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Weightlifting has its roots in elite competition, especially at the Olympic Games. However, the use of weightlifting movements by average gym users is increasing as the benefits become better known. That has led to increased demand for weightlifting facilities. A free weights area, with equipment for weightlifting, is now a staple of all good gyms.
Why is weightlifting becoming more popular?
The importance of strength training for health has become more widely recognized, and scientific studies are finding that training with a barbell provides benefits over using machines. Functional training systems such as CrossFit introduce many people to the weightlifting movements.
Many gym users are looking for training methods that will maximize the value of their time in the gym. Weightlifting fits the bill — relatively short training times can provide an intense, challenging workout for the whole body. Since the weightlifting movements involve skill, as well as strength, they provide an ongoing challenge that keeps training from becoming dull.
What does weightlifting involve?
As a sport, weightlifting consists of two barbell movements. In the snatch, the bar is lifted overhead in a single movement. In the clean and jerk, it is first lifted to the shoulders and then overhead.
The two competition movements form the basis for many variations, which allow them to be adapted to meet individual training needs. Along with barbell squats, these are the core of weightlifting training. They all use the same equipment – bar, weight discs, platform and squat rack.
Most beginners will seek some coaching, which could be delivered one-on-one, in small groups or in larger classes. Once they have learned the basics, they may begin to train alone, but group training, often under the guidance of a coach, is common.
Beginners and recreational lifters typically train three times per week for an hour or two at a time. Elite athletes train much more, but there is no requirement to do that.
Who can do weightlifting?
The days when weightlifting was only for those intending to become elite athletes are long gone. The weightlifting movements are accessible to anyone who wants to improve their strength, power and general health.
Beginners can be introduced to the movements using light technique bars and discs, so existing strength levels are not a barrier. Learning progressions break the movements down and make them easy and safe to pick up. Once the techniques are mastered, weight can be gradually added to maintain the challenge without needing to train for longer. The ability to load the bar differently for each person means that those of varied ability levels can train together.
Athletes from sports that require explosive force production often use weightlifting in their training. However, there is plenty of evidence that weightlifting will benefit people of all ages and athletic backgrounds, whether they train to compete or just recreationally. Lean body mass, bone density, force production, balance and neural efficiency are just some of the indicators that weightlifting training improves.
One of the most significant growth areas in weightlifting is among those aged 35+ (known as "Masters" lifters). Many try weightlifting for the health benefits and are attracted to the vibrant competition scene, where age categories run all the way up to 80 and beyond.
Make the most of weightlifting in your gym
Weightlifting is a long-term pursuit, so those who take part in it tend to be loyal, engaged members of the facilities where they train. You don’t need a large amount of equipment or space, so it can be quite easy to accommodate them.
There are some simple things that you can do to encourage your members to try weightlifting and to continue with it:
Provide the right equipment. Better-quality equipment is safer and will last longer. The basic requirements for weightlifting are a bar, weight discs, and a platform. It is essential that the bar is designed for weightlifting, with properly rotating sleeves.
While weightlifters learn to return the bar safely to the platform, there may be times when the bar will need to be released from waist height. It is therefore important that the discs are made with rubber so they can be dropped — these are known as "bumpers." The platform should also be designed to withstand the impacts. If required, platforms are now available that minimize noise and vibration.
Invest in education. Weightlifters value good coaches, whether they are teaching the basics or helping more experienced lifers to improve.
Build a community. Group training sessions are a great way to introduce beginners to the movements and to keep members engaged with their lifting. Making weightlifting a regular part of your schedule also makes efficient use of trained coaches.