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People Who Lift Weights...And Weightlifters
Matt Foreman
July 30 2012

A few years ago, I wrote a Performance Menu article about the difference between two types of people: those who lift weights, and those who are weightlifters. You might not have read it because it’s pretty old and I didn’t include it in Bones of Iron. I wasn’t happy with the way it turned out, aside from the main idea which I thought was pretty good. So I’ll hit that idea again here. Maybe the whole thing will taste better if I just keep dumping more frosting on it.

Some people lift weights, and some people are weightlifters. Believe me, brothers and sisters, there’s a big damn difference between these two groups. One of them is something you do, and the other one is something you are. People who lift weights don’t understand the difference as much as weightlifters do. People who lift weights often think of themselves as weightlifters, but they’re not. And weightlifters know this. Weightlifters know other weightlifters instinctively. They can tell if you’re a real member of the tribe just by looking at a few things you do and listening to a few things you say. These things usually don’t even occur to people who lift weights. Trying to explain them is like trying to explain why cool breezes feel good.

Once you’re a weightlifter, you’re a weightlifter for the rest of your life even if you stop training seriously. It never leaves you once you’ve had it in your cytoplasm. People who lift weights can make the transition and become weightlifters, at some point. It requires some big changes, but it’s possible. Once they’ve crossed over, they can look back and understand things they were never able to see before.

If you’re really a weightlifter, you probably understood everything I’ve said so far. If you’re a person who lifts weights, you might not know what the hell I’m talking about. It’s a good thing for you that I’m considerate and I care about your feelings, because I’m going to give you fifteen little tips that will make this as clear as an unmuddied lake.

1- People who lift weights rely on their discipline and commitment to summon up the strength to go to the gym and work out. Weightlifters get separation anxiety and feel like crap if they don’t go to the gym and work out.

2- People who lift weights watch mainstream sports events like the NBA Finals and say, “LeBron James is amazing. He’s a basketball god.” Weightlifters watch the NBA Finals and say, “I bet LeBron James can’t clean and jerk to save his ass.”

3- People who lift weights say things like, “Will you watch my form on these lat pulls?” and they don’t think there’s anything weird about it. Weightlifters say things like, “You’ve got a great looking snatch” and they don’t think there’s anything weird about it.

4- People who lift weights will walk right in front of you while you’re lifting. Weightlifters understand that you’re asking to get kicked in the face if you walk in front of somebody while they’re lifting.

5- People who lift weights think commercial gyms like LA Fitness are training palaces. Weightlifters think commercial gyms like LA Fitness are one small step above a leper colony.

6- People who lift weights have snazzy, colorful gym clothes that fit perfectly and accentuate their muscles. Weightlifters have neoprene knee sleeves that make the rest of their laundry smell like a dead rhino’s carcass when they wash everything together.

7- People who lift weights think biceps and calves are sexy. Weightlifters think quads and traps are sexy.

8- People who lift weights get to watch the Olympics at dinnertime. Weightlifters have to watch the Olympics at one o’clock in the morning.

9- People who lift weights wear black fingerless gloves when they work out. Weightlifters wear calluses and chalk when they work out.

10- People who lift weights think of running as a great supplement to their training. Weightlifters think of In-N-Out Burger as a great supplement to their training.

11- People who lift weights save their money for big flat-screen TVs. Weightlifters save their money for Eleiko bars.

12- People who lift weights try to look on the bright side when they have bad workouts. Weightlifters make up new combinations of cuss words when they have bad workouts.

13- People who lift weights can easily buy new jeans when they need them. Weightlifters…can’t.

14- People who lift weights think every gym should be equipped with a squat rack. Weightlifters refuse to acknowledge anything as a “gym” if it doesn’t have multiple squat racks.

15- People who lift weights watch travel shows where they fall in love with exotic locations like Fiji and Thailand. Weightlifters think it would be cool to take a trip to Bulgaria.

Maybe we all know a little more about each other now. Maybe not. You can make up your own mind where you fit in. It might seem like there’s an underlying thread in this post implying that weightlifters are superior to people who lift weights, but that’s not really what I was thinking. I’ve got a little more of a transcendentalist/hippie view of this whole thing. We’ve all got the same iron spirit running through us. It’s just that the spirit takes some people in one direction, and it takes others in a different direction. Some people become fanatics, while others just dabble. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with dabbling. Anytime somebody is using the barbell to get any kind of positive results, it’s a good thing. Weightlifters sometimes get carried away and treat people like pond scum if they don’t commit their entire lives to the sport. That’s not how I roll. Life’s too short, you know what I mean? People have freedom of choice and they can make up their own minds how deeply they want to dive into this thing of ours. They just have to settle up with the fact that part-time commitment delivers part-time results.

I’m a weightlifter. I knew that when I was fifteen years old.

What are you?

What do you want to be?
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Kevin McCadam
July 30 2012
Great post Matt! I really like your perspective and the topics that you write on. There truly is a distinct difference between those who lift weights and Weightlifters & those whoe simply workout and those who devote their lives to Training! Training implies you have a purpose, a destination. Working out in my mind is nothing more than people doing activity to somehow make themselves feel better about the calories they are planning to consume post exercise. Thanks for this and al of your other great posts, keep them coming!
Blair Lowe
July 30 2012

July 30 2012
It's like you can read my mind, Matt! I don't know which idea I relate to most, finding jeans that fit, saving my money for an Eleiko bar, or watching the Olympics at 1:00AM. Thanks.
David Padgett
July 30 2012
Ive already got my alarm set for Friday at 4 am to watch Kendrick make us proud.
Jakob Richloow
July 31 2012
Aside from the two, i think you should have added "those who lift weights but THINK they're weightlifters" and "those who know they're not but WANTS to be weightlifters".
July 31 2012
Can't stand people who fall in the #4 spot. Hello, you see that I am slinging a loaded barbell overhead, yet you still want to do bicep curls right in front of me? The only time I enjoy those that fall in the #6 catergory are women with a well developed rear end. They can color coordinate all they want. #14 describes the gym here. 1 power rack, 1 bench, and no pullup bars. Guys here call it a gym, I call it a place to hang out in.
Spencer James Mackay
July 31 2012
F*ckin yes!
July 31 2012
OMG I'm really a weightlifter! I related to every one of these, except knee sleeves (I'm not that good yet)
July 31 2012
It's helpful to know that the depression and anxiety I feel when I haven't been to the gym is normal.
July 31 2012
The dabbling thing I think is key. I am a weightlifter but I dabble in other things.... Other people can sure as hell be other things and dabble in weightlifting... No harm no foul.. Weightlifting is my bag but that doesn't mean it needs to be everyone else's.

I think the jeans thing is hysterical. Totally relate
Greg Everett
July 31 2012
DMwhatever -

Actually none of those things qualify you to be a weightlifter. A weightlifter is one who participates in the sport of weightlifting, which doesn't involve the deadlift, squat or bench press.

Maybe you could work on training your sense of humor a bit - that would clear this all up for you pretty quickly.
July 31 2012
@DM - mirror? ROTFLMAO!!! You definately "lift weights."
July 31 2012
@ Loraine - actually the mirror is very useful. how else would you make sure your preacher curl form is good.
July 31 2012
the squat, bench, and deadlift are the tested lifts in power lifting, which, with Olympic lifting, fall under the definition of weightlifting. Guy builds himself up to an impressive snatch or a big squat, they both plan their lives around training, they don't go to the gym to "get a work out in". And personally, having only done power lifting stuff, oly lifts look more like weight-slinging then weight lifting. lol all you people... getting butt-hurt? On MY internet?!
Greg Everett
July 31 2012

"weightlifting" is the official internationally recognized name for the sport of the snatch and clean & jerk. There's nothing emotional about clarifying that fact to someone who wants to whine about not being included under the umbrella of "weightlifting".

I actually don't talk shit about powerlifting or powerlifters. Matt used to be one and doesn't either. No one's getting butthurt other than the poster and apparently you, who have already criticized weightlifting as being inferior to powerlifting.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, it's important to have a sense of humor. If you know you don't fit into the category of people who don't take training seriously, you shouldn't be upset by this at all. Even those who don't take training seriously shouldn't be upset - they should be able to laugh about it and go back to doing what they're doing because that's what they want to do.

July 31 2012
Chad Lammert
July 31 2012
I'm with David... Let's go Kendrick!

Also, did this DM post get removed or something? Enjoyed the end of the conversation, but missed the original post.
Greg Everett
July 31 2012
Chad -

I don't know what happened to the comment. We didn't remove it.
July 31 2012
I've been lifting for almost 20 years. Still can deadlift 405 without straps, rep 315 on bench and over 400 on squats at 185 pound frame so I think I qualify to be a weightlifter. That being said, you sound like a douche bag for writing this. Secondly, who cares if someone steps in front of you in the mirror. You've probably have done a million rep already. Why do you still need to look in the mirror to know if your doing it right? Lastly, be cool to your fellow gym members. We were all there at one time even if you don't think you ever were. That bigger dude that inspired you to lifting thought the same way about you.
August 1 2012
I really like d #11...I may still have a tube tv, but I also have an elite set from Pendlay with a needle bearing bar.

Great post!
Chad Lammert
August 1 2012
DM, just grab a dictionary. That ought to clear it up.
Conroy, Idaho Weightlifting
August 1 2012
I have 5 Eleiko bars. There has not been anything 'good' on TV for years.

Great, Great Insight, Matt, as always
August 2 2012
Looks like I mostly fall into the "lifts weights" category. That said, I've improved my body in amazing ways, so I think I'll stick with it.
Fun article.
Tim Tom
August 3 2012
Maybe Jake Richloow can write an article about how awesome he is. Then he could write one about how awesome I want to am.
Matt F
August 3 2012
8- People who lift weights get to watch the Olympics at dinnertime. Weightlifters have to watch the Olympics at one o’clock in the morning.

August 4 2012
So funny! I always thought I was a chick who lifted weights. Turns out I'm actually a weightlifter, according to these standards. I guess I can be what I am & stop feeling like a poser :)
to all weightlifters..
August 4 2012
funny article, but you (USA) must work harder insted of writing funny things.. only one Kendrick in 311 million people country, who can competes with rest of the world class weightlifters
Greg Everett
August 5 2012
Please share your plan and programming so I can use it with my lifters and fix this problem right now!
to all weightlifters..
August 5 2012
Greg that's very interesting.. isn't it? you (USA) have (or maybe you think you have) all what's the best (mainly money, but also equipment, gyms, coaches, knowledge, a lot of fit people (eg. crossfitters) but results are very poor.

I'm not so experienced in weightlifting like you(not even 1/10th) but I can comment what I see. Also It's not attack on your job in popularizing this sport (coaching, book, seminars, dvds, Catalystathletics site, thanks for that).

wish you all the best

BTW: part of your site readers excited about the Bulgarians but where are they in these Games? Probably they have read from your book that Bulgarians are good and repeating as parrot.
Greg Everett
August 5 2012
The Bulgarians have produced great lifters just as many other countries have. I don't believe I've ever suggested they're THE model to emulate, and a cursory look at my programming would make it pretty obvious I don't think what's considered to be the "bulgarian method" is the best way to do things. I think I once said something like that the approach might be considered the ultimate method, but then explained the problems and why it would not be effective for most lifters. That is, in theory it works, but in practice, it's nearly impossible to find an athlete who is well-developed enough to thrive on it.

You state that (presumably you're outside the US so your criticism doesn't apply to yourself) we're not good because we don't work hard enough. The point I'm trying to make with my sarcastic response is that it's remarkably naive and overly-simplistic to boil down the disparity between the performances of US lifters and those of more dominant countries to ours simply needing to work harder. Arguably, often US lifters DO work harder than many others, literally, because without national or commercial or even cultural support, by and large in addition to training our lifters must work, usually full-time. This isn't true for all of them, but we have literally a handful of lifters in an Olympic/national training program only, and it receives so little funding it's almost a sick joke. The rest are in school, working jobs, and training under coaches who are overworked and underpaid if paid at all. Compare that to a system with professional coaches, a country that cares deeply about the sport, athletes who begin at young ages and are developed properly long term and for whom there are incentives to perform. Here weightlifters are guaranteed nothing but a life of poverty and obscurity. The only reason to do it is for the love of it - I believe that should be and can be incentive enough, but there are limits to what one can do with no money.

In any case, I'll concede that the US undoubtedly has lifters who are not working as hard as they should or could be; I can actually think of a few off the top of my head. But that it's the crux of the problem, I can't agree.

It's collectively our own fault for the state we're in. I don't blame anyone else. Maybe where you're from people know and care about weightlifting, know about and care about weightlifters, and respect and admire the athletes and coaches. Here, we silly Americans have to keep doing our best to keep chipping away at the uninitiated public, and entertainment is easily the best vehicle to carry awareness of the sport to new people, so please forgive our petty transgressions in our feeble and perhaps futile attempts to pull ourselves out of the current state we're in.
August 6 2012
Fantastic, thanks! I thrive on developing calluses!
August 6 2012
Lol I'm sure this is a sarcastic article taking a jab at body builders but really i take a little offence at the implication that weightlifters, by definition work harder. The people you talk down about are most definitely mocked also by those of us who are serious about "lifting weights". We are very similar, we eat the same(most of the year) and crave the same-making gains.
Matt Foreman
August 6 2012
First of all, I'm glad so many people liked the article. Thanks for all the cool comments.

Second, I'm surprised that anybody thought I was disrespecting "people who lift weights" since the entire last section of the article made it clear that I don't have a problem with anybody in the barbell world. I wrote "Anytime somebody is using the barbell to get any kind of positive results, it’s a good thing. Weightlifters sometimes get carried away and treat people like pond scum if they don’t commit their entire lives to the sport. That’s not how I roll." I did that specifically to point out that I don't have a bad attitude towards bodybuilders, powerlifters, or people who just like to exercise at commercial gyms. I've trained with all of these groups of people at some point in my lifting life, and I'm cool with everybody.

My whole point was that weightlifters (and I mean Olympic weightlifters) are different from everybody else. Not superior, just different. A Ferrari is different than a Humvee. It doesn't necessarily mean one is better than the other. It just means they're different, and they serve different purposes.

But regardless, everybody has their own view of things. I get that. I'll keep a close eye on my douche baggery in the future. I don't want it to get out of control.
August 6 2012
DMFwhatever -

Ever heard the rule that if you are sitting at a poker table and you cant pick out who the suckers are, guess what, its you?

Yeah, read that article again, guess what.........
August 6 2012
Weightlifters are just jelly of our mad aesthetics
August 7 2012
Damn. I work out at LA Fitness because I travel four out of five days per work week for my job and it's the cheapest and most readily available option to train for me. But: I *do* face away from the mirror (and toward the girls with form-fitting clothing); I *do* get pissed when someone walks in front of me; I *do* own the single squat rack at my local LA Fitness in Sherman Oaks (I realize how depressing that actually is when I think about it); and I *do* think girl traps are sexy. I don't drop the weights, though. You're not allowed to.

I cry myself to sleep at night.
August 8 2012
Nice post! Should ring true to everybody who's big into their own obsessive tribe.

Best part is the observation that it's the tiny details that let members of the tribe instantly recognize each other. Rings true to me.

I'm a snowboarder who happens to lift weights, and I know lots of people who snowboard but very few snowboarders or skiers. (I do like to think I lift like a weightlifter even if that's not my mental image of myself...)
Brad Shemluck
August 8 2012
To: to all weightlifters (is that a family name?)

As an example, the minimum starting salary for the NFL in 2011 was $325,000... I'd argue that the US has the talent and strength to field a strong O Lifting Team, but with opportunities like that, a lot of those individuals are going elsewhere. So, unless the US is willing to pay average lifters a six figure salary and great lifters millions, I think the majority of the US athletic talent will continue to pursue other well paying professional sports.
Garrett Blakemore
October 9 2012
Hey Matt,

That was pure and true, its not about hating on traditional gym lifters. We all have differences. Glad to see u are doing good brother.
Hook Grip Hero
June 5 2013
From a while ago i know but this article and the comments are PURE FUCKING GOLD!!
MaiLinda B.
June 11 2013
Whoooo!!! I AM a weight lifter - I am!! I could almost cry. Excuse me while I grab a hankie. I feel overwhelmed right this moment.
August 17 2014
Seems to me that "weightlifters" are annoying and pretentious. I rather be a guy who is lifting weights according to these criteria.

Btw, why cant you walk infront of someone that is working out if he is a "weightlifter" ?
Mark Gomes
September 10 2014
Martin - you shouldn't walk in front of anyone who is in any kind of concentration activity (sport, meditative, deep conversation with someone else). Admiration and support can be given from a safe distance on either side. How can such an individual be so blind, insensitive, annoying and pretentious? Perhaps poor upbringing.
September 24 2014
Great article! I like how Foreman differentiates between the two different worlds. I agree that if someone is working towards progress with the barbell then respect is deserved. However, I'm going to add my two cents about why I feel weightlifters (Olympic Weightlifters) are truly in a class of their own. Olympic lifting is the most athletic and powerful combination of lifting known to mankind. We don't train body parts; we train the entire body every session. We perform the Olympic lifts which require every facet of athleticism including but not limited to: strength, power, agility, flexibility, body awareness, spatial awareness, coordination, focus, speed, etc....and we perform these movements in the blink of an eye. In short, Olympic Lifters are in a class of their own because we are perfectionists. As stated in another article on the Catalyst website, Olympic Lifting has numerous layers that must be focused on and perfected within milliseconds. I'm not knocking body builders, power lifters, and the average weight trainer, but make no mistake about it, Olympic Lifters are in a league of their own. We are the well versed that can squat ass to grass or just parallel, we can Power Clean and CLEAN, we can stabilize incredible weights overhead, we can move strong and freely through a full range of motion, we now when to be patient and when to change speeds, among about ten thousand other things. We don't use machines because we are the machines. We can do things with a barbell that make the average or beginner take notice in the weight room because we are explosive, fast, powerful, and controlled. Olympic Lifters are cut from a different cloth. This article says it very, very well without knocking or hating on any other brother of the barbell......or maybe cousin. Some may confuse our technical nature as annoying or our attention to details and form as pretentious, but this is what makes all the difference in our world. We squat a certain way, so we can get out of the hole on a clean a lot of people can't even properly squat. In regard to walking in front of a weightlifter on a platform, read Bob Takano's article about Weight Room etiquette. We are moving through a complex movement pattern and our focal point is critical of our success. It is rude and very amateur to not understand the importance of focal points. Just my thoughts off the top of my head.
Sarah Parker
September 12 2015
I am glad that you didn't completely trash this article, OP!

I did find this humorous, but I also found this thought provoking! I have only been seriously lifting since March 2015, so I am still very much a newbie. I feel like I identify with both sides, to be honest. I feel like I am teeter-tottering in between a female who "lifts weights" and a female weightlifter. I feel like I am in the middle of the transition!

Anybody who does #4 is the spawn of pure evil, IMO. My boyfriend has done similar to me a few times in my garage gym and it pisses me off every single time. I feel like being startled, scared, interrupted or invaded during any lift is just dangerous to me and anybody else around me.

I've been guilty of #6. Normally not into aesthetics, but...yeah, I'll admit to that one :(

#5, 7, 9, 12 and 13 I love!

Random comments: Quads and trap envy is a newer concept I have come to appreciate!

Also, realizing that fueling up and learning to stop demonizing foods truly supplements my workouts! I tried running 3-4 times a week AND lifting heavy 3x a week. All I did was wreck myself!

#14 is a total unicorn! Luckily, I have my own squat rack at home, but if I ever had a gym membership again & had access to more than one rack...I'd never leave
September 17 2015
Im powerlifter
September 18 2015
I know I'm a fair few years late but this entire article is extremely elitist and ignorant. Also comes off as if you have no clue about anything outside of Oly lifting. Hope the years have expanded your mind and competency bud
Stupid article
May 31 2016
Pointless article, exactly the kind of attitude that discourages new lifters because they are made to feel that there training is somehow less important. Well done
From the article - "It might seem like there’s an underlying thread in this post implying that weightlifters are superior to people who lift weights, but that’s not really what I was thinking. I’ve got a little more of a transcendentalist/hippie view of this whole thing. We’ve all got the same iron spirit running through us. It’s just that the spirit takes some people in one direction, and it takes others in a different direction. Some people become fanatics, while others just dabble. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with dabbling. Anytime somebody is using the barbell to get any kind of positive results, it’s a good thing. Weightlifters sometimes get carried away and treat people like pond scum if they don’t commit their entire lives to the sport. That’s not how I roll. Life’s too short, you know what I mean? People have freedom of choice and they can make up their own minds how deeply they want to dive into this thing of ours. They just have to settle up with the fact that part-time commitment delivers part-time results."

Stupid Comment
January 23 2018
Thank you for helping understand my son....