Elite Olympic weightlifters stay at the same weight class for years, even though they don't develop any more technique after five to seven years.

If they don't develop more muscle and their technique doesn't change that much, why can they lift more weight over time?

  • There's a good answer on here that talks about muscle fiber recruitment and how novices use less whereas elite lifters use more of their muscle as a percentage. I'll look around but I'm just on mobile at the moment and I hate SE's search. – C. Lange Aug 3 '20 at 16:13
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  • For future readers, I find the answer in the comment of @C.Lange. – Sam Farjamirad Aug 3 '20 at 20:50
  • @C.Lange Yes, that's what I said above, thank you :) – Sam Farjamirad Aug 4 '20 at 16:19

First, Olympic weightlifting is extremely technical, and the development of strength for Olympic weightlifting is, to an enormous degree, a function of technical mastery. For the layperson and spectator, there may appear to be little difference between the performances of an amateur and a world-class professional, but imperceptible (to the non-expert) changes to the position of the body, to the position of the bar relative to the body, and to the timing of accelerations make an enormous difference to the lift—to such a degree that it can be the distinction between a world record performance and an accident! In Olympic weightlifting, technique is everything.

Secondly, the expression of strength (or more correctly power) in Olympic weightlifting is, after the development of a foundation of hypertrophy, primarily a function of neural (nervous system) development—not only in the form of skill learning, as described above, but more generally in terms of motor unit recruitment and the rate of force production that can consequently be expressed. That is, competitors train for hypertrophy in order to reach a physical size which is most representative of their genetic potential, but then continue to train to maximise their power at that size, thereafter.

I hope that helps.


Because muscles can get stronger without getting bigger.

That's it. The lifter is the same size, but because they lifted progressively heavier weights over time without eating such that they gained size, they can lift more weight.

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