I’m often asked the following questions about a person’s age, and weightlifting:
1) When should I start?
2) At what age does an athlete achieve the best results?
3) How long will it be before I achieve a professional level of skill?
4) Is there a target weight I need to have before I start weightlifting?
All of these questions (and more!) were the same ones that I asked when I was starting out. Don’t worry, there are answers. Let’s go through them one by one.
Practical experience suggests that weightlifters can achieve high-quality world-level results at any age from 17 to 35. The reason for this is because of the many factors involved. The age the athlete starts training, the athlete’s inherent talent, the length of training, and what "school" of the training the athlete follows, to name a few.
Below is a chart showing the age brackets of the world class weightlifters who were prize winners in the last four Olympic Games. Take a look at those. I think you’ll see what I mean (PIC 1 and 2).
PIC 1 – Age brackets of world class weightlifting men among the winners of the last four Olympic Games (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016)
You can see the age spread here. Of the winning male athletes, 66.5% of them in the last four Olympics had an average age of 24-27 years, 22% were in the 20-23 age bracket, 8% were 28 to 31 year olds and 4% of male athletes were between 32 and 35 years old, while only 3% were between 17 and 19 years old.
So, the largest age group of male winners in the Olympic Games prize-winners (in weightlifting) were 24 to 27 year olds, and this value has changed little over the past 40 years. However, as you can see, winning athletes can range from their teens right into their middle thirties.
Women had a slightly different age spread. More than half of these athletes who were prizewinners at the Olympic Games (53.0%) were between the ages of 20 and 23. The second largest group (26%) became prizewinners between the ages of 24 and 27. The rest of the represented age groups were small, with 11% being between the ages of 28 and 31, 8% were 16-19 year olds and just 2% were between 32 and 39 years of age.
Figure 2 - Age brackets for weightlifting women of world class among the winners of the last four Olympic Games (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016).
So again, history tells us that athletes can be world class medal winners even when they aren’t within the majority age bracket. Some well-known heavyweights in the world of weightlifting have earned their medals when well beyond the average age limits. Russian female athlete Zarema Kasayeva was a medalist at age 17. Heavyweight Halil Mutlu of Turkey became the champion of the XVIII Games at the age of 31. Mabel Maskvuera of Colombia won her medal at the age of 35. At the XXXI Games in Rio de Janeiro, the champion in the 62 kg weight category was Oscar Fihuera from Columbia, at the age of 33 years.
This trend certainly tells us that there is an average age for both men and women when most people seem to peak, but exceptions exist that go beyond the expectations of charts and averages and once again confirm that the most important thing for an athlete is a desire and a dream. With those, everything is possible!
From my future book
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