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Strength, size, or functional athletic ability? This is the choice when it comes to weight lifting. Is weightlifting an adjunct to another more important goal, being a performance athlete? Is it a means to an end, sheer mass and bulk to be cut for aesthetic purposes? Is it just to be heaviest lifter in the gym or lift as heavy as you can?
There are many paths to fitness. Your goals will determine what defines that fitness. The power lifter and body builder are in terrible shape for a 100M race or any running. The marathoner won’t be placing in the shot put tomorrow.
The performance athlete will have the most difficulty, figuring out what type of lifting can be successfully time managed into the rest of the skill sets specific to their sport.
I prefer, power lifting over bodybuilding, since power lifting has performance standards. But the pinnacle of general fitness is, decathlon or fighting sport training. Any decathlete or fighter would destroy a bodybuilder or power lifter, in almost any sport or skill oriented athletic event, except posing or maximum lifts, and some could actually do better than either in olympic lifts.
So if you are sculpting to look cute, your lifting path will involve a lot of sets and a huge number of isolation lifts. If you are lifting for absolute maximal strength, you will require fewer exercises, with a great emphasis on compound lifts (lifts requiring more than one joint or articulation). The performance athlete is more likely to require more explosive olympic style exercises (snatches, power cleans, clean and jerks and variations on those themes, for coordinated power, these lifts are either full body or very close to being full body.
When it comes to time management, the olympic type of lifts are the best, they are full body and jack up the heart rate almost as much as sprints. To check whether this is true for you weightlifters, try taking a one hundred lb. bar from the floor overhead twenty times with no break and in less than 45 seconds doing power clean&jerks. At age 56, I have done 135 lbs. 19 times, 185 6 times, and 225 lbs. once, and can do a standing military of 175 lbs. This is not weak for my age group. One major reason that strength increases from this type of training, that is not mentioned is the increase in anabolic hormones, caused by the increased total percentage of muscle mass being used at near absolute capacity, something alternating dumb bell curls will not do, thus the importance of leg work. My clients and I get a bigger anabolic impact from 15 minutes of quality lifting and loaded ballistic movement, than most lifters do in 90 minutes, diddling around with a bunch of time wasting isolation exercises. If you are younger, you should be able to do better. As always, before doing any type of exercise, make sure you have clearance from your M.D., and consult with a personal trainer to guide you on your path to health, and fitness, not just strength or aesthetics.
Edward Troy, personal trainer