As any athlete or fitness enthusiast knows, there are dozens of ways to lift weights for strength training. However, the sport of weightlifting recognizes just two lifts for competition: the snatch and the clean and jerk. At the Olympic Games, lifters are tested in both disciplines in a combined competition. The athlete who lifts the most total weight over the two lifts is crowned the Olympic Champion. 


The snatch, traditionally contested first in Olympic competition, is a two-armed lift during which the athlete must raise the barbell overhead in one fluid motion, then rise to an upright standstill. To execute the snatch, the lifter takes a bent-over position behind the barbell with both arms spread wide, grasping the bar palm-down. The lifter then uses power and balance to whip the bar overhead while in a seated position, with bar, hips, and feet in one vertical plane. Controlling this motion is the most difficult part of the lift. Once the athlete manages to gain control in the seated position, the final step is to press with the legs into an upright vertical stance (must be done without hesitating after the first motion). The final position must be held until at least two of three referees indicate approval. 

Clean and Jerk

The clean and jerk comprises the final round of Olympic competition. It is a two-motion lift – the clean and the jerk – and allows for the use of much greater weight than the snatch. The first part, the clean, is done by pulling the bar up to the shoulders, with bent elbows underneath the bar, in an upright stance. From that position, the jerk requires the athlete to push the bar overhead and hold a vertical stance until at least two of three referees indicate approval. Lifters may rest as long as they choose in between the clean and the jerk movements, as long as they complete the lift before the allotted minute runs out.