Header photo by Kei Tam
Olympic-style weightlifting is a formalized Olympic sport where athletes are required to take a loaded barbell of maximal weight from the floor to overhead in one movement (the snatch) or the floor to shoulders (the clean) and then overhead (the jerk) in two movements. Athletes must execute these lifts under strict guidelines and demonstrate control to the judges before guiding the barbell back down to the platform. The best result of the two lifts is then added together to formulate a score called a total. Because athletes compete with each other within their respective weight categories, the athlete with the highest total in that weight class wins against their peers.
Men and Women have eight weight categories in which they compete, and they are:
Men: under 56 kg, 62 kg, 69 kg, 77 kg, 85 kg, 94 kg, 105 kg, 105+ kg
Women: under 48 kg, 53 kg, 58 kg, 63 kg, 69 kg, 75 kg, 90 kg, 90+ kg
What You Need to Get Started
Now that we have a deeper understanding of why we have this desire to connect with a barbell, how do we go about getting started? The great thing about Olympic weightlifting is that you really only need a few things to get yourself going. We’ve provided a list in order of importance although you’ll probably want to accumulate everything overtime to maximize your experience.
A Coach and a Club
The first option is to seek out a qualified coach and a club to lift with. Unlike most Western nations, in Hong Kong, there is no consortium or active governing body to help you learn Olympic Weightlifting, find a coach, or a club to train with. You have to do some searching around. Luckily, Hong Kong Weightlifting provides this exact service. There are a few gyms that offer limited Weightlifting services or have equipment for you to use, but Hong Kong Weightlifting is the only full-service entity teaching and training people in Olympic-style Weightlifting. I hope that this will change soon, I’m doing all that I can to educate coaches and help people learn more about Weightlifting. But, we need more help, we need more coaches, and we need more Weightlifting-friendly facilities.I highly discourage trying the “go it alone” approach to getting started unless you’re left no other avenue. Even with technology being as vibrant and accessible these days, nothing can beat the experienced eye of a seasoned coach and nothing can speed up a learning curve like the experience of the coach him/herself.
With that said, if neither is available, technology is in to rescue. Many coaches can now do remote coaching, and coordinating the time might prove to be challenging; but again, nothing beats the live feedback of a qualified professional.
And lastly, if none of the above is within your reach, then researching various methods of training by various coaches along with spending time asking questions in the plethora of forums available will suit the beginner enough to get the ball rolling. This will be more in the category of “trial and error” since much of your success will be dependent on your interpretation of the information you read, but it’s better than nothing and you might be surprised at just how far you can get.
Men’s bars are 2.2m long with a 28mm diameter grip and 20kg in weight. Women’s bars are 2.1m long with a 25mm diameter grip and 15kg in weight. Both these bars have grip marks spaced 910mm apart to allow for measuring the athlete’s grip width. The differences in bar sizing allow for variances in the anthropometrics of men and women along with variances in the amount of weight lifted. Olympic weightlifting bars are made to be able to flex and bend, along with having sleeves that rotate smoothly and are able to withstand multiple droppings of loaded barbells from overhead.
Bumper plates are plates that can be dropped safely from overhead without being damaged or damaging other equipment. They are classically found coated in rubber, however, pressed rubber plates can now be found used in many strength & conditioning facilities around the world. The classic Olympic plates are held to the following IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) standards:
A sturdy squat rack is an important piece of equipment for both leg strength (squats) and upper body strength (Pressing and Jerks). You will use the squat rack almost every training session. The squat rack is your friend. If you find one that holds up to 300kgs, youre good as I don’t think you’ll load more weight thatn that on the bar
Platforms are another piece of equipment that allows for a loaded barbell to be dropped from overhead helping preserve the lifespan of both the bumper plates and flooring. Varying in size, the centerpiece (or sometimes the entire platform or stage) of the platform is typically made of layered plywood with the sides coated in rubber matting. The shock absorbing properties of the wood also works to cushion the lifter from the jarring impacts of a dropped barbell.
Accessory equipment is an interesting topic that is rather subjective. What I’ve found through my experience is that once an athlete gears up, they rarely gear back down. And in the beginning, it is worthwhile to spend some time shoring up weak links such as limited mobility in key areas of the body — ankles, hips, thoracic spine, shoulders and wrists — and improving the strength and conditioning of these associated joints as well before wrapping yourself up like you’ve already spent the better part of your career as a competitive weightlifter.
Even with technology being as vibrant and accessible these days, nothing can beat the experienced eye of a seasoned coach and nothing can speed up a learning curve like the experience of the coach him/herself.
The only piece that I feel rather strongly about (and again this is subjective) is the use of shoes for the beginner. Even with requisite mobility, weightlifting shoes will provide a weightlifter with a steady platform to drive and deliver force into the barbell. Shoes will also alter body positions favorably to remain more upright throughout the lift. And because the positions are king in weightlifting. This “uprightness” of the body will allow greater access to more efficient technique allowing the athlete to start developing proper proprioceptive awareness right from the start.
Common pieces of equipment found in weightlifting are weightlifting specific shoes, velcro and leather belts, nylon straps, elastic knee wraps and sleeves, and wrists wraps and athletic tape.
So, if gearing up slow is the goal, how do you know when it’s an appropriate time to start using any of the pieces? Again, being completely subjective, the athlete will typically hit a point where the thought or feeling of needing to try a piece of equipment will arise out of some gut instinct and that’s the instinct they will tend to follow.
Olympic-style weightlifting is a sport that has many mental, emotional and physical ups and downs. You’ll hit a period of time where your technique is coming along, you’re setting new personal records, and you’re feeling invincible. Then, inevitably, the dark times will come and personal records will seem like an impenetrable ceiling while technique seems to flirt by the wayside. During these moments, it’s important to remember why you started in the first place. What is it about weightlifting that truly captures your attention and why it holds a candle in your heart. Once you can answer these questions with clarity and certainty, these are the answers that will help carry you through your life journey towards weightlifting mastery.
Did you know…
Hong Kong Weightlifting is the only Weightlifting club in Hong Kong that teaches and trains Olympic Weightlifting every day. We are one of the most affordable small group training classes for Weightlifting, Strength and Power, and Weightlifting Technique in all of Hong Kong. We specialize in small group training with a 1:4 coach to student ratio, we have classes every day, and we teach a total number of classes 44 classes a month. Review our memberships here.