What’s the deal?

Take weight, heave over head. NBD, right? HA! Olympic weightlifters can lift two to three times their body weight. Try doing that at your next workout!

Weightlifting’s a little more complicated than throwing weight onto a bar and getting it above your head. Competitors have two different events featuring two techniques:

  • Snatch – lift the bar from the ground directly overhead and hold it for two seconds
  • Clean and Jerk – lift the bar from the ground to your shoulders, then press it up over your head and hold for two seconds

It only counts as a successful lift if the athlete’s body is fully extended and they can keep the bar from moving at the end of the lift.

Competitors only get three lifts per event, so they have to choose their weights carefully. The one who lifts the most combined weight wins golden glory.

Who’s competing?

Competition in weightlifting is divided into weight classes. Men have eight weight classes, and the weight listed is that most you can be at time of competition:

  • 56kg
  • 62kg
  • 69kg
  • 77kg
  • 85kg
  • 94kg
  • 105kg
  • +105kg

Women’s weight classes are:

  • 48kg
  • 53kg
  • 58k
  • 63kg
  • 69kg
  • 75kg
  • +75kg

Why should I watch?

Weightlifting’s one of the O.G. Olympic sports (though it hasn’t always been on the Olympic program), and its appeal is pretty instinctive: Who doesn’t want to see how strong someone can be? It’s mind-blowing to watch, and it’s impossible not to cheer on everyone to see how far they can push themselves.

Potential drinking game:

If a competitor drops the bar behind them, drink.

The perfect snack:



The International Weightlifting Federation is the international governing body for the sport, but its site is more geared toward the experienced weightlifter. Your national organization might have more info, but you’re probably better off finding a serious weightlifting gym in your area and seeing if they can help you get involved with the sport.

Competitors’ lifts are judged by officials. Learn more about that aspect of the sport at the international level here. To work your way up to that level, you’ll have to start local, so if you see a local weightlifting competition near you, ask how to become an official.

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