Powerlifting vs Olympic Lifting – What’s the Difference?

Powerlifting and Olympic Lifting share some similarities, but each sport is unique. This article will explain the differences between them and why you might want to choose one over the other.

Olympic Lifting

First, let me explain Olympic lifting. This won’t take too long because it’s just two exercises. BUT they’re quite different from the squat, bench, and deadlift you might be used to.

The two Olympic lifts are the snatch and the clean and jerk. Both lifts start with the bar on the floor in front of you and finish with the bar overhead as you stand up straight.

Starting with the Snatch. In this lift, you pull the bar off the ground and push it above your head, all in one movement. As the bar goes above your head, you squat down, then use all your might to stand up straight with the bar still overhead.

Next, the Clean and Jerk. This is a lot like the snatch, but for the first movement, you just pull the bar up to chest height, squatting down sort of like a front squat. Then you stand up powerfully, pushing the bar overhead at the same time.

The specific mechanics of each lift are very complicated.

Differences Between Powerlifting and Olympic Lifting

Aside from being completely different lifts, there are some other key differences between the two styles.

Both styles use different types of strength. Powerlifting tests your limit strength; basically, your pure strength. Olympic lifting tests speed, power, and explosive strength.

In Olympic lifting, the bar always starts on the floor and ends up overhead. There’s no rack or bench or any apparatus. You must physically move your body around a lot more during the Olympic lifts.

Finally, Olympic lifting uses no special shirts or suits. Everyone uses the same style singlet. There is no “raw” or “geared” meets – it’s all the same.

Why Olympic Lifting?

So why would you want to do Olympic lifting?

1. Killer Cardio Workout.

Train like an Olympic lifter and you’ll get a killer cardio workout without doing any running or swimming. When you use your full body, moving the bar from floor to overhead, your heart has to work. If a good set of squats leaves you out of breath, wait till you try a single clean and jerk.

2. Works Your Entire Body As One Unit.

Each Olympic lift works your entire body as a whole. It’s crazy how well this works. Olympic lifters (the ones in the Olympic Games) have been shown to excel at vertical jump and 25-yard sprints better than competitors in other sports like the high jump and 100 meter dash!

(While Powerlifting teaches you to use your upper and lower bodies together, it’s got nothing on Olympic lifts.)

3. You Can’t Cheat

Due to the nature of the exercises, you can’t cheat or do other stupid stuff. See, it’s so hard and taxing, that if you can’t do a perfect rep, you won’t even be able to start the rep at all. So you won’t have the opportunity to try “forced reps” or use a partial range of motion.

And you can’t go “too heavy” like you might on the bench press or squat, where the weight starts above your body.

4. Time-Efficient Workouts

A workout won’t take very long. You’re training every single muscle in your body on each rep, and your cardiovascular system is working in overdrive the whole time. With a workout intensity like that, the duration must be short.

So, Which One?

For a good debate, skim this Elite FTS article; it’s a debate between an Olympic lifting coach and a Powerlifting coach.

It’s interesting, but ****spoiler alert**** the final conclusion is that both Powerlifting and Olympic lifting are complementary strength training protocols for athletes.

In the end, we can all agree that each type of lifting is a killer workout. They’re both very popular training methods for elite athletes.

The reason I have chosen powerlifting is because it is more accessible and easier to get started for the average person. However, once you’ve mastered your chosen sport (cycling, running, triathlon, etc.,) and you’re looking for another challenge to add in, consider Olympic lifting!

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