Weight Lifting 101: The Definitive Guide to Weight Lifting

Weight Lifting
Weight Lifting. Image credit: Mike’s Gym and Catalyst Athletics


What is Weight Lifting? Lifting barbells or dumbbells with the goal of increasing your strength and/or muscle size. Weight lifting can take several forms:

  • Weightlifting Sport. The sport of Weightlifting is part of the Olympic Games. It consists of 2 lifts: the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk. The goal is to lift more weight than competitors in the same weight class.
  • Strength Training. Lifting weights to increase your physical strength. More muscle & a lower body fat are byproducts of strength training.
  • Bodybuilding. Weight lifting with the goal of increasing your muscle mass. Strength increases too, but isn’t the primary goal.


Benefits of Weight Lifting.
Lifting weights has several advantages over machines & body-weight exercises.

  • Accessible. Pull-ups & Dips force you to lift your own body-weight. Weight lifting is easier: start with an empty bar, increase the weight by 2.5kg/5lbs each workout. You’ll get stronger as the weight increases.
  • Versatile. You can do plenty of exercises with only one barbell. No need for expensive machines.
  • Builds Strength. You get stronger as the weight on the bar increases. Weight lifting also teaches you to balance the weight.
  • Builds Muscle. The stronger you become, the more muscles you’ll have. Your muscle mass increases as the weight on the bar gets heavier.
  • Burns Fat. Muscle burn calories. The more muscles you build, the more calories you’ll burn. Your body fat will decrease.
  • Increases Health. Increased testosterone levels, increased flexibility, increased cardiovascular fitness, stronger joints, etc.
  • Safe. Weight lifting is the safest sports. Machines are not safe: they force you into a fixed, unnatural movement pattern. Couple that with heavy weights & you risk injuries.


Weight Lifting Safety
. Weight Lifting is the safest sport. Unlike soccer, rugby or football, no one will get you injured. You’ll injure yourself. Statistics from Sports Injury Rates (Hamill 1994)

[TABLE=14]
Injuries in weight lifting happen for 3 reasons:

  • Bad Technique. Learn how to do the exercises correctly before adding weight. Start with an empty barbell & add weight gradually.
  • Pre-existent Problems. Lack of flexibility & bad posture can prevent proper technique. Past injuries can rise up if not treaten correctly.
  • Ego. Correct technique is hard to maintain with heavier weights. Learn correct exercise technique first, then add weight.


Weight Lifting
Weight Lifting. Image credit: Dehwang


Weight Lifting Exercises. Barbells are versatile: plenty of exercises you can do with 1 barbell. Most exercises can be done with dumbbells too. Here’s a non definite list of weight lifting exercises:

  • Squat. Should be part of any routine. Squats work your legs, but also the rest of your body. They are key to building strength & muscle.
  • Front Squats. Variation of the Squat. Front Squats start with the bar on the front shoulders instead of on the back.
  • Bench Press. The most popular exercise in the gym. The Bench Press works your chest & triceps muscles.
  • Overhead Press. Push weight overhead while standing. The Overhead Press works your shoulders, triceps, back & abs.
  • Deadlift. Besides working the legs, the Deadlift builds a strong back by teaching you to keep your spine rigid against a load.
  • Barbell Row. Pulling weight from the floor against your lower chest. The Barbell Row works your back & biceps.
  • Pendlay Row. Variation of the Barbell Row. Pendlay Row involve arching of the upper-back on the way up.
  • Power Clean. Olympic Lift. The Power Clean is done by cleaning the barbell from the floor & putting it on your front shoulders.
  • Jerk. Olympic Lift. The Jerk is done by lifting the weight from the front shoulders overhead while dipping under the weight.


Weight Lifting Equipment
. Gyms like Fitness First don’t have the equipment you need for weight lifting. Build a home gym if you don’t have access to:

  • Barbells. Olympic barbells are 2m20 long, weigh 20kg, have knurling & 50mm sleeves. Barbells of 15kg exist for women with smaller hands.
  • Dumbbells. Dumbbells with steel handles & knurling work best. Stay away from dumbbells with plastic handles.
  • Plates. Plates have 50mm holes to fit the bar. Metric plates are 1.25, 2.5, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 & even 45kg. Smaller plates of 0.5kg exist.
  • Squat Rack. Power Cage or Squat Rack or Squat Stands. Facilitate getting the barbell into proper position for the Squat & Front Squat.
  • Bench. Necessary for the Bench Press. Standard upright support bench or one you can use in the Power Cage.


Weight Lifting Apparel
. You don’t need fancy stuff for weight lifting. Only a good pair of shoes, cotton t-shirt, stretchy pants & a notebook.

  • No Gloves. Let grow calluses. Once you have calluses your hands won’t hurt anymore. If grip is a problem use chalk.
  • No Belts. Only useful for maximal attempts with heavy weights. Belts add abdominal support but are unnecessary for sub-maximal weights.
  • Shoes. Running shoes with air/gel filling impair stability & cause power loss. Wear shoes with an incompressible sole, like Chuck Taylor’s.
  • Clothes. Cotton t-shirts & stretchy pants like gray sweats work best. Clothes can not restrict movement & mess with your technique.
  • Training Journal. Necessary to track progress. Get a A4 notebook & start a training journal. Take it with you to the gym.


Getting Started into Weight Lifting
. StrongLifts 5×5 is a strength training program that uses barbell exercises. It will help you build strength & muscle while decreasing your body fat.

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