Last week, I attended a USA Weightlifting coaching clinic. I learned proper techniques for weightlifting movements such as squats, deadlifts, cleans, jerks, and snatches. I also learned a lot about effective coaching in the sport of weightlifting. But, most of all, I learned that I still have a lot to learn about this sport–both as a coach and as an athlete.
Why weightlifting? When I was a freshman at UCLA, I was a walk-on with the women’s varsity swim team. These ladies are not kidding around! They train 20+ hours every week–not just in swimming, but also in yoga, weightlifting, running, and other “dryland” workouts. That was where I was first introduced to the barbell, and I loved it! But, I decided not to continue swimming after my first season, and so my weightlifting career was on pause. A couple of years later, this time as a triathlete, I came back to my old friend Mr. Barbell, and was instantly reminded of the extreme soreness that he inflicts after long absences. We hung out a few times, and I felt extra strong again, but then I graduated from college and bid farewell to my friend once again.
This fall, I started to miss those good old times, and decided to buy a used barbell on Craigslist. I figured that if I wanted to start lifting again, I’d better learn to do it correctly. Plus, I enjoy broadening my general knowledge for my personal coaching and training.
Who is weightlifting for? I am so glad that you asked! Weightlifting is not just for bodybuilders and CrossFitters. You don’t have to enter weightlifting competitions or go on the Paleo diet to enjoy the benefits of weightlifting. It is actually an excellent strength, power activity for everyone–triathletes, runners, swimmers, cyclists, numerous other athletes, and those seeking general fitness. You can add weightlifting into your training schedule and expect to see improved performance because it utilizes muscle groups and movements that are key components of pretty much every other sport. Another carry-over of weightlifting into other sports is improved technique and injury prevention via strengthening weak or under-used muscles and improvement of balance, stability and coordination.
But, isn’t weightlifting dangerous? It can be dangerous if done incorrectly. Please don’t just show up at your gym, pick up a barbell, and start lifting because you once saw a weightlifting competition on TV. Ideally, you should learn proper technique and skills from a certified weightlifting coach. A qualified coach can assess your readiness to lift and take you through each movement step-by-step at an appropriate pace.
In one of my favorite parts of the coaching course, our instructor showed us a scientific research-based table documenting sport-related injury rates. Interestingly, weightlifting carried lower injury risk than other sports within the study (Hamill 1994).
|Sports Injury Rates (Hamill 1994)|
|Sport||Injuries (per 100 hours)|
|Soccer (school age)||6.20|
|UK Cross Country||0.37|
|Weight Training||0.0035 (85,733 hrs)|
|Weightlifting||0.0017 (168,551 hrs)|
What is the difference between Weightlifting and CrossFit? Great question! While I do not mingle with many weightlifters or CrossFitters, I believe that both sports have their unique benefits and drawbacks in terms of fitness goals, environment, etc.
Whether you choose to lift weights, do CrossFit, join a bootcamp class, run, bike, swim, or take up yoga, I hope that you find an activity where you can challenge yourself, have fun, stay fit, and be safe!