|Highest governing body||International Weightlifting Federation|
|First developed||Ancient Greece, Egypt, China, India|
|Equipment||Barbells, weight plates, collars, chalk, tape, shoes, belt|
|Country or region||Worldwide|
|Olympic||Men: 1896, 1904, 1920–present; Women: 2000–present|
|World Games||Women: 1997|
Olympic weightlifting, or Olympic-style weightlifting (officially named Weightlifting), is a sport in which athletes compete in lifting a barbell loaded with weight plates from the ground to overhead, with each athlete vying to successfully lift the heaviest weights. Athletes compete in two specific ways of lifting the barbell overhead: these are the snatch and the clean and jerk. The snatch is a wide-grip lift, in which the weighted barbell is lifted overhead in one motion. The clean and jerk is a combination lift, in which the weight is first taken from the ground to the front of the shoulders (the clean), and then from the shoulders to overhead (the jerk). The clean and press, wherein a clean was followed by an overhead press, was formerly also a competition lift, but was discontinued due to difficulties in judging proper form.
Each weightlifter gets three attempts at both the snatch and the clean and jerk, with the snatch attempts being done first. An athlete's score is the combined total of the highest successfully-lifted weight in kilograms for each lift. Athletes compete in various weight classes, which are different for each sex and have changed over time. Lifters who fail to successfully complete at least one snatch and at least one clean and jerk fail to total, and receive an "incomplete" entry for the competition.
Weightlifting is an olympic sport, and has been contested in every Summer Olympic Games since 1920. Whilst the sport is officially named "weightlifting", the terms "olympic weightlifting" and "olympic-style weightlifting" are often used to distinguish it from the other sports and events that involve the lifting of weights, such as powerlifting, weight training, and strongman events. Similarly, the snatch and clean-and-jerk are known as the "olympic lifts".
While other strength sports test limit strength, olympic-style weightlifting also tests aspects of human ballistic limits (explosive strength): the olympic lifts are executed faster, and with more mobility and a greater range of motion during their execution, than other barbell lifts. The olympic lifts, and their component lifts (e.g., cleans, squats) and their variations (e.g., power snatch, power clean) are used by elite athletes in other sports to train for both explosive and functional strength.
The clean and jerk is a two-component lift, wherein an athlete first cleans the barbell by lifting it and receiving it in a front squat position (also known as a rack position), then raising the bar after hits upper torso (hips or genitals) and jumps it up overhead, known as the jerk. There are different styles of jerk, for example the split jerk, in which one foot moves forward and the other backward. Which foot is in what position is irrelevant.
Athletes compete in a division determined by their body mass. In summer 2018, the IWF approved the current weight categories, specifying which 7 of the 10 total would be contested at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
IWF Men's weight classes:
- 55 kg (121 lb)
- 61 kg (134 lb)
- 67 kg (148 lb)
- 73 kg (161 lb)
- 81 kg (179 lb)
- 89 kg (196 lb)
- 96 kg (212 lb)
- 102 kg (225 lb)
- 109 kg (240 lb)
- 109 kg and over (240 lb+)
Only five weight classes were chosen for Paris 2024:
- 61 kg, 73 kg, 89 kg, 102 kg and over 102 kg.
IWF Women's weight classes:
- 45 kg (99 lb)
- 49 kg (108 lb)
- 55 kg (121 lb)
- 59 kg (130 lb)
- 64 kg (141 lb)
- 71 kg (157 lb)
- 76 kg (168 lb)
- 81 kg (179 lb)
- 87 kg (192 lb)
- 87 kg and over (192 lb+)
Weight classes chosen for Paris 2024:
- 49 kg, 59 kg, 71 kg, 81 kg and over 81 kg.
In each weight division, lifters compete in both the snatch and clean and jerk. Prizes are usually given for the heaviest weights lifted in each and in the overall—the maximum lifts of both added. The order of the competition is up to the lifters—the competitor who chooses to attempt the lowest weight goes first. If they are unsuccessful at that weight, they have the option of reattempting at that weight or trying a heavier weight after any other competitors have made attempts at the previous weight or any other intermediate weights. The barbell is loaded incrementally and progresses to a heavier weight throughout the course of competition. Weights are set in 1-kilogram increments. If two athletes lift the same weight, they are both credited with it but in terms of placing the one who lifted the weight first gets the highest placing.
During competition, the snatch event takes place first, followed by a short intermission, and then the clean and jerk event. There are two side judges and one head referee who together provide a "successful" or "failed" result for each attempt based on their observation of the lift within the governing body's rules and regulations. Two successes are required for any attempt to pass. Usually, the judges' and referee's results are registered via a lighting system with a white light indicating a "successful" lift and a red light indicating a "failed" lift. This is done for the benefit of all in attendance be they athlete, coach, administrator or audience. In addition, one or two technical officials may be present to advise during a ruling.
Local competition rules
At local competitions, a "Best Lifter" title is commonly awarded. It is awarded to both the best men's and women's lifters. The award is based on a formula which employs the "Sinclair coefficient", a coefficient derived and approved by the sport's world governing body and which allows for differences in both gender and bodyweight. When the formula is applied to each lifter's overall total and then grouped along with the other competitors' and evaluated, it provides a numeric result which determines the competition's best overall men's and women's lifters. And while, usually, the winner of the heaviest weight class will have lifted the most overall weight during the course of a competition, a lifter in a lighter weight class may still have lifted more weight both relative to their own bodyweight, and to the Sinclair coefficient formula, thereby garnering the "Best Lifter" award.
The competition to establish who can lift the heaviest weight has been recorded throughout civilization, with the earliest known recordings including those found in Egypt, China, India and Ancient Greece. Today, the modern sport of weightlifting traces its origins to the European competitions of the 19th century.
The first male world champion was crowned in 1891; the weightlifters were not categorized by weight at this time, and a women's championship did not exist until 1987.
The first Olympic Games of 1896 included weightlifting in the Field event of the predecessor to today's track and field or athletics event. During the 1900 Olympic Games, there was no weightlifting event. Weightlifting resumed as an event, again in athletics, in 1904 but was omitted from the Games of 1908 and 1912. These were the last Games until after the First World War. In these early Games, a distinction was drawn between lifting with 'one hand' only and lifting with 'two hands'. The winner of the 'one hand' competition in 1896 was Launceston Elliot of Scotland, while the winner of the 'two hands' event was Viggo Jensen of Denmark.
In 1920, weightlifting returned to the Olympics and, for the first time, as an event in its own right. At these Games, which took place in Antwerp, Belgium, fourteen nations competed. The competition lifts were the 'one hand' snatch, the 'one hand' clean and jerk and the 'two hands' clean and jerk. At the next Olympic Games, in Paris, France, in 1924, the 'two hands' press and the 'two hands' snatch were added to the program, making a total of five lifts.
In the Olympic Games after 1920, instead of requiring all competitors to compete against each other regardless of size, weight classes were introduced and, by the 1932 Olympic Games, weightlifting was divided into five weight divisions.
In 1928, the sport dropped the 'one hand' exercises altogether leaving, only the three remaining exercises: the clean and press, the snatch and the clean and jerk.
After the 1972 Olympics, the clean and press was removed from the program due to difficulties in judging the event. Athletes had begun utilising their hips and leaning backwards substantially rather than "strictly" pressing the weight overhead with an upright torso. Once the weight had been cleaned to the shoulders, the press was commonly achieved with a "double layback," starting with a rapid hip thrust to generate upward momentum at the shoulders, followed by a second, more extreme form of the same movement to lower the shoulders again as the bar travelled upwards, before finally the lifter recovered to an upright position with the bar overhead. Some athletes were able to initiate the press with a hip thrust so rapid that judges found it difficult to determine whether or not they had utilised any knee bend to generate additional force, something strictly prohibited in the rules. "Excessive layback" was also prohibited, but it was considered too difficult to determine what degree of layback constituted a rule violation. As a result, the clean and press was discontinued, and what remained were the two elements of the modern Olympic weightlifting program—the snatch and the clean and jerk. The snatch consists of lifting the barbell from the floor to an overhead position in one fluid motion. It is a very precise lift that can be nullified by a lack of balance of the athlete. The clean and jerk consists of moving the barbell from the floor to overhead in 2 movements: from the floor to the shoulders, and from the shoulders to overhead.
As early as 1986, there were official world championships awarded to women weightlifters such as Karyn Marshall and Judy Glenney. However, it was not until the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia that an official Olympic competition for women was introduced.
In 2011, the International Weightlifting Federation ruled that athletes could wear a full-body "unitard" under the customary weightlifting uniform. Kulsoom Abdullah became the first woman to do so at the U.S. National Championships that year, and athletes are allowed to do so at the Olympics. IWF rules previously stated that an athlete's knees and elbows must be visible so officials can determine if a lift is correctly executed.
Olympic weightlifting uses a steel bar (also known as a barbell) with larger-diameter rotating sleeves on either end, holding rubber-coated weight plates of different weights. This sleeve rotation is important for the Olympic lifts, particularly the snatch and clean movements, because it drastically reduces the rotational inertia of the bar. Without sleeve rotation, the Olympic lifter faces more challenging lifts and a greater risk of injury.
A men's Olympic barbell weighs 20 kg (44 lbs) with a shaft diameter of 28 mm and a length of 2200 mm, whereas a women's Olympic barbell weighs 15 kg (33 lbs) and has a shaft diameter of 25 mm with a length of 2010 mm. The distance between the sleeves, however, is the same for the men's and the women's bars at 1310 mm. The grip texture of the bar is called the knurling, and is distributed differently between the men's and women's bars: the men's has knurling in the centre but the women's does not. The Olympic barbells used in competition are certified by the IWF.
The weight plates, typically referred to as "bumper plates" because of their rubber coated design, weigh between 10 kg and 25 kg in 5 kg increments. The bumper plates are coated with rubber to allow the weights to be dropped from various heights—either after a successful lift or during an unsuccessful one. Olympic bumper plates conform to international standards for colouring. That is, 10 kg is green, 15 kg is yellow, 20 kg is blue, and 25 kg is red.
Competition iron plates
In addition to the rubber bumpers, smaller competition iron plates can be used to add weight in small increments to the bar. The colour designations for these iron plates are as follows: 1 kg is green, 1.5 kg is yellow, 2 kg is blue, 2.5 kg is red, 5 kg and 0.5 kg are white. It is useful to note the colour assignment of these iron plates is consistent with the heavier bumper plates (i.e. 1 kg and 10 kg are green, 1.5 kg and 15 kg are yellow, etc.).
Weight plates are secured to the bar using collars on each sleeve that weigh exactly 2.5 kg each.
Lifters typically wear a one-piece, close-fitting leotard often called a singlet. The wearing of a T-shirt underneath the singlet is optional.
A weightlifting belt of 120 mm maximum width may also be worn to increase intra-abdominal pressure.
Chalk is regularly used by Olympic lifters, generally prior to each attempt at a lift. Lifters rub their hands with the chalk to promote dryness and prevent the bar moving in their hands.
Olympic lifters frequently use tape to cover the areas of their bodies exposed to friction while completing Olympic lifts. Tape is most commonly found on the Olympic lifter's thumb. A taped thumb not only lessens the risk of calluses, it reduces the pain associated with the hook grip.
Olympic lifters also tape their wrists, preventing exaggerated and uncomfortable joint movement during lifts. For particularly heavy overhead lifts, a taped wrist enables the lifter to regulate wrist extension and delimit the translation of the radius and ulna distal heads. However, while taped wrists can prevent wrist and forearm injuries in the short-term, excessive use can lead to weakened connective tissue in the area, increasing the risk of pain and injury.
The type of shoes worn by Olympic weightlifters is perhaps their most distinctive piece of equipment. Weightlifting shoes are typically designed with a raised heel of 0.5" to 1.5" and one or two metatarsal straps that tighten across the instep of the shoe. The raised heel helps the lifter maintain an upright torso while catching the bar and also allows for a deeper squat under the bar. The soles of the shoes are also quite rigid, helping to resist compression while under heavy loads. The shoes are designed for maximum stability while remaining flexible in the toe box. This allows the lifter to come up on the toes and to catch the weight on the ball of the back foot during the "jerk" movement of the lift.
- World Weightlifting Championships
- Weightlifting at the Summer Olympics
- List of world records in Olympic weightlifting
- List of Olympic records in weightlifting
- List of Olympic medalists in weightlifting
- Power training
- Paralympic powerlifting
- "New Bodyweight Categories Approved by the IWF Executive Board". International Weightlifting Federation. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
- "The Sinclair Coefficients for the Olympiad". International Weightlifting Federation. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
- Encyclopedia Britannica Almanac 2010. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 2010. p. 736. ISBN 9781615353293.
- "The History of Weightlifting". teamUSA.org. 2009-10-02. Archived from the original on 2010-04-12. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
- Michael Janofsky (November 16, 1987). "Olympic Notebook: 7 Unlikely Nations Join Winter Games". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
- Julie Carft (July 29, 1989). "Image is Heavy Burden - Weightlifter Karyn Marshall Feels Pressure to Project 'Femininity, Intelligence'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
- Miele, Vincent J.; Bailes, Julian E. (2001). Bailes, Julian E.; Day, Arthur L. (eds.). Neurological Sports Medicine: A Guide for Physicians and Athletic Trainers. Rolling Meadows, Illinois: American Association of Neurological Surgeons. p. 239. ISBN 1-879284-75-8.
- "Kulsoom Abdullah makes history". ESPN. 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2012-09-19.
- Everett, Greg (2009). Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches. Catalyst Athletics. pp. 20, 21, 22, 26, 27. ISBN 978-0980011111.
- Johnson, Jolie. "Official Specifications for Olympic Weightlifting Bar". Retrieved 22 October 2014.
- Morrison, Norm. "Olympic Lifting for Beginners". Retrieved 22 October 2014.