A Brief History of Strength Sports

When I tell people that I have competed in Weightlifting and Powerlifting I get a lot of unnerving questions.

“Are those not the same thing?” “Does that mean you walk around in a bikini and heels?” “What is a snatch?” As I write this, the program doesn’t even recognize that Powerlifting is in fact a word and a massively competitive sport.

I am writing today to give you all a brief history and description of strength sports so that I do not have to explain that I do not in fact “get all oiled up and pose on stage” (yes that was a  real comment, yes I gagged a little when it happened).

Strongman – the original strength sport.

busch            maxresdefault

Competitions of strength have been going on since men have had testosterone and wanted to show off in front of other men and for eligible females (aka forever). They became more organized in the later 1800’s as shows containing amazing feats of strength for the general public and evolved into many different kinds of competitions for men and women like the kinds that we have today.

Strongmen (and women) will train to lift and sometimes move odd objects through different tasks at an event. Sometimes their scores can be dependent on time or amount of weight moved.

Weightlifting – the one in the Olympics

Split Jerk

The next strength sport to make it’s official mark on the world was Olympic Weightlifting also referred to as simply weightlifting. This is a competition where in the simplest terms you try to get as much weight overhead as possible. They utilize two movements, the snatch and the clean and jerk and try to max out each one in 3 attempts. The strength, power, and coordination of these athletes is unlike many other sports.

The movements used in this competition are also used in training for many sports as they are a great way to develop strength, power, and speed all in one set of movements. They are usually kept to a small amount of reps (1-3) with challenging weights.

Body Building -the show-offs


As Weightlifting was making it’s way to the Olympic stage, body building was the next big thing sweeping the nation. Body Building as a sport is focused on making the muscles of the body as big and symmetrical as possible while lowering body fat and body water to show off said muscles. The Mr. Olympia contest and Arnold Schwarzenegger are the most recognized names in the body building industry.

The movements used in training here are great for beginners to build a base of strength or someone rehabbing an injury. They are high repetitions (10+ reps) of low weights so overall weight lifted here is minimal but this is how you make muscles grow (hypertrophy).

For an inside look at the “golden-era” of body building, check out Pumping Iron on Netflix!


Powerlifters – the big movers

Bench Press

As body building starts taking over the big commercial markets, the sport of Powerlifting continues to grow within its community. Powerlifting is similar to Weightlifting as it tests your maximal strength this time with 3 different lifts; the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. Though not as quick of a movement as weightlifting, a powerlifter moves much bigger weights around the platform when they compete.

The movements here are the best way for anyone to get purely strong. Whether you have the inclination to deadlift 300lbs or you just don’t want to hurt your back moving the couch to clean under it, these lifts are the way to go. They are usually trained using higher weight and a moderate amount of reps (4-7).



Many of these sports died off in popularity for a while there because of the promotion of cardio as the holy grail of health and fitness. While I will admit that you need a strong cardiovascular base, neglecting strength training can actually be detrimental to your health. At Studio 410 we want to help you make the most out of your time in the gym and strongly encourage participation in any of the above activities. You don’t need to have your eyes set on competing to participate (although I haven’t met anyone that hasn’t had fun at a meet!!).

If you’re interested in seeing what it’s all about come check out Barbell Club Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:30-8:00pm and Fridays at 5:30-7:00pm

Ask me as many questions as you need and I’m sure we can find the right training plan for you!

Got a kid that plays sports or is looking for a new way to be physically active? Kid’s Barbell is the best way to get them training safely and effectively. Kid’s gym is Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:00-5:30pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s