Are The Olympic Lifts Muscle Builders? Can you gain slabs of muscles by doing the clean & jerk?

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Some Olympic weightlifters have thick physiques that make the muscle worshipers envious. As a result, many muscle constructors begin to incorporate the Olympic lifts in an attempt to gain some of that “Oly” mass. However, are the Olympic lifts efficient muscle builders?

Olympic Weightlifting Is A Hip Dominant Sport

Both Olympic lifts are hip and back dominant. That’s why most Oly lifters have thick backs, well-developed lower bodies and modest upper body mass.

Olympic lifting isn’t a sport that depends heavily on the pushing upper body muscles.


The Olympic Lifts Are Designed For Low Reps

Regardless of what the CrossFit masters say, the Olympic lifts are not designed for high reps. Anything over 3 in a row is excessive.

The two Olympic movements are skill elements rather than exercises.

The Olympic Lifts Don’t Have a Negative Portion

The bumper plates allow the lifters to simply drop the bar after an attempt.

As a result, there is no eccentric/negative portion. This reduces the stress on the body and allows the lifters to train for longer periods of time but isn’t a bonus when it comes to building muscle because the negative part of a repetition serves as a strong growth stimulus too.

The Muscular Bodies Of Olympic Lifters Are The Result Of Complex Training

Olympic weightlifters do a lot more than just the Olympic lifts. Bodybuilding work is also included. In the video below, you can see the Russian weightlifter Evgeny Chigishev bench press 495lbs.

Therefore, it would be incorrect to conclude that the impressive physiques presented by some Olympic lifters are the result of two lifts.

It’s also worth noting that weightlifting is one of the sports helped tremendously by drug use. Steroids have been a part of Olympic weightlifting for a long time because they are a very effective way to increase muscle mass and strength.

Built For Performance, Not Looks

Not all weightlifters have impressive physiques. Some are fat and highly unaesthetic due to the excessive glute and leg development. But that’s to be expected since weightlifters don’t get points for nice looks.

A more favorable body composition (more muscle, less fat) definitely helps, especially in the lower weight classes, but is not needed to succeed.

Moreover, excessive leanness can be harmful because it exposes the joints to more stress. You may look amazing at 6% BF, but your joints will feel better when you are 10% BF or more.

Will I get huge by doing the Olympic lifts?

The Olympic lifts will certainly help you develop power, muscle mass and strength but are not the most optimal approach when it comes to hypertrophy. Performing squats and power cleans/snatches separately may be a better option if you are looking for mass through Olympic training. The squat will obviously take care of the lower body whereas the power cleans and the snatches will develop your back.

If we go back in time, we will find evidence suggesting that Olympic weightlifting produces bodybuilding looks.

The legendary weightlifter Tommy Kono won many physique competitions. He was Mr. Universe in 1955,1957 and in 1961.

image via: davedraper.com;

image via: davedraper.com

However, he didn’t rely on the Oly lifts alone. Kono and the rest of the physique competitors did exercises like curls and close grip bench presses.

Kono doing curls. image via: bodybuilding.com;

Kono doing curls. image via: bodybuilding.com

In conclusion

The Olympic lifts may be beneficial, but they are not the most practical exercises when the goal is hypertrophy. Trying to acquire an aesthetic appearance by doing the Olympic lifts is like trying to become a weightlifter by doing deadlifts. They help, but dedicated work produces the greatest results.

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