Get Inspired: How to get into Weightlifting

zoe smith weightlifting

*If you lift weights at the gym, you can compete against others across the nation with BWL's 'Strength and Power Series'

Imagine trying to lift in excess of two-and-a-half times your own body weight above your head. That's the prospect a weightlifter has in front of them as they strive for gold.

Great Britain's first-ever Olympic champion was Launceston Elliot, who claimed gold in the one-hand lift in 1896. He remains Britain's only Olympic weightlifting champion.

Why is it good for you?

Weightlifting helps boost your strength, muscle definition and energy levels. Depending on the style of weightlifting programme you perform, it can either build the size of your muscles or create longer, leaner muscles.

Although standard weightlifting is not a form of cardiovascular exercise, it can still help fat loss. An intense weightlifting training session burns approximately 266 calories per hour, with extra calorie loss still occurring up to 48 hours later due to muscle growth.

Rebekah Tiler

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West Yorkshire schoolgirl Rebekah Tiler is only just 15, but she can clean and jerk 120kg and has her sights set on an Olympic gold medal in 2020.

Special weightlifting programmes, such as tabata, can aid cardiovascular fitness as they require you to do repeat sets of as many repetitions as possible in a limited time period. This exercise improves stamina and lowers blood pressure.

As weightlifting is a form of resistance training, it also boosts your metabolic rate as muscles require calories to grow. The larger the weight you lift and the more regularly you train, the quicker your metabolism should be.

Weightlifting also helps improve the density of your bones which helps to prevent osteoporosis from developing.

Get involved

There are approximately 50 British Weightlifting accredited clubs in gyms, sport centres and universities throughout the United Kingdom.

Clubs provide the best place for people of all ages and abilities to attend training sessions with a qualified coach who will help you lift weights safely and develop a programme to help you achieve your goals.

To get started, all you will need is trainers and clothing suitable to sport such as shorts and a t-shirt. Many athletes wear singlets as they advance and enter competitions.

Wherever you are in the UK, use British Weightlifting's club finder to find out where you can get started. You can also find out more on the websites of Weightlifting NI,Weightlifting Scotland and Weightlifting Wales.

Membership of British Weightlifting gives you access to detailing training plans, entrance to official competitions, discounts for courses and civil liability insurance.


Weightlifting was practised both by ancient Egyptian and Greek societies and developed as an international sport primarily in the 19th century.

Men's weightlifting was on the programme in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, missed out at the 1900, 1908 and 1912 editions, but has been an ever-present since then.

It appeared under the athletics umbrella until 1920 when the press, snatch, and clean & jerk techniques were introduced.

It was not until the 2000 Games in Sydney that women were allowed to compete at Olympic level.

Bulgarian Izabeta Dragneva won an historic first gold medal but she was quickly stripped of it after the banned diuretic furosemide was found in her system.

The most famous weightlifter in Olympic history is the USA's 1948 light heavyweight silver medallist, Harold Sakata.

Although not famous at the time of the Games, he later became a professional wrestler by the name of Tosh Togo before embarking on an acting career during which he gained international stardom playing the role of Oddjob in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger.

The heaviest individual weight lifted in Olympic competition was achieved by Hossein Rezazadeh of Iran when he clean-and-jerked 262.5kg in Athens in 2004.

This is the equivalent of five flyweight boxers or two-and-a half times the size of a baby male elephant.

Britain's most recent medallist was David Mercer, who took bronze in 1984.

More on the IOC website

Are you inspired to try Weightlifting? Or maybe you are a keen enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the activity by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired or email us on

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.