21 Jul Why I Fell In Love With Olympic Weightlifting (And You Can Too)

Question for you.

Do you ever stop and really think about how your training evolving?

Are you cruising along or are you making real progress?

I mean, think about it.

How are YOU getting better?

Hopefully, you’re not agonizing over the answer to this question, but it’s a great question to ask.

I want to start sharing more specific training methods I use to advance my strength and performance – that goes beyond kettlebells.  

I’ll explain what I mean in a minute.

By the way, the questions above are questions I’m constantly asking myself (even more in recent years) and I hope you are too because these questions are the key to long term training success.

You’re reading this article, so I know you take your training seriously, just like I do.

You care about making progress and getting better.

Keep in mind, the questions above don’t discriminate based on age because you can get better at any age, so never buy the excuse of “I’m too old to ____.”

I’m just sayin’…

Anyway, it was a few years ago I decided I was going to really focus my training efforts on 2 amazing tools:

  • Barbells
  • Kettlebells

I believe there are many similarities in terms of movement and training principles with these 2 tools, yet there are obviously major differences.

I’m not saying this is all I do, but these tools are where I spend the majority of my time.

In other words, I don’t just dabble in them, I immerse myself in them.

And, in my opinion, they are very complementary to each other.

For me, they offer everything I’m looking to achieve and will help me deepen my movement, strength, and performance skills for years to come.

I’m always reading, learning, attending workshops, applying techniques, teaching, and relentlessly pursuing a path to mastery and training excellence.

Make sure you understand, I said “pursuing.

Specifically, my entire approach to movement, strength, and performance are built around these areas:

  • Hardstyle kettlebell training
  • Powerlifting
  • Olympic weightlifting (or Olympic Lifting – OL)
  • And, basic bodyweight training, movement, and mobility exercises, of course

Can these areas co-exist?

Absolutely they can, but I’ll save the specific explanation, approach, and rationale for later (actually, this will be covered in detail in the upcoming book, The Edge of Strength).

I hate to say that I have any regrets.

But, if there is one thing I wish I had started earlier, Olympic weightlifting would be that thing.

Olympic weightlifting will make you athletic, strong, powerful, and explosive.

Let me share something really personal with you right now too.

OL has NOT come easy for me.

Frankly, the Olympic lifts have been extremely challenging, but I’ve been committed to learning them because I think there is so much benefit.

There’s this debate of “hard work” versus “talent.”

For me, the Olympic lifts demand hard work because the talent doesn’t come easy.

I’ve got the guts to admit that I simply had to work hard to conquer my goals with OL.

And, the hard work always pays off.

I know others who can pick up on the technical aspects of OL very fast, that’s not me.

Maybe you too.

If you want to learn something, commit to it and never give up even if things are challenging.

Be in for the long haul, no matter what training tool, method, or approach you take.

While OL is hard, technical, and physically demanding, it’s worth it.

There really isn’t any other performance training practice like OL.

Kettlebells certainly address some of the “gaps,” such as the conditioning component.

There are some similar characteristics between OL and kettlebells, but there’s a huge difference between the barbell snatch and the kettlebell snatch.

There’s a huge difference between the barbell clean and jerk and the kettlebell clean and jerk.

One thing is certain, both tools and training methods are awesome and extremely effective for many specific training goals.

But, OL and kettlebells are different tools.

Here’s the big reasons I fell in love with OL (and you can too).

AMAZING CHALLENGE

OL is an incredible challenge, both physically and mentally. It’s specialized strength training and performance that is the ultimate in strength, skill, and athleticism. Does that mean it should be done only by those who are interested in competing? No. There are many benefits with OL, even if you have no plans to compete, in my opinion. But, it also doesn’t mean that OL is for everyone, it’s not. The growth of OL has been amazing with the rise of CrossFit. But, proper technique is a requirement and the technical, physical, and mental challenges are absolutely incredible.

DEEPENS SKILL DEVELOPMENT

Because OL demands proper technique, as just mentioned, you will always be working to develop your skills. Always. The skill development can last years, even decades. I’ve said the same thing about kettlebells – that you can continue to develop your skills for years and OL is the same way, only amplified. OL is the most technically demanding of all strength skills and the reward is developing yourself in an ongoing process and evolution that lasts for many years. It’s about the journey of developing YOU.

CONTRIBUTES TO A HIGH LEVEL OF MOBILITY AND STABILITY

Let’s take the barbell snatch. You take the barbell from the floor and finish with a heavy load overhead in a full rock bottom squat. This demands incredible mobility and stability to do this, obviously. You need to have good hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, and thoracic spine mobility to perform this. You also need to have incredible spinal, shoulder girdle, and lower body stability. Both the snatch and clean and jerk require exceptional mobility and stability to perform – and they can contribute to maintaining or improving these high levels of mobility and stability, as well.

FORGES ATHLETICISM

What exactly is athleticism? In simple terms, it’s having qualities of an athlete: strength, power, speed, explosiveness mobility, technical skill, and much more. These are some of the qualities of the athlete. Does OL make you more athletic? Absolutely. The true qualities of an athlete will really depend on the specific sport, but it’s agreed that many qualities of the exceptional athlete will be enhanced with OL.

THE ULTIMATE PERSONAL VICTORY

One of the absolute best benefits with OL is achieving personal victories. What do I mean by that? As I mentioned, for me, it’s been a lot of hard work. OL did not come easy, I had to work for it. But, it’s paying off now and I refused to quit after some early struggles. There is nothing more satisfying than the exhilaration of conquering something that you have struggled with. And, the feeling of achieving victory after snatching a heavy loaded barbell overhead or cleaning and jerking is very powerful. The lifts are quick and explosive and the self satisfaction with the Oly’s is unparalleled. As far as making improvements and conquering your technical skills each training session, OL is exceptionally rewarding.

ENHANCES STRENGTH AND POWER

The obvious benefit is the development of strength and power. Your strength will improve as your technical skills progress. The quality of strength (explosive strength vs. max strength) is different from powerlifting, for example. Powerlifting is actually not a measure of power, but a measure of maximum strength. OL produces more power because it’s a faster, explosive movement whereas powerlifting is done with more maximal loads at slower speeds. Without getting into a muddied debate on this, the simple point is that OL is the ultimate display of explosive strength and power. And, both of these qualities are extremely important for everyone, especially as we age – that’s a scientific fact.

MAXIMIZES PHYSICAL POTENTIAL

Another outstanding benefit about OL is that it produces a level of jaw-dropping human performance. Seriously, OL is something that allows you to move closer to your physical potential with so many  benefits related to physical excellence.

Since I began a few years ago, I’ve quietly been immersed in the OL skills taking many workshops from top coaches in the industry, among them was the awesome Greg Everett of CatalystAthletics.com.

I’ve devoted a massive amount of time and effort in my own training with “deliberate practice” to improve my skills. I’m still evolving, but progress is progress, and I believe that OL is one way to maximize human potential at any age.

The truth is it takes many years to become really good. I’m willing to make the investment and do what it takes because it’s a way to physically be the best version of myself. It may be a way for you to do the same.

These are just some the major benefits that stand out to me.

There’s no doubt there are benefits beyond what I mention here, things like hypertrophy, mental toughness, and it’s just plain fun and enjoyable to do.

I would never encourage anyone to do anything that’s not a match for their goals, so it may or may not be appropriate for you.

Again, it’s not for everyone.

For me, OL is a total match.

Like I said, I fell in love with weightlifting and you can too.

Of course, there are definitely movement and mobility pre-requisites I’d strongly recommend before engaging in weightlifting.

I’ll cover them soon.

What’s the point of all this?

Going back to the beginning of this article, ask yourself how is your training evolving?

It’s a simple question.

Have the courage to be honest with yourself and answer it right now.

Only you can answer that, my friend.

Continue to discover your greatness and always grow and evolve, no matter what you do.

If you like this, please share it.

Scott Iardella, MPT, CSCS writes about training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this article, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff! Subscribe below or go to RdellaTraining.com/join to get your FREE Report, Kettlebell Impact with 12 of my best Kettlebell Workouts.
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