Athletics News
Olympic Weightlifting with Rudy Thomas

Rudy Thomas

Rudy Thomas
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Aug. 12, 2008

By Rudy Thomas, Marquette Strength and Conditioning Assistant Coach

It's Olympic time again and there is one competition that is of unique significance to the strength and conditioning staff at Marquette and that is the weightlifting competition.

Weightlifting, also known as Olympic lifting, is a sport that has been contested since 1896 at the first modern Olympics in Athens Greece. Back then, they competed in a two-hand lift and a one-hand lift, but since the early 1900's weightlifting has evolved quite a bit.

The two lifts that are contested today are the "Snatch" and the "Clean and Jerk." First, I'll offer a brief description of both lifts. I'll then explain why these exercises are used in the development of Marquette's student-athletes.

The "Snatch" (the first lift done during competition) is reminiscent of the old, overhead one-hand lift from the early 20th century. The lifter starts with his/her hands wider than the shoulders in a squat position. Upon using the legs to push into the floor, the bar is separated from the floor and -- in one continuous and very fast motion -- lifted to an over-the-head position as the lifter squats underneath. The lifter must stand up with the bar overhead, while not allowing the arms to bend. Once control is established the judges give the "down" signal. The lifter then must lower the bar to below the waist before they can let go.

The "Clean and Jerk" is the heavier of the two lifts and is always contested after the Snatch. In this lift, the athlete starts with his/her hands closer in, nearer the center of the bar. Using the legs and pushing into the floor the lifter separates the bar and in a continuous and once again very fast motion "Cleans" the bar up to the shoulders while simultaneously "pulling under" the bar into a squat position.

The lifter must then stand up out of the squat position, steady the bar, and in a quick "Jerking" manner, dip and split the legs while dropping under the bar. When the bar is caught over head it must stay over head with the arm position remaining the same. That is called jerking the weight.

Why is this sport significant to the strength and conditioning staff? Well, we use variations of those "Olympic lifts" in our everyday strength training. The Olympic lifts, or variations thereof, are a very important part of the philosophy that is used in preparing the Marquette University student-athletes.

Everyone has probably heard or used the term "power" or "powerful," to describe an athlete's actions. At Marquette, we want to produce the most powerful student-athletes as possible.

The scientific formula for power is defined as "Force x Distance/Time". The Olympic lifts are unique in their ability to assist in the production of force based on the qualities that are necessary to complete a lift. In addition to moving weights that are heavy, an athlete or a competitive lifter must also be able to accelerate and move those heavy weights quickly. That is when the highest power is produced.

While we may not be training athletes with aspirations of competing in the Olympic games, we do want Marquette's student-athletes to be able to display some of the same powerful attributes that those athletes competing in the Olympic games display. If you've never watched the weightlifting competition, it really is very amazing. Most of the athletes you see competing are lifting weights much higher than their body weights. They are the true power athletes. Enjoy.

What to Watch For:
The weightlifting competition at 2008 Summer Olympics goes until Aug. 19.

Link to Weighlifting Results and Schedules (local Central Time).

The U.S. has three lifters left to compete. The only two men that qualified for the U.S. are Chad Vaughn (77kg), whose class competes on Wednesday, and Kendrick Farris (85kg), who is probably the U.S.'s best hope to win a medal on Friday.

Three out of the four U.S. women weightlifters have already competed. The last female lifter, 2000 Olympic bronze medalist and the U.S.'s best chance at a medal on the women's side is 75kg+ (super heavyweight) Cheryl Haworth. Her class competes on Saturday.

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