weight lifting

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weight lifting

weight lifting, international sport, also a training technique for athletes in other sports. From the earliest times men have lifted weights as a test of strength. Long popular as a competitive sport in Europe, Egypt, Turkey, and Japan, weight lifting became increasingly popular in the United States after 1900.

Weight classes govern competition, which is won by the lifter with the greatest total of weight for two standard lifts—the clean-and-jerk, in which the lifter hoists the bar temporarily to the shoulders, pauses, and then thrusts it overhead, and the snatch, in which the lifter squats, then draws the bar overhead in a single motion. These Olympic lifts require delicate technique as well as great strength. A world championship for women was first held in 1987, and female lifters competed in the Olympics for the first time in 2000.

In recent decades, the use of illegal strength-building drugs—anabolic steroids—by some competitors has marred the sport's reputation. Their use is also widespread among power lifters who compete in a less technically demanding variation in which the dead lift, bench press, and squat determine weight totals. Bodybuilders, although not competitive lifters, rely almost solely upon weight training to shape their bodies. The number of women bodybuilders, like women weight lifters, rose dramatically in the late 20th cent.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Weight Lifting


a sport that involves lifting barbells in competition. The lift categories used in official competitions since 1972 are the snatch, the clean and jerk, and the total of results from these two lifts. In the snatch the weight is raised from the platform over the head in one continuous movement; in the clean and jerk there are two movements—from the platform to the chest and from the chest over the head. From 1934 to 1972 the classical three-event format was used: the press, the snatch, and the clean and jerk. Before 1934 there were five events: the two-hand press, the one- and two-hand snatch, and the one- and two-hand clean and jerk. Since 1977, official international competitions have been conducted in ten weight classes, ranging from less than 52 kg to more than 110 kg.

Weight training to develop strength and the physique has been known since ancient times. Official weight-lifting competitions were first held in the USA in the 1860’s. In the early 1870’s, H. Triât founded weight-lifting schools in Paris and Brussels. Weight lifting has been included in the Olympic Games since 1896, with the exceptions of 1900,1908, and 1912.

The first European championships were held in 1896 in Rotterdam, and the first world championships were held in Vienna in 1898. The World Weight-lifting Union, founded in 1912, established rules for international competition. In the first quarter of the 20th century the strongest weight lifters came from France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and the United States.

In Russia, weight lifting was introduced by V. F. Kraevskii, who organized a group of amateur weight lifters in St. Petersburg in 1885. Weight-lifting circles, clubs, and societies were organized in Moscow, Kiev, Nizhny Novgorod, Riga, and other cities during the 1880’s and 1890’s. The first Russian championships were held in St. Petersburg in 1897. Russian weight lifters who won world championships or held world records included S. I. Eliseev, G. G. Gakkenshmidt, P. Kherudzinskii, and Ia. Ia. Krauze. The All-Russian Weight-lifting Union was established in 1913.

The first national championships in the USSR were held in 1923. Since 1933 national championships have been conducted annually. Champions and record holders of the 1920’s and 1930’s included A. V. Bukharov, D. N. Ekht, Ia. Iu. Sparre, and M. M. Gromov. During the 1930’s and 1940’s approximately 200 Soviet records set by G. V. Popov, G. I. Novak, N. I. Shatov, Ia. G. Kutsenko, and S. I. Ambartsumian surpassed the official world records. (A list of world records in weight lifting is given in Table 1.) Soviet weight lifters joined the International Weightlifting Federation in 1946 (founded 1920; 103 national federations [1975]) and the European Weightlifting Federation in 1969 (founded 1969; 19 national federations [1975]).

Between 1946 and 1976, Soviet athletes won 26 gold medals in Olympic weight-lifting events, 94 in world championships, and 127 in European championships. Those who have won more than one championship include V. E. Stogov, I. V. Udodov, R. A. Chimishkian, E. G. Minaev, V. G. Bushuev, Iu. P. Vlasov, V. G. Kurentsov, A. N. Vorob’ev, L. I. Zhabotinskii, V. I.

Table 1. World records in weight lifting by weight classes1
1 As of Oct. 1, 1976 2 Federal Republic of Germany
Flyweight (to 52 kg)  
Snatch. . . . . . . . . .108.5kgA. N. Voronin, USSR
Clean and jerk. . . . . . . . . .141.0kgA. N. Voronin, USSR
Total. . . . . . . . . .242.5 kgA. N. Voronin, USSR
Bantamweight (56 kg)  
Snatch. . . . . . . . . .120.5kgK.Miki, Japan
Clean and jerk. . . . . . . . . .151.0kgM. Nassiri, Iran
Total. . . . . . . . . .262.5 kgN. Nurekian, Bulgaria
Featherweight (60 kg)  
Snatch. . . . . . . . . .130.0kgG. Todorov, Bulgaria
Clean and jerk. . . . . . . . . .161.5kgN. A. Kolesnikov, USSR
Total. . . . . . . . . .285.0 kgG. Todorov, Bulgaria
Lightweight (67.5 kg)  
Snatch. . . . . . . . . .140.5kgK. Czernecki, Poland
Clean and jerk. . . . . . . . . .177.5kgM. N. Kirzhinov, USSR
Total. . . . . . . . . .315.5kgS. V. Pevzner, USSR
Middleweight (75 kg)  
Snatch. . . . . . . . . .155.0kgI Mitkov, Bulgaria
Clean and jerk. . . . . . . . . .192.5kgV. I.Smirnov.USSR
Total. . . . . . . . . .345.0 kgI Mitkov, Bulgaria
Light heavyweight (82.5 kg)  
Snatch. . . . . . . . . .170.5kgB. Blagoev, Bulgaria
Clean and jerk. . . . . . . . . .207.0 kgR. Milser, FRG2
Total. . . . . . . . . .372.5 kgT. Stoichev, Bulgaria
Middle heavyweight (90 kg)  
Snatch. . . . . . . . . .180.0kgD. A. Rigert, USSR
Clean and jerk. . . . . . . . . .220.5 kgD. A. Rigert, USSR
Total. . . . . . . . . .400.5 kgD. A. Rigert, USSR
Heavyweight (110kg)  
Snatch. . . . . . . . . .185.0kgV. Khristov, Bulgaria
Clean and jerk. . . . . . . . . .237.5 kgV. Khristov, Bulgaria
Total. . . . . . . . . .417.5kgV. Khristov, Bulgaria
Super-heavyweight (more than 110 kg)  
Snatch. . . . . . . . . .200.0Kh. Plachkov, Bulgaria
Clean and jerk. . . . . . . . . .255.0 kgV. I. Alekseev, USSR
Total. . . . . . . . . .442.5Kh. Plachkov, Bulgaria

Alekseev, Ia. A. Tal’ts, D. A. Rigert, M. N. Kirzhinov, P. K. Korol’, and V. P. Sharii.

In 1976 there were 1,500 weight-lifting groups with a total membership of more than 300,000 in Soviet physical-culture organizations. Each year approximately 500 masters of sport are trained. Outstanding weight lifters have been trained by Ia. G. Kutsenko, N. I. Shatov, S. P. Bagdasarov, M. P. Svetlichnyi, A. V. Chuzhin, R. V. Pliukfel’der, and I. S. Kudiukov.

Weight lifting abroad is most highly developed in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the Hungarian People’s Republic, the German Democratic Republic, Japan, the USA, and Great Britain. Frequent winners in the Olympics and other major international contests include L. Hostin of France; C. Vinci, J. Davis, and T. Kono of the USA; Y. Miyaki of Japan; and W. Baszanowski of the Polish People’s Republic.


Ivanov, D. I. Shtanga na vesakh vremeni. Moscow, 1969.
Vorob’ev, A. N. Tiazheloatleticheskii sport: Ocherki po fiziplogii i sportivnoi trenirovke. Moscow, 1971.
Tiazhelaia atletika. (Edited by A. N. Vorob’ev.) Moscow, 1972.
Roman, R. A. Trenirovka tiazheloatleta v dvoebor’e. Moscow, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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