Last night, my friend and mentor Mike Rickett was in town to teach some personal trainer certification classes, and asked if I’d be interested in working out with him while he’s in town. Mike is the guy I go to with all of my fitness questions. He has trained everybody from high school athletes to world-class Olympians, so I knew I was in for something that would kick my ass. When he told me we were only going to do four exercises and be done in 25 minutes, I couldn’t wait to see what the hell we could do that would destroy me in such a short amount of time. Welp, 25 minutes later, my shirt was drenched and sweat was literally pouring off my face in buckets. What the heck did I do that has me sore all over today? This is how sore I am; my forearms hurt every time I type word in this damn blog.
To borrow from this Men’s Health article: “Olympic lifts, as they’re called, have no equal for developing speed, flexibility, and coordinated, total-body strength and muscle.” Sounds good to me! Also, Olympic lifters, on average, have the highest vertical leaps of all athletes. Ever wanted to dunk a basketball? This is what you need to be doing. Every single muscle in your body will be worked to lift more weight than you’ve ever lifted, in a much quicker fashion. Also, because you’re doing all of these exercises with such speed, you’re recruiting every Fast-Twitch muscle fiber, which has the greatest capacity for increased size and strength (you can read about fast twitch vs. slow twitch muscles here). I have no desire to look like a heavyweight Olympic lifter, but the thought of lifting tons of weight, becoming more powerful, faster, stronger, and have the ability to jump much higher sounds freaking awesome.
We did the Jerk, the Clean, the Snatch (stop laughing), and then the Clean and Jerk. For almost all of these exercises I was just using the bar (45 lbs) because I wanted to make sure I could get the form down properly before attempting with serious weight. Mike told me for some of these exercises it will take a good year before I have the form down perfectly. I’ve never left a gym more excited or sweaty than last night. I did 4 sets of each exercise, for a total of 8 reps. I made sure to err on the side of caution by just doing exercises with the bar until I got the form down properly.
The Jerk, The Clean
These are generally done together for the “clean and jerk,” which is explained below, but the two movements that make them are called the clean (picking up the bar from the ground and bringing it up to your shoulders), and the the jerk (pressing the weight from your shoulders over your head). Now, don’t think of these movements as just a dead lift, and then a shoulder press. Speed and form are of the utmost importance in these exercises, allowing you to lift crazy amounts of weight in just a few seconds. We warmed up with these to get my body used the movements so I could do the next two exercises (which are done in the Olympics).
Think of the snatch as a deadlift, barbell shrug, jump squat, and overhead squat, all done in one motion. Sounds complicated? It is, which is why you should watch the video below. If you’re going to attempt this on your own, study this video over and over again and do it with a very light weight until you have the form down properly. Keep your abs contracted the ENTIRE TIME so you don’t mess up your back. A strong core is crucial.
The Clean and Jerk
This is another one of those exercises that works your entire body in just a matter of seconds. Think of this one as a deadlift, upright row, front squat, and push press all done in a few seconds. Also complex, so this video below is a great resource to show you how to complete one properly. Sorry for the ads that show before the video, but it’s worth it:
After 4 sets of 8 reps for each exercise, I was exhausted and excited. After some dynamic stretching (an absolute must after lifting weights), I was ready to drink 8 gallons of water and eat an entire cow. No wonder most Olympic lifters eat like 8000 calories a day and have probably 5% body fat. I realize these are super advanced moves, and unless done with 100% proper form can result in serious injury, so attempt them at your own risk. If you are interested in getting started with Olympic lifting, I’d recommend asking your gym if there is a coach in the area who can give you a lesson so you start out on the right path. If you’re worried about injury, follow this workout to get most of the benefits without the huge risk of messing up your body. Stick with it, and eventually you might even be able to do something like this:
I got a long way to go before I can lift like that guy, but you gotta start somewhere, right?