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.