Olympic Weightlifting – History and a 2-Day Training Split

Simon Graham Personal Trainer

Why I started Olympic Weightlifting

Most of my clients won’t ever Olympic Weight Lift (so don’t panic dear client if you are reading this!?!?), and I came to OLY Lifting relatively late myself.

It was something I had wanted to try for a while, and I was interested to see how it would support my cycling and also my general health. As I am an endurance cyclist (slow and steady) you may think the explosive nature of OLY Lifting is not entirely relevant, but it has helped me no end.

I am much faster when hitting short punchy climbs as you might expect, but I am just generally more resilient and have a noticeable increase in average speed overall as well. You have to really push, switch your brain off and step out of your comfort zone when OLY Lifting, so that mental edge transfers well when on a tough ride.

It has also helped me immensely outside of cycling as well. Although I am a coach, I spend a lot of time at a desk. Although I have lifted for several years, introducing OLY Lifting into my workout routine has done more than any other exercise to undo the inevitable “desk hunch”. My posture is better to the point that it makes me look taller!

A Brief History Lesson

Weightlifting, in its embryonic form, saw competitors engage in various lifting styles. This early period set the stage for weightlifting’s Olympic debut in sunny Athens, 1896. Women’s weightlifting was finally (!) introduced to the Olympics in the 2000 Sydney Games.

In the early Olympic days, weightlifting had its quirks. Athletes were showcasing one-handed lifts, two-handed lifts, and a variety of techniques that would probably leave modern lifters scratching their heads. But as with most things, evolution came knocking. The weightlifting community started honing in on standardised techniques and rules.

By the time the calendar pages had flipped to more recent decades, two iconic lifts emerged as the standard bearers: the snatch, and the clean and jerk…

The Two Olympic Lifts

  • Snatch: In one swift motion, the weightlifter lifts the barbell from the ground to overhead, ending with arms fully extended while in a deep squat, then standing up straight with the weight still overhead.
  • Clean and Jerk: In two distinct movements, the weightlifter first pulls the barbell to the shoulders (the clean) and then pushes it overhead to a fully extended arm position (the jerk), all while maintaining control and balance.

An Example Two Day Training Split / Training Plan

Day 1: Snatch Focus

  1. Warm-up (10-15 minutes)
    • Jump rope or full-body cardio machine: 3 minutes
    • Dynamic movements: leg swings, arm circles, torso rotations, etc.
    • Light goblet squats: 2 sets of 10
    • PVC or empty barbell snatch drills
  2. Snatch
    • Sets 1-2: 3 reps @ 70% 1RM (1 rep max)
    • Sets 3-4: 2 reps @ 75% 1RM
    • Sets 5-6: 1 rep @ 80-85% 1RM
  3. Snatch Pulls
    • 4 sets of 3 reps @ 90-100% of snatch 1RM
  4. Overhead Squat
    • 4 sets of 5 reps @ a challenging weight (ensure form is perfect)
  5. Accessory Work
    • Romanian Deadlifts: 3 sets of 6-8 reps
    • Pendlay Rows: 3 sets of 8 reps
    • Planks: 3 x 1 minute
  6. Cool Down & Stretching (10 minutes)
    • Foam rolling: quads, hamstrings, calves, and upper back
    • Static stretching: focus on major muscle groups used

Day 2: Clean & Jerk Focus

  1. Warm-up (10-15 minutes)
    • Full-body cardio machine or light jogging: 5 minutes
    • Dynamic movements
    • PVC or empty barbell clean & jerk drills
  2. Clean & Jerk
    • Sets 1-2: 3 reps @ 70% 1RM
    • Sets 3-4: 2 reps @ 75% 1RM
    • Sets 5-6: 1 rep @ 80-85% 1RM
  3. Clean Pulls
    • 4 sets of 3 reps @ 90-100% of clean 1RM
  4. Front Squat
    • 4 sets of 5 reps @ 70-75% of 1RM
  5. Accessory Work
    • Bulgarian Split Squats: 3 sets of 8 reps per leg
    • Strict Press (or Push Press for more advanced lifters): 3 sets of 6 reps
    • Hanging leg raises: 3 sets of 10 reps
  6. Cool Down & Stretching (10 minutes)
    • Foam rolling
    • Static stretching


  • It’s vital to ensure that you have proper technique before adding significant weight to these lifts. Consulting with a certified Olympic weightlifting coach will be incredibly beneficial.
  • If you’re unfamiliar with any exercise, take the time to research or get instruction before attempting.
  • Listen to your body and adjust the program as needed based on recovery and any discomfort.
  • This is a basic structure and should be adjusted based on individual needs, goals, and experience levels
  • All forms of exercise carry a risk of injury. Therefore, by following a training programme, suggestions or exercises from simongPT, you do so at your own risk and accept I am in no way liable for any accidents or injuries that arise from your training.

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