Introduction to Weightlifting

Weightlifting is an intense sport, since competitors draw on all their mental and physical strength to lift massive weights, often more than twice their own body weight.

Competitors aim to lift a weighted bar above the head and hold it under control until signalled by the referee to replace it on the platform.

Weightlifting is split into two separate lifts - the snatch, and the clean and jerk. Competitors have a maximum of three attempts at each lift.

With only three attempts allowed, tactics, such as deciding which weight to start with, are crucial.



Weightlifting was one of the few sports - as well as athletics, swimming, gymnastics and fencing - to feature in the sports programme for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

Since then, weightlifting has been a mainstay of the Olympic Games programme, although it was dropped in 1900, 1908 and 1912. The first World Championships were staged in London in 1891, with seven athletes from six countries competing.

In 1905, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) was founded and is now based in Budapest. Today, the IWF consists of almost 170 affiliated nations, with approximately 10,000 weightlifters participating annually in official competitions.

Weightlifting has been an Asian Games event since the inaugural games in New Delhi, India in 1951.The 74th Men's and 17th Women's World Championships in 2005, took place in Doha, Qatar.



Competitors attempt to lift weights mounted on a steel barbell, using a combination of power and technique. The barbell weighs 20kg for men and 15kg for women.

Identical weights are placed at each end of the barbell. Competitors start with the weighted barbell placed in the middle of a 4m-by-4m wooden floor, coated with non-slip material.

There are two different weightlifting events:

  • the "snatch", in which competitors must lift the barbell above their head in one steady movement, and
  • the "clean and jerk" where competitors first "clean" the barbell from the floor to an intermediate position in front of the neck, and then "jerk" the barbell to a position above their heads.

In both, competitors must hold the bar steady above their heads, with arms and legs straight and motionless.

Three judges determine if a competitor has successfully completed a lift by shining a white light. When at least two white lights are shown, the lift is deemed successful and the competitor may return the bar to the platform. If a competitor fails to achieve a successful lift, a red light is shown.

There are eight male categories (seven for women) determined by body weight.

Men's classes:

56kg, 62kg, 69kg, 77kg, 85kg, 94kg, 105kg and 105+kg.

Women's classes:

48kg, 53kg, 58kg, 63kg, 69kg, 75kg, and 75+kg.

In each division, weightlifters compete in both the snatch and clean and jerk, with the combined weight counting for the overall result. Weights are set in 1kg increments.