Taming the Weight Room

My original intention for this blog post was simply to lay out some basic tips for getting started with weight lifting, form a ‘total newbie’ perspective. I asked for questions on my facebook page, though, and was so inundated with questions that I realized this will probably need to be a series of blog posts. Thank you for all the input you guys! I had no idea how needed this post was!

To keep things simple, today I’ll begin with a brief rundown of the benefits of weightlifting, and a brief description of the different forms of weightlifting. In future posts I’ll cover the basics for getting started, how to ensure proper form, a discussion of women and ‘bulking up’, and nutrition tips for supporting a weight lifting program.

First lets touch on WHY weight lifting is important. If you haven’t read my Strength Trianing For Women post on 180degreehealth.com, go do it now. In it I discuss the health benefits strength training provides, especially for women:

-increased bone density
-fat loss
-improved metabolic function
-lean mass preservation
-relief from anxiety and depression
-pain relief
-improved insulin sensitivity

And more.

Now that we have that out of the way, lets talk about some basics.

What IS Weight Lifting?

There are several different approaches to weight lifting and strength training. I’ll discuss some of the most common here.

Bodybuilding is focused on aesthetics, with a primary goal of building muscle mass and achieving a desired physique. A bodybuilding program typically will include more isolation exercises that focus on a specific muscle or muscle group; bicep curls and tricep extensions for instance. Workouts are typically dedicated to working a different body part each day, ie ‘leg day’, ‘bis and tris day’, ‘back day’ etc. Building mass and definition is a higher priority than building strength.

Powerlifting is focused on building strength. The primary goal of powerlifting is to lift the most weight possible in a single repetition, and there are three lifts that powerlifting focuses on: the squat, the deadlift and the press (usually bench press). Weights are heavy and rep ranges are usually low.

Olympic Lifting is the form of weight lifting that is featured in the Olympic Games. Like powerlifting, the primary goal is to lift the heaviest weight possible in a single rep, but the lifts are different. The Olympic lifts are the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch. Both involve moving a weight from the floor to overhead in one or two quick, explosive motions. Both are intricate lifts that require a high level of skill and athleticism.

Bodyweight Training is a form of training that utilizes the weight of a person’s own body to provide resistance to increase strength and muscle mass. Pushups and pullups are the bodyweight exercises you are probably most familiar with. Plyometrics are explosive bodyweight exercises, such as jump squats, that increase speed and power.

Circuit Training combines weight lifting exercises, bodyweight exercises and aerobic exercise in a fast moving, high intensity series of exercises, performed consecutively, with the goal of increasing strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness.

Crossfit is actually a fitness company with thousands of affiliates around the world. Crossfit workouts include elements of powerlifting, bodyweight training, circuit training, Olympic lifting, gymnastics, and other modalities with a goal of building a broad base of competency and fitness across disciplines.

What is Best?

There is no ‘best’ form of weight lifting. Each discipline has it’s strengths, and the key is finding one that you enjoy and will be consistent with. No matter which one you feel drawn to, there will be people who will tell you it is ‘wrong’. People are as passionate about their exercise dogma as they are about their diet dogma. Any of the disciplines I listed above can provide the health benefits of weight lifting. It is important to find a competent coach to teach you proper form, especially when getting into heavy lifting. I’ll discuss how to find one in a future post.

My own training includes many of the disciplines I listed but if I had to classify it I’d say it is a combination of powerlifting and bodywieght training. That is what I enjoy the most. And enjoying what I’m doing is what keeps me engaged and consistent, and THAT is what is ultimately most important. So experiment, find what you enjoy!

16 thoughts on “Taming the Weight Room

  1. Awesome yet simple tips for those looking to get into weightlifting! I think the “find what you enjoy” is a very important piece for women who are looking to get into weights :)

  2. Awesome post!

    I like body weight/plyo/circuit the most, and have a lot of people telling me it’s not enough, so I really appreciate this post.

    I would like to do some heavier stuff, but need to conquer my own fears of my gym’s weight room!

  3. i love it all! i sometimes have a really hard time trying to plan it out, i like do specific type workouts and i love Olympic lifting and crossfit, circuits its hard to find a program that has it all! and i sometimes try to get an hour of 20 min Olympic lifting, then i go into a circuit with usually a crossfit style depending on how long it takes, then i try to fit in little bit of specific training but sometimes im like is this enough or worth doing specific training? i dont know! ha.

  4. @Becky: You may want to invest in a personal trainer who is oriented towards weight lifting.

  5. So glad you’re going to be doing these posts! I have mostly done bodyweight exercises for strength (squats, planks, lunges, pushups) but would like to expand my repertoire by learning exercises with freeweights/dumbbells.

    Question: What category is the “three sets of ten” (or variations) type of weightlifting in?

  6. cool post, thanks for the tutorial! I had no idea. I recently watched the documentary STRONG and saw all about the snatch and other aspects of olympic weightlifting. It’s also good to know that pushups etc ‘count’ as weight lifting training!

    here’s my question: say I have a reasonably active ‘job’ (2 to 3 days a week I have to set up/take down an arts & crafts tent), once a week I have to chop wood or otherwise move stuff around the farm (IE roughly 1 hour of aerobic + resistance) and the rest of it is, say, 4 hours a day of cleaning, washing up, putting away, etc, is this enough physical rseistance/exertion to help keep/achieve a good physique? (this is not counting the 2 to 5 days a week of walking for one hour in nature, depending on weather) I am looking to tone up & wondering if/how much of resistance/weight training I ought to add. Part of me’s like ‘you’re already active’ but another part is like ‘then why do you look like you do?” LOL

  7. great post! i just recently found your blog and i am loving catching up on all your posts! i’m nowhere near as knowledgeable as you are, but i do love all forms of weightlifting and try to mix it up as much as i can. i so wish i could train with you, but i live on the east coast. :( anyway, thanks for all this info – i feel like every post is something i relate to.

  8. Hey hey! I guess you don’t get a lot of feedback from the weight training posts. But just some friendly encouragement – there are a few of us out here who are waiting with baited breath for more in this “series” :) This is a great crash course post; please throw some more at us when you have time! Or maybe link us some good go-kaleo-approved sites for women who like to pump iron? the only good one I know is stumptuous…. Thanks for keeping up your blog girl!

    • Ok, ok, I will move the second installment up my ‘to-do’ list. Thanks for the kick in the pants!

  9. Man, wish this post was around when I started getting into lifting! Very helpful info for a beginner. I’ll be bookmarking this so I can send friends here when they ask me questions I would otherwise answer in a very long and confusing way!

  10. Pingback: Taming the Weight Room 2: The Equipment | Go Kaleo

  11. Thank you for this series – I’m definitely one of those people who needs a little encouragement to get back into the gym. I used to weight-train, but it was always lighter weights with more reps. It was great for me at the time, but there were always areas of the gym where I felt I didn’t belong. Mostly because of the ‘meat heads’ that hung out where the barbells were, and all the grunting and macho snorting going on….I just felt out of place. But I’m really excited about this series, because I hope to conquer those fears, and become stronger.

    Thanks again!


  12. Pingback: Taming the Weight Room 3: The Exercises | Go Kaleo

  13. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this series. Making me excited to get back to the gym!

  14. Found your comment – there is no best form of weight lifting – not only accurate but refreshing. We are all individuals which means individual requirements, thus individual methods in which to achieve said requirements. Just a small personal mention as to diet, food (again and I can not stress enough Personal Opinion) food is a necessity of survival not a recreation, pastime, social bonding tool, etc….. Having said that sharing a meal with family/friends, whether daily or otherwise can and should be enjoyable even cherished. The simplest meals (now just think about this) the simplest meals when thoughtfully prepared and enjoyably shared tend to not only serve the purpose of survival but leave one feeling fulfilled.

  15. Pingback: Reference Page: Go Kaleo | Gregory Taper

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