Weightlifting- Wait, What?
After 5 and a half years into this sport, I now introduce myself as a Weightlifter. It’s taken a while to do that; no one takes a weekend coaching course and then introduces themselves as a “coach” (wait, what?). More often than not, the conversation takes a strange turn: “do you have to keep a strict diet? Bodybuilding requires so much determination!”
It is then that I realise that no one has a clue about what “Weightlifting” means, and it’s usually lumped into the category of “Big People With Too Much Muscle”, where Powerlifters, Strongmen and yes, Bodybuilders, also reside. But I don’t blame them. I can’t tell the difference between the different types of Bankers and Lawyers too, but apparently there are also many types of “Overworked People You Trust Your Life Savings To”.
But this isn’t a ramble on the difference between strength sports; a website called “google.com” exists.
I’m going to be talking about Weightlifting: the myths associated with it, how I think it makes sense for people who work in a 9-5 job, and how to start trying it for yourself.
Firstly, The Sport of Weightlifting involves two lifts: the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. If you pick up a dumbbell on weekends to “tone your arms” and then call yourself a weightlifter, that’s like me dropping a cheque into a quick deposit slot and calling myself a banker, but I digress. Weightlifting makes the use of the whole body to explosively move a weight on a barbell from the ground to an overhead position (The Snatch), and the moving of weight on a barbell from the ground to first rest on the front of the shoulders (The Clean), followed by a lift from the shoulders to an overhead position (The Jerk).
All of these positions require strength through different joints at the same time, excellent mobility through these joints, as well as a perfect sense of balance, so that the weight is stacked evenly through the body.
If you work in a nonathletic job or are a human in general, strength, mobility and balance are three things that enable you to use your body in many ways, just as you were created to do. From putting your luggage in an overhead compartment to refilling the 20-kilogram water tank in your office dispenser to bending over to play tag with your child and then living to see a new day, the basic tenets of Weightlifting carry over to aspects of life you don’t normally think about— before it’s too late.
Next, having said that, there seems to be an awful lot of hate coming our way:
“Weightlifting stunts your growth!”
“I (a woman) don’t want to get bulky!”
“I heard that squatting’s bad for you!”
Now, weightlifting does not stunt your growth, and you should shift the blame to genetics (your parents might also need help to reach the top drawer). Weightlifting, in fact, is beneficial for bone and muscular development in teens and can help with countering Osteoporosis through the preservation of bone and muscle mass.
The second question makes me sad because health and fitness marketing has capitalized on words that promote insecurities instead of principles that promote health. Words like “shred”, “toning” and “spot correction” should be used to describe office supplies, not bodies! This article sheds some light on how lifting heavy benefits women and dispels myths about what lifting might or might not do.
Squatting with bad form is bad for your knees, like how investing in the Hong Kong airport right now is bad for your bank account balance. I have seen too many squats that prioritise speed over even and balanced loading that ends up in mashed up SI joints. I will make my case again that too much, too fast and too soon is really not something you should be buying into. This article about the mechanics behind squatting is a long but enlightening read, but the point is this: squatting deep with good form recruits more lower body muscle assuming you maintain your symmetry and position (basically, having good form).
So how do you get started? Weightlifting is a complex thing, almost like learning a new language, and the internet, while somewhat useful, isn’t always right. Duolingo might get you started on the basics of French, but nothing beats having an actual person from the country teach you the ins and outs. The average 21st-century layperson will probably lack the requisite hip and shoulder mobility to get into an overhead squat in the first place, but perhaps that proves my point even more about Weightlifting being something highly functional and beneficial for the average person.
Find a coach you’ll respect who has a proven track record of good movement. You can be a “recreational weightlifter”, but if that term sounds a bit blah to you, think of it more like a “physically aware human”; the added strength, mobility, spatial awareness, patience and coordination will make you a better, stronger and more self-aware person— we definitely need more of those in this world.
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