Proficiency in the Olympic lifts (snatch, clean and jerk) is not an indicator of fitness. You don’t have to perform them to be in peak physical shape.
In fact, some people should stay away from certain lifts. For instance, people with certain shoulder issues shouldn’t snatch.
The Olympic lifts are complicated movements, but taught properly are safe (as long as you are free of injury and move well), fun to learn and challenging to perfect.
There are some great benefits, including:
- Speed development
- Power production
- Proprioception (your body’s ability to sense movement)
- Kinesthetic awareness (our sense of muscular tension or ease, joint position, balance and movement)
For most people, the Olympic lifts don’t actually make you stronger. This is because they are technique-dependent, so it’s hard to go heavy enough to actually build strength.
Want to increase your Olympic lifts? Get stronger in squatting, pressing, pulling off the floor and generating power and speed. Get REALLY GOOD at the technique of the Olympic lifts and, over time, you will be able to lift more in the snatch, clean and jerk.
- When beginning, don’t try them on your own. Seek out a knowledgeable coach that can teach you proper movement patterns, bar path, drills and receiving positions.
- Be patient. There is a lot that goes on in the milliseconds it takes to perform one of the Olympic lifts. Typically, people display at least one fault that they must work on over and over to get right. Once they fix that, there’s usually another fault to work on. It can be at times both frustrating and gratifying, but practice makes perfect.
Again, your approach should be to challenge yourself on traditional weight lifting (squat, press, pull, etc.) to build strength while going light to moderate on the Olympic lifts, striving for perfection (hitting each position, receiving the bar properly, etc.), improving timing and engraining the proper technique. When you go too heavy with incorrect technique, you are only promoting that substandard movement pattern. No one likes an ugly snatch, am I right?!
So, make it pretty!