Olympic Weightlifting?

460xI was sitting at home recently having a very interesting conversation with my good friend and current colleague on Olympic weightlifting. We began discussing how several athletes at our local box have been getting frustrated when missing or struggling with the weightlifting movements. This led to talking about the reasons why this happens and how to help you understand it’s a normal and essential part of your training.

In the CrossFit community, not just locally but worldwide, except maybe Russia, we continue to hear, as coaches and athletes, the never ending discussion of why the olympic weightlifting movements are so difficult…and why they are necessary to accomplish our goal of a general physical preparedness program.

First lets explain why we innately love these movements, yet they continue to be so controversial in gyms everywhere.

It has a lot to do with human nature. We are typically bored with monotony and routine.
As people we always want something else, something new and innately NEED a challenge in order to stay entertained and involved. As soon as we finish or reach an end to any endeavor or goal, we move on to the next big thing, leaving whatever we were doing behind us.

So unless you’re currently a pro athlete or an active competitor in any specific program, what’s the next big thing in fitness? Even as a pro athlete what happens after you retire? How do you feed that need for a challenging, active lifestyle?

Well there is no absolute, right answer. It’s very relative to the individual’s perception, goals and athleticism. However, regardless of your level or current state of fitness, as human beings we all share that same need for a challenge and the same hunger to accomplish something great.

In modern society that has become very difficult given our every day work routine and responsibilities. Work and our daily struggles limit our conquest for achieving or accomplishing greatness, even in the small things in life. Many people then begin to seek activities such as outdoor sports or joining a a gym, but to be quite honest, most other gyms and exercise programs don’t really satisfy all of our needs and desires for the most complete program. They consistently fail to give us that feeling of accomplishing something that will lead us to greatness.

Crossfit however, has now proven to be the most inclusive, challenging program. It continues to humble people everywhere regardless of their level of fitness, athleticism, or sports background, feeding that need for greatness, even if it’s on a smaller scale.

I don’t mind being bashed here by hundreds of comments or opinions on other great training programs. Are there other good exercise programs out there? Absolutely. You’ll see results and improvement in your fitness as well as health goals. One thing you won’t find, however, is the endless pursuit for excellence of perfecting human movement, mainly because of the incredible, combination of high level of skills required to perform the Olympic lifts.

The technical complexity of the Oly lifts exactly contain the seeds of their worth. They simultaneously demand and develop strength, power, speed, flexibility, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. These skills, to say the least, are 8 of the 10 physical skills that also define a broad fitness program.

In other words, you won’t be able to perform these lifts, much less enjoy Crossfit to its fullest extent, unless you already have, or are willing to train and develop these 8 skills. Herein lies the reason for frustration and controversy to as why many people fail and critique these movements. They are extraordinarily hard, and their level of difficulty makes us work harder than what most people are willing to work. However, as long as you all remember one thing that most of you already know, you will begin to approach the lifts with a better attitude; is the fact that hard work yields great results.

So many of us might be asking why these skills are so difficult to develop. The reason is simple, they require much more time and work than just having cardiovascular endurance or stamina. Strength? Years of lifting, knowledge and access to good trainers and programming. Flexibility? Most people have done so much running or haven’t ever stretched, prior to Crossfit, that they don’t even have healthy hamstrings. Chances are that if you are over 15 years of age it’ll take many years of intensive stretching and mobility work to undo all the damage. On the other hand, unlike these more demanding skills, cardiovascular endurance and stamina can be potentially developed to their maximum capacity in around 8-10 weeks of specialized endurance training.

Other skills such as coordination, agility, balance and accuracy are neurological, which basically means they have to be practiced over and over for countless hours. To develop these one must possess a higher level of body awareness and understanding of body mechanics, until your brain slowly begins to assimilate what the body needs to do to perform or move well. We finally progress to the two most outstanding skills, power and speed, which are the body’s ultimate expression of a combination of raw, organic skills along with the complex neurological skills.

This takes us to the simple conclusion that the sport of weightlifting is among the top sports, if not the number one, that allows us human beings, to express in it’s finest form, the capacity to develop and excel at 8 of the 10 skills required to be a great, well rounded athlete.

So as I like to tell my fellow athletes and friends that I’ve worked and trained with through countless sessions…”snatch snatch snatch …and then snatch some more!”. Work real hard to become decent at snatching and the clean and jerk, which will in turn trickle down to improving all other movements. Most importantly, you will begin to feel the sense of accomplishment in small increments in your every day life, ultimately satisfying that innate human need to do something great.