Every elite athlete lifts weights for strength and conditioning, but the sport of weightlifting is completely different.
That is what Physical Geography student at Durham University, Niamh Moody, discovered when she gave up on rowing to take up weightlifting.
Despite achieving a bronze medal at the National Schools championships in rowing, Moody found it difficult to carry on with the sport.
“I had a recurring shoulder injury and found I wasn’t able to study at the same intensity, keep on top of my A-levels and do everything all at once,” she tells me.
“If someone in a boat misses training then the entire boat can’t go out, so you have to be available at all times.”
It was not a radical departure for Moody as weight training is essential for rowing and she could fit it around her work schedule. Moody is based at Locker 27 gym in Weybridge when she is not in Durham.
“Even though it’s ideal to train as a team to push each other when you weight lift, if you are unable to make a session it’s not the end of the world,” says Moody.
Last year Moody won a bronze medal at the British University and College Weightlifting Championships and has entered qualifying for the 2018 event which takes place this weekend.
Her goal is to beat or at least equal her bronze medal she achieved in 2017.
She also wants to set up a weightlifting club at Durham University.
“I feel it’s very important that we introduce niche sports to universities.”
But she feels that there are misconceptions about the sport too: “I think for girls, they think they’re going to be huge muscly men.”
“It seemed really scary at the time [when she first turned up at Locker 27 gym] but the women there especially that lift aren’t huge or fat so I just thought that I’d give it a go.
“It comes with this stigma that you are just going to be huge which is not the case, and you’re going to be fat which is also not the case because weightlifting is very different to power lifting,” she adds.
Weightlifting is also not just power lifting. While power lifting [deadlift, squats & bench press] requires “slow strength” Olympic weightlifting on the other hand is more “explosive” and consists of two disciplines: the snatch and the clean and jerk.
“People in the gym go and lift weights but weightlifting as a sport is very different,” she tells me.
When asked about her prospects of one day representing Team GB she responds: ““I’m under no illusion that I’m completely the wrong build for weightlifting.”
But she is also keen to keep her options open.
Though she competes in the weight category of 75kg to 90kg, her weight typically sits at 74-75kg, so she’s at the bottom of her category.
Moody is, however, reluctant to move down a weight category and notes that the higher weight category is also slightly less competitive.
“If I wanted to increase muscle mass, because it takes years to build muscle mass, I would find it very hard to cut weight into that category because you can’t really move categories once you’ve chosen.”
Cutting weight also affects how much you can lift so it’s not always advisable to try to cut four or five kilos like in combat sports.
“As a weightlifter, you have to remember that mass moves mass, so if I’m cutting more than four or five kilos, my lifts are gonna suffer and I won’t be able to lift as heavy,” she explains.
Though cutting is obviously a part of weightlifting.
“People can start cutting for four weeks [prior to a competition] and they’ll still do exactly the same training so that’s why competitions are spaced out relatively far apart because of the impact it has on your body.”
Aside from weightlifting, Moody occasionally does some modelling, but she feels no pressure to lose weight.
“That’s one of the things I wouldn’t do because of my sport,” she says. “I can’t just cut weight, or lose muscle but I think it is very dominant in that industry.”
Modelling and weightlifting may seem incompatible to some, but Moody is proving that you can successfully combine the two.
Featured image: Niamh Moody