difference between strength training and weight lifting

What is the difference between strength training and weight lifting?

Many people think strength training and weightlifting are the same thing, but that is not the case. Weight lifting refers to a competitive sport involving lifting weights, whereas strength training is any recreational exercise done to make your muscles stronger or to tone your body. Read on for an explanation of the different types of weight training and strength training.

Olympic Weightlifting

weight liftingOlympic weight lifting focuses on just two lifts: the clean and jerk, and the snatch. Both of these moves involve lifting a barbell from the floor up over your head. The snatch uses a wide grip and is done in one move. The clean and jerk uses a close grip and is done in two moves. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympic_weightlifting) During the competition, the weight lifter has three attempts to do each lift. The objective is to lift the heaviest weight you can in one lift.


Powerlifting is similar to Olympic weight lifting, but focuses on three moves: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. Sometime, the barbell biceps curl is included. Like in Olympic weight lifting, the competitor has three chances to complete the lift. Generally, powerlifters train by doing a few reps of the exercise (as opposed to strength training, where the lifter often completes multiple reps of one move). This method of training maximized strength gains. Powerlifting can be done “equipped” (with special gear such as a lifting shirt or knee wraps) or “un-equipped” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powerlifting).

Strongman Competitions

Strongman competitions comprise a variety of events, such as pulling a truck or lifting very heavy rocks. Sometimes the score is based lifting the most weight in a single lift, and sometimes it is based on doing the most repetitions of a lift. Each event in the competition has a point value attached, and the winner is the one with the most points overall. Strongman events happen all over the world, multiple times a year (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_strongman_competitions).

strength trainingStrength Training

In contrast to the three types of weight lifting described above, strength training is not competition, but rather a recreational activity involving resistance exercises. There are a variety of weights and resistance tools used in strength training, including barbells, dumbells, kettlebells, machines, resistance bands, medicine balls…. The list goes on. Sometimes the focus during strength training is lower repetitions of heavier weights, and sometimes it’s higher repetitions of lighter weights. The goal of strength training is generally to get stronger or to look better. There are a variety of books and online guides to help you get started with strength training. Here is one: https://www.verywellfit.com/complete-beginners-guide-to-strength-training-1229585.