Name one thing that is better if you’re weak. I’ll wait.
Didn’t think of anything? That’s because the stronger you are, the easier and safer life is.
I am sick to death of hearing that lifting heavy weight is “dangerous” or “unnecessary”. That claim is utterly ridiculous.
Rant warning: I have an axe to grind on this outrageous opinion.
Not long ago my Dad was in a motorcycle accident. He spent a few nights in the hospital and had a lot of physical therapy when he got out.
While visiting him in the hospital, I heard at least a dozen various medical professionals say “It’s a good thing he has good strength in (fill in affected body part) or this could have been much worse.”
My Dad isn’t an elite athlete and doesn't hit the gym daily. He works at a desk 50-60 hours per week, occasionally does an at-home workout, and trained with me once per week for the 8 months before his accident.
Even the little bit of strength training I put him through each week was enough to prevent more serious injury in a traffic accident.
The application of strength training as preventative care isn’t confined to an emergency situation. Just think of the number of aches and pains you had this morning. Compare that to the number of similar issues you had 10 years ago. You suffered less discomfort and movement problems a decade ago, guaranteed. Mainly, because you were stronger.
Not sold on strength training yet? Here are the top 5 reasons for you to get strong as hell:
First - let’s talk about what constitutes an injury. Soreness is not an injury. I’m talking about chronic pain, or trauma to a muscle or joint that causes acute pain and prevents healthy, pain-free movement or activity.
Let’s take the knee as an example, since a lot of folks suffer knee injuries. A common knee injury is the partial or complete tear of the ACL - a connective tissue that crosses the knee joint and provides stability during lateral movement. These injuries are usually associated with a collision in football or soccer. Right?
However, 70% of ACL injuries are non-contact. Most are the result of an unexpected change of direction that the ACL is not strong enough to support. Sure, tearing an ACL is possible during a spin move in a flag football game. But, it is more likely the result of slipping on a garden hose.
When you lift heavy things your connective tissues get stronger. Progressive overload (lifting heavier and heavier weight) in a training plan directly translates to fewer injuries around joints like ankles, knees, hips, lumbar spine (low back), and shoulders.
Speaking of progressive overload; getting stronger makes you capable of easily handling the rigors of everyday life.
Want to take carry your groceries inside in one trip? Want to move furniture? Do yard work without pain? Play with your kids? Get kittens out of trees? With strength training, now you can!
Don’t forget the possibility of an emergency situation - like an earthquake. According to every movie the Rock has ever made, you’ll probably end up hanging from a ledge and you’ll need grip strength and to be able to do one pull up. More realistically, if someone you love is caught under something heavy, you need to be able to deadlift that object off your loved one. Hell, even if all you have to do is kick down a door, you won’t be able to do it if you constantly skip leg day.
Strong people are more successful at stiff-arming zombies too. Just sayin’, it could happen.
Functional strength will also help you maintain your sense of balance later in life. One of the greatest risks to seniors is falling. Good core strength results in better balance and strong legs don’t wobble. Protect your older self - build strength now.
Lifting heavy things promotes healthy hormone production. These hormones can affect everything from weight management to mood.
One common application of exercise is as an antidepressant. While this effect is usually linked to aerobic exercise, the same benefit is possible through strength training. Exercise has proven insanely effective in regulating stress hormones like cortisol and releasing dopamine.
Cortisol’s counterpart - insulin - is also regulated more effectively with exercise and helps with nutrient partitioning, blood sugar regulation, and weight management.
Vigorous exercise increases testosterone, which is the driver of protein synthesis (among other functions). Guys, low T is practically an epidemic these days. Lift weights at 80% or more of your 1 rep max on a regular basis and watch your testosterone numbers climb.
Growth hormone supports protein synthesis too. It also increases bone mineralization (density), immune system function, and promotes fat metabolism. This hormone is also released after strength training.
Challenging physical activity results in better sleep (another side effect of growth hormone production). You will sleep soundly without waking up or tossing and turning. I could dive deeper into the ocean of research supporting this, but it’s totally unnecessary.
Everyone I talk to is aware they needed more sleep. Every client I’ve trained (seriously, every single one) has reported better sleep after getting into a strength training program, regardless of sleep duration.
Are you over 50? Then you have to be proactive about maintaining bone density. Your doctor will recommend various vitamins, minerals, and load bearing exercise.
I’m dreading the day my generation hits 50. We’ll all find out that we have horrible bone density and realize that playing Call of Duty with all our free time for the last 30 years might have been a huge waste of time.
The body is an adaptive machine. It’s job is to maintain homeostasis (keep you alive and well) with as little effort as possible. If you don’t have to keep your bones strong for a reason, over time the body will shuttle resources elsewhere. Give your skeleton a reason to stay strong, pick up something heavy today.
Alright, How Do I Get Strong As Hell?
Lifting heavy weights.
Exhibit A: Stuff that makes you strong.
Don’t be scared. Since you’re probably not trying to become an elite powerlifter, there will be modifications and plenty of variety in your strength program. You definitely won't be screaming your way through a one rep max every week.
Women, you will not get bulking lifting heavy things. I beg you, don’t believe that Tracy Anderson crap about how women shouldn’t lift more than 3lbs. Your purse weighs more than that. Your work bag weighs more than that. A freakin gallon of milk weighs more than 3 measly pounds.
If daily life demands that you lift 10-40lbs regularly, why on Earth would anyone train herself to lift only 3lbs, even if it is for high reps? I have some female clients that are strong as hell. I’m talking women who deadlift 225 for 4-8 reps. They never have to ask for help carrying stuff, no opens their jars for them, and they don’t look anything like the Hulk.
Heavy is a relative term. So here are some basic guidelines on how to challenge yourself to get stronger without sacrificing several days to excessive soreness.
Train to increase your 3 Rep Max. 1 rep max attempts are for competitive powerlifters. These all out reps are usually where injuries happen. By sticking to a weight you can do for a max of 3 reps, the load is still extremely challenging but maintaining good form is more manageable.
Train large compound movements. Deadlifts. Squats. Overhead Press. Pull Ups. Heavy Rows. Bench Press. Stick to multi-joint movements.
Manage fatigue and recovery. Don’t go for a new 3 rep max every week. Use rep ranges of 4, 5, 6, or 8 with a maximal weight for that range. This way you won’t live in a constant state of fatigue or burnout. Try a new 3 rep max every 2-3 months. Take a week off from the gym every 4 - 12 weeks to fully recover.
Two heavy workouts per week should give you plenty of stimulus to build strength, but also enough time to recover in between. You can do lighter weight workouts or cardio based workouts in between if you’d like.
The Strong Life
The moral of the story is: Strength is key to staying healthy. Strength training is the key to preventing injury, staying mobile, maintaining bone density, and a hundred other indirect everyday benefits.
Humble-brag: I haven’t taken 2 trips for groceries in over a decade because I can lift everything I get at Costco in one big stack. Just one example of how strength impacts everyday life.
Are you on board yet? I strongly recommend hiring a trainer to get you off on the right foot. Professional help in finding imbalances, assessing movement patterns, and programming effective exercise is invaluable.
Contact me to get a consultation on exactly where do begin.
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