Why Weightlifting?

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People always ask what is my research on. I say weightlifting. They ask me why. I ask why not? If you are interested in one thing, you do all you can to revolve everything you do around it. So I post this question to you. Why not weightlifting? Here are the common "reasons" why people choose not to participate in weightlifting:

1. Isn't it dangerous?

2. I am not coordinated enough.

3. I have inadequate flexibility for it.

4. It will make me bulky or I don't want to get too big.

Here are my answers to those reasons.

1. It is not dangerous if you learn the fundamentals and more importantly the safety aspects of the lift. The chances of you getting a serious injury from weightlifting as compared to other sports (i.e. netball, football, rugby etc) are definitely lower! Yes there are accidents that are bound to happen (i.e. the elbow dislocations and close-decapitation at the London 2012 Olympics) but you have to understand that these athletes were under the pressure of the Games and they were going for lifts at near-maximum or even maximum.

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Learning to miss a lift behind like this will save you from injury.

Also, if you are taught the safety aspects of the lifts, you are going to be able to react the right way to fail a lift. If you do not know how to miss a lift in a safe manner, that increases your chances of an injury or accident. If you do, you save yourself the rehab process and you get back to lifting almost immediately. More importantly, with correct technique suited to your physical characteristics, you will also reduce the chances of getting an overuse injury. Remember, the goal of a weightlifter is to be as efficient and effective in moving heavy weight so you work with your body alongside the bar to successfully get the weight overhead.

2. Yes, the snatch or the clean and jerk are highly complex lifts which require coordination of the joints to develop force and also coordination of the movement of the weightlifter and the bar moving as a system. But walking is also a highly coordinated movement involving many systems in the body. Learning a weightlifting movement is the same as learning any motor skill. If you are able to establish a generalised motor pattern, it is training and constant repetition that fine-tunes the other small aspects of the lift to attain efficient and effective technique in any of the weightlifting movements.

So the way you learn the lifts is important. Using a motor learning and skill acquisition concept and being able to use all three learning styles (i.e. visual, auditory or kinesthetic) will definitely help. You can first observe the movement and the various positions, followed by listen out for auditory cues (i.e. sounds associated with the movement) or further emphasize the positions of the lift, and subsequently go through the movement on your own to get a feel of the movement and how it actually feels.

All these will provide you with cues that help you remember the movement pattern. You can either have internal cues (i.e. tightening of the back, weight through the heels etc) which are more associated with your notion of the feel of the lift, or external cues (i.e. the bar needs to move up your thighs or reach hip height, pulling the bar close to your body or chin etc) to allow you to externally visualise what is happening to the bar, allowing your body to naturally perform a movement to achieve that desired outcome. There is much more about cues but that's for another post.

3. Again, like coordination, a decent amount of flexibility is required as a weightlifter or to perform the weightlifting movements. But I am not going to say that all of us are going to be able to start with the kind of flexibility required. It takes consistent stretching and mobilization to attain the flexibility required for the various positions of the weightlifting movements.

There needs to be an understanding that the ability to achieve such flexibility not only depends on your physical characteristics (i.e. physical structure of muscles, joints and ligaments; anthropometric measures such as limb lengths and segments lengths) but also the amount of dedication and effort put into stretching. More importantly, be smart about what you stretch because if you decide to stretch every structure in your body, you basically spend all your time stretching and little time training. Understand what is tight or inflexible/immobile in your body. Perform a movement screen or get a movement screen done on yourself to identify asymmetries and imbalances. So that you can focus your stretching on that. Do what is necessary and left out what is not needed.

4. Lastly, weightlifters are "all bulky and have huge guts or chunky legs". Not totally true. Yes, some of us are predisposed to having huge legs because of the amount of squatting we do to get the leg strength required for the movements. However, there is also the concept of weight classes for weightlifting. The misconception that the image of a weightlifter is one that has a huge tummy and is massive is totally wrong.

Think about the weightlifting movement and what muscle groups are being worked. Majority would be legs and hips. So doing repetition after repetition, your glutes and your quads and hamstrings would be highly involved. What does that mean in layman terms? You get to work on your curves (because of hip extension), you get definition on your legs (due to work on the quads and hamstrings) and more importantly, you get a figure 8 body (because of the involvement of the torso in supporting the weight in the lifts). And if you do it enough and burn enough calories, you are going to find it difficult to put on the weight even if you eat big.

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Pisarenko. One of the super-heavyweights with not too much of a gut.

So that's just sharing my two cents worth on how weightlifting is actually not that specific but can be applied to the general public. There are so many benefits to weightlifting that can be applied to the common goals of the regular Joe who just wants to be alittle leaner or run their 10km fun run. I have written on this before and I will keep writing about it because it is a sport I am involved with and I enjoy. All I want to do is share it with you and hopefully get more people to truly appreciate the sport for what it is.