A lot of sports people will have been told that a rule is there for a reason while they protest the unfairness of a decision but there are three rules in the sport of weightlifting which competitive weightlifters care most about. There are plenty of others covering kit, lifting area etc but it’s the press out, elbow touch and waiting for the down signal which you most need to be aware of when you take to the platform. I think these are also the rules you need to be aware of when teaching the Olympic lifts to anyone, whether they intend to compete or not for the following reasons.
Pressing out –“Finishing with a press-out, defined as: continuing the extension of the arms after the athlete has reached the lowest point of his/her position in the squat or split for both the Snatch and the Jerk. “
While a lot of people disagree with the press out rule I think they miss the impact it would have on the sport if you got rid of it. The snatch is supposed to be lifting the bar from the floor to above the head in one movement. If you’re allowed to press out that makes two movements. I’ve seen 1996 Olympic champion Andre Chemerkin clean & jerk 235kg without the bar touching his shoulders at all – a lift to above the head without touching the body in two movements. If you allow press outs you could end up with the snatch being a clean & jerk without touching any part of the body.
As a trainer of athletes or a fitness coach you might not be too concerned with how rules affect the competitive sport but getting your athletes to lock out correctly will lessen their chance of injuring their elbows or shoulders. When a bar is over your head you’ll have much more mobility in your shoulder joints when your arms are locked out. This means that if the bar should go behind you you’re much less likely to dislocate one of these joints. If you’re in any doubt about this you can take a nice wide grip on a broom stick and, keeping your arms locked, rotate the broomstick over to behind your back then back to over your head again. Obviously don’t force it like mad and hurt yourself – if you can’t do this at all you should probably start doing some stretching! Now bend your arms and carefully attempt the same thing. They won’t go. Unless you’ve got 100kg in your hands then the bar will still go over nicely but your shoulder or elbow will dislocate to let it. It’s very important to lock out strongly under the snatch or the jerk.
Elbow Touch – “Touching the thighs or the knees with the elbows or the upper arms”
Getting your elbows up in the receiving position of the clean will help to keep you upright, keep a straight back and get your hips in so in the long term is a good idea anyway but a common result of low elbows in the clean receive is a sprained or broken wrist (or wrists) as the elbows hit the knees and the wrists get bent back by the heavy weight. Even if it’s not a break these injuries seem to take longer than most to heal and are very frustrating. They are obviously a disaster if you’re training a fighter or thrower. Maybe less so for a footballer or runner but still not desirable.
Waiting for the down signal – “Releasing the barbell before the Referees’ signal.”
I always encourage my lifters and athletes to finish a lift off properly before dropping the bar down. Particularly in the split jerk but also in the snatch and clean, the knees aren’t completely out of the way of a dropped bar until you’re standing upright with them locked. We’ve had one lifter drop 80kg on his thigh just above the knee when dropping a jerk before recovering fully and although he was lucky that it missed his kneecap it was still a very impressive bruise. I also see it as a sign of control when a lifter finishes the lift off properly. I’ve also seen plenty of lifters trying to style out a snatch they are actually missing forwards by turning it into a “purposefully” early finished rep. This is a bit like breaking into a short jog when you trip on a bit of uneven pavement. This tactic may preserve your super cool image but it’s better to fix the short pull instead of trying to cover up the result of it.
Unlike the two rules above there are exceptions to this in training and you may get a better rhythm in a set of hang snatches for example by dropping the bar into the crease of your hips as you recover because there’s less distance for the bar to drop in that case but if you’re dropping the bar to the floor between reps I don’t see why you shouldn’t finish the lift off properly. I’ve seen many instances of novice lifters finishing their first attempt and immediately dumping the bar without waiting for the referee’s signal so especially for those intending to compete it’s a good idea to get into the habit of finishing the lift, waiting half a second then dropping the bar.
There are plenty of rules covering all aspects of weightlifting which technical officers and referees need to know about. The IWF handbook detailing these can be found here – http://www.iwf.net/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/10/IWF-TCRR-September-2013.pdf
It was common knowledge in my day that you were allowed to start facing the other direction if you want. I’ve just seen that this isn’t allowed. I don’t know if this is a update of the rules or if we were wrong about it before and no-one I know of ever tried but it always pays to know your rules just in case!