Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

BBC Sport Olympics

Beginner's guide to weightlifting
A rundown on the weightlifting event
Did you know?
Weightlifting is the oldest of the modern Games competitions making its debut in 1896 in Athens

Weightlifting might look like it is all about brute strength, but technique and concentration are also vital.

The aim of the game is simple - to lift more weight than anyone else.

The Olympics and Commonwealth Games competitions are divided up into weight categories.

This also includes powerlifting for elite athletes with a disability (EAD).


There are two main types of lifting technique: the snatch and the clean and jerk.

Animated graphic showing the clean and jerk technique

In both categories, competitors are given three attempts to complete a lift.

Once lifters reach the platform, they have one minute to attempt the lift. If they are successful, their next attempt must be at least 1kg heavier.

The heaviest successful lift in each category contributes towards the total score, so if an athlete lifts 90 kg in the snatch and 130kg in the clean and jerk, their overall score is 220kg.

In EAD powerlifting, athletes compete lying on their back and must complete a successful bench press within two minutes.


For a lift to be successful, the athlete must support the weight above their head, with the arms straight.

Animated graphic showing the snatch technique

They must be in complete control of the weight, so the body should be motionless.

Three referees judge weightlifting, and a majority verdict is accepted as official.

A good lift is signalled by flashing a white light, and an illegal one by a red light, although the decision can be overturned by a jury.

If two lifters finish the competition with the same total, then the one with the lower body weight is declared the winner.

The weight of an athlete's first lift determines their place in the starting order. If they choose to go for a light weight, they will go earlier in the order.


Most of the power required for weightlifting comes from the back, rather than the arms and legs, and lifters can support as much as three times their own body weight.

In the clean and jerk, athletes lift the weights from the floor to their shoulders, and then over their heads.

Animated graphic showing the bench press

The snatch is the more difficult discipline, because the bar must be lifted from the floor and over the lifter's head in one motion.

The legs may be bent or split when lifting the bar, but they must come together to ensure the lift is declared valid.

In the clean and jerk, which requires a more narrow grip, the lifter pulls the bar to the shoulders in one movement, drops into a squat, and then stands straight up.

The next part of the lift involves jerking the bar above the head. Athletes split their legs front to back to achieve this.

Once the arms are locked and the bar is steady, the lifter brings the feet back together to ensure the lift is declared good.


You can start weightlifting from as young as eight.

For young people, the sport is all about learning a new technique - it takes a very long time to get to the heavy stuff.

If you want to have a go, the British Amateur Weightlifting Association is the best place to find out more.

British Amateur Weightlifting Association
Lorraine Fleming
Lilleshall National Sports Centre
Nr Newport, Shropshire
TF10 9AT
Tel: 01952 604201


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Daily and weekly e-mails | Mobiles | Desktop Tools | News Feeds | Interactive Television | Downloads
Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability sport | Olympics 2012 | Sport Relief | Other sport...

Help | Privacy & Cookies Policy | News sources | About the BBC | Contact us