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5 Myths About Olympic Weightlifting

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When I started Olympic weightlifting a little more than three years ago, I had already deemed myself an expert on it: I had decided it would probably make me look like Arnold Schwarzenegger with a ponytail, I was convinced that I wouldn’t have the coordination to lift anything without dropping it on my head and I was fairly certain I wasn’t good enough to keep up with everyone else, who was way, way better than me.

Needless to say, I was only slightly clueless.

There are a number of myths about Olympic weightlifting that stop people from even trying it — silly thoughts like, “Oh, I’m not in shape enough to do that.” (More on that later.) Don’t let one of these misconceptions get in the way of what could be a life-changing epiphany for you. It certainly was for me.

5 Myths About Olympic Weightlifting That We Need to Squash

1. You’re Not in Good Enough Shape to Do it

Let me be clear about something: Olympic weightlifting gets you in shape. You don’t have to be in shape to get in shape. Your body isn’t going to say, “Sorry, fatty. No can do with the barbell.”

Anyone can lift, independent of gender, age and weight. You don’t need to lose weight first. You don’t need to get stronger first. You need to show up and do what your coach tells you to do.

2. Lifting is Going to Make You Huge

I wish this were the case. I go to bed praying for glutes, but I remember the early days when I was scared my traps would get so huge that my neck would disappear. For women especially, this is a grossly over-exaggerated concern. We don’t have the testosterone or consume nearly enough calories to put on that kind of muscle and it would require an insane amount of training.

If you need more convincing, I’ll use myself as an example. Overall, my body has shrunk and most of my clothes are baggy. It was only recently when I started eating much more that I put on a noticeable amount of muscle, and now some of my jackets don’t fit across the shoulders. But who’s complaining? When was the last time you heard a woman say, “Damnit, I hate having muscle!”? Never.

Don’t be afraid of how your body is going to change. You’re going to be in better shape than you ever imagined.

3. It’s a Dangerous Sport

Have you heard of those fluke accidents where someone gets under a heavy snatch and ends up needing major surgery? How about that one guy that one time 10 years ago who maxed out his clean and passed out immediately after?

No? Not ringing any bells? Bueller? It’s because, as I said, they’re flukes. These horror stories that get tons of media time and spread fear about the sport are the exception, and Olympic weightlifting is no riskier than any other sport. In fact, in certain ways, I find it to be safer.

4. Olympic Lifting is a Man’s Sport

Maybe the sport has been largely male-dominated since its inception in the 19th century, but women started making their mark around the mid-1980s, when women’s lifting was accepted at both national and international levels. (You can thank Judy Glenney for that.) Fast forward to today and pro lifters like Mattie Rogers and Jessica Lucero are role models to millions of women around the world.

And don’t get me started on any conversation about how men are better suited for this because they’re stronger. Obviously they’re stronger. That’s why men and women don’t compete against each other.

The takeaway? Women: good at lifting. Men: good at lifting. Everyone: good at lifting.

5. It Gets Boring Practicing Two Lifts

Olympic lifting consists of the snatch and clean and jerk (and if you’re competing, the total of those two numbers). More than once, I’ve heard, “Ugh, like, I don’t know. I think I would just, like, get bored.” Where do I begin?

Aside from the countless variations of both lifts, there’s an endless amount of accessory work involved, squats, bodybuilding, mobilization, stretching and infinite PRs to hit. We don’t only care about the snatch and CJ. What about your heaviest snatch double? Hang clean from below the knee? Power clean and push jerk? There’s no end to it.