Nothing says “I feel strong!” quite like hefting a barbell overhead and holding it motionless for a second or two. It looks pretty cool, too.
All Olympic-style lifts are variations on the two weightlifting movements featured in the Olympic Games: the “snatch,” in which you pull a barbell from the floor to an overhead position in one explosive movement; and the “clean and jerk,” where you hoist the bar to shoulder level, then push it overhead (see “Learn to Power Clean” for details on proper form).
Both lifts require — and build — lots of power. Most people begin to lose muscle mass around age 30, starting with the white, fast-twitch muscle fibers — the largest, most powerful fibers in your body. The best way to work these fibers, and stave off age-related muscle loss, is with exercises that require you to move either as quickly or forcefully as possible. “Heavy Olympic lifts require you to do both,” says Olympic weightlifter Wil Fleming, CSCS.
Practice these moves often enough, continues Fleming, and your increased strength will also help you jump higher, run faster, and throw farther in your favorite sports. Another benefit? Because “O-lifts” engage nearly every muscle in the body, you’ll burn fat at the same time.
One important caveat: Olympic lifting requires not just full-body strength but also mobility, coordination, timing, and balance. So for those interested in working up to challenging weights, Fleming recommends seeking out qualified instruction. “I’ve been practicing these lifts for 15 years,” Fleming explains, “and I still work on my technique, the same way a golfer might work on his swing.” To locate a club, visit USAWeightlifting.org or seek out a trainer certified as a Performance Enhancement Specialist by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
IT Band Roll
The iliotibial band is a straplike length of connective tissue that runs along the outside of your thigh from your hip to your shin. It can get very tight. Release yours — and guard against knee pain and injury — with this simple one-minute drill.
- Place the roller on the floor.
- Lie on it on your left side, perpendicular to the roller, with the outside of your left thigh resting on the roller.
- Place your right foot flat on the floor in front of your left knee and place your hands comfortably on the floor in front of you, supporting your upper body.
- Bracing yourself with your hands, slowly roll the outside of your left thigh along the roller, all the way down to the outside of your knee, taking 20 to 30 seconds to get there. Spend a few extra seconds on any areas that feel tender.
- Repeat the movement on the other thigh.
Best Before: Any workout. This is perhaps the best all-around warm-up if you’re short on time and can complete only one move.
The Benefit: This easy, full-body movement gets your joints moving and raises your core body temperature. “Sometimes people balk at doing jumping jacks, but it’s one of the easiest ways to increase muscle elasticity and prevent muscle strain,” says Brambley.
How To: Jumping jacks were probably a staple of your grade school gym class, but here’s a refresher on proper technique: Begin by standing with your feet close together and arms at your sides. Tighten your abdominal muscles to pull your pelvis forward and straighten your lower back. Bend your knees slightly and jump, landing with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart. At the same time, raise your arms over your head. You should be on the balls of your feet. Keep your knees slightly bent while you jump again, bringing your feet together and your arms back to your sides. Repeat the exercise for 30 seconds. Rest briefly and then repeat 30-second intervals until you break a light sweat.