Olympic Weightlifting

Many people think bodybuilding is weightlifting. That's not exactly correct. Most athletes that are involved in the sport of bodybuilding are concerned mostly with symmetry and increasing the size of the muscle. Olympic Weightlifting,on the other hand, trains the athlete for functional strength utilizing the body's major muscle groups.

Actually the main reason I wanted to add this chapter is because this is where it all began for me. When I first picked up an Olympic Bar it was at the Marion YMCA. They had a great nucleus for their team and, as I mentioned before, that is where I first met Bill Starr. As you may know, he is one of the most knowledgable men in the sport. Back then the big names were Norb Shemansky, Bob Bednarski, Tommy Kono and others. The Europeans rapidly came on the scene where their success was largely due to their training methods. They may not have had the greatest facilities but they had the secrets to building phenomenal strength. Needless to say, coaching is the key. Speaking of that let me interject a name that you may not be familiar...Mike Burgener. I first met Mike when he came to Marion and began to train with us. He had come from Notre Dame University where he played football and had raw strength. The one thing that impressed me with him was his smooth technique. He made the lift look effortless. Unfortunately, I left for college soon after so I didn't get to spend a great deal of time with Mike. However, he is one of those rare individuals who continues to give back to the sport. He operates MIKESGYM,which is a USA Weightlifting Regional Training Center out in California. For many years he has dedicated his life to the training and philosphy of Olympic Lifting and passed it onto his many students. In fact if you want to see some great training videos, go to You Tube and click on Mike Burgener. You'll be impressed. If you would like to visit his site, go to www.mikesgym.org. Needless to say, I'm glad we crossed paths in our lifetime.

Okay now let's get to the lifts. There used to be three. The Press, Snatch and Clean and Jerk. Even when I was lifting in the 60's, you could tell there was only a matter of time before the Press was going to be history. In fact I went to school and trained with one of the best pressers in the world, Phil Grippaldi. I met him when I was at Youngstown State and trained with him. He definately had the biggest arms I've ever seen. He could also Press. Problem was, there was so much backbend that guys were doing, it almost looked like a standing bench press. So in 1976, due to controversy in judging, it was dropped.

That left 2. First the Snatch. When done right, a thing of beauty. I can still close my eyes and see Mike Karchut doing a perfect lift. This is the first lift in the competition and what some call the fastest lift in the world. Reason being it takes less than a second to get the bar from the platform to overhead. The basic explanation of the snatch is that the lifter takes a wide grip, for some of the superheavys, it's almost to the collars. Then the lifter starts his pull with strength from the hips and quads. The bar proceeds upward until the lifter extends his body when the bar reaches the pelvis. At this point the extention creates enough force to propel the weight upwards while the lifter drops underneath to catch the barbell. At this point of recovery the lifter stands up hoping for a good lift signal from the judges. Let me explain about the judging. Each lifter has three attempts to successfully complete a lift. If he does not, something we call bombing out, he cannot compete in the clean and jerk. During the lift,you must receive at least two white lights for the lift to be termed good.

The Clean and Jerk...This lift is actually two lifts in one. First the weight has to be lifted to the shoulders. The pull is somewhat similar to a deadlift, but as the bar is propelled up to mid thigh, the lifter descends underneath it "racking it" on his shoulders, then stands up with the weight as in a front squat. At this point, the jerk comes next. The lifter pushes with the arms at the same time as he is being pushed under the weight while the legs descend into a lunge which creates a split jerk. After this the lifter steadies himself then brings his feet to the same plane until he receives a signal from the official. This was always the lift that the fans wanted to see. Obviously it's the one lift that the most weight is lifted. Years ago, during the Olympic games, whenever you would see what night the weightlifting events would be broadcast, you could almost be certain that they would only show the clean and jerk. Back then, whatever we could get, was better than nothing at all. However there was a superhuman super heavyweight from the Soviet Union named Alexeev that was fun to watch.

If you ever get a chance to see a meet with quality lifters, do yourself a favor and watch these talented athletes. Theres alot more involved than pure strength...Trust me, this is a sport that requires a tremendous amount of technique.