In 2015, China held an astonishing 48 out of 135 world records. This includes records in the snatch, clean and jerk, and total across 15 weight classes and 3 different age divisions. China held more world records in 2015 than the 3 closest countries on the list combined.
Let's start off with some factors that contribute to their dominance.
They start young, prioritise technique, and their training is as high in intensity as it is in density. Before we delve into the specifics of the Chinese weightlifting system, just keep mind that China has two factors that are MASSIVELY in their favour, in contrast to the rest of the world. Firstly; their body proportions reflect that of the silicon sphere currently defining the kilogram for the rest of time — ABSOLUTE perfection! Secondly; they’ve got a population of a whopping 1.42 BBBBBILLION. And because of its enormous population, when compared with other weightlifting-heavy countries, it simply becomes more likely that a child with the optimal body proportions, a passion for weightlifting, and hard working mindset will be born in China.
Where to start?… oh yeah, recruitment process.
With their highly effective recruitment process, the Chinese start teaching kids weightlifting while in school, at the age of 10. In the southeastern province alone, Fujian, there are 2.000 - 3.000 kids training weightlifting regularly after school. Considering that Fujian has the 17th largest population out of 34 provincial-level administrative units, 2.000 - 3.000 kids is absolutely bonkers. Like in the states, where they have high schools, colleges, and universities with fully supported American football programmes, they have in China schools with fully supported weightlifting programmes. And just to be clear, weightlifting in China is nothing like it is here in western Europe, with one finger in the pooper and the other in their schnozzle, but with full-time coaches thwacking (believe it or not, it’s a word) technique from day UNO. Which leads us to the next point, technique!!!
Although weightlifting is a strength sport, strength is not the most important element in the sport of weightlifting, technique is and always will be the most important element. The Chinese system heavily relies on perfecting the technique in their younger lifters. No matter if it’s a light weight or a world record attempt, the technique of the Chinese lifters is always spot on. With the majority of the elite level lifters having 10+ years under their belts in the sport, their technique is like second nature and is what sets the Chinese apart. I'd love to go into depth about the Chinese weightlifting technique, but that a post for another time. So I'll provide you with the insight from the top-level Chinese coach MA JIANGPING instead.
Ma Jiangping pointed out the 5 fundamental cues utilised in the Chinese weightlifting technique.
1. Keep the bar close
2. Receive the bar low
3. Be fast under the bar
4. Timing is essential 5. Stability needs to be superb
PS: Notice that strength doesn't even make the list #priorities
Just take a look at these kids lifting. #jawdrop
The ideal body proportions for a weightlifter
The ideal weightlifter has short femurs and a long torso, allowing an upright posture during lifts, and their arms are short, reducing the distance the bar has to travel during the snatch and jerk.
Additionally, the short arms make it easier for the lifter to utilise a hip clean, as suppose to making contact at mid/upper thigh, which improves force production in the triple extension. For lifters with longer arms to make use of the hip clean the elbows need to bend significantly and therefore, at least to some degree, making the hip clean counterintuitive (Just to cover my arse, there are lifters who successfully use the hip clean, despite having relatively long arms)
Lu Xiajun — 9 times world record holder, 2012 olympic champion, and 4 times world champion — is a perfect example of a lifter with the perfect proportions. This picture clearly shows how his shorter femurs are advantageous for the proper position needed for the front squat/clean.