Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why I Lift Weights

Weightlifting has gotten a bad rap, really. When people want to get into shape, they pick a fad program like P90X or some other cardio-based activity that promises results in little time. Running is very popular now, as well as Crossfit, which preaches functional training and all around fitness. All of these activities take effort and commitment, don't get me wrong. You can't get the same results running or doing Crossfit as you can with weight training, however. Endurance-based exercise burns a lot of fat, but it isn't particularly anabolic; I don't need to cite the various scientific data out there confirming my statement because all it takes is a pair of eyeballs. How many runners have you seen with a strong, muscular body? How many Crossfitters have done well in anything other than Crossfit?

The thing with weightlifting is that it's hard. It requires years of devotion and mental fortitude. It requires intelligent programming. If you succeed in getting stronger, it is because you pushed yourself. You have to add weight to the bar. Nothing else really matters. You have to see that progression; you get a dopamine fix every time you witness your squat weights go up five pounds. You can't lift four-hundred pounds in two weeks. You can get in decent running shape in as little as a month. Hell, two years ago, my father enlisted me in Cincinnati's Thanksgiving run, which is about seven miles. I hadn't ran in years, and my only exercise came from my job at the orchard. I ran about six times before the race, and I managed to finish without stopping. Cardiovascular endurance comes quickly. Strength does not.

I've been lifting seriously for almost a year and a half now, and what I mean by seriously is that I've been focusing on the four major strength lifts (the squat, the press, the bench press, and the deadlift) during that time. I remember being sore from deadlifting 135 lbs; my last deadlift workout, I did a triple with 385 lbs. My press has went from 95 lbs to 170; my bench from 190 to 270; my squat from nothing (I didn't do squats) to 305 for 3 reps. My body weight has increased from 175 to 200. The little aches and pains that I used to have (such as a sore lower back) have vanished completely. I'm stronger, fitter, more confident than I ever have been, and that's because weightlifting changes not just your body, but also your mind. I've never missed a workout in a year and a half. Honestly, my progress is not particularly great--I struggled with my squat form for almost a year, and suffered from hip tendonosis and knee pain, but I never quit.

What I really want to convey is that weightlifting is not some meathead, narcissistic activity. It might not be as hip as the latest infomercial or Crossfit. But it is honest. As Henry Rollins said, "the iron doesn't lie." I'm a better person for lifting weights, and it's my belief that there is no better way to stay fit. Strength takes years to develop, and it is the end of all things. So throw away those fancy running shoes and pick up something heavy. Our ancestors didn't prance around the woods, effeminately darting after deer. They sprang up from cover, stabbed Bambi with a spear, and lugged his heavy ass home to eat. So eat meat, lift weights, and be merry. That's my new year's advice. 

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