I’ve been involved with Bodybuilding for a good while now. It started when I was 18 years old, 28 years ago now. (Can’t quite believe that.) I always kept it going and in my early forties decided to compete in the sport and have since entered 4 competitions.
In a sport that is overly concerned about appearances, I picked up a whole new skill-set and understanding by competing. I learned mainly that bodybuilding is an art form.
The body – a canvas. Pliable, In many ways. The overall goal to sculpt an “ideal body” that reveals facets not there previously.
The overall subtext is there is no real “performance measure ” other than the end result, your body, and how you present it (posing) and this is also (to add complexity) hugely subjective.
The training behind building the body is however filled with approaches, hard work and discipline.
It suited me! At school I particularly hated team sports and did my level best to get out of games lessons involving these elements.
But. There was always ONE sport I wanted to try my hand at.
Olympic weightlifting (so called as it’s been an Olympic sport since 1896) is a sport that involves the execution of two exercises.
The snatch and the clean and jerk. Always performed in this order. The obvious performance measure is quite simple. The athlete who lifts the highest total based on these two exercises is the winner.
In the snatch, the barbell is lifted from the floor and above the head, in one continuous, clean, movement, with a wide grip.
In the clean and jerk, the barbell is explosively lifted to the chest, and then raised above the head. This is done with a narrower grip.
There are also MANY other exercises, known as accessory work, and complex workout drills, often requiring whole separate workouts, which serve to build coordination and strength which carries over to the main two Olympic lifts.
The appeal of Olympic weightlifting
Strength and technique
Weightlifting is an athletic sport which tests human ballistic limits (explosive strength)The lifts are endlessly complex and require far greater power, speed and range of motion than bodybuilding.
On February 26th, 2018, at the tender age of 45, I decided to finally end my procrastinating and started my new endeavour. Also as a practising strength and conditioning specialist, I recognised that to not practice these skills I had until now only theoretically understood, was a HUGE gap in my own education.
I met my coach, Toby Cooley, at his cross-fit gym in Waterlooville, and we started with mobility drills and lifting an empty bar. The bar weighed only 10kg and my strength from my bodybuilding days had zero impact on Olympic lifting. In fact, it probably hindered it more than anything.
Since then, my coach has brought me a long way over some 40+ sessions and has provided feedback on nearly every lift I’ve performed so far. I have enjoyed the new activity and the experience of being coached myself (this was such a refreshing change), it’s been great fun and hard work, but I would highly recommend the experience.
I intend to continue my activity and would like to even compete one day if I can achieve that level.
Why I love Olympic weightlifting
It is an incredibly demanding and complex to become good at Olympic weightlifting. It involves some of the fastest moves in any sport and takes tremendous skill and practice to master.
It makes me laugh when my coach reminds me to “slow down” and be “patient” during a lift that only takes a second or two to complete. And you never need to be told when you’ve performed a “good lift ” as you can really just feel it is.
It is not a sport concerned with appearances, unlike bodybuilding. But it does have weight classes, and it has an obvious performance measure. In bodybuilding no one cares how much you can lift. In Olympic weightlifting it’s ALL about how much you can lift, with good technique.
Toby Cooley is head coach at Iron Dukes in Waterlooville. He is a great ambassador for the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. Highly recommended, the link below will take you you to his website