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  • Writer's pictureCoach AP

What is the difference between powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting?

If you're informed about these sports, you're familiar with the patterns of misunderstanding -- people commonly use the word "weightlifting" when they mean "lifting weights" and the word "powerlifting" when they really mean "strength training." So what are these barbell sports and how are they different? Olympic weightlifting incorporates three main lifts, the snatch, clean, and jerk. The clean and jerk are performed together as one lift in competition. These lifts are highly technical and require a lot of time and practice to achieve proficiency. They are great for developing overall athletic power and strength and are often incorporated into strength and conditioning programs for other sports. In training you will squat, pull, and press often and perform variations of the main lifts to develop positional strength and technique. In competition you get three attempts to execute your heaviest lifts for both the snatch and the clean and jerk (totaling to 6 attempts per competition). Powerlifting also incorporates three main lifts, the back squat, bench press, and deadlift. These are standard strength movements -- however that does not mean everyone who trains these movements is "doing powerlifting." Powerlifting requires you to prioritize developing your maximal strength for a single rep on these three lifts over time. In training you will frequently lift high-intensity loads and test your maximal effort strength on each lift while performing closely-related variations and accessories that develop your strength. In competition you get three attempts to execute your heaviest lifts for the back squat, bench press, and deadlift (totaling in 9 attempts per competition). While both sports can be performed at a competitive level, that does not mean you cannot call yourself an Olympic weightlifter or powerlifter if you train in the styles of these sports! Follow an appropriately structured program and work with a coach that can help you continue to make progress.

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