A Brief History of Weightlifting

Weightlifting has come a long way since the late 19th century. We look at the history and how Weightlifting has developed over the years.

Weightlifting first became an international sport when it featured at the 1896 Athens Games. It was introduced as a field event but vanished from the scene for some time only to resurface in 1904. It didn’t find a place in the 1908 or 1912 Olympic Games but was re-introduced in 1920. At these Games in Antwerp, fourteen nations competed. In all the early games, the only distinction that was drawn was between lifting with one hand only and lifting with two hands.

By 1924, weightlifting had evolved enough to add to its original tally of two lifts. The 1924 Olympic Games in Paris saw the two hands press, two hands Snatch and two hands Clean & Jerk being included, making a total of five lifts in all. By the time the 1932 games came round in Budapest the one handed lifts were dropped, something that was long overdue.

Weight classes were introduced meaning weightlifters were finally categorised differently. Forty years later, there was another change—this time the clean and press lift was eliminated and the biathlon alone remained—the snatch and clean and jerk. In 1984, the first penalties for anti-doping violations came into effect.

Olympic weightlifting differed from other strength sports that typically tested limit strength in that the focus shifted to mobility and greater range of motion. This is evident from the fact that only the dynamic and explosive lifts withstood the passage of time (the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk).

Now Olympic Weightlifting had become a body-weight sport where athletes competed against only those in the same bodyweight category. Whoever lifted the highest combined weight after Snatch and Clean & Jerk was declared the winner. Each weightlifter was allowed three attempts for each lift and in order to be eligible, they would have to complete at least one successful Snatch and one successful Clean & Jerk.

Women were late entrants into weightlifting and although women’s weightlifting was recognised in 1983, it wasn’t until 1986 that the first women’s international competition took place in Budapest. However, it took another 14 years for the first female competitors to compete in the Olympics in Sydney 2000.

Nowadays Weightlifting is greatly enjoyed by many individuals across the globe and competitions are fierce with records being broken at most World Championships. There has been a great increase in lifters thanks to CrossFit and we only hope lifting continues to grow in popularity as, in our minds, it’s the best sport on the planet!

One thought on “A Brief History of Weightlifting

  1. At the 1970 Worlds, the 2 (or 3) medalist all were disqualified for “Speed”. And the 1976 Olympic Games had 10 were disqualified for Anabolic Steroids.

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