The Oly Encyclopedia 8
December 26, 2021•960 words
Fallacy #2: Everyone who lifts weights is a "Weightlifter".
The general public assumes that exercising with weights of any kind is synonymous with the sport of "weightlifting." While it is true in the broadest sense that anyone who lifts an object that has any weight at all can be called a "weightlifter," those who truly understand the "iron game" (the entire realm of activities that are performed with weights or exercising against "resistance" of any kind) reserve a special meaning for the term "weightlifting" (i.e., the sport of competitive weightlifting - which will be identified shortly).
If we were to include the lifting of any object under the term "weightlifting," then bricklayers would be weightlifters, as would be mothers and fathers who lift their children. In fact, even pencils weigh something, so the proverbial "pencil pushers" of the world would be weightlifters too.
What separates those who exercise with "weights" from bricklayers and pencil pushers is really the purpose of their activity and/or the specific objects that they lift. Pencil pushers are seeking nothing in terms of added strength, muscle size or endurance from their efforts with the pencil. Mothers and fathers who lift babies seek only to care for their children, and bricklayers are concerned only with laying their bricks as planned. None of these groups can be said to be "training with weights," both because they are not interested in stimulating the muscles of the body toward an enhanced level of functioning and because the
objects they are lifting are not there for the purpose of pure exercise.
In contrast, those who lift weights, or exercise against resistance in any of its many forms are taking advantage of the body's ability to make its muscles larger and stronger when the muscles are made to contract more and more forcefully. What separates those who lift weights (all of whom are properly called "weight trainers") from one another is their purpose for using the weights. Those who train with weights generally fall into one of four functional categories: weight trainer, bodybuilder, power lifter and weightlifter. The last three categories all involve competitive sports. While these categories can and do overlap to an extent, the essential nature of each is quite different.
Weight trainers are those people who lift weights with a purpose other than competing in one of the three weight sports. Some are training with the purpose of improving their proficiency in a particular sport (such as swimming, football or golf). Others are merely trying to improve their overall level of muscular fitness (ability to perform work) or to improve or to retain the firmness and outward shape of their muscles.
Bodybuilders (such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Lee Haney and Dorian Yates) train with weights for the purpose of developing the size and overall appearance of their muscles. Bodybuilders use "free weights" (like dumbbells and barbells) and weights or other resistance devices that are part of “exercise machines” (which are lumped into category "machines") in their training. Many bodybuilders train to get stronger and or to improve their overall fitness, but the fundamental purpose of bodybuilding is to build and display the skeletal muscles of the body (see Fig.1).
Powerlifting is a sport designed to test pure strength. It is really just another way, besides the sport of weightlifting, to test physical strength (just as weight throwing ability is tested in one of several field events, such as the discus and shot put). Powerlifting involves three events: the squat, the bench press and the deadlift. The squat involves placing a barbell on the shoulders behind the neck, and lowering the body by bending the legs until the top of the thigh, near the hip, is at the same level as the top of the knee (roughly where the thigh is parallel to the floor) and then standing up. The bench press consists of pushing a barbell from a position against the chest to straight arms, while the body is lying in a supine position on a bench. The deadlift consists of lifting a barbell from the floor until the body is standing erect with the barbell approximately at a level just below the hips (see Fig.2).
When you understand the differences between the activities that involve the use of weights, you realize that calling all of those who exercise with weights or weight machines "weightlifters" is somewhat like calling all doctors "surgeons." All doctors practice medicine and many could become surgeons if they were willing to undergo the extensive and rigorous training that is necessary to become a surgeon. However, not all doctors become surgeons, nor could all doctors become surgeons. In fact, the majority of doctors are not surgeons.
Similarly, all of those who exercise with weights are weight trainers. Many of these weight trainers could become weightlifters if they were willing to perform the extensive and specialized training necessary to master the sport of weightlifting (as was defined in the section "What Is Weightlifting at the beginning of this Introduction). However, not all of those who train with weights are weightlifters, nor could all become weightlifters. In fact, the vast majority do not. It takes great dedication and much hard work to become a weightlifter, and many of the benefits of weightlifting can be achieved through mere weight training, which is why many weight trainers never take the step to weightlifting. Unfortunately, by so choosing, they miss the opportunity to participate in the most challenging and rewarding activity that can be performed with weights. Those who have become proficient in the sport of weightlifting, most of whom have been proficient in a number of other sports, almost without exception regard weightlifting as the most challenging and rewarding athletic event in which they have ever participated.