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Olympic Weightlifting

Competitor completes a clean and jerk at the 2003 World Weightlifting Championship in Vancouver.
Courtesy of WWC 2003
Competitor drops a barbell at the 2003 World Weightlifting Championships in Vancouver.
Courtesy of WWC 2003

It's one of the world's oldest sports that combines strength, speed and flexibility. Kidzworld looks at Olympic weightlifting.

History of Weightlifting

Humans have been holding contests to measure individual strength and power for thousands of years. In Ancient Greece, weightlifters held competitions to determine who could lift the heaviest rocks. Later on, the Greeks invented dumbbells for weightlifting competitions. The origin of the word dumbbells comes from the method of removing clappers from bells, which made them soundless during lifting. Weightlifting became an event at the first modern Olympics in 1896 and the World Weightlifting Championships have been held every year since 1891. Women first started competing in the Championships in 1987.

Weightlifting: Snatch, Clean and Jerk

The two events in Olympic weightlifting are the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. The Snatch is a one-motion lift from the floor to an overhead position, with the lifter catching the barbell in a squat position. In the Snatch the bar travels close to the body and is accelerated by a jump and shrug motion during the second "pull" phase of the lift. The Snatch has been described by some as the fastest movement in Olympic sports. The most weight lifted in the Snatch is approximately 473 pounds (215 kg).

The Clean and Jerk is a two-part lift. The first part of the movement, the Clean, is from the floor to the shoulders. The barbell is brought to the shoulders by a jump-and-shrug motion. The athlete then Jerks the bar overhead with an explosive drive of the legs and hips. After this overhead motion the competitor rapidly positions him or herself under the bar. The most weight lifted in the Clean and Jerk is approximately 586 pounds (266 kg).

Both the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk require tremendous stength, speed, flexibility and balance. These events are what make Olympic weightlifting different and much more challenging than powerlifting or body building.

Getting Started in Weightlifting

Olympic weightlifting under proper supervision with good techniques, is a great way for kids to build muscle strength, endurance, flexibility and good fitness habits. If your interested in trying Olympic weightlifting, ask your coach at school or someone at your local community center for more information on weightlifting clubs in your area. For more info on Olympic weightlifting, check out these weightlifting sites.

Weightlifting World Record

The heaviest weight lifted by the ear is 110.1 pounds (50 kg.) On December 17, 1998, Li Jian Hua of Jiangshan, China, lifted a column of bricks hanging from a clamp attached to one of his ears.

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