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Summer Olympics – Weightlifting Basics

Maybe you’re like me, and for the past week or so you’ve spent more time watching table tennis, fencing, speed-walking and other “less popular” Olympic events than ever before. Maybe you’re like many Americans, and are pulling off, what I like to call, the “21st Century Olympic Trifecta”. This means that your watching the Games on TV, while streaming from your computer and your smart phone. With all this American spirit and excitement in the air, every local swimming pool and gym will be packed with the future Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and Shi Zhiyong training for the 2020 games.

… wait… Shi Z-who? Exactly.

These Olympics, I’ve found myself distracted from the more popular mainstream sports and really interested in the lesser-known (or at least, less popularized) individual events.

Shi Zhiyong is the Chinese male weight lifter who recently won gold in the 69kg (152 lb) weight class by lifting an impressive 352 kg of weight between two different lifts: The Snatch and Clean-and-Jerk.

The “snatch” is a very popular Olympic lift that has gained popularity via the CrossFit community. This movement requires the athlete to lift the loaded barbell from the ground, directly overhead in a single, fluid motion. The “clean-and-jerk” lift allows the athlete to “pause” at his or her chest after lifting the barbell from the floor, before forcefully pressing the weight fully overhead. Shi completed these two lifts for a combined weight that was over FIVE TIMES (5x) his own body weight. For those who struggle with conversions, like me, 352kg is 776.027 pounds. That’s a lot of weight! (I really had to fight hard to not type “a ton” of weight.)

So before you go and start tossing around bumper plates at your local gym, keep a few things in mind:

#1 – these are very technical lifts and require years of dedicated practice to master just the movement. So start by using little to no weight. I recommend everyone participate in an introductory CrossFit (or similar) weight-lifting class before attempting any of these lifts. I personally enjoy and appreciate the thorough coaching I’ve received at CrossFit Decatur http://crossfitdecatur.com/ 

Many coaches will require their athletes to begin practicing with a flexible PVC pipe or even a broomstick. The best lifters have developed efficiency and muscle memory through countless hours of repetition. So again, start slow… you’ve got 4 whole years until the next Olympics.

#2 – the key to successful weight-lifting (or any movement for that matter) is to maintain a neutral spine. This will not only aid in injury prevention but also allow all the essential muscle groups to activate appropriately to ensure the most biomechanically efficient lift.

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Ask about a functional movement assessment to help improve your fitness and daily activities safely. Check back regularly for more information and videos regarding functional fitness, nutrition and holistic health. And, remember to tune in to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games to cheers on the amazing athletes during their final week of competition. USA, USA, USA !!! 

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