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)

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.

Like this post?

Signup for my daily motivational email tips. I'll send you free tips every day to help you get stronger. These tips are free and you can unsubscribe anytime. Get access by going here.

Fed Up Being Weak?

So was I. The best routine I've found to get stronger is called "5x5". It's simple and easy: three exercises, three times a week, 45 minutes per workout. This 5x5 routine works whether you want to gain strength, build muscle or lose weight. And it's 100% free. Give it a try by clicking the button below.

Get Stronger