Olympic Lifting 101

Hear from …destination trainer and certified USA Weightlifting coach Troy Scoggins on the state of Olympic lifting and what you need to know to get started in one of the world’s classic sports.



Weightlifting was added to the modern Olympics in 1920. In 1928 weightlifting events included the two hand lifts, clean and jerk, the snatch, and the clean & overhead Press. In 1972 The clean & overhead Press was dropped.

Since the 1960’s the American weightlifting has fallen far behind Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East. USA Weightlifting is the governing body for the United States.

Sport Development & Performance

Over the last 30+ years there has been a significate push to have variations of Olympic Style Weightlifting (OSW) integrated into strength and conditioning programs at every level of sports from middle and high school through the collegiate and professional level. The National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) has been a strong advocate. The main issue holding back USA Weightlifting is not a lack of talented athletes, but a lack of qualified coaches.

A fairly recent phenomenon has been the “Sport of Training.” CrossFit has become the prevalent and notable example. OSW and its variations have become a staple of CrossFit. The growth of CrossFit has led to a renewed interest in Olympic lifting in a competitive form.

Basic Skills

In my opinion, no matter the environment in which the basic lifts and their support lifts are being taught and utilized, the correct form and technique should be consistent:

  • High Bar Back Squat
  • Snatch Grip Overhead Squat
  • Clean Grip Front Squat
  • Correct Pull Techniques
  • Hook Grip

Physical Attributes

Without a proper fitness base and some natural attributes, Olympic lifts can be dangerous. Here are a few things any prospective Olympic lifter should work on before attempting a lift:

  • Flexible wrists
  • Excellent shoulder mobility
  • Scapula/Thoracis mobility & stability
  • Hip mobility and stability
  • Ankle mobility
  • Coordination & body awareness
  • Must have overall strength and the ability to generate power or the ability to develop it through training.

Teaching/ Learning the Lifts

Disclaimer: These points are a basic overview of what one might expect from a qualified coach, and should not be considered a full guide

  • Learn the Positions
  • Learn the Transition between Positions
  • Top Down (Clean & Snatch)
    • The Catch
    • Pull from the hip
    • Pull from above the knee (Second Pull)
    • Pull from the floor (First Pull)

Basic Teaching Points

  • The Pull Set Up
    • Eyes level/parallel
    • Shoulder blades pull together, big chest.
    • Elbows rolled out (counter intuitive to shoulder blades pull together)
    • Knuckles pointing down
    • Feet approximately hip width (Jump Position)
      • Toe straight or slightly out
      • Snatch Pull feet usually slightly wider than Clean Pull
  • Pull
    • Eyes level
    • Elbows pull up and back
    • Pull though, don’t rush the catch
  • Catch
    • You must go to the bar, not bring the bar to you
      • The bar is a fulcrum that you must rotate around
    • Feet in squat position
      • Same as your front squat or overhead squat


  • General physical prep (GPP): 5-10 minutes of physical preparation
  • Specific physical prep (SPP): Inter-grade form work
    • PVC Pipe
    • With the Bar (part of technique training)

Program Development

  • Progressive
  • Technique Training (included in SPP)
  • Build in down time
  • Work capacity is important
  • Strength, Speed & Power is King and what wins


  • USA Weightlifting L-1 Course (local or OTC)
  • USA Weightlifting, Advanced Sports Performance & Weightlifting
  • The Art Of Coaching Weightlifting, Ursula Graza Papandrea
  • NSPA, Certified Weightlifting Performance Coach Program
  • Olympic Weightlifting, Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches , Greg Everett
  • Complete Olympic Lifting, Will Fleming
  • Championship Weightlifting, Tommy Kono
  • Spoon Barbell Club, Coach Richard Fleming
  • Coach Zysmunt “Ziggy” Smalcerz, USA Weightlifting Residence Coach

Remember: One bad rep takes ten perfect ones to correct. Form is everything.

Troy L. Scoggins

About the Author: Troy L. Scoggins

Personal Trainer & Coach, …destination

USA Weightlifting, Advance Sports Performance & L-2 Weightlifting, Coach

ISSA S&C Coach

USA Track & Field Certified Coach

IMG Sports Performance Coach

Certified Personal Trainer & Resistance Trainer



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