When it comes to physical conditioning, weightlifting is one of the most popular and oldest methods out there. Weightlifters test their determination, strength, and desire in order to attain physiques that can border on the superhuman. In the 19th century, professional “strong men” competed regularly to determine the best and most gifted weightlifters. But, the origins of it can be traced even farther back in history. In China, the Chou Dynasty reigned from 1025 BC to 256 BC. Records indicate weightlifting was practiced during that time and military recruits had requirements to pass tests to determine their strength before joining the army.
Ancient Egyptians trained by filling heavy bags of sand with one hand. Even though no weightlifting competition records exist for Egypt during that timeframe, it is still likely weightlifting contests were a regular occurrence along the Nile. Strength was appreciated by the pharaohs.
We trace many of our competitive sports today to those of the ancient Olympics. While weightlifting is not included in those ancient games, it still seems to have been a popular sport in the city-states of Greece and Athens. Tales of weightlifting feats of strength from ancient Greece exaggerated though they may be, have survived to be told even in this time.
Many of the planet’s strongest women and men can now regularly lift three even four times their body weight. These amazing acts combine speed, timing, concentration, technique, and power. They trace their heritage back to the modern Olympic Games in Athens and beyond. During the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, one and two-arm lifting competitions were used as part of the athletics program to prepare for the Games. Introduced as an individual medal sport in 1924, the Paris Games were the first in which a weightlifting competition occurred on equal status with the rest of the events. It became a featured and popular event in subsequent Olympics. Women first began competing in weightlifting during the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
20th century US weightlifters represented the dominant team in the sport for much of the early decades. From the 1930s through to the ‘50s, America produced most of the Olympic and World Champions. The sport grew immensely in popularity. 10,000 spectators jammed Madison Square Garden for the 1958 World Championships.
Beginning with the 1960s, other countries began to expand the sport and directly competed with America. Other countries also began to assume Olympic weightlifting dominance. Russia and Bulgaria have featured weightlifting’s top athletes over the years, constantly fielding championship teams and individuals. The current class of the weightlifting world comes from China.
Weightlifting isn’t just to satisfy competitive juices. It has beneficial factors for anyone seeking to improve their fitness and health. The rate your body consumes calories has a lot to do with your overall look and feel. This factor is generally known as your metabolism. As confirmed in multiple pieces of research, a person’s metabolism can be boosted through weightlifting.
Most people think first of engaging in cardio or aerobic exercises to improve metabolism. But, doing so can make people neglect the metabolic pluses of weightlifting. As a method to speed metabolism, weightlifting is one of if not THE best way to do so. But, that only makes sense if you think about it. Weightlifting increases or improves muscle mass and muscles burn calories more efficiently than other parts of your anatomy.
A key concept for understanding how weightlifting can improve your overall fitness and health is to consider its impact on the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Studies of athletes and non-athletes have shown that athletes generally have higher RMR than their sedentary counterparts. This is important for weight considerations because RMR represents the number of calories burned to maintain the vital processes of the body while resting. To figure it, one usually determines oxygen utilization by the body while resting. That process is tied closely to burning calories. This is important because RMR can account for up to 75% of the total calories the body uses during the day. Therefore, the impact of RMR on one’s body weight and overall fitness and health is easily understood.
After exercise, when RMR is measured the following morning, it appears the combination of high energy intake and expenditure can temporarily elevate RMR. But, this temporary elevation usually isn’t permanent. Those same studies indicate there is scant evidence the type of physical activity generally done by recreational exercisers with the goal of promoting health and weight control produces any measurable increase in RMR. Some exceptions have been noted such as when those exercises are completed by individuals 50 years-of-age and older.
Some fitness coaches promote the idea that regular weightlifting and the increased skeletal muscle mass it produces will have a dramatic impact on RMR. Studies indicate this is false. Estimates indicate each additional muscle pound burns only 5-10 calories a day. One would have to increase their bulk quite a bit to have a significant impact on RMR. Your typical fitness enthusiast who lifts weights hoping to improve their fitness and health rather than for bodybuilding will not significantly increase their muscle mass. Because of this, it may only have a minor effect on their RMR.
That’s not to say you should ignore weightlifting, even if you have no intention to become Mr or Mrs Universe. On the contrary, weightlifting still has significant fitness and health benefits.
The process of lifting weights doesn’t actually BUILD muscle. It breaks it down. It’s the physical exertion when lifting weights which causes your metabolism to speed up and burn more calories. But, after the muscle breaks down, your body reacts by building more muscle to compensate and try to make sure the muscle doesn’t break down again. This reaction takes a large amount of energy supplied by calories to rebuild those muscles stronger and bigger than before. So, weightlifting speeds up metabolism and burns calories during the weightlifting process. But, it also burns calories and speeds up metabolism as the body works to create those stronger and bigger muscles.
There are few ways to get that double bang for your buck when it comes to improving or maintaining your fitness and health.
To experience the maximum effect, weightlifting must be routine and done regularly. It also must be done safely to prevent injury. Always consult with a certified physical fitness professional before beginning your weightlifting regimen. They will help ensure you maintain the proper technique throughout the weightlifting process and avoid injury. Don’t overexert yourself and try to lift too much too soon. You can do serious damage to yourself while weightlifting.
A single, weekly trip to the gym which includes weightlifting along with other exercises will help, but won’t result in significant fitness and health improvements. But, with dedication and time to build muscle mass where less existed before, you will soon see an improved body and a sped-up metabolism.