Weightlifting is a popular form of strength training aimed at developing the size and strength of skeletal muscles while promoting heart health. It enhances muscle endurance, aids in burning excess fat, and increases overall resistance for a healthier body.
Committing to daily weightlifting fosters a toned physique, boosting confidence to excel in all aspects of life. Explore the essence of weightlifting and discover suitable exercises for your fitness journey with us!
What is Weightlifting?
Weightlifting, also known as resistance or endurance training, involves moving parts of the body against resistance, be it dumbbells, resistance bands, weight machines, or one’s own body weight.
This form of training is effective in building muscle mass, strengthening muscles, boosting metabolism, fortifying bones and joints, improving muscle tone, and facilitating calorie burning. Weightlifting offers a holistic approach to physical well-being.
Fundamental Principles of Weightlifting
In addition to the core tenets of strength training, the choice of equipment is a crucial factor in weightlifting. Various equipment types, such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, cables, pulleys (cable and pulley machines), weight plates, bench, preacher bench, play a role in shaping your workout.
Different types of weights provide distinct resistance, and the same absolute weight can have varying relative weights depending on the equipment. For instance, lifting 10 kg with a dumbbell requires more force than moving 10 kg with a pulley. Additionally, machines displaying the same weight may differ in heaviness or lightness based on the number and arrangement of pulleys.
Proper form and technique are imperative in weightlifting to prevent injuries and achieve training goals. Incorrect execution may hinder the full training of the targeted muscle group, preventing strength gains from being realized.
How to Perform Weightlifting Safely and Avoid Injuries
Weightlifting, a form of weight training, is safe when executed with careful control and precision. After an injury, full recovery is crucial before resuming weightlifting to prevent more serious harm.
Maintain Proper Form:
Ensuring proper form is essential for executing techniques perfectly. Correct form in weightlifting enhances strength, tones muscles, and helps maintain a healthy weight, preventing deformities or fractures.
Avoid Poor Form:
During challenging exercises, distractions may lead to poor form, causing other muscle groups to support the effort. Avoid heavy lifting and limit repetitions to prevent overloading weaker muscles, such as during squats and deadlifts. Improper form, like rounding the lower back, can potentially damage the spinal discs.
Focus on Breathing:
In weight training, deep breathing meets increased oxygen demand. Avoid holding your breath or shallow breathing to prevent hypoxia, fainting, or increased blood pressure. Typically, it’s recommended to inhale during the lowering (eccentric) part and exhale during the lifting (concentric) part. However, the reverse may also be suitable. Weightlifters are encouraged to breathe in a way that feels comfortable and appropriate.
Ensure a thorough warm-up:
Regardless of the gym exercise, including weight training, a proper warm-up is essential. Focus on warming up your entire body, with special attention to leg muscles and joints. A good warm-up not only minimizes the risk of injuries but also enhances arm flexibility, improves lifting power, and increases energy burned.
Start with smaller dumbbells:
When initiating weightlifting, avoid immediately using heavy dumbbells. Starting with smaller weights is not only more effective but also reduces the risk of injury and prevents premature fatigue from overtraining. Familiarity with smaller weights builds proficiency and enthusiasm for weight training.
Gradually increase weight and training duration:
Consistent progression in training time reveals the effectiveness of weight training. Gradually increasing dumbbell weight is essential, boosting calorie burning and energy expenditure. Increase weight as you feel comfortable, ensuring a smooth lift and descent.
Perseverance is key to achieving results in any endeavor, including weight training. Overcoming obstacles and challenges in weight training requires patience and determination. Success is achievable through dedication and resilience.
Execute proper lifting techniques:
During each weightlifting session, perform 10 repetitions on each side. As the weight reaches 5kg, progressively increase it while maintaining balance. Engage your core by pulling in your belly for 3 seconds and lifting the weight for 1 second.
The Benefits of Weightlifting
Weightlifting not only positively impacts heart health, aids in weight loss, and promotes overall well-being but also contributes to sculpted and healthy muscles. Here are the daily benefits of weightlifting:
Weightlifting is an effective fat-burning exercise. While cardio is often associated with weight loss, weight training enhances muscle tone, boosts metabolism, and facilitates effective fat burning. Combining weightlifting with a balanced diet increases muscle mass, leading to improved metabolism and fat loss.
Weightlifting, a form of strength training, increases bone density and reduces the risk of fractures and osteoarthritis. This exercise puts stress on bones, encouraging adaptation and strengthening. As bone density naturally decreases with age, weightlifting becomes crucial for maintaining bone health.
Regulation of Insulin Levels and Inflammation:
Strength training, including weightlifting, helps regulate insulin levels, benefiting individuals with type 2 diabetes. It also contributes to reducing inflammation in the body, which is associated with various diseases. Although the exact mechanism is not fully understood, weight training shows positive effects in combating inflammation.
In an era dominated by sedentary lifestyles, weight training plays a crucial role in improving posture by strengthening the core muscles. This is particularly important in countering the negative effects of prolonged sitting and preventing osteoarthritis.
Overall Health Enhancement:
Weightlifting leads to increased strength from the outset. It promotes a healthier lifestyle, improving eating habits, reducing stress, and enhancing sleep. The exercise is linked to a healthy heart, lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and elevated blood fats. Mental health benefits include a reduced risk of depression and other mental illnesses.
Weightlifting is a highly effective calorie-burning activity, requiring substantial energy. A few weightlifting moves can have the same calorie-burning effect as running several kilometers in an hour.
Improved Balance and Fall Risk Reduction:
Proper weightlifting exercises, even for older individuals, enhance balance and leg strength. This is critical for maintaining daily activities, reducing the risk of falls, and preventing health complications associated with falls, particularly in the elderly.
Weightlifting provides a mental and physical energy boost, fostering a sense of accomplishment as progress is evident. The feeling of improvement contributes to a positive overall experience and well-being.
Fundamental Weightlifting Exercises
Weightlifting offers a variety of exercises suitable for diverse fitness goals. Here are some fundamental forms:
Squats: Squats, often regarded as the king of weightlifting exercises, involve standing up and sitting down using either body weight or added resistance. This compound movement engages multiple muscle groups, including the thighs, buttocks, and hips. Women commonly practice bodyweight squats, while men may incorporate added weight into their squats.
Basic Squat – The Fundamental Movement:
- Step 1: Starting position with eyes forward, chest and shoulders open, hands locked in front or crossed at shoulder height, legs hip-width apart, toes and knees aligned.
- Step 2: Lower the body by bending the knees, gradually lowering yourself with weight on the hips and heels.
- Step 3: Return to the starting position by contracting the abdomen and thighs, lifting the body.
Squat Lunge: Stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart. Place hands parallel in front.
- Perform the Squat first, lowering hips and bending knees to a 90-degree angle.
- Stand up and initiate the lunge by taking a sizable step, forming a 90-degree angle with the knees.
Squat + Side Leg Raise: Combine leg kicks with a basic squat:
- Perform the basic squat.
- Return to the starting position, lifting the legs to hip height with a side leg raise.
- These basic weightlifting exercises target key muscle groups, offering versatility for various fitness objectives.
Lunges are a weightlifting exercise known for sculpting a naturally rounded buttocks and are suitable for both men and women.
The Deep Lunge is a variation of the basic Lunge, targeting stronger thighs, glutes, and engaging the abdomen for effective belly fat burning. Follow these steps:
- Stand upright with feet hip-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead, and hands relaxed along your body or on your hips.
- Step your left leg forward, creating a 90-degree angle with calf and knee. Extend the right leg behind, touching the floor with the right toe and lifting the heel.
- Squeeze your abdominal muscles for balance, bring your chest close to your left knee, with hands perpendicular to the floor and palms facing down. Keep your head up and eyes looking straight ahead.
- Bring your left leg back and return to an upright position.
- Repeat the movement on the other leg, alternating until the desired number of reps is achieved.
- Stand upright, right foot forward, hands next to hips with palms half-closed.
- Slowly lower your body to a one-leg kneeling position, ensuring a 90-degree angle with the right shin and thigh, with the left knee not touching the floor. Keep the back straight, neck aligned, and eyes forward.
- Jump up, switching legs in the air, moving the front foot back and the back foot forward.
- Repeat the movement as many times as possible for optimal results.
- Start in a basic Squat position, legs spread for balance.
- Extend your right leg to the side, aligning the toe with the knee. Keep the left foot firm, hands in front of the chest.
- Slowly lower your hips, inhaling at the lowest hip position, and hold for 2-3 seconds. Exhale and return to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement with the other leg, alternating for the required number of repetitions.
Deadlifts are renowned for their highly effective support in muscle gain and fat loss. This exercise contributes to overall body strength, targeting major muscle groups and enhancing core muscle strength in the body, including the core, lower back, buttocks, and abdomen. These core muscles play a pivotal role in supporting health and are essential for various activities and movements.
Proper Deadlift Execution:
Deadlifts require a high level of balance and coordination, and practicing with correct form is crucial to avoid the risk of injury. Follow these steps:
Stand in the Right Posture:
- Position your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the bar with both hands so that the inner forearms touch the outside of the thighs, and the shins slightly touch the bar.
- Palms can face either back or front, with the front-facing hand being the preferable option.
Adjust Your Posture:
- Align the spine to a neutral position (neither up nor down), keeping the eyes looking straight ahead. Lower the hips, engage the lower abdomen to center the pelvis.
- Shoulders should be facing back, pressed together and directly above the bar, not arched. Maintain a forward-facing chest. Contract your shoulders and glutes before lifting weights to initiate strength during the movement.
Lift the Weight:
- Hold the barbell with both hands and push your legs down, generating force to lift the weight. Hips and shoulders should rise simultaneously, keeping the hands tight.
- Utilize upper body strength to push the weight up until it reaches the middle of the upper thigh. Throughout the upward movement, push down with the toes following the initial push with the heels. Keep the barbell in constant contact with your body.
Lower the Weights:
- Lower the barbell slowly until it touches the floor. Pause and repeat. Ensure that the descent is gradual, and the muscle groups remain engaged throughout the movement. Avoid relying on inertia for the second lift, as it may not be optimal for the spine.
Pay Attention to Breathing:
- Proper breathing is essential for the lifting direction. Inhale deeply before pulling the weights, holding for the first quarter of the lift. Exhale slowly when reaching the halfway point and fully exhale at the top of the lift.
The Snatch and Clean and Jerk
Both the snatch and clean and jerk comprise two fundamental stages, involving both pulling and pushing movements.
- First Stage:
- The athlete lifts the weight using the lower body.
- Second Stage:
- Push the barbell overhead using the upper body.
The pushing stage can be further analyzed into three stages: the first push, second push, and third push. These stages are complemented by preparatory positions, starting positions, receiving positions, and recovery positions.
- The practitioner grabs the barbell, briefly holding a preparatory pose before moving to the starting position. This moment is crucial for focus and mental preparation. Common actions include gripping the bar, bending down, or assuming a squat position.
- The last position before the bar leaves the ground, marking the beginning of lifting. This movement can vary based on individual habits.
The Three Pushes:
- First Push: Lifts the bar off the floor to the mid-thigh position.
- Second Push: The final push that fully extends the body. It involves a flexible movement, simultaneous knee flexion (scoop/double knee bend), starting from the bar at thigh level and ending with fully extended knees and hips.
- Third Push: The transition from a fully extended body position to a holding position.
Weight Holding Posture:
- The practitioner holds the weight in the final position above the body, either in a loop or above the shoulder in the push.
- The movement from the holding position to the final standing position, completing the weightlifting. In the snatch, it involves standing up from an overhead squat, while in the clean and jerk, it requires standing up from a front squat position.
If your goal is to build strength without increasing muscle size, three weight training sessions per week are likely to yield the desired results. According to a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, lifting weights three times a week proves to be as effective as more frequent training sessions for strength building.
On the other hand, if your aim is to gain muscle mass, you’ll need to increase the number of repetitions and frequency of training. During your workout, you can target all muscle groups by starting with 1 or 2 sets of each exercise and gradually progressing to more sets or heavier weights as the exercises become less challenging. Alternatively, you can focus on specific muscle groups on designated days.
Johnny Jacks was born in 1985 in Texas, USA. He is the founder of Good Health Plan and is passionate about helping people improve their health and physical well-being. With over a decade of experience working in the healthcare industry, he currently works at Goodheathplan.com – a blog that shares knowledge on beauty and health.