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Olympic Weightlifting: Basic rules you need to know

The barbell clean-and-jerk and barbell snatch are two storied Olympic lifts Olympic Weightlifting: Beginners Guide

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Olympic Weightlifting: Basic rules you need to know

Olympic Weightlifting: Beginners Guide

Weightlifting as a type of Olympic Games has not changed for a quarter until some new rules regarding the weight categories were introduced. Today, both male and female athletes can take part in the competitions. The weight categories have changed significantly.

Male athletes compete in eight body weight categories that include 61, 67, 73, 81, 96, 109, and over 109 kg. The newly formed women's weight categories are as follows: 49, 55, 59, 64, 76, 87, and over 87 kg.

Weightlifting competition includes a snatch and a clean & jerk. Let’s have a look at each of these exercises one-by-one.


Snatch is an exercise in which the athlete pulls the bar straight overhead from the platform in one continuous movement. As they lift the bar, it may slide along the hips and knees. The athlete must take the required position, placing his or her feet parallel to the body, and wait for the approval of the referee.

Clean & Jerk

This exercise consists of two separate movements. During the CLEAN (striking on the chest), the athlete tears off the barbell, pulls it on the chest, simultaneously squatting, and then puts it down. The bar can slide over the hips and knees, but should not touch the chin until it reaches the final position. While holding the barbell on the collarbones or chest (above the nipples), the athlete puts his legs together, and then makes a JERK.

After taking a stable position, with the barbell comfortably placed, the athlete flexes his or her legs, and raises the bar to the full length of their arms extended vertically. Then, the feet are brought together, and the athlete waits for the signal from the referee.


Each athlete has three snatch attempts and three clean and jerk attempts. The heaviest barbell lifted in each exercise is added to the total score. For example, if an athlete lifts 85 kg in the snatch and 115 kg in the clean and jerk, the total would be 200 kg. At the Olympics, the athlete receives only one medal, and that is for the total of two exercises. At the World Championships, an athlete can receive 3 medals for each exercise and for the total. If the athlete has failed in all three attempts in the snatch, he or she may continue to compete in the clean and jerk, but will no longer be able to take any place in the total of two exercises.


Weightlifting competitions are judged by three referees. Their decisions become final according to the principle of the majority. The head referee takes a seat in front of the platform while there should also be one referee on each side. Each referee can turn on red and white lights. Red means an unsuccessful attempt (failure), and white means a success. If two referees give the same light, a beep sounds, meaning that the weightlifter has to stop or return the barbell to the platform.

Each attempt is also monitored by the jury, which can appeal against the referee's decision. The group consists of five members.

Other Rules

Separation of the bar from the platform below the knees is prohibited;

If the bar stops during its movement up to the shoulders or at the length of outstretched arms, lifting is not counted;

Any unfinished attempt in which the barbell reaches knee height is declared invalid;

It is forbidden to lubricate the thighs with fat, water, or other lubricants. Athletes must remove these lubricants while preparing for an attempt;

Athletes should also think about using chalk. It improves grip on the bar/dumbbell bar. This white powder, which is a magnesium salt, is intended for drying hands and, as a result, increasing the reliability of the grip;

Only feet can touch the platform;

Any lift to the chest when the bar is already placed on the chest and the elbows are not yet deployed is considered unsuccessful;

In the clean and jerk, any obvious attempt from the shoulders, including lowering the body or squatting, should be defended as unsuccessful if the lift is not yet complete;

Following the signal from the referee to lower the barbell, the athlete must not release the grip on the barbell until it drops below the waist.

An athlete is not allowed to continue in case he or she has failed one of the obligatory performances, should it be a snatch or a clean & jerk. To prevent such failures and increase chances of winning, the beginners should start their training sessions under the supervision of a professional coach. However, if there is no such an opportunity, you can still find a way out. You may, for instance, try a special training program. Make sure that the program of your choice is developed by field experts, just like the Olympic weightlifting program. Choose a quality, time-tested approach to exercising. Do not aim to chase weights - keep in mind that your emphasis should be on technique first.

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