After you have developed the habit of exercising with weights, you may wonder if there is more to resistance workouts than training for general fitness goals. What competitive activities exist for strength training enthusiasts? Most resistance training programs for general fitness have their origin in the competitive sports. Competitive strength events usually fall into the categories of power lifting, Olympic lifting, and bodybuilding.
Power lifting consists of three lifts: the bench press, squat, and dead lift. The winner is determined by who can lift the most weight for all three lifts. Olympic lifting consists of using the most weight in two lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk. Both of these sports have a training goal of maximal strength development.
Power lifting centers around the three exercises performed in competition. The athlete works with very heavy weights to increase his strength. The number of repetitions per set stay low. Since they work so heavy, rest periods between sets are several minutes in length.
Olympic lifters also work very heavy, and they spend a lot of time on their technique since the lifts they do involve a pull movement that requires precision as well as strength.
Bodybuilding is a popular sport that has its roots in ancient history. The well-muscled practitioners of bodybuilding are reminiscent of statues carved during the Renaissance. But the admiration of human muscularity extends back even beyond Michelangelo to ancient Greece and Rome.
The earliest record of resistance exercise was found on the walls of a funeral chapel in Egypt. In the 6th century BC, training for strength was predominant in Greece and Rome. Milo of Crotone is credited with inventing progressive resistance. Every day for four years he would shoulder a growing calf and run the length of the Olympic stadium. As the young bull grew, so did Milo’s muscles.
After the fall of Rome, interest in exercise waned until the 1500′s. Sixteenth century accounts of strongmen and their feats can be found. In the late 18th century European schools began emphasizing physical education. In America, Ben Franklin practiced resistance exercises into his eighties.
In 1824, the first gymnasium in the US was established. Many more followed and were of a caliber that would rival those of today.
The first recognized bodybuilder of modern times was Eugene Sandow in 1889. His unique contribution was the public display of human muscularity for its own sake. Sandow, promoted as the world’s best built man, toured many countries performing an act which included stepping into a glass booth and striking muscular poses to music.
Several elements contributed to the growth of bodybuilding. The invention of the camera allowed artists to depict people as they really looked. Portraying energy and power required real muscle. The fairground platform had always included strongmen. Now the attention of the audience shifted to the posed physique.
A new interest in physical exercise was also a reaction to the sedentary lifestyle that resulted from the population shift from the rural to the urban setting. As advances in understanding human physiology were made, the beneficial effects of exercise became clear. At the same time, greater aerobic involvement in exercise led to a leaner muscular ideal. With the promotion of fitness and muscle building equipment, people realized they could sculpt their own bodies.
Among those who provided exercise equipment to the public were Sandow, Alan Calvert, founder of Milo Barbell Co., and Charles Atlas, whose mail order business coined the terms “97 pound weakling” and “kicking sand in your face.”
The first physique contest in the US was in 1904. Soon the rise in amateur lifting produced the desire for rules and regulations so that fair and honest competitions could be held and records could be verified. Set poses were systematized to become the norm by which bodybuilders could be compared. Today there is a strict criteria of proportion, symmetry and muscularity.
Bodybuilding as a sport gained popularity in the 1970s, resulting in many competitions being held presently. Unlike sports that rely solely on strength, the goal of bodybuilding is balanced muscular size, symmetry, and definition. The contestants display their abilities to create a visually balanced body by posing in routines that highlight their best physical qualities. To enhance their appearance, bodybuilders pay strict attention to their food intake to reduce their body fat to a minimum.
Bodybuilding involves more exercises than other resistance training sports. Each muscle of the body is worked at different angles and exercise loads to obtain the most gain in muscle size. They use more repetitions per set, 8-12, and often do multiple sets of 3-6 per exercise. It is felt that this high intensity volume of exercise may be the main stimulus to hypertrophy or the increase in muscle size. The rest periods are also distinctive, being short in length, to promote the muscle definition and vascularity desired in this sport.
The audience at bodybuilding contests are unique in that many are themselves players, too. People in this sport like to help others learn. Bodybuilding supports an increase in self-confidence and esteem.