T Nation

How Do Light Weight Olympic Lifters Lift So Much?


#1

This is a question that I haven't found a definite answer for, so I'm hoping maybe more intelligent members will be able to shed some light for me.

How do some of these guys that are 150lbs or less squat so heavy? I don't think most of them go on traditional bulk and cut cycles. I'm curious what do they do that allow themselves to get to those big #'s.

For example I'm ~160lbs. If I could stay around ~160lbs but be able to Snatch 225lbs or C&J 315lbs, I'm guessing my BS/FS are going to be way over 315lbs.


#2

They’re very strong.


#3

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
They’re very strong.[/quote]

Well obviously haha. I’m just wondering if I stick to my 5x5 and eat at maintenance or slightly above maintenance if I can get to a 315 Front Squat without gaining really any weight.


#4

[quote]isdatnutty wrote:

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
They’re very strong.[/quote]

Well obviously haha. I’m just wondering if I stick to my 5x5 and eat at maintenance or slightly above maintenance if I can get to a 315 Front Squat without gaining really any weight. [/quote]

Probably not if you stick with a 5x5. It will work, and then eventually it won’t and you’ll need to adapt as needed. A variety of rep ranges is helpful, along with sets, programming, movements, etc.

You’ll hopefully gain some muscle along your journey, which will contribute to weight gain, but you may also be able to lose some fat at some point, which will result in weight loss. Keep in mind, you’re not seeing any scrawny guys in these light weight classes. They tend to be pretty jacked with low bodyfat.


#5

Keep in mind, 98% of Olympic lifting workouts are squat variants in CNS driving rep ranges.

Very unlikely to end up with a big bench or heeeyooge guns on an Olympic program.

But you’ll snatch, clean, and squat a lot


#6

It takes a lot of hard work and consistency to get to a high level in any sport. As mentioned above, they have a lot of muscle and low body fat. At 160 lbs, a weightlifting athlete making it to the Olympics would likely be around 5’3" - 5’5". Even if they don’t go on traditional bulk and cut cycles, they still need to gain a lot of muscle mass to fill out their weight class.

Technique in the Olympic lifts is very important. If you have a good coach, you’ll likely make much faster progress compared to learning on your own.


#7

How do they lift so much?

Great strength and explosive power, excellent leverages, perfect technique, being extremely lean, focusing on low rep training (singles, doubles, triples - rarely higher), incredibly efficient nervous systems (greater recruitment of existent muscle, rather than building more mass), focusing on literally just a handful of lifts (squat/power clean, squat/power snatch, front squat, back squat, maybe some hypers and abs and that’s it). Repeat for 10+ years of consistent and intense training.

And as someone said above, don’t let the seemingly light bodyweights fool you. These guys are typically on the shorter side, and are actually carrying a LOT of lean, compact muscle. Perhaps not within their pecs and bis, so it may not obvious - but check out their backs (not lats necessarily, but traps, rhomboids etc), glutes, quads, hamstrings.


#8

[quote]lift206 wrote:
It takes a lot of hard work and consistency to get to a high level in any sport. As mentioned above, they have a lot of muscle and low body fat. At 160 lbs, a weightlifting athlete making it to the Olympics would likely be around 5’3" - 5’5". Even if they don’t go on traditional bulk and cut cycles, they still need to gain a lot of muscle mass to fill out their weight class.

Technique in the Olympic lifts is very important. If you have a good coach, you’ll likely make much faster progress compared to learning on your own.[/quote]

This. high relative strength plus being fairly heavy for your height. A former olympian I know competed at 145 - but he’s 5’ and most of the weight was/still is in his legs, so imagine the tree trunks he has for thighs.

Eventually, it boils down to what Punisher said: they are very strong world class athletes.


#9

They work their asses off for YEARS.


#10

[quote]Reed wrote:
They work their asses off for YEARS. [/quote]

Again, bullseye.

[quote]isdatnutty wrote:
For example I’m ~160lbs. If I could stay around ~160lbs but be able to Snatch 225lbs or C&J 315lbs, I’m guessing my BS/FS are going to be way over 315lbs.[/quote]

You’re 6’1 or 6’2, no? A weightlifter at your height would have to be at least 185 ripped to be competitive.


#11

those little Chinese dudes have got such awesome physiques


#12

It is a combination of genetics and working very hard from a young age (3 years old). I don’t think it is coincidence that you have “stereotype” lifters, strongman is mostly eastern Europeans/Nordics, Olympic lifting is usually of Asian decent, sprinters are usually of African decent, as the best examples I can think of.


#13

[quote]
You’re 6’1 or 6’2, no? A weightlifter at your height would have to be at least 185 ripped to be competitive.[/quote]

I’m actually 5’6 lol, so I’m thinking the 160 range would be perfect for me. I’m 163, but I’m closer to like 20% bf (maybe a lil less or lil more), so I’m thinking really packing muscle and being 10-12% bf would probably have me in the 160s maybe low 170s.

I don’t ever plan on being a world class athlete lol. But my initial goals for Snatch is BW and for C&J is 225lbs. I’m guessing to hit those numbers easily I need to squatting closer to 300 (at least for the C&J). But my lifetime goals are to hit 225lb Snatch and 315lb C&J so I’m guessing in order to hit those numbers I need to be squatting closer to 400lbs?

I guess the thing I don’t understand is how do they pack that much muscle without gaining much fat/bulky mass. Is it really just working below 5 for rep ranges?

I’m of Nepali/Indian descent, so my body type is Asian for sure lol. So for past 2 months I’ve been just doing Front Squats, OHP, Deadlifts, Rows, Pull Ups, Ab work, farmers walks. No bench or biceps or anything like that. I’m starting to get that “oly lifter look” in terms of my quads/ass/hamgstrings are blowing up, my back is getting thick, shoulders are starting to round out, but no chest haha.


#14

And for everyone, I KNOW those guys work hard and have put in their time lol. There is no doubt in my mind about that.

I guess my original question was just based on how do they train and how they eat. I’m guessing there’s a lot of periodization throughout the year.


#15

[quote]isdatnutty wrote:
I guess the thing I don’t understand is how do they pack that much muscle without gaining much fat/bulky mass. Is it really just working below 5 for rep ranges?

[/quote]

They eat well.

I don’t think you’re going to get an answer from this that is going to satisfy your curiosity. When you spend a solid decade training hard and eating well, you’re going to put on a lot of muscle. What you are witnessing is simply the effect of time and effort reaching a zenith.

There legitimately isn’t anything magical going on here. If you train hard for a decade and eat well, you’re also going to be jacked and strong without being fat.


#16

[quote]isdatnutty wrote:

  1. Asian is not a bodytype. That’s 100% absurd.
  2. If you want to clean and jerk 315, you don’t need to be able to front squat more than 315, although for the purposes of controlling the weight, I’d say a 350 front squat would be beneficial. And any weight on top of that would be nice but not necessary.
  3. The oly-lifter look is essentially the bodybuilder look, just a tad smaller. Look up Lu Xiaojun and Klokov. They have great chest development. Both guys also have large biceps. There is definitely a trend in oly lifting to do bodybuilding-type accessory work.
  4. you’re fat right now. 20% is very high if you want to have a good strength-to-bodyweight ratio.
  5. At your height, you could certainly accomplish the goals you have outlined, if you are dedicated to these goals. Xiaojun is actually taller than you at 5’8, and snatched nearly 400 lbs at a bodyweight of 170. You’re only trying to snatch about half that.

#17

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
They eat well.

I don’t think you’re going to get an answer from this that is going to satisfy your curiosity. When you spend a solid decade training hard and eating well, you’re going to put on a lot of muscle. What you are witnessing is simply the effect of time and effort reaching a zenith.

There legitimately isn’t anything magical going on here. If you train hard for a decade and eat well, you’re also going to be jacked and strong without being fat.
[/quote]

That is the answer I was looking for without a doubt! I was just literally telling my friends yesterday it’ll probably take me 3 years probably to hit all my long term goals if I wanted to stay as lean as possible.


#18

[quote]flipcollar wrote:

  1. Asian is not a bodytype. That’s 100% absurd.
  2. If you want to clean and jerk 315, you don’t need to be able to front squat more than 315, although for the purposes of controlling the weight, I’d say a 350 front squat would be beneficial. And any weight on top of that would be nice but not necessary.
  3. The oly-lifter look is essentially the bodybuilder look, just a tad smaller. Look up Lu Xiaojun and Klokov. They have great chest development. Both guys also have large biceps. There is definitely a trend in oly lifting to do bodybuilding-type accessory work.
  4. you’re fat right now. 20% is very high if you want to have a good strength-to-bodyweight ratio.
  5. At your height, you could certainly accomplish the goals you have outlined, if you are dedicated to these goals. Xiaojun is actually taller than you at 5’8, and snatched nearly 400 lbs at a bodyweight of 170. You’re only trying to snatch about half that.
    [/quote]

Thanks man appreciate the feedback! Yeah at 20% I got a long way to go. I’m trying to recomp right now and it’s been working well. I can see my oblique area and my “2 pack” haha. Just gotta keep working hard!

I’m glad to hear from someone that my goals should be attainable with hard work. In a few months my mobility will be good enough for me to start snatching/backsquatting/c&j and then my olympic lifting transition will begin. I’ve been doing work with just a broomstick to get mobility and technique down. I should have my baseline of a 225 FS, 315 DL, 135 OHP by then to give me a good strength base to start with!


#19

Consider getting coaching for the olympic lifts from the start.


#20

[quote]dt79 wrote:
Consider getting coaching for the olympic lifts from the start. [/quote]

Already have one! That’s why I’m just on the broomstick until my mobility is where it needs to be lol. Years of no activity and sitting at an IT job has taken a toll on my whole body.