Weight Training Definitions
"Have nunchucks. Will travel." - Antonio "Tony The Tiger" Vernón

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WEIGHTLIFTING - The activity of lifting barbells or dumbbells in competition (including powerlifting or olympic weight lifting) or the activity of exercising with weights. It is written as one word when referring to the general activity and two words when referring to the specific sport.

POWERLIFTING - A competition summing the total weights for the best of three attempts at each of three common exercises: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift, as defined below.

Note 1: Some less well-known federations include the curl as a fourth event. Whereas, I have competed in several 3 event powerlifting competitions and viewed olympic weight lifting competitions on TV and in person at the Atlanta Olympics, I have never seen competitive curling. We will not discuss curling any further despite its significance as a functional movement in everyday life.

Note 2: A few contests exclude the squat and contest just two events.

OLYMPIC WEIGHT LIFTING - A competition summing the total weights for the best of three attempts at both the snatch and the clean & jerk, as defined below. This is the sport seen in the Olympic competitions and is sometimes referred to simply as weight lifting or as olympic lifting. Both lifts are more technically demanding than any of the powerlifting exercises.

Note: Although weight lifting was included in the first modern Olympiad in 1896, it was omitted in 1900, 1908, 1912 and 1916 before returning in its current format with multiple events and weight classes in 1920. In 1896, 1904 and 1906, medals were awarded in both the one arm lift and the two arm lift. I am unable to detail either of these lifts. Prior to 1920, olympic weight lifting did not have weight classes. From 1920 until 1972, olympic weight lifting included the press (standing press I believe) as a third lift. Over the years, more weight classes have been added and women were included in 2000.

BODYBUILDING - A competitive exhibition of the physique. Muscles are developed in a similar manner to the lifting competitions above through exercise and diet. However, the focus is on aesthetics. The goal is the optimal combination of size, definition, and symmetry. Competition is based on on-stage judging and off-stage pre-judging over the course of the competition day. The posing includes both mandatory poses and freestyle choreographed posing. Oftentimes the final results follow a simultaneous on-stage posedown of the leading contenders.


SQUAT - Step under a loaded barbell on a rack. Hold the bar and balance it across the back of your shoulders (trapezius). Step back away from the rack while holding the bar on your back. Position the feet approximately shoulder-width apart. When the feet are stationed and the judge has signalled to begin, sink the body until the hip joint is lower than the knee joint and then return to the upright position. Once the squat begins the feet must remain completely stationary until the judge signals the lift is complete.

Note: I have heard this type of squat referred to as the back squat. This distinguishes it from the less well known front squat which is performed with the barbell in front of the body.

BENCH PRESS - Recline on a flat bench and receive the bar from a spotter who lifts it off the rack. With the elbows almost directly to the side, lower the bar at a steady and controlled pace until it touches the chest (pectorals). Once the weight comes to a complete stop and the judge gives the command, the lifter presses the weight off the chest until the arms are fully locked. Bouncing the bar and uneven or discontinuous extension of the arms is disallowed. The buttocks and the shoulder blades must remain in constant contact with the bench. Both feet must remain stationary and flat on the floor during the lift.

DEADLIFT - Bend your knees and grasp the bar with one hand in the overhand grip and the other in the underhand grip while leaning forward. Lift the weight off the platform until one is able to stand erect. First, one must straighten the legs. Then, straighten the back by throwing the chest and shoulders back. The lift is not complete until the bar has been returned to the ground in a controlled manner. This event is considered the closest movement to a true test of absolute strength within the confines of competitive lifting.

Note 1: The standard grip is with the hands outside the legs. However, some competitors grip the bar with the hands together and the legs spread extra wide outside the hands. This is called a sumo deadlift.

Note 2: Sometimes a stiff-legged deadlift is performed as a warmup or warmdown with relatively light weight. This stretches the hamstring. The stretch can be exaggerated by performing stiff-legged deadlift toe touches on an elevated surface.

Note 3: The control required in the deadlift is less stringent than in the squat or bench press. The requirement is that enough control is demonstrated so that the weight does not free fall. This is not as physically demanding as the control of the bench press and squat, which require enough control of the negative rep to facilitate a subsequent positive rep.

SNATCH - The lifter squats and leans forward to grip the bar overhand with the hands about shoulder-width apart. Then he pulls the bar from the platform to a position overhead using the following technique. The lifter must leap into a squatting position under the bar as it reaches chest height while catching it overhead with the arms in the locked position. He then stands upright keeping the bar balanced overhead. The lift is complete when the judges signal that the bar has been stabilized overhead. This is performed in one fluid motion and is more technically demanding and fluid than the clean and jerk.

CLEAN & JERK - This two-part movement starts with the clean. The lifter begins the clean by leaning over the bar and gripping overhand at about shoulder-width. He then raises the bar with a yanking technique from the platform to the front of the shoulders and tucks the elbows in and under in one motion while standing upright. The jerk is the movement where the lifter thrusts the bar from his shoulders to an overhead position while skipping into a split position with one leg forward and one leg back. He then puts his legs back together. The lift is complete when the judges signal that the bar has been stabilized overhead. This lift generally uses more weight than the snatch.

CLEAN & PRESS - This two-part movement starts with the clean just like the clean and jerk. The second movement can be executed as a standing press or a push press. For the standing press, one presses the bar directly upwards past the face until it is directly overhead in the locked arms position while the lower body remains stationary. In some cases, the push press is acceptable. The push press is like the standing press except one shifts into a half squat position and lunges upward to give the barbell momentum.

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