I see much on this forum about beginners wanting to get into the sport but have a hard time finding a facility or the knowledge to get started. I know there is much written out there about the demise of American Olifting so I wont waste real estate here pontificating on it, although it does make for interesting debate.
I am of the age where I remember watching Vasily Alexeev of the Soviet Union shatter Olympic records on TV during the 72 and 76 Olympic games. Soon my friends and I were mimicking the lifts in our garage using broomsticks and other implements half in jest knowing that this was really a sport that belonged to the mysterious corners of eastern bloc countries and was nothing for American youths to pursue.
No, a more appropriate relationship with the USSR for us was to be seated in the cockpit of an SR71 spy plane.
But anyway, this lingering curiousity persisted, and while well into my 40’s I began to seek out instruction in the O-lifts. I found a private personal training gym that had an instrutor on its staff who used to be an American Army O-lifting champion back in the 60’s while stationed in Europe. I booked about 6 sessions with Big Joe and I think it was a nostalgic trip back in time for him.
I think he was thrilled to have someone call upon his knowledge to teach a sport that had been relegated to the dust bin. Learning from Big Joe gave me a good foundation to learn the basics. See, the gym was not outfitted properly (no bumper plates, lifting platforms, etc) So we did tons of broom stick drills, dumbell snatches, cleans, and presses, speed deadlifts, ATG Olympic squats, empty bar hang snatches & cleans, plyo drills, ab work, and flexibility movements.
See, we never got to do the full lifts due to the lack of equipment…but Big Joe told me that hopefully some day I will find a proper O-lifting gym and I can continue with what he taught me.
Well, I live in Sweden now where I work for a major Swedish car manufacturer and I did manage to find a gym that focuses on O-lifting and some powerlifting. It is not a commercial gym but a foreningen or sport club that is not a commercial gym in business to make a profit but rather a 100+ year old sport club with a long tradition (if there are any Scandinavian readers out there of this post you’ll know what I mean).
They have two lifting platforms, plenty of bumper plates, and the usual assortment of dumbells, bench presses, and squat racks and stuff for assistance work and the general lifting crowd. I dont think places like this exist in the US. It is staffed by a couple volunteers, old pros like Big Joe, who volunteer their knowledge of the sport to those who care to listen.
You wont find any Crossfit types here, this is a weightlifting club of the old school. Many of the members are in their 50’s and it is refreshing to see plenty of younger guys trying the sport at the hands of the old pros. And the best part is, the place is cheap as hell to join…about $250 per year.
Now I wonder, is this club an anamoly or is O-lifting more popular in Europe than in the US? I realize little Sweden is not representative of all of “Europe”, but for lack of a better comparision, I’ll start here.