Olympic Weightlifting: The Journey from Beginner to Elite

How do you develop your Olympic lifts to the point of being considered elite? At Garage Strength, we have been studying the sport of Olympic lifting for years and we have a great understanding of how to get our athletes to the top. The most common question we get is “what are the steps I need to take to become elite?” The answer is actually simple, and I will explain each step you can take to develop your Olympic lifts to an elite level.

Top video is Jake cleaning 145lbs at 14 years old. Bottom videos is his recent PR clean of 167kg/367lbs.

Step 1: Develop good mobility and flexibility.

A huge issue with non-elite Olympic lifters is the lack of flexibility they have. To be elite, you need to get in deep positions and still be able to produce force. This might mean yoga every morning, investing in a Normatec, or buying one of our mobility programs and taking time every day to develop good mobility. Once good mobility is established, you will be able to understand your movements better and will be able to hit every position properly and consistently during the lift.

Step 2: Developing your technique.

The biggest mistake people make when trying to develop elite level lifters is not focusing enough on technique. Having proper technique WILL lead to strength. Find a technical model, (preferably one we use at Weightlifting University) and mimic their exact movement. Spend a significant amount of time on developing the technique and you will see more success moving forward in your Olympic lifting journey.

People will ask, what is the best technique style to develop and get really good at? A lot of elite level lifters move the same, but a lot move differently. You have to find the most efficient style of lifting for your body style. If you have long arms and short legs, you might move slightly different from someone with short arms and long legs. BUT, I say SLIGHTLY different, because the general movement will be the same, but the height of the butt and chest on the pull could make all the difference.

Beginner to Elite
Hayley Reichardt clean and jerking 73kg

Step 3: Develop strength.

Developing strength is easy after a proper technique is honed. At Garage Strength, we have developed a training style for our athletes that makes it easy for them to understand technical corrections and proper movement. The rep scheme we use for the snatch, clean and jerk, and squats were tested over many years and is now a formula we use on a daily basis. Be sure to not only develop your main Olympic lifts, but also secondary movements. This will include shoulder strength, back strength, core strength and proper stabilization in the hole and overhead.

Step 4: Learn to compete.

Olympic weightlifting isn't about training, it's about competing. This is what people will remember you by. It doesn't matter if you can break the American record in training, it comes down to what you can execute in competition. Go to multiple local competitions, find what works for you when it comes to getting mentally prepared for a big lift, and become a master at it. Competition anxiety is something all good lifters deal with at one point in their weightlifting career. Simple things like meditation and controlled breathing can help calm the mind and can lead to better performance on the platform.

Step 5: Do what the Elite do.

This is a very important step in developing yourself from a beginner to the elite. You have to eat, sleep and breathe what elite athletes do. To be a part of that 10% of elite athletes, you have to do what the 10% does. You might be asking yourself, “what are the things I have to do?” One of them is getting used to long recovery sessions. The more time you invest in recovery, the better your body will feel after a day in and day out training. You might have to give up your Saturdays to go and work with a mobility doctor that is an hour away. You also need to take nutrition seriously and not let yourself slip up, it takes a very regimented food plan to take your body to the next level. The elite lifters train and compete like Ferrari’s, but they also fuel themselves with proper nutrition. You wouldn’t put low-grade gas in a Ferrari, right? It wouldn't run properly or efficiently. To be elite you need to think of yourself as that Ferrari.

Step 6: Have fun

The last step is to have fun. If you LOVE this sport and follow these steps, you will be elite. The minute you stop loving what you do, and the minute you start second-guessing what or why you are doing this, you are done. Love the process, love the aches and pains and enjoy the ride to becoming elite. If you need guidance on this process, Garage Strength is here for you. Give us a call, stop by or shoot us an email! We will be glad to assist you in your journey of becoming an elite Olympic lifter!

Beginner to elite
Jacob Horst snatching 67kg at the beginning of his lifting career.

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