What is Weightlifting?


Olympic Weightlifting, otherwise referred to as weightlifting, is a competitive sport that tests the strength and technique of athletes through lifting weights. Weightlifters are broken into bodyweight categories and compete against other athletes within their category. Weightlifting competitions consist of 2 events: the snatch, and the clean and jerk. Many people practice weightlifting on their own time outside of the competitive world as a way of staying healthy and in good shape.


Weightlifting History

Forms of weightlifting competitions date back to Ancient Greece. However, modern weightlifting origins come from European competitions in the 19th century. The very first male world champion was crowned in 1891, and the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 had weightlifting as one of the competitions. There used to be 5 different lifts, including one-hand and two-hand lifts. Now, it has been narrowed down to 2 two-hand lifts.

Playing Surface

Weightlifting Playing Surface

The playing surface includes a 4 meter by 4 meter platform and its surrounding area, known as the stage. The platform can be made of wood, plastic, or any solid material with a non-slippery covering on it. The stage is a 10 meter by 10 meter area surrounding the platform. There is also generally a warm-up area for contestants close to the field of play, in which they can prepare for their lifts.


Weightlifting Equipment

Weightlifting requires a lot of equipment, not just the barbell and weights needed to perform the lifts. Much of the equipment used by weightlifters helps keep them and others safe, and helps them get the best results possible. Important equipment includes:

  • Barbell
  • Bumper Plates
  • Iron Plates
  • Collars
  • Singlet
  • Belt
  • Chalk
  • Tape
  • Weightlifting Shoes


Weightlifting Gameplay

There are 2 competitions in weightlifting: the snatch, and the clean and jerk. Lifters can choose to try any weight for their attempt, and they go in ascending order of weight chosen. Each participant is allowed a maximum of 3 attempts on each lift.

For the snatch, lifters have to pull the horizontal barbell placed in front of their legs, in a wide grip with their palms facing down, from the platform to over their heads with their arms fully extended.

For the clean and jerk, lifters first pull the bar with a tight grip from the platform up to their shoulders. This part is known as the clean. Then, they need to extend their arms overhead and come to a full stand, which is known as the jerk. The athlete who can lift the most combined weight during the snatch and the clean and jerk is crowned the winner.

Rules and Regulations

Rules and Regulations

There are multiple rules and regulations in Olympic weightlifting, mainly focused on incorrect movements that will result in a failed attempt:

General Rules for All Lifts:

  • The platform cannot be touched with any body part other than feet.
  • The use of any lubricant or substance besides chalk is not permitted.
  • Participants must face the Center Referee at the beginning of the lift.
  • The athlete's arms need to be fully extended at the end of the lift.
  • A participant's feet and the barbell must finish in line and parallel to the plane of the trunk
  • Participants should not replace the barbell on the platform before the referee signals.
  • Participants should not release the barbell from shoulder height.

Incorrect Movements for the Snatch:

  • Participants may not pause during the lifting of the barbell.
  • Participants may not touch their head with the bar.

Incorrect Movements for the Clean:

  • The barbell must not touch the chest during the clean until it has reached the final position with the elbows turned.
  • Participants may not touch their thighs or knees with their elbows or upper arms.

Incorrect Movements for the Jerk:

  • Any incomplete effort of jerking, such as lowering the body or bending the knees.
  • Any deliberate oscillation of the barbell to gain an advantage.

Referees and Officials

There are 2 side judges and 1 head referee who watch each lift attempt and judge whether it was a successful or failed attempt within the rules and regulations of the competition. 2 successes are required for an attempt to pass. The referee's results are usually registered with a lighting system, with a white or blue light indicating a success and a red light indicating a failed attempt. The lighting system makes it easier for lifters to know when they may release the barbell.

Lingo and Terminology

Weightlifting Lingo and Terminology

There is a lot of technical lingo in weightlifting which athletes will need to know in order to understand what their coaches are telling them and what their peers are discussing. Many gym goers will have heard or know some of the words and phrases below:

  • Starting Position: The initial position or posture from which the lifter begins the snatch or clean.
  • First Pull: The initial movement of the bar from the floor to the thighs.
  • Hang: A starting position for a lift with the bar above the floor, for example starting at the knees.
  • Hook Grip: Lifter wraps each thumb around the bar, then grips the thumb with 1st and 2nd fingers.
  • Power Position: The position during the pull of a snatch or clean with the knees forward under the bar.
  • Second Pull: The final upward effort of the lift from the thighs to full extension.


Weightlifting Coaching

Coaching is extremely important for weightlifters who want to get better and compete at the highest level. Technique is imperative in weightlifting, and good coaches are able to see the issues with your technique and help fix them. They also implement training regimens to increase your strength and maximize your potential, and help you have the right mindset when approaching your workouts and competitions.

Weightlifting Coaches

There have been many great weightlifting coaches who have coached multiple Olympic teams and world champions. There are also plenty of coaches all around the world at the lower level who may coach at local gyms to help people get their feet off the ground when it comes to weightlifting. Some of the most successful coaches include Gayle Hatch of America, David Rigert of Russia, and Chen Wenbin of China, among others. Here are a few current coaches of some of the best countries in weightlifting today:

  • Pavel Kuznetsov: Russia
  • Zhang Guozheng: China
  • Michael Cohen: USA
  • Giorgi Asanidze: Georgia

Skills and Techniques

weightlifting skills and techniques

Proper technique is extremely important in weightlifting. With the correct technique, participants are able to get the most out of their body and lift more weight. On the other hand, improper technique can lead to a failed attempt, and in some cases injuries. Having a coach ensure you are using proper technique can go a long way towards protecting your body and getting the best results possible.


Weightlifting Strategy

There is a lot of strategy that goes into working out and being the best weightlifter you can be. It starts with having a good diet and workout regimen. Weightlifters should keep track of their workouts, set goals, and maintain progress. It is important for them to find a balance between working hard and not overdoing it; doing too many lifts can result in poor form and put strain on your body. Coaches/personal trainers are people who can help develop a workout routine, diet, and overall strategy to improve your weightlifting results.


Drills may vary depending on the athlete and their respective strengths and weaknesses, but they mostly involve training the muscles used for the 2 events. There are many exercises and drills that may be used, but the squat, deadlift, bench press and shoulder press, often known as the "big four," are key components in a weightlifter's training.

Olympic Weightlifting

Olympic Weightlifting has the same format as regular weightlifting. Men's weightlifting made an appearance in the first modern Olympics in 1896. It reappeared in 1904, then again in 1920, and has been in every Olympics since then. Women's weightlifting became a part of the Olympics in 2000 and has stayed ever since. There are 7 bodyweight categories in Olympic Weightlifting. The defending men's heavyweight gold medalist is Rim Jong-sim of North Korea, who won at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Russia and China have been the 2 most successful countries at the Olympics in weightlifting.

Weightlifting Players

It can be difficult to compare weightlifters because of the weight class differences. An athlete who weighs 250 pounds is going to have an easier time lifting more weight than someone who weighs 180 pounds, which is why they compete in different weight classes. Many people consider Pyrros Dimas, from Greece, and Naim Süleymanoğlu, from Bulgaria, to be 2 of the best weightlifters ever. Below are some of the best weightlifters of all time across different weight classes:

Lasha TalakhadzeGeorgiaSuper-Heavyweight
Ilya IlyinKazakhstanHeavyweight
Pyrros DimasGreeceMiddle-Heavyweight
Yurik VardanyanArmeniaMiddleweight
Liao HuiChinaLightweight
Naim SüleymanoğluBulgaria/TurkeyFeatherweight
Deng WeiChinaMiddleweight

Weightlifting Leagues

The International Weightlifting Federation, or the IWF, is the governing body for the international sport of Olympic weightlifting. There are multiple other federations that are members of the IWF and help oversee tournaments/events within their own geographical areas. These include:

  • European Weightlifting Federation (EWF)
  • USA Weightlifting (USAW)
  • Weightlifting Federation of Africa (WFA)
  • Asian Weightlifting Federation (AWF)
  • Pan American Weightlifting Federation (PAWF)
  • Oceania Weightlifting Federation (OWF)

Weightlifting Youth Organizations

The IWF and each respective federation under it has their respective age groups. Many young athletes will incorporate weightlifting into their workouts as part of their training for other sports as well. Below are the IWF's 4 recognized age groups, which compete in the World Championships:

  1. Youth: 13-17 years old
  2. Junior: 15-20 years old
  3. Senior: 15+ years old
  4. Masters: 35+ years old

Weightlifting Teams

For the most part, teams that compete in the major weightlifting events around the world are based on country. For example, you may have Team USA, Team China, Team Russia, and many others competing against the best weightlifters from each country. There are some smaller, local weightlifting coaches/groups that call themselves "teams" because they train together and may compete at a local level, but when it comes to officially competing under the IWF or in any continental tournament, athletes represent their country.

Weightlifting Tournaments

There are multiple tournaments each year, mainly divided into geographical regions such as continents or countries. Below are some of the biggest annual tournaments in weightlifting.

World Weightlifting ChampionshipsIWF
European Weightlifting ChampionshipsEWF
African Weightlifting ChampionshipsWFA
Pan American Weightlifting ChampionshipsPAWF
USA Weightlifting National ChampionshipsUSAW
Asian Weightlifting ChampionshipsAWF
Oceania Weightlifting ChampionshipsOWF

Weightlifting Books

Weightlifting Books

Most weightlifting books are focused on the technical and training aspect, such as how to have the right form, how to train, and how to have the right mentality. There aren't as many that are story-focused or fiction books. Some books that have been raved about as the best ones for aspiring weightlifters are below:

  • Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches by Greg Everett
  • Weightlifting for Women by Oreste Patrillo
  • Weightlifting: How to Lift and Train Like a World Champion by Jim Napier

Weightlifting Websites

Weightlifting Websites

Each of the main weightlifting federations have websites, and there are multiple other websites out there to learn about weightlifting, follow weightlifting events/teams, and keep track of weightlifting related news.


What is Weightlifting?

Weightlifting is a competitive sport that tests strength and technique. Athletes attempt to lift more weight than their opponents, and they compete in multiple events such as the World Weightlifting Championships and the Olympics. It is also practiced recreationally as a way of staying fit.

Recreational weightlifting is popular all over the world. Competitive Weightlifting t is especially popular in Russia and China, which are known as the 2 most successful countries in weightlifting, but there are people competing from nearly every country.

Is Weightlifting an olympic sport?

Yes, men's weightlifting was present in the first Olympics in 1896, again in 1904, and has been in every Olympics since 1920. Women's weightlifting was introduced to the Olympics in 2000 and has been in every Olympics since.