Olympic Weightlifting: A form of Functional Resistance Training
Resistance training refers to exercise training modalities that involve exercising a muscle or a muscle group with some form of external resistance. Regular resistance training can increase muscularity and help combat the loss of muscle mass associated with the aging process. These adaptions to the musculoskeletal system increase both strength and mobility which improve movement quality in both sport and everyday life. Resistance training has also shown to lower the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis by eliciting reductions in blood pressure and cholesterol production and augmenting bone mineral density.
Resistance training exercises can be categorised into isolation and compound movements. Whilst there is a place for isolation exercises, these movements activate only one muscle group crossing a single joint at a time. Compound exercises on the other hand are multi-joint movements that require the recruitment of several muscle groups at once. As the movement strategies used to perform compound exercises are similar as those accessed in sport and everyday life, compound exercises elicit more functional fitness gains.
One form of resistance training that involves various compound exercises is based on the sport of Olympic weightlifting. In Olympic weightlifting competitions athletes hoist a barbell from the floor to an arms’ length overhead in two lifts known as the snatch and the clean & jerk. Athletic success in Olympic weightlifting is therefore dependent on high levels of strength and power. Due to the nature of the sport, Olympic weightlifting exercises are dynamic, whole body movements that activate all major muscle groups in a highly synchronised manner.
Whilst it takes a great deal of practice to master the full snatch and clean & jerk, athletes and exercisers can attain countless performance and health benefits by using a number of component lifts. Exercises such as the various pulling motions, overhead squats and power cleans are just some of the truly numerous weightlifting exercises that engage the entire body. By activating the entire leg, trunk and arm musculature through large ranges of joint motions, Olympic weightlifting exercises challenge both mobility and balance whilst eliciting extraordinary strength gains. The dynamic recruitment of the bodies largest muscle groups has the added benefit of maximising calorie expenditure and fat loss.