No two weightlifters look the same when they lift; there’s always going to be some difference in technique due to either how they were taught or simply due to the fact that their bodies are different. Having short vs. long femurs, arms, and torso is going to affect they way an athlete executes any movement.
Today I’ll be exploring some differences in technique between elite-level lifters and why these differences don’t really matter at all. First, some example videos:
Ilya Ilyin snatching 191kg
And Lu Xiaojun snatching 170, 175, and attempting 177kg
A few differences are noticeable here. For starters, Lu drags the barbell up his thighs to reach his hips, where as Ilya does not – he only makes contact with the bar at his hips, not before. Secondly, Ilya pulls the bar off the ground with much greater speed, where Lu pulls the bar relatively slowly. This is due to a difference in training philosophies. Ilya hails from Kazakhstan, a former member of the USSR and a country which has adopted many Soviet training methods – one of these is to emphasize pulling strength. Lu, on the other hand, is from China, which emphasizes leg/squatting strength over pulling strength, which explains why he has never struggled to stand up with a snatch or a clean. Thirdly, Lu’s lifting overall simply looks much smoother than Ilya’s. This is also due to how each lifter was taught – Chinese lifters are taught a “Chinese-style” pull, which results in more thigh contact (explaining my first point) but also emphasizes smoothness and control over the bar. Kazakh athletes are taught to make their pull more explosive, resulting in two different lifting styles.
Now, let’s look at how different body types influence lifting technique.
Here’s Arli Chontey of Kazakhstan clean and jerking 150kg
And here’s Ilya again clean and jerking 246 kg
Chontey has incredibly short arms, even among Olympic weightlifters, which results in him making contact with the bar at his hip during the clean . Ilya has comparatively longer arms, meaning that he makes contact with the bar at the upper thigh. Neither technique is more or less efficient, they’re simply better suited for lifters with different bodies.
Lifters with all different body types and techniques have won Olympic medals and set world records, because in the end, as long as you follow a few central rules to Olympic weightlifting, the exact specifics of how you lift don’t matter. The first and most important of these rules is to keep the barbell as close to your body as possible. The Chinese achieve this by dragging the bar up their thighs – the bar literally couldn’t be closer to them. Russian and Kazakh athletes do this by emphasizing back strength when they train, allowing them to keep the bar close enough to their bodies even if they don’t make contact until the last second. Second, these lifters stay over the bar as long as possible, meaning that they keep their shoulders directly above the barbell for as long as they can which ensures a more efficient lift. Third, these lifters stay balanced over the middle of their feet for the entire lift, mostly as a result of following the first two rules. By staying balanced, they are reducing the chance that the barbell goes too far forward or backward, causing them to miss a lift. And possibly most importantly, these lifters are consistent – almost inhumanly so. From lift to lift, their form doesn’t change. Looking at the video of Lu snatching above, the difference between his attempts at 170kg and 175kg are unnoticeable, if they even exist. Consistency is the key to becoming truly great in Olympic weightlifting – it doesn’t matter if you can lift a lot one day out of every year. It’s better if you can lift just a little bit less but do it every single day.