It is unfortunate, but true, that many people do not have a genuine understanding of the value of weight training as an important and effective part of any fitness or weight loss program.
This is due, at least in part, to a misunderstanding on the part of the public about three terms:
Weight Training or Lifting Weights
Start talking about barbells, dumbbells, and "lifting weights" to most people, and they often start imagining hulking figures that they have seen on the covers of magazines or portraying monsters in movies … although the "commando" thing does grab some males. While most males would like to have a nice physique, the pictures in the magazines tend to unnerve them, or at least portray an image of someone obsessed with "bulking up" and "getting ripped"!
Women especially tend to be turned off by the idea of "weightlifting" partly because they fear that they too will look something like the males mentioned above. They may also have seen pictures of professional female bodybuilders or weightlifters. Many women, while desiring to lose weight and be fit, like to feel that they are "feminine" and that any sort of weight training will result in their looking like these professional athletes.
As in many discussions, a portion of these fears is the result of simple ignorance. I do not mean "ignorance" in any derogatory way, either. I am equally "ignorant" of nuclear physics and needlepoint simply because I have never had cause to study them. However, were I to begin looking for a hobby or a new career, I might avoid nuclear physics because it seems too difficult, and needlepoint, because … well … you know … it's for girls, and I'm a guy!
There was a little research, however, I might find that Rosie Greer, once an NFL lineman, was well known for his needlepoint and NOBODY dared tell Rosie Greer he was less of a man for his hobby. In fact, having this piece of data, and learning that many people find needlepoint relaxing, might make me a little more appreciative of needlepoint and consider it for a hobby!
Well, let's do that with all this weightlifting confusion.
First of all, let's just say that training with weights; lifting weights, using resistance training, using free weights, weight machines, or resistance machines such as the Bowflex, can be quite effective in any fitness or weight loss program.
Second of all, do not worry about what you will look like if you do choose to "lift weights." While the ultimate outcome will be determined to some extent by genetic and personal hormone levels, most weight training, if done properly, will simply result in a strong, toned, healthy body which exudes confidence and self assurance. women will end up looking "feminine", and men will look "masculine".
Those people you see in the magazines have chosen to train in certain ways at certain levels of intensity, and have opted for a dietary and supplement regimen that will only be followed by those who WANT to wind up looking that way! They are athletes in training for specific purposes, and you will no more wind up looking, or acting, like them than you will be able to bicycle like Lance Armstrong just because you ride a bike for your health and fitness regularly.
So, what the heck ARE the differences in all those terms we started out with?
Well, by now, I hope I have dispelled some of your uncertainty about the images you have been carrying in your head which influenced your decision about whether or not to use weights to improve your health and your body. However, since confusion about the differences can still lead you to make the wrong choices in your training program here's the basics.
1. Lifting Weights: This can include weightlifting, bodybuilding, and / or weight training. By the way, when I use the term "weight training", I am going to include just about any sort of resistance training. With free weights (barbells and dumbbells mainly), and "weight machines" the resistance is gravity. Some machines, however, provide resistance by such means as springs, steel rods (Bowflex), or even your own bodyweight (Total Gym).
Bodybuilders, weightlifters, professional athletes, high school football players, golfers, gymnasts, and people who just want to get fit or lose weight may lift weights as part of their overall training program. This is simply "weight training". The great thing about lifting weights is that the number of possible exercises is large, the types of exercises are varied, and the training program can be easily tailor to the individual's abilities, needs, and goals simply by varying the exercise, the weight used for each exercise, the number of repetitions performed of each exercise, and the number of groups of repetitions (sets) performed. A 180 pound, male tennis player can select one set of exercises, weights, repetitions, and sets; while a 110 pound housewife can select another.
2. Weightlifting is actually an athletic event comprised of certain specific lifts. When looking into weightlifting, you may also find reference to power lifting. The three basic lifts of weightlifting competition are the "clean and jerk", the "snatch", and the "clean and press", although the clean and press was dropped from Olympic competition in the early 70's. The three basic lifts of power lifting are the "squat", the "bench press", and the "deadlift". In weight lifting, style and technique matters while in power lifting, the concentration is almost entirely on weight moved. Power lifting movements are shorter and less coordinated than weightlifting lifts, but require more … er … power.
Since many athletes who train with weights either desire or need strength and / or power for their sport, these types of training techniques are often incorporated into their training program. However, this type of training does tend to "bulk up" the athlete as muscle is built big enough to do the specific task demanded.
Most people training for health, fitness, or weight loss will have little or no need to get involved with weightlifting or power lifting techniques. They will, however, use many of the same or similar exercises and training techniques, although weights used will typically be lower and the workout routine will be much less intense.
3. Bodybuilding, while not strictly an athletic event in the sense normally encountered in sports or even in weightlifting, is absolutely a competition for which the athlete trains.
The bodybuilder primarily uses weight training to produce a body appearance which conforms to certain standards. These may be the person's own standards, or they may have the standards required for participating in bodybuilding competitions. The bodybuilder concentrates less on physical strength and power than on attaining a sculptured physique. Do not be misled, however; the bodybuilder trains hard and the training normally results in vast gains in strength and power. Over the last few years, more attention has been paid to bulk and definition, ie how the individual muscles and muscle groups stand out as if on an anatomy chart. Compare bodybuilders of several years ago, such as Steve Reeves (Hercules), with Darrem Charles, and the differences will emerge with modern bodybuilders striving for more muscle bulk and greater definition.
Again, however, while the average person who chooses to use weight training as part of their fitness or weight loss program will probably have a workout somewhat closer to the bodybuilder's than the weightlifter's, it will not be necessary to workout at the intensity of either. Results will, as pointed out above, be more within what most people would consider to be acceptable appearance.
As pointed out, it is NOT necessary to train at anywhere near the intensity and dedication of the true weightlifter or bodybuilder, or even the professional or semiprofessional athlete. To achieve very satisfactory results in appearance, fitness, health, self-esteem, and self-assurance by adding weight training to your fitness program, it will be sufficient to do a short 20 to 40 minute workout three times a week.
An actual weight training program for beginners is too much to add to this article at this time, but simple weight training programs are easily found in many books at your local library or bookstore. Just remember to keep it simple. Start off easy and build slowly. As one of my coaches used to say, the goal is to "train not strain".