Weightlifting Information

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dotYou're lying on the couch eating chips and staring at the TV. A muscle-bound figure using an ab machine tells you how easy it is to get in shape. You groan, since you know it's a lot of work. And as a matter of fact, it's time for you to head down to the gym right now to do your weightlifting routine. You click off the tube.

dotWeightlifting is a popular way to get in shape and build strength. Weightlifters use free weights or machines to increase muscle size. They work out at least three times a week, doing a variety of exercises for their legs, back, chest, arms and abdominal muscles.

dotMost weightlifters follow a training program in order to build up muscle. This includes doing certain repeated exercises, calculating rest times, and many times includes going on a diet that will help build muscle and reduce fat.

dotAll weightlifters don't look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. There are three basic body types that determine how much muscle mass you can develop:

-Ectomorphic body types are tall and thin with long appendages. Ectomorphs have difficulty increasing muscle size.

-Mesomorphic body types are sometimes considered the ideal type. Mesomorphs have a large frame with good muscle building potential.

-Endomorphic body types are husky with short, thick appendages. Endomorphs are bulky with a tendency towards being overweight.

dotThese categories are only a rough guideline. In reality, there are as many body types as there are bodies. Weightlifters work to maximize their strength and muscle condition within their own body type.

dotWeightlifting differs slightly from bodybuilding. Bodybuilders are seen as oiled-up and dieted-down muscle men and women. Bodybuilders are serious about dieting and lifting weights in order to achieve the ultimate body shape. They often compete in competitions.

dotWeightlifting is a broader term that refers to bodybuilders and to the many people who lift weights to get in shape.

dotSome people lift weights in their basement, others go to a gym or fitness center for a workout. The differences between a gym and a fitness center are minimal.

"A gym usually has more weightlifting equipment and basketball courts, whereas a fitness center will usually have more aerobic equipment," says Frank Kelly, a weightlifter in Boston.

dotA good weightlifting gym should have more than one squat rack, a leg press, a hack squat machine, a leg extension machine, a leg curl machine and possibly even an adductor-abductor machine. Don't worry if you don't know what these machines are. When you go to a new gym, the staff will give a free tour of the gym and explain how to use the equipment.

dotMore than 15 million people lift free weights, and many more work on weight machines. The number of people lifting weights is expected to increase. "With an increased emphasis on men and how they look physically, I think weightlifting is in the midst of an explosion of popularity," says Kelly.

Kelly believes that in the next five to 10 years, the interest in weightlifting will continue to grow. "I also think women will feel confident enough to do weights amongst so many men," he says.

dotYou don't have to spend a bundle of cash to start weightlifting. For about $40 you can buy a set of 110 pound weights with a barbell and dumb-bells. You might want to consider buying a lifting belt if you have a bad back or want to maintain proper posture. A good home gym may cost $2,000 for a bench, bar, plates and power rack.

"You could do fairly well for about $500 though," says Kelly. An average gym membership costs $400 per year.

dotIf you're serious about weightlifting, you could get a part-time or a full-time job. You could become a professional bodybuilder, a personal trainer or work at a gym or fitness center. "Some very successful, attractive bodybuilders could get employed as models or work in building or designing fitness equipment," says Kelly.

dotOf course, weightlifting is all about physical strength, but the limits of what you can lift depends on how far you push yourself. You can do entire circuits of the gym, exercising all your muscles and combine this with a cardiovascular (heart and lungs) workout. If you want, you can just strengthen your biceps by doing arm curls. Weightlifting requires mental strength. If you have a positive attitude you are far more likely to be able to lift weights near your maximum ability.

dotThere are many exercises a physically challenged person can do. "If you can lift a weight or do any kind of movement then you can add weight to the joints involved and train," says Kelly. People with specific ailments such as a sore back can also work out. There are specific ways to train in order to strengthen these muscles.

dotThose who like this activity might find work as a professional bodybuilder, as a coach to bodybuilders, or even run a gym dedicated to the sport.

Getting Started

Three referees judge each lift -- a head referee who sits directly in front of the platform and two side referees. Each referee controls a red light and a white light. White indicates a good lift, while red is an illegal lift.
Courtesy of: East Coast Gold

There is a misconception that you can tone muscle just by lifting weights. In fact, the moderate increase of muscle mass induced by weightlifting needs to be combined with a loss of body fat.

You can't pick and choose the areas where you would like to lose pockets of fat. You lose the weight all over or not at all.

dotThe biggest mistake people new to weightlifting make is that they think they will end up looking like a greased-up bodybuilder on the cover of a muscle magazine.

"I try to tell everyone to not worry about how much weight you are lifting compared to anyone else," says Fred Filkins, a weightlifter in Milwaukee. "I hope to encourage some who may never try weightlifting because they think they could never lift much or aren't the right type physically. No matter your body shape, it makes a big difference in how you feel about yourself."

dotThe "pump" you feel after you lift weights comes from blood rushing to the flexed muscle. This pump doesn't have anything to do with increasing muscle mass. If you are just starting out, lift weights three times per week.

dotSteroid use is a big problem in the weightlifting world. Using them is dangerous to your health. They have the allure of building what seems like muscle quickly. Don't be discouraged by slow muscle gain brought on by weightlifting naturally. You will stay healthy and feel better.

"The health problems associated with steroids will only become really apparent in the next few years," says Frank Kelly.

dotWhen lifting free weights make sure you have a spotter working with you. It's a good idea to go to the gym with a friend who can offer advice on how to do certain exercises. Ask other people in the gym for help if you don't know how to do an exercise or use a machine.

"Most lifters are more than happy to help or advise anyone who has a serious question," says Filkins.

dotWhen you exercise your muscles you are actually damaging them. In the rest time in between workouts, your body rebuilds the muscle, making it stronger. So what should you do during this rest time? How about doing some research on this activity?


USA Weightlifting

National Physique Committee

North American Bodybuilding Federation

National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)


Getting Stronger: Weight Training for Men and Women,
by  Bill Pearl
The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding,
by  Arnold Schwarzenegger


Weight Training 101
Learn the basics

Olympic Weightlifting on the Web
Check out this huge list of resources