Olympic Lifting and Book Review

“No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” – Socrates

If you want a book that will help you get to the next level in lifting, I recommend you purchase Jim Schmitz’s Olympic Style Weightlifting manual and DVD and complete just one month of training. It will seriously change the way you see fitness. While looking for background on Jim for this article I found the Mighty Fit Review and agree with the blogger; It will change your life. If you are thinking about fitness as it applies to the realm of survival, this is one good beginning for you. Followers of ‘O’ lifting will build a good strength base and more…their mental fortitude.

Back in 2002 I was having a conversation with my buddy Larry a fitness instructor. Our talk drifted over to working out and we went back and forth discussing the merits of martial arts, lifting weights and so forth. We discussed sand running, carrying weights while running, wrestling but Larry kept talking about workouts that just blew him away. Stuff that kept him conditioned and feeling challenged. What the heck was he talking about?

He talked about Olympic Lifiting. I’d seen it on television during the Olympics. Usually big dudes hefting super heavy weights but I had zero interest in it. Boy, was I clueless and close-minded. Little did I know about the Cross-fit community that would soon take off in 2004 and beyond.

Larry invited me to check out his gym located right on Valencia Street, in a place called Valencia Street Muscle and Fitness. The front of the gym had the typical weight machines but tucked in the back room was something different.

The Sports Palace
The Sports Palace

In a 15′ x 45′ room were wooden platforms, bumper plates, metal racks and loads of old pictures of Olympic lifters. Anyone could tell this was old school. People came here to lift. No mirrors to look in. No distractions. No cheesy music or people preening in tight clothing.  I looked over and saw a petite yet fit female performing a lifting maneuver I’d never seen before, and it was clear to me, she was lifting more weight above her head than I ever did before. Upon the wall was a banner with the words the Sports Palace. I later learned the amazing history of that place.

An older guy with full beard walked into the room and I was introduced to Jim Schmitz. I knew nothing about him. I later learned he is one of the most accomplished Olympic weightlifting coaches in the United States and coached the US Team in 1980, 88 and ’92. If you want to get info on ‘O’ lifting you’ll get it from one of the most dedicated and knowledgeable people you will find in the sport.

I won’t attempt to relay how much Jim has accomplished. I’ll put a link here. There’s just far too much to share. Up until that time I’d done a lot of weight-lifting, calisthenics and ultra distance running and picked up info here and there. In one year, Jim took my level of fitness to a place where I became bigger, stronger and faster.

I’d yet to learn about Cross-fit from the military and the little I knew about strength training was gleaned through reading Muscle and Fitness. I carried a lot of misinformation in my brain. Jim made me see things very differently.

For starters, I had to re-learn what a squat was. Rather than doing a standard right angle squat, I learned the deep Olympic squat. After discussing my goals Jim took me through a lifting routine.

I was unable to walk for 3 whole days and my back screamed in agony.  I called Jim the next morning, embarrassed, and told him I couldn’t come in for our next session. He said, “Well, that’s because you did everything wrong. And your muscles aren’t used to those movements.” He was right, but I was hooked. I came in the next week, refreshed and ready to unlearn everything I knew about lifting. In fact, I did a lot of naked bar lifting and learned to do deep squats with just the 45 pound Olympic bar. When Jim felt I was doing lifts properly, I added 5 more pounds, until that was done properly. I performed some of the lifts without weights for a month until I could do them the way he required.


Jim had a system, even storing his equipment followed a structure. “Put the weights on and face the plates out the same way.” There was a method to his success. Jim’s teaching style was very organized and he knew just by looking at someone what they lacked and how to help them. 15 years later I still have the first workout he gave me. Notice the low rep count and 5 sets versus the traditional 4 count.

  • Hang Power Snatch (HPS)                     _x5 _x5_x5_x5_x5
  • Hang Power Clean(HPC)                         _x5 _x5_x5_x5_x5
  • Clean Dead lift Shoulder Shrug(CDL)     _x5 _x5_x5_x3_x3
  • Push Press (PP)                                      _x5 _x5_x5_x5_x5
  • Front Squat(FS)                                     _x5 _x5_x5_x5_x5
  • Overhead Squat(OS)                              _x5 _x5_x5
  • Bench Press(BP)                                    _x10_x8_x6

The manual and DVD include a progressive program that helps you get results by lifting just 90 minutes a day, 3 times a week. That’s it. In fact under Jim’s tutelage I was making progress. In 30 days of lifting 3 times a week, by doing the same routine, I put on 21 lbs of muscle; 35 lbs of muscle in less than a year, without the aid of supplements and I was getting very strong while increasing my cardiovascular ability. Jim knew his craft. I was largely following the program outlined in the manual.

The manual isn’t fancy. The whole production is homemade, but that’s why I liked it; to the point. Quoting The Mighty Fit Review, ” There are no flying titles, fancy logos or blazing soundtrack. Jim stops and adjusts the camera, catches his breath, and has a delightful low-key humility, an endearing stammering delivery that’s reminiscent of Bob Newhart. It’s great to me to see an individual at his level of achievement who comes across devoid of top-dog attitude. It’s easy to see why anyone would enjoy training with.”

Jim even answers your emails and phone calls. I called him years ago about getting my certification as a trainer but he referred me elsewhere because we were 3000 miles apart. I’m not an expert, nor am I certified to teach it the way the pros do but Olympic lifting is still as exciting and fresh to me as it was on day 1.1203_f

What is Olympic Lifting and what are the benefits? Olympic Weightlifting Resource wrote an excellent article on the benefits of doing this type of training. This is something you should be putting in your survival basket.

  • Safety and Injury Aspect of Weightlifting
    Various studies show Olympic weightlifting is one of the safest forms of resistance training there is.  Another study was performed concerning the injury per 100 hours and yes again weightlifting fared better than other forms of resistance training. In fact, for weightlifters the injury rate was less than half of the other forms of weight training (Hamill). Weightlifting training and competitions together are much safer than other sports such as football, basketball, soccer, etc (Stone, Muscle). It is clear to see that Olympic weightlifting is an extremely safe form of resistance training and sport for people to participant in.
  • Body Composition Effects
    Another benefit of weightlifting is the amount of muscles used in the lifts. The Olympic lifts involve basically every muscle in the human body and this entails a great workout. Olympic weightlifting also forces stabilizer muscles to activate to secure the weight overhead in the lifts. For a recreational lifter Olympic weightlifting will cut down on the exercise time, allowing them to get done in 45 minutes to 1 hour what they used to do in “traditional splits” for 1.5 hours or more! In an 8 week Olympic weightlifting program study, participants lowered their resting heart rate by 8%, lean body weight increased by 4%, fat dropped 6%, and systolic blood pressure decreased by 4% (Stone, Cardiovascular).
  • Athletic Ability
    Another important benefit of Olympic weightlifting is it teaches the body to fire all the muscle fibers at once; to explode in a sense (not literally). An 8 week study was done showing the capability of the Olympic lifts to improve sport performance and vertical jump ability. A study was performed and a group of lifters did various Olympic lifts (High pulls, Power Clean, and Clean and Jerk), and were compared to a group using vertical jump exercises (Single and Double Leg Hurdles Hops, Alternated Single-leg Hurdle Hops, etc) and after the 8 weeks of training the Olympic weightlifting group had significantly increased their 10 meter sprint speed and their standing jump over the control group using standard vertical jump exercises (Tricoli). Similarly a 15 week study was also performed using football players and compared a powerlifting program to an Olympic weightlifting program for athletic performance. After the 15 week study was over the Olympic weightlifting group had a significant improvement in the vertical jump and 40 meter sprint over the powerlifting group (Hoffman JR). Clearly there are athletic benefits that come from incorporating weightlifting into a sport training program and similarly Olympic weightlifters are also known for developing great athletic ability.
  • Effect on Bone Mineral Density
    Olympic weightlifting can also help prevent osteoporosis. To put it simply the greater the bone mineral density (BMD) the less chance of osteoporosis occurring. Bone mineral density measures the mineral density, such as calcium, in the bones. Calcium is also constantly being added and removed from bones and when it is removed faster than it is added then the bones become weaker and are more susceptible to fractures. Remember a solid dense bone is better than one that looks like a honey comb! A study involving elite junior Olympic weightlifters compared their BMD, at the lower back and the neck of the femur, to an exact age group and an age group ranging from 20-39 year old men. The elite junior Olympic weightlifters BMD were found to be significantly greater than the age matched group and greater than the 20-39 year old men (Conroy). It is suggested that the high overloads of stress from Olympic weightlifting have a major influence on BMD. Again Olympic weightlifting has the ability to develop strong healthy bones that are resistant to fractures.
  • Enjoyment Factor
    One aspect of Olympic weightlifting that people enjoy is the lifts themselves. People enjoy the feeling of the barbell being weightless as they drop underneath it or they enjoy the speed that it takes to complete the lift or maybe they just enjoy mastering a technical skill. For most people there is a larger sense of satisfaction that comes from successfully hitting a personal best in the snatch or clean and jerk than finally getting those 19 inch arms or something along those lines.

I encourage any reader to give it a try to see if it works for them. A short investment of a month may bring you to the same conclusion. Those who are interested in doing Crossfit may already be aware of the roots of certain lifts such as Cleans, Jerks and so forth. If you’re looking to do the lifts properly versus doing them sloppily and speedily, in order to finish a WOD, the manual helps. The last portion of the manual describes the performance of lifts in detail and includes black and white photos of Jim executing them. You’ll find percentages of your body weight to start each lift with, which is genius, and an explanation of how to progress. Articles by Jim can be found here, at Ironmind.

In conclusion, Olympic Lifting will help you get strong, fast and flexible. Jim is one of those intelligent coaches that can motivate athletes and get results. A couple of times, during my workouts at Valencia Street, a few world ranked lifters came in to say hello or work out. Athletes from various types of sports sought his guidance to improve their performance. Jim is out to teach his craft, and he does it with class, the book is worth the bucks.

video from Catalyst athletics. Preview Clip from American Weightlifting-Jim Schmitz

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

By Michael Kurcina

Mike credits his early military training as the one thing that kept him disciplined through the many years. He currently provides his expertise as an adviser for an agency within the DoD. Michael Kurcina subscribes to the Spotter Up way of life. “I will either find a way or I will make one”.

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