What’s the difference between weightlifting (weight training) and strength training? Is weight training the same thing as resistance training? What is the difference between strength and resistance training? These are just some of the questions that we will try to explain in this article in a simple and comprehensible way.
Weightlifting vs. Strength Training vs. Resistance Training
In many articles and in common usage you will hear or see weightlifting and strength training used as if they are the same thing. They technically are not. So far, we have not seen a single website ( not even the most popular ones) that deals with this topic and that has clearly demarcated these important concepts.
Weightlifting (weight training) is a type of strength training, but it is not the only one. The whole idea of strength training is to build muscle mass. Muscle mass is built by forcing muscles to work harder against an opposing force. In weightlifting that force is gravity. You use your muscles to lift either a free weight (barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells) or weights on a machine to overcome gravity.
But there are other types of strength training too — such as resistance strength training, in which you use the muscle to overcome resistance like that of a resistance band, or resistance machine that uses a series of pulleys. Or Isometric strength training that pits one muscle against another. Still, most fitness professionals agree one of the best methods of building muscle is to strength train through weightlifting (weight training).
For the purposes of most discussions about how we build muscle and the many benefits thereof, strength training and weight lifting can be considered interchangeable. In fact, prior to modern times where much more has been learned about physiology and exercise, and other methods of strength training exercises have been developed, strength training and weight training were pretty much interchangeable terminologies.
Regardless of what you call it strength training and/or weightlifting provides significant health benefits. Strength training builds muscle, strengthens bones and ligaments, and adds to overall fitness and well-being. The key to using weightlifting to increase strength is to use the concept of progressive resistance. You need to continue to tax the muscles by increasing the force they need to work against over time to continue to build up and gain strength.
In weightlifting, this is accomplished by either adding more weight or increasing repetitions. Weightlifting is also a great way to strength train because weight-lifting exercises, either with free weights or machines have been designed to work targeted and specific muscle groups. So if you want to add strength to your legs because you are a soccer player, you can target leg-lifting exercises and still receive many secondary benefits of weightlifting and general strength training.
Weightlifting is not however the same thing as Bodybuilding. Popularized by the Movie “Pumping Iron” and the rise in fame of Arnold Schwarzenegger, bodybuilding uses similar techniques to weight lifting and carries many of the same benefits, but it is a sport with different goals. Most bodybuilders train for open competition, so their goal is to maximize muscularity and minimize body fat. Competitive bodybuilders have from 2- 4% total body fat. A weight lifter or weight trainer, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with increasing strength and stamina, and is not too concerned with reducing body fat to below-normal levels, and will wind up looking and feeling good by doing that.