Weightlifting and The Personal Trainer

Excerpt from the Certified Strength Training Specialist manual, coming soon. part 1 of 3.


The traditional Olympic sport of competitive weightlifting may not initially seem like a logical fit for a personal trainer. Weightlifting is a highly complex and technical sport in which to excel. Novices are challenged to learn proper technique and most newcomers expect to learn from an experienced coach.

Coaches are challenged, not only to learn the nuances of this sport, but also how to apply safe and effective teaching to individuals with a myriad of skills, talents, and abilities.

A key support ingredient for learning this sport’s lifts, the snatch and the clean-and-jerk, is the presence of a well-trained weightlifting coach. While personal trainers will certainly encounter clients who want to know how to do these lifts, are you up to the task? Might it be easier to bring in a qualified coach?

Today it is incumbent upon personal trainers marketing themselves as sport-specific or athletic performance professionals to anticipate the need to know how to instruct these lifts. The sport currently receives a great deal more attention than it has for years and there is a demand among many in the fitness field to train with weightlifting methods. USA Weightlifting, the national governing body for the sport in this country, is experiencing growth in membership numbers like never before.

Much of this is due to the popularity of CrossFit, where “the lifts” are a regular part of training. Additionally, explosive lifting (another name for weightlifting) is popular with high school and college strength coaches. An article published by the National Strength and Conditioning Association indicates that 97% of high school strength coaches surveyed used these lifts with their athletes and 78% ranked the clean (power, squat, or hang varieties) as their #1 or #2 “most important exercise in their program.”

Coaches do not need to know how to perform these lifts perfectly themselves. But, it’s crucial to know what’s right and what’s wrong, along with how to correct errors in efficiency which are likely to cause injury.

Not every personal training client needs to learn these complex movements. But not everyone training as a weightlifter aims to eventually compete. Weightlifting training is popular and effective for nearly all sports, including those as diverse as football, tennis, and golf.

Many proponents consider weightlifting to be the ultimate in strength and power training. Others consider this form of training to be overrated, unsafe, and something no one should try. You’ll want to dig deep into the many details of this sport before deciding to implement it with clients.

It is established that this sport is a challenge to learn. This may be discouraging for many, but let’s look deeper into this subject. What are the advantages of weightlifting training?

Weightlifters are among the most powerful people on the planet. Power is speed-strength, so it’s a matter of being both fast and strong. Having only one of these traits doesn’t help many of today’s athletes.

Weightlifting requires outstanding flexibility in order to get into safe and effective barbell receiving positions.

Weightlifting also requires a coordinated, total body effort. We talk about the need for both inter – and intra-muscular coordination in order to snatch or clean & jerk effectively.

Let’s start with a brief look at the history of weightlifting and its role in today’s fitness world. We’ll then move into the specifics of learning these lifts.