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To be able to follow and enjoy a weightlifting competition it is necessary to know some basic rules.


Each athlete gets three attempts for the snatch and subsequently three for the jerk. The one with the highest total (= best snatch + best jerk) is the winner. In some competitions however, there also additional medals for the snatch and jerk.

Every attempt is evaluated by three referees (a white light for a good attempt, a red light for a refused attempt ,"no lift"). An attempt is good when it gets two or three white lights from the referees.


There are 8 bodyweight divisions for the men:-56, -62, -69, -77, -85, -94, -105, +105kg and 6 for the women: -48, -53, -58, -63, -69, -75, +75kg. Usually the victory is determined for each bodyweight category but there is also a system to make an overall ranking over the different bodyweights. By multiplying the achieved total with a (Sinclair) coefficient coupled with the bodyweight (the higher the bodyweight  the lower the coefficient) every athlete gets a point total which is independent of the bodyweight.


When the name of the athlete is announced for his attempt, then he has exactly one minute to mount on the competition platform and to lift the barbell above knee height- if not, the lift is evaluated as invalid. However, when the athlete has to take two attempts in succession then the time limit is 2 minutes.




1. The barbell must be lifted above the head in a single continuous movement. This means that every pause or stop during the lift will lead to an incorrect lift.


2. There are two possibilities to lower the body under the weight. The first one is by a split movement (one foot is placed in front while the other is simultaneously placed backwards) but this style is seldom used nowadays (sometimes by older lifters, who don't have the flexibility for a full squat). The second method is to bent the legs rapidly to put the body in a squat position.


3. In the final phase of the lift (catching of the weight above the head) the arms have to be extended and stay extended! Therefore finishing the lift with a pause, press out or re- bending, leads to a 'no lift' from the referees. A competitor, who cannot fully extend the elbows due to an anatomical deformation, must report this fact to the three referees and the jury before the start of the competition.


4. The competitor is not allowed to touch the platform with any other part of the body than the feet. (for example touching from the knees or buttock with the platform in the squat position  also gives rise to a 'no lift')


5. The barbell must not touch the head of the lifter.


6. The weight, which has been lifted, must be maintained in the final 'motionless' position, arms and legs extended, the feet on the same line, parallel to the plane of the trunk and the barbell. When this position is reached (there is no time limit), the referees will signal to lower the barbell. The lifter must lower it in front of the body and not let it drop either deliberately or accidentally. The grip on the bar may be released when it has passed the level of the waist.




1. The weight has to be pulled in a single continuous movement from the platform to the shoulders (the “clean”). This means that every pause or stop during the lift will lead to an incorrect lift. The bar must not touch the chest before the final position.


2. See point 2 from the snatch. Hereby the elbows or upper arms are not allowed to touch the knees or thighs.


3. See point 4 from the snatch.


4. After the clean the barbell must rest on the clavicles or on the chest above the nipples or on the arms fully bent. The lifter may adjust the position of the bar but before performing the jerk the barbell must be motionless and the feet must return to the same line, parallel to the plane of the trunk and the barbell, and legs have to be straight .


5. For the jerk the athlete bends the legs and extends them as well as the arms to bring the barbell to the full stretch of the arms vertically extended. (Every unfinished attempt to jerk will lead to an incorrect lift). The athlete can again use one of the techniques described in point two from the snatch (but here the split is most commonly used). He or she returns the feet to the same line, arms and legs fully extended and waits for the referees' signal to replace the barbell on the platform. The referees give the signal to lower the barbell as soon as the lifter becomes motionless in all parts of the body.


6. See point 3 from the snatch.


7. See point 5 from the snatch.


8. See point 6 from the snatch.


It is important to make a clear distinction between the three related sports branches that often get mixed up: weightlifting, bodybuilding and powerlifting. All three competition sports are based on weight training but there are also fundamental differences. 

What counts in "body-building" is the athlete's appearance, or as de term explains itself: how well is the body builded. So there is only real use from weights in the training sessions, while on the competition itself only the result of this weight-training on the body is displayed.

Weightlifting and powerlifting are much closer to each other; in both strength sports the aim is to lift as much as possible while the looks of the athlete's body are of no importance.

In power-lifting  there are three movements at which the "pure" strength from the participants is tested. With the first movement- the squat  (knee-bending with a weight)- predominantly the leg power is been tested. In the second movement- the bench press - mostly the upperbody muscles are brought into action (pectorals, shoulder and arm muscles) by pushing a weight of your chest. All the muscles of the back then are severely taxed in the third event- the deadlift (lifting a weight from the ground till you stand up with it or till you die ;-).

Weightlifting is unlike the others an Olympic sport, and exist out of two movements; the snatch and the clean & jerk. In the snatch a weight is lifted above the head in one fast uninterrupted movement. In the second movement the weight is brought to the shoulders in a first phase, the clean. In the second phase the weight is jerked out above the head. The fact that in the second movement the weights are lifted in two stages makes it easier and the lifted weights thus are higher. 

A fundamental difference with power-lifting is that the strongest competitor not necessarily wins the competition. Weightlifting is a very technical sport for which, besides "pure strength", also "explosive speed",  good "flexibility" and extreme "coordination" is needed.  The athlete who combines all of these elements in the best way, has the best starting point to win the competition.  
Weightlifting - Powerlifting -Bodybuilding
Basic rules in weightlifting
Weightlifting - from the past till now
The first 'official' competitions were held in the '90s.  On 28th March 1891 the first World Championships were organized in London. The first European Championships were held in 1896.
On the first Modern Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens weightlifting was already on the program  (alongside athletics, swimming, gymnastics, fencing, wrestling, shooting and cycling)! Weightlifting did not appear in the 1900 Games, but returned in 1904, and has been a regular event since 1920.

The international weightlifting federation (IWF) was founded with 14 members in 1920 in order to determine the regulations of the competitions and to inspect the international competitions. The European weightlifting federation (EWF) was founded in 1969

In the beginning the weightlifting contests consisted out of up to twelve different lifts with the use of either one arm or both arms. The one arm-lifts were eliminated later.
From 1928 till 1972  three lifts became the standard: the press , the snatch, and the clean & jerk. In 1973 the press movement was eliminated.

In 1987 the first world championships for women were organized in the USA in the bodyweight classes -44, -48, -52, -56, -60, -67.5, 75,-82.5,  +82.5 kg. In 2000 female weightlifting made their debut on the Olympic stage.

Until 1905 there were no bodyweight classes. In 1906 three bodyweight classes were introduced (-70, -80, + 80 kg). In 1913 they expanded to 5 classes (-67.5, -75, -82.5, + 82.5 kg). In 1947 the -56 kg and - 60 kg were added and in 1950 the classes - 90 kg and +90 kg.  
After a lot of changes in the categories the men have lifted since 1969 for a long period  in 10 bodyweight classes (-52 kg, -56 kg, -60 kg, -67,5 kg, -75 kg, -82,5 kg, - 90 kg, - 100 kg, -110 kg, +110 kg). 
In 1993 the classes were rearranged (-54, -59, -64, -70, -76 ,-83, -91, -99, -108, +108 kg) and all the records were put to zero. Purpose was to make a new, dopingfree start and to show the world that the fight against doping was taken very serious. The old records (World, European, national,... records) are 'frozen' forever. 
Following the success of female lifting it was accepted on the Olympic program for 2000, but with the restrictions that the total amount of lifters (men and women) had to stay the same (250).  The IWF decided to reduces the bodyweight categories to 8 for the men and 7 for the women. So in 1998  the new classes were officially introduced:
-56, -62, -69, -77, -85, -94, -105, + 105 kg for the men and
-48, -53, -58, -63, -69, -75, + 75 kg for the women.
The European and World records were replaced with standards. In 2002 there still remain world standards to be broken.    

See also the history of weightlifting in Belgium.

Weightlifting Today

Today the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) comprises 167 affiliated nations. According to the IWF approximately ten thousand weightlifters participate annually in official competitions.
At the 1999 World Championships in Athens Greece a participation record was registered, with altogether 660 athletes of 88 countries taking part. 

Up to 2008  the men have competed in 23 Olympic Games, 76 World Championships; the junior men in 35 Junior World Championships. The women had their first Olympic appearance in Sydney 2000 and took part in 19 senior and 15 Junior World Championships.

European and World Championships are organized every year, except in the Olympics years when only European Championships and Olympic Games take place.  

Today there are eight weight classes for men and seven weight classes for women
-56, -62, -69, -77, -85, -94, -105, + 105 kg for the men and
-48, -53, -58, -63, -69, -75, + 75 kg for the women.

There is also an division in age categories:
Youth:  - 18 (till the year one turns 17 years old)
Juniors: -21 (till the year one turns 20 years old)
Seniors: open, no age limits
Masters I : 35-39 years
Masters II : 40-44 years
Masters III : 45-49 years
Masters IV: 50-54 years
Masters V : 55-59 years
Masters VI: 60-64 years
Masters VII: 65-69 years
Masters VIII: 70-74 years
Masters IX: 75-79 years
Masters VII: 80+ years
History of Weightlifting

Since the beginning of civilization people have been fascinated by power and strength. In many ancient (Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Chinese,..).cultures there are traces of people measuring their strength by lifting weights. The weights were generally stones, but later gave way to dumbbells. The base of weightlifting in it's actual form was laid in the middle of the 19th century in Austria, German and France.
“Weightlifting” in other languages
It can always be interesting for a websearch to know  "weightlifting" (USA, GBR) in other languages.

So I did some research:
"gewichtheffen" in Belgium and the Netherlands,  "gewichtheben"  in Germany.
In Poland the magic word is "podnoszenie ciężarów" while In Slovakia they call it "vzpieračská" and in Czech "vzpírání".
The Russian translation should be "Тяжёлая атлетика", pronounced as "tjascholaja athletika" and the Bellarusian "цяжкая атлетыка".
In Latvian language "svarcelšana", but in Lithuanian it's called "sunkioji atletika" and in Estonian it is "tōstespord".
In Swedish  it looks like "tyngdlyftning", in Norvegian "vektløfting", in Danish "vægtløftning" and in Finnish "painonnosto".
Italians use  "pesistica" and the French "haltérophilie", the Irish speak about "Togail meachain".
In Portugese "halterofilismo" but in Brasil they call it "levantamento de pesos".
In Spain it is  "halterofilia" but in South America they talk about "levantamienta de pesas".
The Greek equivalent is "άρση βαρών, pronounced Arsi Varon" and the Turkish is "halter".  Hungarian: “sulyemelés
Serbian:” dizanje tegova / дизање тегова “, Croatian: “dizanje utega”, Slovenian: “dviganje uteži”.