Ask Greg: Learning the Olympic Lifts Lifts at Age 40
Greg Everett

Vincenzo Asks: Hello Greg. I'm a 40 years Italian man. I train with weights since I was 16 years old. I stopped train at 32 years to resume in February 2011. Since then I train 3 times a week with just squats, deadlifts, bench press, press and power clean.

I would like to know how your book could help me for learning the power clean, the power snatch and the power jerk (or push jerk). I think I'm too old to learn the olympic liftings like clean and snatch, so I limit myself to the shallower versions of the two movements (power clean and power snatch). What do you recommend?

Greg Says: Learning the power variations is a good place to start for you, but I wouldn’t talk yourself out of learning the full classic lifts just yet. My book will take you through the entire process of learning the lifts, including flexibility work to prepare you for the squat variations of the snatch and clean. I teach the power snatch and power clean in the same way I teach the snatch and clean; they are the same movements, with the only difference being the height at which the bar is received, and as a consequence, lighter weights. If you learn the power variations properly, you will be able to learn the squat variations well as you develop the flexibility. You will likely have trouble initially due to a lack of confidence in the lower receiving positions, but if you’re squatting regularly and strong there, you should be able to overcome this relatively quickly with smart training.

At the age of 40, especially with such a long break in training, I would imagine flexibility will be your biggest limiting factor, as it is for most people of any age for the Olympic lifts. But flexibility can be improved at any age with enough persistence and consistency. As I say repeatedly, the only real trick to stretching is to do it frequently, regularly and consistently. If you have range of motion limitations from past injuries or similar issues, see a good manual therapist with experience treating athletes, and work with him or her to resolve the problem. Aside from that, daily, if not twice daily, foam rolling will help improve tissue quality and release fascial adhesions. The more it hurts, the more you need it. Stretch ideally when warm and after foam rolling—focus on the hip extensors and adductors, ankles, thoracic spine and shoulder girdle. Add in movements like overhead squats, behind the neck presses and push presses and front squats with your current program to help develop the flexibility you’ll need for the Olympic lifts. You should be able to start learning and practicing the power snatch and power clean right away; once you start feeling comfortable in the overhead and front squat, you can introduce the squat variations of the classic lifts and see if you feel they’re something you’re able to do safely and enjoyably. Good luck!

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T Sprague
February 23 2012
Three years ago I started doing the full classic lifts and I'm almost 53 now. You're hardly too old. If you are serious about doing the lifts, I would strongly advise getting a qualified coach. I believe the lifts are very difficult to learn by yourself. At the minimum, video your lifts, study them and ask people who know what they are talking about to give you feedback. Best of luck.
February 24 2012
First, I agree with Italian crossfitter. Second, I'm 45 and in the past 2 months I've added the full lifts in my training, mainly because I had lost a lot of my athleticism and explosiveness. I have to say that I feel so much better physically now, and I'm more flexible just from performing the lifts. I don't have the form of Aimee or Steve yet, but I'm getting there.
February 26 2012
Vicenzo, I learned the Olympic Lifts in my early 50's (the full versions), so don't think you're too old for those. Ideally you will find a trainer -- I was fortunate to have a GREAT coach at Greg's gym (thank you, Kara!). But even if not, you'll find that Greg's book is a magnificent resource for learning the lifts on your own. The detail may appear daunting at first, but just keep at it and eventually it will all fall into place and you'll appreciate how much is in there. Get the new DVD that goes along with the book as well, it will walk you through all the training progressions and then the lifts themselves and is very helpful. Good luck!

February 27 2012
Thanks Greg. Also thanks to T Sprague, Joe and Marc.
Now the next step is to order the book of Greg.
January 22 2014
I'm 46 and started learning oly lifts only a couple of months ago. Absolutely loving them! Definitely need a good coach though.
January 22 2014
Never let age be a barrier. I started the lifts 2 years ago at age 63. I compete at the masters level and will continue to compete until my body tells me to knock it off.
January 22 2014
Greg, I share many of Vincenzo's concerns and issues. I am working on the areas you list above but struggle mightily with the front rack, mainly due to wrist pain. Any suggestions to overcome this roadblock?
January 22 2014
Soooo cool to hear the ages of people starting to lift! I'm a 44 yr old female, never done ANY weights, started strength training a few months ago and love it so much I'm now learning the full lifts with goals of competing later in the year. Had ankle mobility issues, very weak upper back etc but with stretching and the right assistance exercises I'm getting there - go for it Vincenzo!
January 22 2014
agree - tho for some, it may take longer than others. i'm 46 and have been working w/ a great coach for 2 year and am still not quite there yet.

Flexibility the biggest limiter and does not help being 6'4"...but am making progress...well sorted know on a high bar back squat and passable on the front squat...but still not able to do the overhead squat at full depth.

the other challenge is being realistic about the amount of time you can devote to training sessions each week...with work and family, that is my other biggest challenge.

But, am still fully committed, slowly making progress towards the goal of being able to do the full lifts. And in the process, feeling better than ever and have come miles on the flexibility front from the starting point.
Jim M
January 26 2014
Just started weightlifting at age 47 and would to compete someday - giving myself 2 years.
June 6 2014
Started a few months ago....with a good trainer...totally addicted to lifting...still learning various Olympic lifts and it builds my confidence every session. I can't wait to learn more and more. I have definitely learned the value of stretching and foam rolling. I think it has not only been good for me physicallybut mentally as well. By the way, I am 49. I have set some goals to hit before I turn 50 in November and I am hitting them one by one.
June 6 2014
I have always enjoyed Olympic lifting since the wide world of sports days in the 60's. I finally started Olympic lifting at age 57 as part of Crossfit, 3 years ago. I’d really rather do more Oly lifting as a sport, but haven’t found a gym close enough to home in SoCal. “Lift long and prosper”. Thanks and love yer stuff Greg.
August 1 2015
What the heck? 40 is not old! Especially to learn new things!
July 31 2016
hi! I fully agree. I'm 42 and started crossfit last year after doing triathlon. I bought your book and the dvd and after just a few weeks, i feel much more confident and I feel like I know what to work to progress. Thanks
Miles Hu
August 3 2020
Greg - Nice read, I'm also 40. I started learning the oly lifts last winter 2019 after about 6-7 years of powerlifting. You are correct, my main weakness is flexibility but along with that transferring to explosive/power moves vs. static strength exercises. Any advice regarding rest/recovery between workouts?
Same as for everyone else - as much time as you personally need, and focus on adequate quality sleep and nutrition. The rest (e.g. supplements and other restorative protocols) will make only minor differences.

Greg Everett