This is excerpt Seven in the “What is Fitness” series from Greg Glassman in the CrossFit Journal.


“Weightlifting” as opposed to “weight lifting” or “weight training,” refers to the Olympic sport, which includes the clean and jerk and the snatch. Weightlifting, as it is often referred to, develops strength (especially in the hips), speed and power like no other training modality. It is little known that successful weightlifting requires substantial flexibility. Olympic weightlifters are as flexible as any athletes.

The benefits of weightlifting do not end with strength, speed, power and flexibility. The clean and jerk and the snatch both develop coordination, agility, accuracy and balance and to no small degree. Both of these lifts are as nuanced and challenging as any movement in all of sport. Moderate competency in the Olympic lifts confers added prowess to any sport.

The Olympic lifts are based on the deadlift, clean, squat and jerk. These movements are the starting point for any serious weight-training program. In fact, they should serve as the core of your resistance training throughout your life.

Why the deadlift, clean, squat and jerk? Because these movements elicit a profound neuroendocrine response; that is, they alter you hormonally and neurologically. The changes that occur through these movements are essential to athletic development. Most of the development that occurs as a result of exercise is systemic and a direct result of hormonal and neurological changes.

Curls, lateral raises, leg extensions, leg curls, flyes and other bodybuilding movements have no place in a serious strength-and-conditioning program primarily because they have a blunted neuroendocrine response. A distinctive feature of these relatively worthless movements is that they have no functional analog in everyday life and they work only one joint at a time. Compare this to the deadlift, clean, squat and jerk, which are functional and multi-joint movements.

Start your weightlifting career with the deadlift, clean, squat and jerk then introduce the clean and jerk and snatch. Much of the best weight-training material on the Internet is found on powerlifting sites. Powerlifting is the sport of three lifts: the bench press, squat and deadlift. Powerlifting is a superb start to a lifting program followed later by the more dynamic clean and the jerk and finally the clean and jerk and the snatch.

The movements that we are recommending are very demanding and very athletic. As a result, they have kept athletes interested and intrigued where the typical fare offered in most gyms (bodybuilding movements) typically bores athletes to distraction. Weightlifting is sport; weight training is not.


Our program includes not only weightlifting and powerlifting but also throwing work with medicine balls. The medicine-ball work we favor provides both physical training and general movement practice. We are huge fans of the Dynamax medicine ball and associated throwing exercises. The medicine-ball drills add another potent stimulus for strength, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy.

There is a medicine ball game known as Hoover-Ball. It is played with an 8-foot volleyball net and scored like tennis. This game burns three times more calories than tennis and is great fun. The history and rules of Hoover-Ball are available here.