Resistance Training 101

“We ALL have to lift weights and for different purposes”

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One of the hardest concepts to get across to a new fitness training client is the overall importance of lifting weights as part of their programme design, and especially when working with women.

Dumbbells are a great resistance training aid.
Dumbbells are a great resistance training aid.

The reasons for a barrier in this respect are numerous and mainly include the fear of becoming “musclebound, de-feminised or bulky”.

The fears are often unfounded, misconstrued and largely due to a misunderstanding surrounding the facts of the matter and a lack of education in the area.

Woman weight lifting.
Women getting into weight training has become increasingly popular mainly due to the rise of crossfit.

When you consider that, from the age of 50, on average people lose around 1% of muscle mass each year (muscle dystrophy), it highlights the importance of resistance training as the only method known to reverse the process.

There are actually many different reasons why everyone should be using resistance training, and reasons why it’s beneficial.

But as the term weightlifting is used so often, it becomes a confusing term as different athletes and other gym populations use it for many different reasons.

The list below gives clarification to the generic term weightlifting and highlights how many different types of people (not just athletes) are using weights for different reasons.

1) Bodybuilding

Perhaps the most popular activity within the gym. These athletes lift for the entire reason of improving how their body looks. (See my story: a year of bodybuilding training.) They will be using a mix of dumbbells, barbells and and machine weights to sculpt an “ideal physique”.

Training involves a mix of compound exercises to build strength and isolation exercises to home in on smaller muscle groups. Usually bodybuilders carry little bodyfat, especially if leading up to a competition.

Man at gym with sixpack.

In most gyms, there will always be bodybuilders.

2) Powerlifting

These athletes are less obsessive about how they look but enter competitions to lift the most weight in three exercises.

A) the squat B) the benchpress and C) the deadlift

On competition day, they culminate together and have three attempts at each lift. The best lift out of each three is their “total”. There is a huge emphasis on technique and many rules surrounding this area.

Power lifter doing a Deadlift.

Power lifting: it’s all about three lifts. Here depicted is the Deadlift.

3) Olympic weightlifting

This is an official Olympic Sport since 1896 that is often seen on T.V.
It’s interesting to note that while It’s not called power lifting, the term would have been more apt had it not been given to another sport, as the term “power” means “rate of force development” and Olympic weightlifting demonstrates it more than any other sport.

Read about my foray into Olympic Weightlifting.

It’s a sport that involves lifting the most weight, explosively, with good technique, in two exercises. The snatch and the clean and jerk, always performed in that order. The athletes attempt the two lifts three times each and their best lifts goes towards there “total”. The weight, for that matter, never gets lighter as the competition progresses.

The weightlifting technique is endlessly complex and often the lifts look beautiful when in slow motion.

Olympic weightlifting.
Olympic weightlifter, female.

Olympic weightlifting is all about lifting maximum weight in only two lifts, but is technically demanding. Both women and men enjoy this sport.

4) Strongman

These are are also often seen on T.V. While not as prestigious as Olympic Weightlifting, it’s still a sport that is gaining in popularity.

Often these, the biggest of athletes, again much less appearance orientated, are much more concerned with lifting atlas stones, sandbags and all manner of odd shaped objects.

They also learn how to pull vehicles such as trucks with ropes and walk around with cars strapped to them. The high end competitions often go on over a few days and largely consist of novel tasks.

Gym wall of weights.

Strong man competition is all about lifting maximum weight, and often in novel tasks.

5) general sportsmen and women of all description

These will also use weight training in a “sport specific” manner that transcends into improved sports movements and improved overall performance.

A whole cross section of these athletes can be found in all gyms worldwide and, with the right training, anyone can expect to benefit well from resistance training.

Resistance training in gym. Lady coached by a man.

Both women and men can use resistance training to improve any sport.

6) general populations and special populations

This is a growing number of people, of all ages and abilities, who, while they are not athletes, are looking to improve their flexibility, mobility, strength and locomotion of their body and improve the quality of their life.

Strength training is a key component of reversing the signs of ageing at any starting place.

A basic resistance training programme can be designed for anybody to strengthen joints and muscles, regardless of age or ability.

A recent longitudinal study involving many people suggested that those who did strength training in later years reduced their chances of early death by 19 per cent after the age of 65. And an increase in muscle mass burns a lot more calories for the sheer fact alone of having more muscle.

From this article we can ascertain weights are used by many different athletes and non-athletes to great effect. And that resistance training is beneficial for everyone.

If you need any help with your fitness, please do not hesitate to contact me soon to arrange a consultation.

Contact me on

O7809240535 for details of my coaching packages or email me at


Older man exercising with weights.

Joe started resistance training with me at 86 years old, proving it’s NEVER too late to improve.
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Posted in Fitness tips.