Weightlifting guide - London 2012 Olympic Games

Your complete guide to weightlifting ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

2004 Olympic Games, Athens, Greece

2004 Olympic Games, Athens, Greece Photograph: Jussi Nukari / Rex USA

Converted: The world's buffest bodies lift the equivalent weight of a medium-sized cow for our entertainment.

Confused: Laughable strongman nonsense for preening protein-powder fiends.

RECOMMENDED: See our full list of London 2012 Olympic sport guides

Weightlifting - The essential guide

Street cred: Weightlifters are great to have around in a variety of situations, whether you’re on the mean streets or trying to shift a couch.

Who’s good? Chinese beefcakes obliterated the opposition in Beijing and will be imposing again at London 2012. Iran, Russia and Kazakhstan are also strong, literally.

The basics: Olympians must perform two types of lift. One is the ‘clean and jerk’, where the barbell is thrust first to the chest and then above the head. The other is the ‘snatch’, where the weight is lifted above the head in one seamless movement.

Athlete to watch: You won’t be able to miss Team USA weightlifter Holley Mangold, who at 322 pounds is one of the burlier female athletes aiming to qualify for London 2012.

Almost useless fact: The perception that all weightlifters are huge is wrong; the lighter male athletes in the Olympics weigh under 126 pounds.

Not be confused with: Powerlifting, which involves squats and bench presses and features in the Paralympic Games.

Do say: ‘A simple but effective test of brute strength that boils sports down to its very essence.'

Don't say: ‘I've seen more refined pick-up techniques in the Meatpacking District at 3am.'