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Friday, 22 August 2014

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Weightlifting

WEIGHTLIFTING is the oldest of the modern Olympic Games competitions, having made its debut in 1896 in Athens.

The most basic form of physical competition, with the aim being to lift more weight than anyone else, weightlifting is a test of pure strength and one of the most straightforward sports on the London 2012 Olympic programme.

Competitors are divided into 15 weight categories, eight for men and seven for women, with the strongest competitors able to lift more than three times their body weight.

After struggling at gymnastics last week, due to my appalling upper body strength, I did not hold out much hope for my weightlifting abilities.

But hearing about an Olympic weightlifting class at Kendal Elite Sports Academy, Parkside Road, I decided to raise the bar.

Before arriving at the Academy, I had already painted a picture in my head of how the club would look.

Muscly men and fierce looking competition is what I was expecting to be met with, so it was a nice surprise to find out I would be working with two petite young girls, who were also lifting for the first time.

“Olympic lifters look well built with big thighs and bums but I’m not built like that. Anyone can give weightlifting a go,” explained Sarah Jones, one of the coaches who agreed to show me how it is done.

Although the Kendal Elite Sports Academy is training members of the Great Britain Judo team ahead of the Olympics, the club also trains athletes competing in sports such as athletics, triathlon, football, rugby and cricket. And I was training alongside an expert long jumper.

“Learning to weightlift is great training for other sports. It is a very powerful exercise and many people come to us to use it as a training tool for their own sport,” added Sarah.

We began the class by perfecting our posture, making sure our backs were protected for lifting heavy weights. And once we had got the hang of the squat, it was time to try lifting the bar.

Starting off with relatively light weights we practised the two Olympic lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk.

In the snatch, the bar is lifted from the floor to above the head in one movement. By contrast, the clean and jerk is a two-stage action – the bar is first brought up to the shoulders before being jerked over the head. Not too dissimilar to body pump classes, I found the lifts relatively easy to begin with. But as the weight increased the harder the technique became.

I had been worried about my lack of upper body strength but, after a few lifts my thighs were on fire and it quickly became apparent that your legs are one of the most important aspects in lifting weights.

“Everyone assumes it is your arms that do all the work but it’s not, it really works your thighs, abdominals and core.

“It is a good cardio workout and really tones you up,” said Sarah.

By the end of the class, me and the two other newbies were all in agreement that we had enjoyed ourselves and pushing myself during the session had given me a real buzz.

Sessions run on Tuesday 4pm to 5pm for 14 to 18-year-olds and Monday 6.30pm to 7.30pm for adults.

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