The Tao of Lifting Weights – How Weight-Training Can Benefit More Than Just Your Body and Where to Start

A few years ago I could never have foreseen writing anything on this topic (or writing at all but that’s a different story). I looked like this…

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I was an early 30s man with an increasingly distant history of playing competitive sports who was starting to slide down the slippery slope of letting myself go. Exercise was sidelined because of general laziness and too much fun (in this context fun = beer and burgers).

I then booked tickets to a summer dance music festival in Croatia and realised that I would probably be in states of semi-undress with the beautiful tech-house crowd of Europe. The vanity centre in my brain kicked into over drive – what could I do? Time to research…

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Just over three years later I now look like this and it is down to two factors; lifting weights and altering my diet to complement the lifting.

Aside from the confidence that looking better (and younger than I did 10 years ago) brings, there are so many benefits from lifting. I now can’t imagine a life without the “iron”.

Here’s why:

Endorphins

Lifting really heavy weights can make you feel awesome. Aside from the feeling of achievement the release of endorphins after lifting weights makes you feel like you’re walking on air. I’ll admit that I’m quite addicted now, and when I don’t go to the gym for a couple of days I really feel it.

Better sleep

Related to those endorphins again – lifting really helps me to get a good night’s sleep as long as I don’t lift too late in the evening.

Function and flexibility improvements a bit like yoga

Doing compound lifts like squats helps with flexibility and evens out imbalances. In this way it works a little like yoga (which I’d recommend as a complementary exercise type to weight training).

You get stronger

Pretty obvious but being strong is great. You are more able to lift things including yourself which is useful in loads of different ways and can also look pretty good too.

It’s not hard to get fairly impressive results

The basics of weight training sometimes get lost in the millions of pages devoted to it on the web. In my opinion they are:

  • Use a sensible workout split that gives you enough intensity and rest and is built around compound movements – bench press, squat, pull up and deadlift form the core for me. This would work for most people with a bit of fitness to start with

Day 1 – Push
Day 2 – Pull
Day 3 – Legs
Day 4 – Rest
Repeat

Do 4-5 exercises each day – have a plan and stick to it

  • Do 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps to failure or near failure with good technique for each exercise (mix this up when you get more advanced and want to really work on strength). When you’re doing too many reps – increase your weight. You should aim to increase your weight regularly for every exercise at first
  • Work hard and consistently
  • Diet is as important as the work – get plenty of protein and reduce sugar
  • Sleep and rest

That will work for most people

It can be really geeky

Logging sets, tweaking technique to lift that little bit more, measuring body fat….

Beyond the basics there are loads of details to get into – the science (and pseudoscience) is overwhelming and if you want to go beyond the basics I mentioned above, you can spend a lifetime getting into the details to improve your results.

It can be really friendly and sociable

Find the right gym and people are usually happy to help and give advice – even the most intimidating muscle-bound lifters. I would encourage anyone to ask advice as much as possible. The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself.

It is meditative

Far from being boring – when lifting weight that tests you with intensity and with good technique you are absorbed in each set. It can help clear your mind at the end of the day rather like meditation which I find really valuable.

It is accessible to everyone

Everyone has lifts they can do safely with weights that will test them whether male or female, young or old. It is one of the most inclusive types of exercise out there. One argument that frustrates me is when girls say that they don’t want to lift because they will get “too” muscly – you won’t unless you start injecting testosterone and work incredibly hard in the gym. The bodybuilder look that they have in mind when they say this really isn’t accessible to the average lady in the gym. Look at the professional female fitness models on bodybuilding.com for an idea of what can be achieved naturally, and they are pros who dedicate themselves to exercise and diet.

To get a bit more information I would recommend Scooby’s Workshop which has great free no nonsense info for everyone including absolute beginners. I pay a monthly fee in gratitude for the content but it is all available without signing up.

If you’re looking for something to improve your life in so many ways, try some weight lifting. Be consistent and work for a few months and you will see big benefits.

Renewal

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