There is a lot of ground between traditional lifting and Olympic-style weightlifting. Getting the names sorted out can help define the two activities.
Weightlifting, AKA Olympic weightlifting AKA Oly Lifting
This is a sport! The sport of weightlifting is an amateur sport which is played at the Olympics, and all levels of international sport. The objective is to lift the most amount of weight over the athletes’ head. There are two events to accomplish this goal.
Weight Lifting, AKA Lifting Weights, AKA Weight Training
This is an activity, a method of fitness, a method a exercising. This shouldn’t be confused with competition, and any person who uses weightlifting may be doing so for a number of unique reasons. The movements in traditional weight lifting are as diverse as the user wants it to be, comprising of hundreds of unique lifts and methods.
Why they are incredibly different… Who should do weightlifting?
A person who practices Olympic Weightlifting is usually trying to become better at each lift- the snatch and clean and jerk. If you are trying to get better at something, you better practice! Simple as this… however, there is a second application to practicing the Olympic lifts, or some of the elements of each lift.
Training the lifts forces the athlete to train their explosiveness. Power and speed are the unique elements of this sport. For this reason, athletes and coaches in any other sport which require a certain amount of speed and power use the lifts to improve themselves.
Rugby, hockey, football, soccer, athletics and many other sports require athletes to use explosive strength. A prime example is the explosiveness a quarterback needs to snap the ball in any direction, with little warning. Any sport with kicking, jumping or running requires the same; an explosive extension of the hip, requiring maximum effort. These movements tax the athlete, and the most effective method of training this is by training the Olympic lifts.
The other category of people who should consider weightlifting is… everyone! Weightlifting at any club or gym starts training with a stick. The stick might be a wooden dowel or a 1’ PVC stick. The athlete learns technique incrementally, master movements at each weight increment, starting with a few ounces.
At any age, and for both women and men, weightlifting improves coordination, flexibility, stability in the shoulders and hips, core strength, overall strength and power.
Who should do weight training?
Weight lifting, on the other hand, offers athletes and the general public a system of training to become stronger with slower, controlled movements… who should be using this?
The simple answer to this is… Everyone! Everyone, including athletes at the highest level in weightlifting, use weight training to improve strength through slow and controlled exercises with weight. They may also perform body-weight exercises, also known as calisthenics, to achieve the same outcome. Essentially, moving any amount of mass between 3 and 25 times, until a reasonable amount of fatigue shows a positive health outcome.
This takes us to the next point… Olympic Weightlifting and traditional weight lifting have similarities, too!
WHAT?! They are similar?
The list of benefits of lifting weights and resistance training, regardless of speed, goes on and on. Improvements in:
Reduced high blood pressure
Improved insulin control (especially in people with, or developing type 2 diabetes)
Reduced health risks associated with obesity
Improves metabolism and contributes toweightloss
Improves coordination and balance
Improves muscle tone and strength
The list goes on!
Rather than listing every single little thing, just know that resistance training, in general is great for the body. Precautions such as following a program uniquely designed for your needs, strengths and weaknesses (literally) will help you to see incremental improvements without risking injury. Lifting of any sort should be done with careful attention to technique, another obvious way to prevent injury.
But… I don’t want big arms. And I get big arms.
Every coach has heard this classic comment from women. Well, the good news is neither style of training has to get you big arms. Find a good program, stick with it, and don’t take steroids or testosterone. Next, follow your program, clean up your diet, and appreciate that you can move your arms and legs. By then, a habit will have formed. And finally, love your body.