With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games set to begin in Rio in just a few short weeks, we tend to see interest in Olympic sports spike around this time. Some of these sports, such as fencing, dressage, and handball, might seem unusual and novel to most; but some events, such as weightlifting, pique our interest because they are something we do, and do often.
“You mean I could get a gold medal for this,” we might think as we strain and groan at the CrossFit gym, snatching, cleaning, and jerking. And the answer is, yes, yes you can. Men and women compete in 15 different weight classes, and have done so since the first modern Olympic games of 1896. In fact, lifting heavy things has likely been a competitive event ever since the pre-modern games of ancient Greece. So how can you, the gym rat or weekend warrior, train and prepare like an Olympic weightlifter? Well, if you envision yourself standing on a podium, neck draped in gold, wiping a single tear from your eye as your country’s national anthem plays, then read on:
Learn the Lingo When starting a new training routine, you must first learn the lingo. Terminology is specific to all sports, and weightlifting is no different. Most importantly, you’ll want to know the meaning behind volume, intensity, and frequency, and how they relate to your training. By doing so, you’ll be able to use a little math to create effective, adaptive workout routines that will continue to challenge you as you work toward reaching your goals.
First of all, volume refers simply to the sum you get when you multiply the number of reps by the number sets. You can gauge volume by workout, by week, or by month. For example, if you do 5 sets of 3 reps in a workout, your workout volume is 15. Intensity refers to the amount of “work” you exert, and is different for each individual.
For example, if you can do 10 reps of snatches in a set, then doing 3 would be considered “low 2 intensity” while 8 would be “high intensity.” Intensity is variable and will constantly change as you improve. And lastly, frequency. This is pretty straightforward.
Frequency refers to the number of times you workout. For example, if you do 15 cleans in one workout on one day, then 15 cleans over the course of two workouts on the second day, your frequency is higher on day one even if your volume is the same. All good?
Okay, moving on. High Frequency and Intensity, Low Volume Now that you have the lingo down, let’s put it to work. If you are used to high intensity training, then this is nothing new. To train like an olympian, you are going to want to keep your volume low, but you’re going to want to train at a high intensity, very frequently. This not only improves strength, but also stamina -- an often overlooked quality for competitive lifting. As you “over train”, you’re forcing your muscles to quickly compensate, recover, and improve.
The goal is to train as hard as possible and as often as possible and then spend the rest of your time resting and recovering. This means that when you are in the gym, you are working, and when you are not, you are resting. Training for any Olympic event, from weightlifting to badminton, means a singular commitment to your sport and your training.
No one has ever made the Olympics by simply showing up and winging it. Keep Learning Lingo and a solid training regimen are just the start. Consider finding a coach and likeminded lifters to help you train and keep you motivated. Also, subscribe to this blog (and to any number of the thousands of weightlifting-specific resources available) for future posts on specific aspects to weight training including water consumption, meal planning, supplement reviews, endurance, mentality and much more.
The more you learn the better you will train. Learn, study, train, train, rest, and train some more. Hopefully, by doing this on repeat -- and with a little luck -- you’ll be well on your way to a gold medal. Or at least a stronger, healthier physique.
All photos used as part of Creative Commons Attribution License
● Gold Medals: Courtesy of Paul Hudson
● Man Lifting: Courtesy of WODShop, Inc.
● Clean and Jerk: Courtesy of Adrian Valenzuela
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