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Some people use the term "weightlifting" to refer to weight training, while others use it to refer to the competitive sport known as Olympic weightlifting. Powerlifting is also a competitive lifting sport, though it differs somewhat from Olympic weightlifting. Understanding the differences between these lifting types helps you to choose the lifting type that best meets your fitness goals.
Weight training refers to the lifting of weights to increase strength, endurance and lean muscle mass. Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting can both be used as forms of weight training, but less-intensive weightlifting routines are effective forms of weight training as well. Depending on your goals, weight training can be used to increase strength through the use of heavier weights, increase endurance and improve body composition through the use of multiple repetitions with lighter weights or improve the look of your body through a mix of techniques for bodybuilding and body-sculpting competitions.
Olympic weightlifting consists of two types of lifts: the "snatch" and the "clean and jerk." The snatch lift uses the legs to begin the lift, instilling momentum in the weight that allows the arms and upper body to take over at around waist height; the lifter bends his knees again to aid the transition to holding the weight over his head, after which he rises to a standing position. The clean and jerk begins similarly, though the bar is raised to a point under the chin instead of being lifted immediately over the head so that it rests on the shoulders as the torso rises. Judges score lifters on both the amount they lift and the accuracy of their techniques with the best score out of three attempts being recorded. The recorded scores for both the snatch and the clean and jerk are combined to calculate the lifter's overall score.
Powerlifting consists of three types of lifts, though they are different than in Olympic weightlifting; powerlifting uses the "squat," the "bench press" and the "deadlift." The squat involves removing the weight from a rack at chest height, lowering the body into a squatting position and using the legs to raise the body back up to place the weight back on the rack. The bench press also uses a rack, with the lifter lying beneath the weight on a padded bench; the lifter must remove the weight from the rack, lower it to his chest and raise it back to the height of the rack. The deadlift doesn't use a rack, but instead begins with the weight on the floor. The lifter uses his legs to raise the weight to waist height and then lowers the weight back to the ground. Like Olympic weightlifting, power lifters are scored on the best lift out of three.
Regardless of the type of lifting you do, using safe lifting procedures is important to protect you from both external and internal injuries. Weight belts, wrist braces and other safety equipment should always be used during practice and lifting to protect against injury. Always consult a doctor before beginning any new exercise routine, especially if the exercises are strenuous. Never lift without one or more spotters available to help you safely lift or lower a weight if you are unable to do so. Proper lifting techniques should be learned from an experienced trainer to prevent injuries that may result from improper technique, and these techniques should include exhaling as you lift to avoid a dangerous increase in blood pressure. Always warm up with light exercise before lifting to prepare your muscles, joints and tendons for the intense strain to come, and increase weight amounts gradually to avoid overdoing your workouts or causing muscle strain.