Strength Sport Terminology - Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Crossfit

With the rise in lifting athletics, more and more are getting involved in the various sports related to lifting weights. Much like other sports, each of these has their own terminology that is associated with them. Getting involved in these sports can be daunting and one factor is not knowing what people are talking about. For health care providers who want to treat these people, it can be embarrassing not knowing what your patient is talking about at all. This article is going to shed some light on the different words that are essential to knowing what is going on in each of them.

These sports that place a high demand on strength - weightlifting, powerlifting crossfit - are often regarded to as strength athletics. Each of them has their own unique characteristics, but they also have many similarities. To begin the article, we will do a global overview of each.

Weightlifting - A sport that is often called “Oly lifting” or “Olympic weightlifting” or “Olympic style weightlifting.” Weightlifting is a sport that consists of the snatch and the clean & jerk. This sport is in the olympics, giving it its associated names. When participating in this sport, individuals get 3 attempts at each of the lifts to move the most weight possible. Typically this sport has very high demands on strength, power, and mobility. Do not get this confused with weight lifting or lifting weights - those are both activities, weightlifting is a specific sport.

Powerlifting - Powerlifting is composed of the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Similar to weightlifting, individuals get 3 attempts at each to lift the most weight. In contrast to weightlifting, powerlifting has many federations and divisions depending upon the kind of equipment you use. There is “raw” lifting consisting of just a belt and knee sleeves, “raw with wraps” consisting of a belt and knee wraps, “single-ply” where individuals use equipment like squat suits, deadlift suits, and bench shirts which help to utilize heavier loads, and finally “multi-play” which is similar to the previous but using multiple layers.

Crossfit - While weightlifting and powerlifting are very specific in their competitions, Crossfit is incredibly diverse in what it incorporates. Crossfit incorporates essentially every kind of exercise you could think of, but focuses on “functional movements performed at high intensity” (via When you look at the above sports, these are incorporated into Crossfit, along with endurance sports, gymnastics, and do so in a unique way.

Now that each sport is globally described, we are going to start looking into each sport’s major exercises.



This is the first exercise executed in a competition and it is where we take a wider grip and take the bar from the floor to overhead in one motion.

Clean & Jerk

This is the second exercise executed in a competition composed of two parts - the clean and the jerk. The clean is the movement where we take the bar from the ground to the shoulders, and the jerk is the movement of the bar from the shoulders to overhead.

Power Snatch/Power Clean

You might hear about a power variation of a lift. This is when the athlete receives the bar in a squat position above parallel (hips in relation to knee). In the world of crossfit, they call the normal snatch/clean a squat snatch or squat clean to reinforce catching the bar lower - weightlifters hate that name.

Hang Snatch/Hang Clean

When the snatch or clean is performed without starting from the floor or blocks, it is generally a hang variation. The hang movements can be done from various heights which range from the high hang (near the top of the pulling movement), knee height (usually just called hang), and low hang (below the knee).

Important accessory exercises

In regards to weightlifting, there are a number of accessory exercises that play off the main movements, and accessory exercises that help to build up the musculature to support the main movements.

Squat variations

Squatting is a very important exercise for weightlifters to build strong legs and improve their torso strength. There are two main versions used by weightlifters - high bar squat (often just called squat) and the front squat.

Pressing variations

Building strong shoulders is important for success in weightlifting and so utilizing various pressing exercises is important. Two of the main versions used are the strict press and push press.

Pulling variations

Much like squatting builds the legs and pressing builds the shoulders, pulling develops the posterior chain for success in weightlifting. The main options generally trained are “pulls”(where we stop once the arms are about to bend) and “high pulls” (where we focus on pulling the bar as high as possible) - each being done for the snatch or the clean.



When it comes to powerlifting, there are two variations of the squat you can compete with - high bar and low bar - and then a number of variations used in training

Bench Press

If we are talking about competitive bench press, then we are talking about “paused bench press” as in competition it is required to pause on the chest and wait for the press command. There are a ton of variations used in training (plus the pressing variations described for weightlifters).


In powerlifting there are two main ways to deadlift - conventional and sumo. If you’re involved in the sport, you’ll hear people argue about which is better all the time. When it comes to training, both have benefits for athletes; for competing, use whichever lets you lift more weight.


First thing to note is that crossfit incorporates every exercise from above, but then a ton of others. However, there are some major ones we want to point out that are a bit more “unique” to it.


Workout Of the Day. A “unique” term to Crossfit that signifies what the training session calls for for that day. Depending upon where the athlete trains, this may be something that is structured in various components (strength, power, metcon, etc.), and it may be periodized to focus on different aspects at different times. It might also be a bit more of an arbitrary thing where people just decided what to do right before.


Where else to start for Crossfit than the beloved Burpee. The movement incorporates a variety of body elements and can be done in a wide variety of ways. When dealing with Crossfit athletes, you’ll find a mixture of love and hate with this.

Wall Ball

Combining a squat and a pressing motion, this exercise has standards of reaching a certain depth with the squat, and throwing the ball a certain height. Ball weight differs for men and women, with height also changing for each respectively.

Box Jump - Crossfit style

In the realm of performance, we don’t typically jump back off the box as the purpose is to use the box to reduce landing force. In contrast, Crossfit has it as a means of energy expenditure and work to be done, being done in a time fashion. Due to this, we see people usually “rebound” the jump.

Pull up - kipping

In most areas of fitness this is a “cheater” pull up. However for Crossfit it is a means of getting more work done in a certain amount of time - much like the box jump technique. There are a number of different styles that can be done, two main version - regular kipping and butterfly. For individuals who struggle with kipping (most people), in order to complete these well you need a sufficient amount of strength.

Toes to Bar (T2B)

Building off the pull up where we say kipping, this is essentially a kipping focused exercise where we move from an extended kip to a very flexed position in which the toes make contact to the bar (hence the name).


In the realm of weightlifting we saw the clean, front squat, and press. The thruster is essentially the love child of these exercises and is unique to Crossfit. Generally when this is performed, and individual cleans the bar once from the ground and then performs the continuing reps without putting the bar down. It combines the front squat into the press. For individuals who are able to produce more force with their legs, the demand on the upper body is lower.

Handstand Push up (HSPU)

One of the more challenging exercises of Crossfit, the handstand push up requires an individual to have good body awareness and also sufficient pressing strength. With Crossfit there are a variety of types that can be done - kipping, strict, and deficit - where kipping is the “standard” kind that is meant when no additional statement is provided.

Muscle up

Combining two difficult exercises - the pull up and the dip - into one, increasing the challenge through having a turnover aspect. Similar to the HSPU, this has a huge demand on body awareness and also strength. Depending upon whether this is kipping (“normal”) or strict, the amount of strength needed varies greatly. When we look at a kipping muscle up, the kip plays a huge part in the individual’s ability and need for upper body strength.

While this is not an extensive list, it is a great introduction to help cover a lot of the exercises and terms used in these sports. We will do a follow up on more terms for each of the sports respectively!

Move well, lift heavy, stay healthy,

The Strength Therapist

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