How to Execute the Two Official Competition Weightlifting Lifts

Amandeep Khun-Khun
4 min readFeb 9, 2021


Headquartered in Switzerland, the International Weightlifting Federation is a nonprofit organization meant to control and oversee the sport of weightlifting worldwide. Since its founding in 1905, the group has represented athletes from five continents and provided rules and regulations on how the sport should be performed. The International Olympic Committee recognizes the federation as the exclusive governing body for the sport of weightlifting internationally.

With the aim of unifying all weightlifters under a single set of standards, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) includes 188 member federations, each from a different country. Each country’s member federation ensures that its athletes and national competitions adhere to the guidelines set forth by the international organization. As part of those guidelines, the IWF set requirements meant to distinguish the two types of lifts permitted during weightlifting competitions: the snatch and the clean and jerk.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

The History of the Snatch

When weightlifting premiered at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, nine years before the International Weightlifting Federation came about, athletes competed using an early one-handed version of the snatch. Over the years, the types of lifts and their requirements evolved through regulation by the federation.

By 1961, the federation removed all one-handed exercises from competition. In 1973, the IWF established that only two lifts would be used by weightlifters during competitions, including the current two-hand form of the snatch.

The Rules of the Snatch

Per the IWF’s regulations, the snatch requires an athlete to stand on a platform with a barbell set horizontally at their feet. The competitor, squatting with legs apart, grips the barbell with palms face down, then lifts it above their head with both arms extended. Once the weight has been lifted overhead, the competitor must stand up straight and maintain the stance, motionless, until the referee indicates that it’s time to set the barbell back on the platform.

During the process of the lift, the IWF stipulates that athletes may pull the barbell along their thighs as they hoist it upward. However, competitors will be disqualified if any part of their body, other than their feet, touches the platform during the lift. Additionally, competitors must finish with both of their feet placed along the same line and parallel to the barbell.

The History of the Clean and Jerk

Competitions including the clean and jerk lift also date back to the 1896 Olympic Games, when it was included as part of the program. Six athletes competed that year, representing five countries. When the IWF launched, it established regulations for the clean and jerk. The lift continued to appear in competitions with little change over the next several decades and became one of the two official lifts incorporated into IWF-sanctioned competitions in modern times.

The Rules of the Clean and Jerk

The IWF specifies two parts to the clean and jerk lift. The first part, the clean, follows a similar initiation as the snatch lift: the competitor stands with the barbell parallel at their feet. They grab the barbell with palms down and raise it in one motion from the floor to their shoulders and either bend or split their legs during execution.

Competitors have the option of pulling the barbell along their legs but it cannot touch the chest until the move is completed. As the first part of the lift comes to an end, the competitor rests the barbell above their nipples or on the clavicle with arms fully bent and legs straightened. Once again, the competitor’s feet must line up on the floor before they move onto the second part of the lift.

The federation allows the competitor to make adjustments after they’ve completed the clean. Those adjustments include: unhooking their thumbs from the barbell if needed, returning the barbell to the shoulders if it’s been lifted too high or prevents the competitor from breathing properly, and widening or shortening the space between their hands on the grip as needed.

The clean leads into the jerk, the second part of the lift. To begin the jerk, the competitor once again bends their legs then immediately straightens them again while also extending the arms above their head and lifting the barbell all the way up. With feet lined up again, the competitor must stand with the barbell fully lifted above their head and motionless until the referee signals that it’s time to drop the weight back onto the floor.

Additional Regulations

Per IWF guidelines for competition, athletes get three attempts at both the snatch and the clean and jerk and have one minute to complete the execution. Competition rules allow for a 10-minute break between the snatch and the clean and jerk.

A platform and stage must be furnished for every competition. The federation requires competitors to perform all lifts on the platform, which must be square and set on top of the stage. The barbell used by each competitor also needs to meet specifications as laid out by the IWF.



Amandeep Khun-Khun

Life coach, Investor and Avid Traveler Amandeep Khun-Khun