What's the Catch? Clarifying Olympic Weightlifting Terminology

By NSCA, Jeremy Gough, and Tim Dombrowski

Weightlifting (often referred to as Olympic weightlifting or Olympic-style weightlifting) is a highly used form of training by sport performance professionals. The competitive movements of weightlifting are the snatch and the clean and jerk. The benefits of weightlifting movements include increased balance, coordination, strength, speed, and rate of force production.

Two of the most desired physical qualities in athletes are speed and strength, because most sports require quick and explosive movements. The amount of force an athlete can apply to the ground, and how fast they can apply that force, will help determine how fast they can run, how high they can jump, or how quickly they can change direction, all of which are required in most sports.

Powerlifting incorporates lifts that require heavy loads, but lower velocity of movements; whereas weightlifting uses loads performed at a much higher velocity. As a result, weightlifting and weightlifting variations in conjunction with powerlifting movements may be better suited for developing strength, power, and speed due to the utilization of a greater rate of force production.

Although weightlifting movements are commonly utilized in the field of sport performance for the development of enhanced physical qualities, the terminology frequently varies between coaches. A consistent use of vocabulary is needed for greater application and understanding between coaches and programs. The purpose of this article is to present commonly used terminology from USA Weightlifting and common verbiage from sport performance coaches in numerous athletic settings, as well as describe the basic positions and terminology for the weightlifting exercises.

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This article originally appeared in NSCA Coach, a quarterly publication for NSCA Members that provides valuable takeaways for every level of strength and conditioning coach. You can find scientifically based articles specific to a wide variety of your athletes’ needs with Nutrition, Programming, and Youth columns. Read more articles from NSCA Coach.

The views expressed in this article may not be that of USA Weightlifting. Publication of all articles is to share different opinions and viewpoints. For instruction on the lifts from USA Weightlifting visit www.usaweightlifting.org