Physical Activity

Why Olympic Weightlifting is So Good for You

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So many of us are still adamant that lifting heavy weights is going to make you balloon up until you look like the Michelin Man. Such is not the case. In fact, an absence of strength training in lieu of what I call Chronic Cardio Syndrome has been found to slow down muscle gain and fat loss. Even CrossFit® athletes are hesitant to dedicate additional time to lifting as opposed to the lung-busting metcons because less cardio could be the death of you — even though we know that Olympic lifting is one of the core skills in the sport. The skills required to be a proficient lifter undeniably bleed into CrossFit® — some of the 10 domains named by Greg Glassman himself, like strength, power, flexibility, coordination, balance, and accuracy (1). Why, then, do we resist?

Even CrossFit® athletes are hesitant to dedicate additional time to lifting as opposed to the lung-busting metcons because less cardio could be the death of you — even though we know that Olympic lifting is one of the core skills in the sport. The skills required to be a proficient lifter undeniably bleed into CrossFit® — some of the 10 domains named by Greg Glassman himself, like strength, power, flexibility, coordination, balance, and accuracy (1). Why, then, do we resist?

As an Olympic weightlifter, I’m probably a little biased when I say that everybody should incorporate Olympic lifting into their fitness routine because it’s the greatest thing ever in the whole entire universe. Ever. So instead, I’ll turn to science to explain why lifting weights will do wonders for your body and mind.

4 Reasons Why Olympic Weightlifting is So Good for You

1. Explosive Weightlifting Helps Prevent Injuries

Forget what you’ve heard about Olympic lifting being dangerous, because science has found quite the opposite: Explosive lifting helps prevent injuries (2). It only makes sense, considering lifting gives you the opportunity to train some of the strongest muscles in your body that help hold you up — quads, glutes, back. Muscle-strengthening activities have been found to maintain and improve the health and safety of older adults and are even recommended to help prevent falls (3,4). Yet another study found that lifting can help reduce your risk of sports-related injuries (5). The takeaway? Lift to stay healthy.

2. Weightlifting is Good for the Mind

Yes, it’s challenging — but do you go to the gym because it’s easy and boring? (No.) Sharpened psychological abilities are yet another benefit of explosive weightlifting, according to science (2). Don’t underestimate the power of pumping iron, because it has even been found to consistently and significantly reduce depression (6). It’s widely believed that an accelerated heart rate is a must to feel that happiness boost from fitness, but studies show that both aerobic and non-aerobic exercise can elevate your mood.

3. It Keeps Your Bones Healthy

Time and time again, weightlifting has been shown to help maintain or increase bone mineral density as we age, particularly in the lower back region (7). Furthermore, research suggests that weightlifting could be more beneficial to your bone mineral density than calcium supplementation (8)! Weight training may be the missing link in fending off osteoporosis: It’s been found to positively impact numerous risk factors for osteoporosis that traditional pharmacological and nutritional habits cannot — like strength, balance and greater muscle mass (9).

4. Lifting Aids in Fat Loss

One need only look at pro lifters (Mattie Rogers, Jessica Lucero, Morghan King) to know that weightlifting will not make you “manly.” But if you still have any doubts of the efficacy of lifting in reducing body fat, know that science has deemed weight training a superb complement to aerobic fitness and a healthy diet when it comes to getting and staying lean. It does this by increasing your resting metabolic rate and your total energy expenditure (10). And while a healthy diet plays a huge role in your body composition (“abs are made in the kitchen,” after all), it’s in fact a combination of a solid diet, aerobic exercise and weight training that’s been found to be the key in stopping the decline of fat-free mass, improving muscular power and strength and improving overall body composition (11).

References

  1. “Foundations.” Greg Glassman, CrossFit Journal. 2002.
  2. “Should All Athletes Use Explosive Lifting?” Harvey Newton, Simon Jenkins. 2013.
  3. “Physical Activity and Public Health in Older Adults. Recommendation From the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association.” Miriam E. Nelson, et al. 2007.
  4. “Exercise to prevent falls in older adults: an updated meta-analysis and best practice recommendations.” Catherine Sherrington, et al. 2011.
  5. “Resistance training among young athletes: safety, efficacy and injury prevention effects.” A D Faigenbaum, G D Myer. 2009.
  6. “Running versus weight lifting in the treatment of depression.” Elizabeth J. Doyne, et al. 1987. 
  7. “Weight-training effects on bone mineral density in early postmenopausal women.” Leslie A. Pruitt, et al. 1992.
  8. “A two-year program of aerobics and weight training enhances bone mineral density of young women.” Anne L. Friedlander, et al. 1995.
  9. “The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review.” JE Layne, ME Nelson. 1999.
  10. “Strength training and weight loss.” Gustavo Ribeiro da Mota, et al. 2010.
  11. “Influence of exercise training on physiological and performance changes with weight loss in men.” WJ Kraemer, et al.1999.

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