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Is Flexibility Important for Weightlifting?

Skill, strength and balance are at the heart of weightlifting success, but it could well be flexibility that separates the champions from the contenders. Stretching ahead of training and competition might be the most boring part of the day for many athletes, but it helps make the enjoyable bits possible. A high level of flexibility means improved mobility, which is an important attribute in each part of a successful lift. Flexibility ensures that different parts of the body are working together for optimum performance. Good standards of flexibility should mean better lifts, and also make injuries less likely, with the body more able to cope with the stresses and strains of weightlifting – the most physically demanding of sports. - WHAT IS FLEXIBILITY? When we speak of flexibility we refer to muscles and tendons, joint capsule efficiency and neural control of muscles. All should be warm and supple before we exert the kind of pressure on our body that comes with Olympic weightlifting. A flexible body is one that can reach, turn, twist and generally move easily. If levels of flexibility are good we should not be constrained in minor movements such as touching our toes or twisting swiftly through a gate. However, champions need to achieve above and beyond this if they are to lift 160kg above their shoulders! Many of us spend our days hunched in front of a computer in the office or behind the wheel of a car, which can lead to poor posture and rigidity. If this is you, attempts should be made to counter this with extensive static and dynamic stretching. WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF POOR FLEXIBILITY? Warming up means we avoid stretching cold muscles. Fibres that have not warmed up do not stretch as easily and attempting to lift heavy weights in this condition could very easily result in muscle and connective tissue injuries. The reason it is difficult to stretch a cold muscle is due to a lack of oxygen. By warming up, we can increase heart rate, which delivers enough blood and oxygen to the muscles to ensure they are ready for lifting weights. Having tight muscles can inhibit proper form and limit fitness, which means we are less likely to be able to lift those bigger weights successfully. HOW CAN WE IMPROVE FLEXIBILITY? Research in recent years has suggested that dynamic stretching is more beneficial than static. Sets of squats, lunges, side lunges and jumping jacks should bring on a light sweat before you even touch a barbell. When starting to work with lighter weights we can improve flexibility with full ranges of motion when learning new techniques. Going to full-depth on squats, for example, helps to build hip flexibility. Flexibility can also be improved by methods normally associated with relaxation. Walking and light yoga are good for relieving stress of the mind and body. Massages add an extra advantage of helping to break up the knots in muscles and tissues that restrict optimum movement of the body. For the greatest benefit, the masseur should focus on the main muscles like the lats, calves, quads, iliotibial (IT) bands, and upper back. As the clean and jerk and snatch use muscles from head to toe, flexibility in all parts of the body is vital if an athlete is to achieve the optimum lift.                 -- Follow us on: Facebook Instagram Twitter Youtube Photos: All Things

What Happened at the 2017 IWF World Championships?

Lasha Talakhadze conquered his rivals with a phenomenal world record-breaking performance to wrap up an enthralling IWF World Championships at the Anaheim Convention Center in the United States. In an event marked by the success of emerging weightlifting nations from Latin America and Africa – as well the end of a 23-year wait for a World Championships gold medal for the host country – a mesmerising display by Talakhadze provided a fitting conclusion on the final day of competition. FINAL-DAY DRAMA The Georgian was unstoppable in the snatch, adding 3kg to his previous world record with a lift of 220kg in the +105kg category, and produced six good lifts in the clean and jerk to set a new world record benchmark of 477kg for his total lift – some 23kg above his nearest challenger, Iran’s Saeid Alihosseini. [caption id="attachment_20903" align="alignleft" width="255"] Georgia's Lasha Talakhadze[/caption] [caption id="attachment_20899" align="alignright" width="244"] Iran's Alihosseini[/caption] Also on a final day packed full of drama, Sarah Robles won the USA’s first gold medal at the World Championships since 1994 by sweeping to victory in the snatch, clean and jerk, and total score in the +90kg division. After sending the partisan Anaheim crowd into a frenzy with a perfect six-for-six session, Robles told “I felt really strong and I was so happy to do this in front of my mom, my team-mates and my country.” Meanwhile Georgia’s Anastasiia Hotfrid made history by winning the first ever World Championships gold medal in the 90kg division and Spain’s Lidia Valentín followed up her third European Championships gold earlier this year with a first world title in the 75kg competition. In the men’s 94kg category, Iran’s Sohrab Moradi followed up his Olympic gold in Rio with new world records in the clean and jerk (233kg) and in the total score (417kg) to register a whopping 29kg ahead of his nearest rival in the final standings. However, there was a much tighter contest with Iran’s other gold medal at the World Championships, with just 5kg separating the top three on the podium in the men’s 105kg division. Ali Hashemi eventually prevailed with a total score of 404kg, holding off the challenges of Latvia’s Artūrs Plēsnieks (402kg) and Uzbekistan’s Ivan Efremov (399kg). [caption id="attachment_20884" align="alignleft" width="251"] USA's Sarah Robles[/caption] [caption id="attachment_20863" align="alignright" width="246"] Iran's Ali Hashemi[/caption] FUTURE CONTENDERS Emerging weightlifting nations came to the fore in a variety of the competitions in Anaheim, setting the foundations for further success on the global stage.  Arley Méndez secured Chile’s first ever medal at the World Championships by sweeping the board in the men’s 85kg category with clear victories in the snatch and clean and jerk. Mohamed Ihab became Africa’s first world champion in a World Championships men’s event since 1984 with a dominant display in the 77kg division – a competition that also saw Harrison Maurus end a 20-year medal drought for the USA at the World Championships with a bronze in the snatch. In the men’s 62kg, Francisco Mosquera claimed Colombia’s second ever gold at the World Championships, following in the footsteps of legend Oscar Figueroa, who retired after winning gold in the same division at the Rio Olympics last year.  RECORD BREAKERS For the first time in a decade, three different women won golds in the 69kg division. Romela Begaj emerged victorious in the snatch, becoming Albania’s first ever women’s world champion in weightlifting. -- Follow us on: Facebook Instagram Twitter

Who to Watch in Anaheim

The 2017 IWF World Weightlifting Championships are ready to begin! Anaheim is ready to welcome the world – and for nearly 400 athletes, the dream of a golden winter in California is closer than ever, with emerging names and nations set to challenge the established order at the IWF World Championships. Athletes from 72 countries will arrive in Anaheim, and several are defending Olympic champions from last year’s Games in Rio, including Lasha Talakhadze, Sohrab Moradi, Sopita Tanasan, Hsu Shu-ching, Sukanya Srisurat and Kianoush Rostami. The Men [caption id="attachment_20217" align="alignleft" width="220"] Lasha Talakahadze - Rio 2016[/caption] [caption id="attachment_20531" align="alignright" width="250"] Kianoush Rostami - Rio 2016[/caption] Georgian Talakhadze, who is also defending his 2015 world title in the +105kg competition, will face stiff competition from Behdad Salimi, who is seeking to recover from a disappointing Olympics just over a year ago. Salimi, representing Iran, claimed golds at the 2010 and 2011 IWF World Championships and also topped the podium at the London 2012 Olympics before falling short of his great superheavyweight rival in Rio in an epic contest in the snatch. Salimi has previously held the world record in the snatch on two occasions – before being surpassed earlier this year by Lasha Talakhadze, who lifted 217kg at the European Championships in April. Salimi’s best clean and jerk in international competition is 255kg, but a recent 260kg lift in training suggests that another enthralling battle with Talakhadze – who was filmed recently snatching 220kg – is on the cards in Anaheim, especially with the likes of Brazil’s Fernando Reis and Estonia’s Mart Seim also set to challenge. Salimi’s compatriot Sohrab Moradi will also be going for gold in the 94kg category at the Anaheim Convention Center following his Olympic gold last year. The Women In the women’s competitions, the 53kg category is shaping up to be an intriguing contest. Hsu Shu-ching of Chinese Taipei is defending her world title and consecutive Olympic golds. However, Sopita Tanasan is moving up to 53kg having won gold for Thailand in Rio in the 48kg category and will provide fierce competition. [caption id="attachment_19541" align="alignleft" width="239"] Hsu Shu-ching - Rio 2016[/caption] [caption id="attachment_19531" align="alignright" width="267"] Sopita Tanasan moves up to 53kg[/caption] Also competing for Thailand will be 22-year-old Sukanya Srisurat, who will be seeking to stay on top in the 58kg competition following her Olympic gold in the same category last year. Meanwhile Spain’s Lidia Valentín, who has picked up medals at three consecutive Olympic Games – including a gold at London 2012 – will be looking to follow up her third European Championships gold earlier this year with a first world title in the 75kg competition. The Home Nation Team USA is fielding a strong selection of athletes, with home hopes resting on the likes of Mattie Rogers, Sarah Robles, Harrison Maurus, and CJ Cummings. Cummings, one of only seven athletes at the World Championships to have been born this century, is hotly tipped in the 69kg competition, while Maurus will compete in the 77kg category. Robles, in the +90kg category, picked up a bronze medal in Rio and is considered to be a serious contender in Anaheim. USA Weightlifting will certainly be hoping for some home success with the USA having not celebrated a male or female world champion in weightlifting since 1969 or 1994, respectively. -- Stay up-to-date with the 2017 International Weightlifting World Championships throughout the week on IWF social channels. Follow us on: Facebook Instagram Twitter

What Are the 2 Olympic Lifts?

The IWF World Championships start on Tuesday 28th November, showcasing the best technique in Olympic Weightlifting. If you're new to the world of weightlifting, let us introduce you to the two lifts: the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk. For even the most casual of weightlifting observers, the technical differences between the snatch and the clean and jerk are obvious. Despite these contrasting styles, there are key similarities between the two lifts that have not only helped them to become hallmarks of the Olympic Games and the IWF World Championships, but have also made them a staple part of weightlifters’ workouts worldwide. To the untrained eye, these lifts might look like a mere test of brute upper-body strength. However, both of these lifts use practically every muscle in the body. Additionally, as those who have trained for such exercises will testify, perfecting these lifts requires immense agility, balance, concentration, flexibility, speed, timing and explosive power, from head to toe.  Snatch   Having started out as a one-handed lift at the Olympic Games in 1896, the two-handed version was only unveiled on sport’s biggest stage 28 years later, giving the world a glimpse of one of the most graceful demonstrations of human power and agility. The snatch is a controlled, balanced lift of the barbell from the floor to an overhead position in a single motion. Blink and you will miss it, but many an athlete’s hopes have been dashed by a miniscule misjudgement at one of the four stages of the lift – the set-up, the pull, the catch and the stand. Starting off with the set-up, the athlete needs a wide grip in the squat position with straight arms, a flat back and hips higher than the knees. The pull involves pushing with your legs, back and glutes, while keeping the bar close to your shins, but not touching them. Once the bar brushes your shins and is above your knees, it is crucial to accelerate the lift with as much power as possible, extending your ankles, knees and hips to rise onto your toes. In receiving the bar as you extend – the catch – you need to pull yourself under the bar to drop into a full squat and then turn your wrists in order to push the bar above you, driving from the triceps and shoulders so that your arms are locked at the elbows. The stand, once you have secured control of the barbell, should be steady and smooth until you are fully upright. You will need to extend your knees and hips at this stage, with the bar staying directly over your ankles and hips to maintain balance. Deceptively, when the lift is executed perfectly, the heavy weight should feel light. But that is far easier said than done. Clean & Jerk   The two-handed clean and jerk was on the programme at the very first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 – some 28 years before the two-handed snatch made its Olympic debut. It is markedly different to the snatch in that it is effectively a two-stage lift, allowing the athlete to regain his or her composure half-way through before pushing the barbell above the individual. Like the snatch, the athlete has to finish in a static position for the lift to count. Athletes are able to lift about 20% more with their clean and jerk than their snatch. Additionally, whereas the snatch is about a graceful, swift lift into an upright position in just over two seconds, the clean and jerk maintains an air of suspense and usually takes between 7 and 10 seconds – or even longer – from the start to finish position, including a 4 or 5-second gap in the middle when the audience watch on with baited breath. The clean and jerk starts with a narrower grip, but the first and second pulls are very similar to the snatch lift. However, the key difference is in the final catch, with the athlete dropping under the bar into a front squat. The ‘clean’ phase of the lift ends with the athlete standing upright with the barbell supported by the front of the shoulders, while the second phase – the ‘jerk’ – features a narrower stance, dropped elbows and then a shallow dip, converting the lift into an overhead press, with the legs generating the power. -- Stay up-to-date with the 2017 International Weightlifting World Championships next week on IWF social channels. Follow us on: Facebook Instagram Twitter

The Bright Future of USA Weightlifting: Mattie Rogers

You may have seen Mattie Rogers lighting up the world weightlifting stage in recent years. You may even be one of her 476,000+ Instagram followers. Already World University, American Open, National University, and National Champion, what’s certain is that this 22-year-old is destined for even bigger things in the sport. The question is, how far can she go at the 2017 IWF World Championships in Anaheim next week? We spoke to Mattie ahead of her trip to California to find out how she got into weightlifting, her pain at missing out on Rio 2016, and what it means to be the inspiration of a new generation of female athletes.  Welcome to weightlifting Born in Apopka, Florida, Mattie Rogers entered the world of sport in a traditional way. “I started gymnastics aged 2, and carried on with it for 10-12 years,” she recalls. Later came competitive cheerleading. Weightlifters may scoff at this, but those in the know understand cheerleading requires immense strength, coordination and flexibility – three things fundamental to Olympic lifting. This, as well as the gymnastics, served as a great foundation when she discovered weights. “I think gymnastics helped me the most,” Mattie says. “It developed my basic overall strength and coordination from a young age.” At just 17, Mattie became enamoured with the rapidly emerging sport of CrossFit, and it was through this that she began to reveal a talent for Olympic lifting. “I actually felt I wasn’t particularly good at lifting weights,” she remembers. “I preferred the bodyweight movements that echoed my days as a gymnast.  But what I loved about weightlifting, and still love, is how technical it is – how you must focus on the small things to get that edge.” CrossFit soon took a backseat to lifting. And as for cardio? Well… “we weightlifters laugh at the thought of cardio!”  The Olympic dream In 2016, Mattie’s hopes of making the USA Olympic Team were crushed at Trials. Jenny Arthur, Sarah Robles and Morghan King were selected to represent their country at Rio, leaving Mattie deflated. “I was very bitter for a very long time,” she admits, “but not with anyone but myself.” Did this put an end to her dream of competing at the next Olympics? Far from it. “To go and sit in the stands and watch what I could have been doing has motivated me to be smarter this time around.” And with time comes experience. Mattie has learned that to perform on the world stage, she doesn’t need to be on peak form for all four years of the quad. “By the time of the Rio Olympic Trials, I was burned out by overtraining. Now, I know I don’t have to reach my peak until the performances that really count,” she explains. 2017 World Champion? Before Tokyo 2020 Trials become a reality, there is the small matter of competing at this year’s IWF World Championships. Mattie enters Anaheim with a total of 239kg, just below Egypt’s impressive Sara Samir Ahmed, Taipei’s Wang-Tung Hung, and Colombia’s Leidy Solís (of whom Mattie is a big fan and against whom she will be competing in the Female 69kg). This category might appear to be a stacked card, so Mattie will have to reach her peak and use the energy of the crowd to be in with a chance of a medal. With the Championships taking place in California, the USA team can expect a warm reception and fantastic support. For Mattie, some extra encouragement is on hand. “My mom is coming to watch me lift for thefirst time,” she says with a smile.  [caption id="attachment_20580" align="aligncenter" width="530"] Image: FloElite[/caption] Inspiring female athletes Does Mattie feel the pressure of responsibility? “I don’t think anyone should compare themselves to anyone else,” Mattie says. “People probably see me on social media as an unconventional type of girl, and I hope that inspires them not to worry about what other people think and to simply do their own thing.” The female roster for the 2017 World Championships is impressive, and is indicative of increased female participation in the sport as a whole. As more women enjoy greater exposure in the discipline, the spotlight will naturally fall upon the biggest personalities. With a social media following worthy of the biggest sports stars, Mattie Rogers is certainly one of these. -- Follow Mattie's progress at the 2017 International Weightlifting World Championships next week on IWF social channels. Follow us on: Facebook Instagram Twitter