed and include kinetic and kinematic similarities to other sporting movements.
Olympic weightlifting allows individuals to build muscle mass, which has been proven to speed up their resting metabolic rate, making it an excellent sport for people who would like to control or manage their weight.  The explosiveness of the movements that are performed in Olympic weightlifting also accelerates trainees’ heart rates, which can help them burn fat for a longer duration post-exercise than those who do powerlifting or strength training.
Speed and explosive power are essential components of Olympic weightlifting, making it crucial
for trainees to perform these movements swiftly and with enough explosivity. Training must be done in a way that results in the easy recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers.  Developing fast-twitch muscle fibers is one of the ways we improve our speed, which is why it’s no surprise that many athletes competing in speed-focused sports, such as track and field or sprinting, include Olympic weightlifting in their training programs.
Olympic weightlifters put a lot of stress on various parts of their bodies, including their legs, hips, backs, and arms. This added stress not only helps tone up the muscles around these body parts but also allows the bone to adapt to the stress and grow. Olympic weightlifting is one of the best types of weightlifting to increase bone density, producing much better results than some other types of weightlifting.  The increased bone density could be a massive perk for many trainees, as it allows our bones to stay healthy and keeps diseases like osteoporosis at bay while also helping avoid sports injuries.
The short answer is — no! Any type of athlete may enjoy the many perks of following an Olympic weightlifting program, which includes but is not limited to increased strength and enhanced athletic performance. As we’ve mentioned, Olympic weightlifting programs are often incorporated into the training of athletes competing in various sports branches, so we could say that the benefits are plentiful — possibly even more than that of a strength training program.
However, we should note that Olympic weightlifting may require some degree of previous experience in weightlifting. This is because the lifts themselves need enough strength and speed to perform, and they have a high learning curve, meaning that they may be difficult for novice lifters. But switching over to an Olympic weightlifting program from a different type of strength training within the first year of lifting is very doable, and with a few months of dedicated training, you’ll be good to go! So, if building strength while improving speed and explosiveness is your end goal, an Olympic weightlifting program could be the right pick for you.
- Song, Y., Zhang, X., & Rong, K. (2018). Effects of long-term high-load exercise on the anatomy of the hip joints: a preliminary report. Journal of pediatric orthopedics. Part B, 27(3), 231–235. https://doi.org/10.1097/BPB.0000000000000454
- Roberts, Matt & DeBeliso, Mark. (2018). Olympic lifting vs. traditional lifting methods for North American high school football players. Turkish Journal of Kinesiology. 4. 91-100. 10.31459/turkjkin.439870.
- Plotkin, D., Coleman, M., Van Every, D., Maldonado, J., Oberlin, D., Israetel, M., Feather, J., Alto, A., Vigotsky, A. D., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2022). Progressive overload without progressing load? The effects of load or repetition progression on muscular adaptations. PeerJ, 10, e14142. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.14142
- Sale D. G. (1988). Neural adaptation to resistance training. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 20(5 Suppl), S135–S145. https://doi.org/10.1249/00005768-198810001-00009
- Young, Warren & McLean, B & Ardagna, J. (1995). Relationship between strength qualities and sprinting performance. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness. 35. 13-9.
- Calatayud, J., Colado, J. C., Martin, F., Casaña, J., Jakobsen, M. D., & Andersen, L. L. (2015). CORE MUSCLE ACTIVITY DURING THE CLEAN AND JERK LIFT WITH BARBELL VERSUS SANDBAGS AND WATER BAGS. International journal of sports physical therapy, 10(6), 803–810.
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- Hoffman, J.R., J. Cooper, M. Wendell, and J. Kang. Comparison of Olympic vs. traditional power lifting training programs in football players. J. Strength Cond. Res. 18(1):129–135. 2004. [PubMed]
- Stone, M.H., R. Byrd, J. Tew, and M. Wood. Relationship between anaerobic power and Olympic weightlifting performance. J. Sports Med. Phys. Fitness. 20:99–102. 1980. [PubMed]
- Zurlo, F., Larson, K., Bogardus, C., & Ravussin, E. (1990). Skeletal muscle metabolism is a major determinant of resting energy expenditure. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 86(5), 1423–1427. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI114857
- Serrano, N., Colenso-Semple, L. M., Lazauskus, K. K., Siu, J. W., Bagley, J. R., Lockie, R. G., Costa, P. B., & Galpin, A. J. (2019). Extraordinary fast-twitch fiber abundance in elite weightlifters. PloS one, 14(3), e0207975. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0207975
- Jeon, Woohyoung; Harrison, John Michael; Stanforth, Philip R.; Griffin, Lisa. Bone Mineral Density Differences Across Female Olympic Lifters, Power Lifters, and Soccer Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 35(3):p 638-643, March 2021. |
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