Most people are familiar with the competitive sport of weightlifting where the athlete attempts to lift as heavy a weight as possible using clearly defined movements.
The barbell is a long steel axle with small discs, or wheels, of equal weight attached to each end. The discs are removable, making it possible for the weight lifter to adjust the weight by adding or removing discs. The dumbbell usually consists of two round metal balls permanently fixed to a short axle. Some dumbbells, however, have removable disc weights like the barbell. Unlike the barbell, which is grasped and lifted in both hands, the dumbbell is held in one hand only. Weight training programs are used to improve performance in such diverse sports as track and field, swimming, rowing, and football.
Weight lifting is a sport itself. Competitive by nature. Powerlifting is an Olympic sport.
In most organized competition the barbell is used, and there are three standard lifts: the press, the clean and jerk, and the snatch.
- The press (which has not been an Olympic Games lift since 1972) calls for lifting the weight from the floor, stopping at the chest, and then pushing it overhead to a locked-arm position without assistance from leg movement.
- The snatch involves raising the weight all the way from the floor to the locked-arm position overhead in one motion, and leg motion is allowed.
- In the clean and jerk, the weight is lifted from the floor to the chest and then overhead. Free motion of the legs is permitted. In each case the lifter must hold the lifts overhead, under control.
Each contestant in a competition participates in all three lifts, and the winner is determined by adding together the greatest weight lifted in each style.
Contestants are classified according to their weight. In the Olympic Games, for example, there are nine classes: featherweight, flyweight, bantamweight, lightweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, heavyweight, middle heavyweight, and super heavyweight. In general, the less a weight lifter weighs, the more he can lift relative to his own weight. A featherweight may be able to lift more than two times his own weight, but a super heavyweight can lift only about one-and-one-half times his own weight.
Most people who take up weight lifting are more interested in personal physical development than in competition. Beginning weight lifters are advised to proceed under the guidance of an instructor. It is particularly important that he know and use the proper body stance. The exerciser should be in excellent physical health, and only light weights should be lifted at first. As the muscles strengthen, additional weights are added gradually. A person should never attempt to lift a heavy barbell just to find out how strong he is. To be effective, weight lifting should be used in conjunction with a general exercise program.
Weight training is used for a variety of purposes. The program you follow will vary according to the specific outcome required.
- Bodybuilders use weight training methods to develop large and well-defined muscles.
- Sports medicine practitioners recommend forms of weight training to rehabilitate injured muscles and joints.
- Athletes, both competitive and recreational, use weight training to increase strength for improved performance in a variety of sports. These strength gains will enable you to perform all tasks much more easily.
Weight training itself is not an aerobic exercise and should be combined with aerobic activities, such as those already mentioned, as part of total fitness plan.