Benefits of Olympic Weightlifting

Weightlifting offers many benefits as do other forms of exercise. It's understandable that many people would think weightlifting would be a high injury sport or activity, but that is not the case. Below you will find some of the benefits and positive effects of weightlifting. As always, before establishing an exercise routine consult your doctor about what is appropriate and safe for you.

Safety and Injury Aspect of Weightlifting

Weightlifting according to many studies done is a very safe form of resistance training. One study assessed the injury potential and safety aspects of weightlifting movements and weightlifting demonstrated to be the safest (Stone, Injury).Another concern that might keep a person away from weightlifting is the possibility of suffering a back injury. This is an understandable concern, however, it is not an entirely accurate concern. A study comparing the back pain experienced between a control group of normal active men and a group of men weightlifting demonstrated that only 23% of weightlifters experienced back pain compared to 31% of the normal active men (Granhed). Another study compared the injury rate per 100 hours and found that the weightlifting injury rate was less than half when compared to other forms of weight training. (Hamill). In fact, weightlifting training and competitions together have lower injury rates than other sports such as football, basketball, soccer, etc (Stone, Muscle). The evidence presented refutes the notion that weightlifting is much more dangerous than other forms of weightlifting or sports activities.

Body Composition Effects

Another benefit of weightlifting is the amount of muscles used in the lifts. The Olympic lifts involve basically every muscle in the human body and this entails a great workout. Weightlifting also forces the stabilizer muscles to activate to secure the weight overhead in the lifts. For a recreational lifter weightlifting can cut down on the exercise time because of how the lifts require a total effort from the body. In an 8 week Olympic weightlifting program study, participants lowered their resting heart rate by 8%, lean body weight increased by 4%, fat dropped 6%, and systolic blood pressure decreased by 4% (Stone, Cardiovascular). Weightlifting is not only safe but an effective way to stay in shape as well.

Athletic Ability

An 8 week study that compared a group of lifters that did various Olympic lifts (High pulls, Power Clean, and Clean and Jerk) to a group using vertical jump exercises (Single and Double Leg Hurdles Hops, Alternated Single-leg Hurdle Hops, etc) and after the 8 weeks of training the Olympic weightlifting group had significantly increased their 10 meter sprint speed and their standing jump over the control group using standard vertical jump exercises (Tricoli). Similarly, a 15 week study was also performed using football players which compared a powerlifting program to an Olympic weightlifting program for athletic performance. After the 15 week study was over the Olympic weightlifting group showed significant improvement in the vertical jump and 40 meter sprint over the powerlifting group (Hoffman JR). The evidence demonstrates there are athletic benefits that come from incorporating weightlifting into a sport training program.

Effect on Bone Mineral Density

Weightlifting can help increase bone mineral density (BMD). Bone mineral density measures the mineral density, such as calcium, in the bones. Calcium is also constantly being added and removed from bones. When the removal of calcium is faster than the addition of calcium then the bones become weaker and are more susceptible to fractures. A study involving elite junior Olympic weightlifters compared their BMD, at the lower back and the neck of the femur, to an exact age group and an age group ranging from 20-39 year old men. The elite junior Olympic weightlifters BMD were found to be significantly greater than the age matched group and greater than the 20-39 year old men (Conroy). The belief is that the high overloads of stress from Olympic weightlifting have a major influence on BMD. The evidence points to weightlifting helping to develop strong bones.

Enjoyment Factor

One aspect of weightlifting that people enjoy is the lifts themselves. People enjoy the feeling of the barbell being weightless as they drop underneath it or they enjoy the speed that it takes to complete the lift or maybe they just enjoy mastering a technical skill. For most people there is a sense of satisfaction that comes from successfully hitting a personal best in the snatch or clean and jerk.

In Conclusion

These are just some of the benefits a person can come to expect from participating in weightlifting. Hopefully the evidence presented helps to clear up any misconceptions or fears about weightlifting. Participating in weightlifting is a fun and enjoyable experience that everyone should get to know.

References:

Conroy, Bp, Wj Kraemer, Cm Maresh, Sj Fleck, Mh Stone, Ac Fry, Pd Miller, and Gp Dalsky. "Bone Mineral Density in Elite Junior Olympic Weightlifters." (1993): 1103-1109. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 25 (1993).

Granhed, H. et al. Low back pain among retired wrestlers and heavyweight lifters. The American Journal of Sports Medicine,16(5):530-533. 1988.

Hamill, B. Relative Safety of Weightlifting and Weight Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 8(1):53-57. 1994

Hoffman, Jr, J Cooper, M Wendell, and J Kang. "Comparison of Olympic Vs. Traditional Power Lifting Training Programs in Football Players." 18 (2004): 129-135. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 18 (2004).

Stone, M. H., A. C. Fry, M. Ritchie, L. Stoessel-Ross, and J. L. Marsit. Injury potential and safety aspects of weightlifting movements. Strength and Conditioning. June: 15-21. 1994.

Stone, M.H., et al. Cardiovascular Responses to Short-Term Olympic Style Weight-Training in Young Men. Can. J. Appl. Sport Sci. 8(3): 134-9.

Stone, M.H. Muscle conditioning and muscle injuries. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 22(4):457-462. 1990.

Tricoli, V, L Lamas, R Carnevale, and C Ugrinowitsch. "Short-Term Effects on Lower-Body Functional Power Development: Weightlifting Vs. Vertical Jump Training Programs." 19 (2005): 433-437. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 19 (2005).