In many articles and in common usage you will hear or see, “weight lifting” and “strength training” used as if they are the same thing. But, technically, they are not.
Weight lifting 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 weight lifting that force is gravity. You use your muscles to lift either a free weight 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 your muscles 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 that one of the best methods of building muscle is to strength train through weight lifting. Therefore, 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.
No Matter What You Call It, Strength Training Is Good For You!
Regardless of what you call it, strength training and/or weight lifting provides significant health benefits. Strength training builds muscle, strengthens bones and ligaments, and adds to overall fitness and well-being. The key to using weight lifting 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 weight lifting this is accomplished by either adding more weight or increasing repetitions. Weight lifting 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 weight lifting and general strength training.
Is Weight Lifting the Same Thing as Body Building?
Weight lifting 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 body builders 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 may not build a “competitive” physique, but will wind up looking and feeling good through strength training.