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

Unfortunately, the sport of weightlifting cannot be spoken about without mentioning the drug abuse that has so often tainted it.

The sport has had its reputation tarnished in each of the last 10 Olympics, bar 1992 and 1996, by competitors failing drugs tests.

The International Weightlifting Federation has twice changed weight categories and as a result erased all world and Olympic records in an attempt to beat the drugs cheats.

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.

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 higher the weight you lift and 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 Weightliftingexternal-link 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.

For people in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, use British Weightlifting's club finderexternal-link to find out where you can get started. Phone 01269 850390 or e-mail to contact the Welsh Weightlifting Federation.external-link

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

More on the British Weightlifting websiteexternal-link

Want to get involved with sport in your local community? Why not Join In ?

'Join In Local Sport'external-link aims to get as many people as possible to turn up and take part in activities at their local sports facilities on 18/19 August, 2012 - the first weekend between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The aim of the initiative is for every sports club and community group in the UK to put on a special event in a bid to encourage more people to get involved as members, supporters or volunteers.

More than 4,000 local sports clubs will be opening their doors to host events and show people just how they can get involved.

As well as tips on playing sport there will be information on coaching, supporting and how to help out.

Find an eventexternal-link near you.

The competition format at London 2012

  • From Saturday 28 July to Tuesday 7 August, 260 athletes (156 men, 104 women) will compete at the ExCeL Arena.
  • Each country is allowed to enter two athletes per weight division.
  • Competitors are divided into 15 weight categories, eight for men and seven for women.
  • If there are more than 15 weightlifters in one category they are split into separate groups, with Group A containing the likely medal contenders.
  • Each event features two types of lift - the snatch and the clean and jerk.
  • The winner is the athlete who lifts the heaviest total weight combined.

More on the London 2012 websiteexternal-link

The rules at London 2012

The snatch is considered the technical lift and involves lifting the weight above the head in one movement.

Once the bar is lifted overhead, the competitor must remain motionless, arms and legs extended, with bar and body in a straight line, until given the green light by the referees.

The clean and jerk, which is considered the 'brute strength' lift, involves lifting the weight above the head in two movements.

First, the lifter 'cleans' the barbell up to the shoulder/chest area, and then 'jerks' it above the head in one movement by way of an explosive motion from the legs.

When the movement is complete, the competitor must remain absolutely motionless until the signal from the referees is green.

An athlete's best lifts in both the snatch and clean and jerk are added together to provide their total score.

Each competitor has three attempts per weight in the snatch and likewise in the clean and jerk - if successful they progress to a higher weight, with a minimum 1kg increase.

Each competitor has one minute to start their attempt once their name has been announced or the loaders are off the platform, whichever comes last.

The only exception to this is if an athlete must take consecutive attempts - they are allowed two minutes in this instance, with a warning bell after 90 seconds.

If two competitors have lifted the same amount of weight, the athlete who weighs the least will be declared the winner.

More on the Team GB websiteexternal-link

Ones to watch

Teenager Zoe Smith is the poster girl of British weightlifting and achieved the Olympic 'A' standard twice this year, most notably at the European Championships, where she finished fourth in the lightweight division. A medal would represent a huge, and unexpected, achievement.

China excelled on home soil in 2008 with eight gold medals and added six world titles last year. Kazakhstan's Ilya Ilin won middle heavyweight gold in Beijing and took the world title last December.

Iranian super heavyweight Behdad Salimikordasiabi has been unstoppable in the last two years, winning back-to-back world titles.


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 the baby male elephant born in Berlin Zoo in May this year.

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

More on the IOC websiteexternal-link