Understand Resistance Training : Are You Weightlifting... Or Are You Lifting Weights?

A variety of terms are bounced around the gym with regard to the act of lifting weights. Nine times out of ten the term ‘weightlifting’ is used to describe the lifting of weights to develop muscle, increase strength, and develop functional strength and power. The thing that many people won’t realise is that ‘weightlifting’ per se actually refers to a competitive sport involving two exercises, the snatch and clean and jerks…and how many ‘squat rack curlers’ and the likes of, do you actually see doing these advanced compound moves!?

As pedantic as it may sound, the correct terms for using resistance for the purpose of developing muscle mass etc is weight training and resistance training. These terms are quite legitimately used synonymously, and refer to the specialised method of conditioning involving the use of loads that might include weighted plates, dumbbells or kettle bells (to name a few), and of course your own bodyweight! The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) explain that strength training, power training and endurance training must also be considered individually:

Strength training

This refers to the application of resistance training for the purpose of developing ones overall ability to exert a force against resistance. So theoretically the stronger you are the greater the force you can exert, making strength training a very useful training technique. However, the type of strength a sprinter demonstrates is slightly different to that of a weight lifter resisting a very heavy load.

Strength training is classified in 3 ways:

Maximum Strength - The greatest force that is possible in a single maximum contraction

Elastic strength –
Ability to exert a fast contraction in order to overcome resistance

Strength endurance –
the exertion of repeated force i.e. high reps weightlifting e.g. 10 clean and jerks

(Brian MAC Sports Coach, 1997)

In order to get stronger you need to increase the weight you lift and reduce the total reps. So inherently, if you manage to gradually increase the weight you lift, then your muscle size will grow proportionately. Aim to lift a weight that forces you to fail at 2-6 reps and eventually your strength will increase.

Power training

Power = (Force x Distance) / time

McArdle, Katch & Katch (1986) define power as the amount of work performed per unit of time. Power is described as the application of strength at speed, meaning a person is regarded as powerful if they have a lot of strength and are able to apply this strength at speed. Sprinters or shot putters are widely regarded as some of the most powerful athletes out there due to the speed of their movements.

To develop power you should adjust the weight and speed of your reps accordingly, researchers from suggest that the best rep range for power is 3-5. Taking the bench press as an example, aim to lower the bar towards your chest (negative motion) at a count of 2 seconds, but once you reach the bottom of the movement explode into the positive motion so that you reach the top of the motion in just 1 second…hence reducing the time it takes to move the load over a set distance i.e. exerting a more powerful movement.

Endurance training

Endurance training comes in various forms including aerobic, anaerobic, speed endurance and strength endurance. These types of endurance are unique in the sense that aerobic endurance refers to the ability to produce energy in order to meet the demands, or duration, of the exercise under certain conditions. For example aerobic endurance refers to the ability to produce energy when oxygen is present and ready to use, whereas anaerobic means oxygen is in short supply within the body either because the athlete cannot get enough in to meet demand, or because they are holding their breath! Resistance training inherently means you train at maximal effort per bout meaning your muscles are working so hard that their demand for oxygen exceeds the body’s ability to provide it; hence you have to rely on stored fuel. A bout of exercise lasting around 25-30 seconds e.g. a set of 8-10 reps means you will be burning mainly stored glycogen for energy.

In order to develop your endurance you should reduce the weight proportionately so that you are able to perform 10-15 reps, once these reps get too easy you should increase the weight to allow to only complete 10-15 reps again. This initiates a process known as ‘supercompensation’ and will result in improved overall endurance.

NOTE: You could also introduce high set, high rep exercises such as German Volume Training (GVT), or pyramid/strip sets to boost endurance as well as muscle mass.


Strength- To boost overall strength opt for a Whey protein, Creatine monohydrate and ZMA stack.

Power- Whey protein, Nitric oxide based pre-workouts, and Creatine monohydrate are key to maximal power.

NOTE: Some Nitric oxide workout's contain Creatine so be sure to check the ingredients list to prevent exceeding the recommended dosage.

Endurance- Try adding an alkalising agent such as Udo's Choice Beyond Greens to reduce muscle acidity, an isotonic drink such as Science in Sport Go Energy and Creatine monohydrate for power endurance.


Mackenzie, B, (1997). Strength. Retrieved 04th March, 2013, from http://www.brianmac.co.uk/strength.htm

Mazzetti, Scott A. Ph.D.; Wolff, Christopher; Collins, Brittany; Kolankowski, Michael T.; Wilkerson, Brittany; Overstreet, Matthew; and Grube, Troy (2011) "Influence of Differences in Exercise-intensity and Kilograms/Set on Energy Expenditure During and After Maximally Explosive Resistance Exercise," International Journal of Exercise Science: Vol. 4: Iss. 4, Article 8.
Retrieved 4th March, 2013, from http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/ijes/vol4/iss4/8

McArdle, W. et al. (2000). Essentials of Exercise Physiology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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