Weightlifting is a sport that displays seemingly borderline life threatening movements, where athletes do this repeatedly, week after week, for competition and fun. On the surface, the variation in movements are minimal. Watch a lifter from China and compare them to a lifter from Russia - they may look slightly different in their execution but essentially the goal is the exact same. To get that heavy shit up.
In essence, competitions look quite monotonous - all that changes is the weight on the bar. So what is it that draws strength athletes to our sport... and why do they stay? In this post, I share the top reasons that drew me to the sport, why I've stayed, and why my enthusiasm has not changed from day one until now.
The main reasons I have identified are:
One of the first reasons that drew me to the sport was the importance of technique. In order to execute a snatch, clean or jerk at a level that reflects your level of strength, your technique must be sound. What I mean by this is - if you have a back squat max of 100kg, your theoretical snatch max is approximately 60kg. It is near impossible at that strength level, in my opinion to snatch this weight IF you are not technically sound. It is not uncommon for a lifter with a 140-150kg back squat to struggle snatching 60kg, and a lifter with only a 120kg back squat to snatch that easily. Why did this attract me? Because I was the lifter with a 140kg back squat who could barely snatch 50kg at one stage. I loved how I had to earn my PRs by putting in practice with a wooden stick, to a bar, then to light weights. For me, it was a humbling experience.
Building on top of the post above, despite how technically sound you COULD be... at the end of the day it is a strength sport. Which means one thing and one thing only - you must be strong. I loved that although there was a lot of focus on technique - there was also an even portion of training time spent on just getting brutally strong. So not only did I get my dose of the technical, complex side in my training, I could also allocate time to getting stronger.
I'm sure the people I'm about to describe will extend across all sports, but I haven't been in all sports so I'll just speak about my experience with fellow weightlifters. Weightlifters are some of the most humble, friendly and encouraging people I've ever met. Why is this? My theory is that we all sucked at some point. All of us started with the bar. Our technique was ugly. We've all felt like uncoordinated, drunk fools multiple times in our lifting career. Heck, even now I still feel like that sometimes. In other words, I believe most weightlifters have a mutual understanding of what the other lifters have gone through. If you're attempting a new personal best - it doesn't matter if it is 30kg, 40kg, or just the bar. We will drop what we're doing and cheer for you because we were once you, and we know how amazing it feels to land a PR. Similarly, we also understand the frustration from missing lifts. We've all been there.
There is an abundance of variation in weightlifting that makes it very hard to be bored. Yes, the competition lifts are the same two movements. However, how we build and train these movements vary from gym to gym, coach to coach and country to country. That's the fun part. Having trained under three coaches, I can say with certainty that ALL are different. When I was in China, there was an emphasis on lots of block and pulling work. When I was training under an Iranian coach there was a strong focus on complexes and partial movements. Now, I am doing more of a classical full-movement approach.
And that's only the coaching style. There are also numerous accessory exercises used in weightlifting that you simply do not learn anywhere else. Panda pulls, trap pulls, high pulls, snatch balances just to name a few. All are so much fun to learn. Trust me when I say this, the longer you do weightlifting and the more movements you learn - it gets even harder to be bored.
Last of all - a certain mental toughness is needed to improve in weightlifting. There is mental toughness required to execute a lift - pick up a heavy weight, give it all the upwards velocity you can and then get under it as fast possible. Support that weight overhead and hold it there for a moment. To say that there was no fear would be a lie. Sometimes the weight will come crashing down on you and if you are not alert enough to get out of the way, you WILL get crushed. You have to conquer your fear of the weight to accomplish that lift.
Second, there is mental toughness required to improve long term. Weightlifting is a sport where improvements come slowly after the beginner stage. At one point, I was stuck on the same weight for 1 year before I finally managed to break that barrier. You need to persist. You need to accept that there will be shit days. Accept that there will be shit weeks. Accept that there will be shit months, even years. As corny as it sounds, it builds character. The mental toughness you learn - the perseverance you learn can apply to other aspects of your life. I know it has helped me persevere through busy exam periods, stressful work situations and tough personal issues.
So there you have it - if you love getting strong but also refining your technique and skill, then you'll most definitely enjoy weightlifting. The fellow lifters in the sport are humble, friendly and will always encourage you when you lift - in fact they are also instrumental when you go through a shitty period where you aren't improving. The sport also builds mental toughness and your perseverance. And last of all, there's just so much variation in the programming and movements that you simply cannot get bored.
Give weightlifting a go!
perseverance. And last of all, there's just so much variation in the programming and movements that you simply cannot get bored.