Equipment for Olympic Weightlifting

Jul 5, 2023

 by Kelly McKinnon

Typically, one of the first things somebody asks when they're wanting to begin Olympic weightlifting is “What equipment do I need?”

While you don’t absolutely need any equipment to get started, there are certain pieces of equipment that are helpful, especially if mobility is an issue. We’ll start off with equipment that is absolutely essential, and make our way towards pieces that are nice to have, but not necessary.


#1. Olympic Lifting Barbell / Barbell that Spins (ESSENTIAL!)

One of the first crucial pieces of equipment you need handy is a barbell that spins. With Olympic lifting, athletes use a special grip called a Hook Grip, which is a grip where you “loosely” hold the barbell so that when the barbell makes contact with the hips, the barbell is still able to spin and the athlete can pull it overhead (snatch) or to the shoulders (clean).


#2. Weightlifting Shoes (CAN BE ESSENTIAL!)

Weightlifting shoes like this pair and this pair, can be extremely beneficial when receiving the barbell in the bottom of a snatch and clean. Ankle mobility is a common limiting factor for many individuals when squatting to the full depth (needed to receive a snatch and clean), so having heel elevation provided from weightlifting shoes helps to overcome this issue. The extra support allows the knees to drive over the toes, which is an essential position for the Olympic lifts.


#3. Weightlifting Belt (CAN BE ESSENTIAL!)

If you’re new to Olympic lifting and lifting in general, a weightlifting belt won’t be entirely necessary to start out, since you’re learning the movement patterns and positions, meaning your goal won’t be to lift as maximal loads as possible. In addition, learning how to properly brace should be a staple in your training routine. 

Now, despite the myth that weightlifting belts reduce abdominal engagement and bracing, it in fact does the opposite (PMID: 10619094 & PMID: 11932579). However, it still isn’t a replacement for learning how to properly brace.


#4. Knee Sleeves (CAN BE ESSENTIAL!)

Knee sleeves are a nice way to keep blood flowing to the knees and keep them warm, especially since with weightlifting, since you’re not typically performing multiple reps in a row. The maximum amount of reps that commonly occurs with snatches and cleans & jerks are three reps per set, so there’s a good amount of rest in between working sets!

Knee sleeves also help with knee support and can assist with the rebound (the “bounce”) out of the bottom position of the snatch, clean, and other squatting movements.


#5. Weightlifting Straps (NICE TO HAVE!)

If you’re new to weightlifting, then your programming may not contain many heavy snatch/clean pulls and deadlifts, so weightlifting straps like these won’t be necessary. However, as you progress with your training, snatch/clean pulls and deadlifts will become a crucial part of your training as a way to overload your central nervous system and the initial ROM of the lift without taxing your body by going through the full lift and into the receiving position.

And there you have it!

If you’re just beginning with Olympic weightlifting, then you can start out with no equipment (besides a barbell that spins!), as you’ll just be learning proper positioning and technique. As you progress throughout your journey, you can determine which equipment becomes necessary for YOU. If you’ve been Olympic weightlifting for awhile, then depending on where you’re at in your journey and what you do or don’t have yet, you can use this list as a guide for the next piece of equipment you might want!

Have questions on what equipment may be best for you? Shoot me an email at! 

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