How to Do the Olympic Lifts

By Nicole Radziszewski |

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of lifting a heavy barbell off the ground and propelling it overhead in one quick, powerful move. But the qualities that make Olympic weightlifting so exhilarating are also what make the sport’s two lifts — the snatch and the clean and jerk — so challenging to learn.

“Each movement involves several facets of athletic ability: mobility, speed, timing, precision, balance, power. All of these are inseparable from each other,” says coach Greg Everett, founder of Catalyst Athletics and author of Olympic Weightlifting. “Rather than trying to train 10 different facets of fitness individually, you’re developing them in a very economical way.”

Olympic weightlifting provides myriad benefits for full-body fitness and a chance for infinite progression, Everett explains. But it can be intimidating at times. “You have to manage all of these elements simultaneously in a brief period of time while also putting your body under a heavy barbell.”

Working on technique with a professional coach is ideal. But if this is not an option, resources such as videos, books, articles, and online training programs can help you take your lifts to the next level. Everett shares his top tips.

Technique Tips for the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk

  1. “People often focus on the endpoint of the lift, not understanding that the position of your body in relation to the bar is what determines whether you reach this endpoint successfully,” Everett explains. He recommends breaking down the snatch and the clean and jerk into smaller segments for practice.

You can also take a video of yourself performing each lift and then review your footage. “At obvious points throughout the lift, freeze the frame and check where your body and the bar are. Compare your positioning with that of professional lifters in their videos or in photos.”

Drill: Snatch Pulls and Clean Pulls

These moves help train the hip, knee, and ankle extension — known as triple extension. Perform for up to five reps per set at a heavy-for-you weight (80 percent or higher of your best lift). Do snatch pulls before performing snatches and clean pulls before cleans.

  1. your shoulders up at the top of this extension to continue the bar’s upward path, keeping it against your body. The aggressiveness of the pull will lift your heels off the ground as the extension is completed.

This originally appeared as “Going Overhead” in the September 2018 print issue of Experience Life.

Proper weightlifting shoes have a flat, solid sole and a strong upper and are snug to prevent your foot from shifting in the shoe. Heel height will vary; the less ankle mobility you have, the more you’ll benefit from a higher heel. $200 at Using supports can limit tissue adaptation and make joints dependent, so you probably don’t need knee sleeves unless you have an existing injury, says Everett. Sleeves, like this durable option, also help keep the joint warm while you lift. About $43 at Wrapping your thumb can prevent the discomfort that a hook grip can cause. This tape was specially designed to stay in place and improve your grip. About $5 at

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