I am sick to death of hearing that lifting heavy weight is “dangerous” or “unnecessary”. That claim is utterly ridiculous. Name one thing that is better if you’re weaker. I’ll wait.
Didn’t think of anything? That’s because the stronger you are, the easier and safer life is.
Recently my Dad was in a motorcycle accident. 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 hours per week, occasionally does an at-home workout, and trains with me once per week (until 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.
If you want to get back on the path to feeling 10 years younger again, here’s the protocol in my free eBook.
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 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.
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 the groceries in with 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. If you end up hanging from something you need grip strength and to be able to do one pull up. If someone you love is caught under something heavy, you need to be able to deadlift that object off your loved one.
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 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 weight at 80% or more of your 1 rep max on a regular basis and watch your testosterone numbers change.
Growth hormone supports protein synthesis too. It also increases bone mineralization (density), immune system function, and promotes fat metabolism.
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.
Alright, How Do I Get Strong As Hell?
In a word – powerlifting.
Don’t get scared. Powerlifting is simply short sets with a heavy load. Since you are probably not trying to become an elite powerlifter, there will be slight modifications.
Train for 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 3rep max every week. Use rep ranges of 4, 5, 6, or 8 with a maximal load for that range. This way you won’t live in a constant state of fatigue or burnout. Try a new 3rep max every 2-3 months. Take a week off from the gym every 3 months and fully recover.
Plant A Tree
The best time to plant a tree is ten years ago. The second best time is right now.
Strength training takes time. In all probability, you won’t be ready to lift anything heavy right away. You’ll most likely have some muscle imbalance or movement issue that needs correcting before considerable load can be added to an exercise.
That is not a judgement, it is a reality.
Everyone in the gym, including seasoned lifters, develops imbalances and movement problems at some point. Sometimes it’s because, like my Dad, you work at a desk all week. Other times, it’s because you’re a gym bro that only benches and bicep curls.
Movement issues aren’t an excuse to keep from starting. In fact, it should be motivation to get after it as soon as possible.
My Dad is planting his tree right now. Even though he is still in physical therapy he’s looking ahead to after his rehab. He wants to get strong enough to play softball again. He’s focusing on the work he’s capable of doing today. But, he’s also keeping his eyes on the prize.
I strongly recommend hiring a trainer to get you off on the right foot. Professional help in finding imbalances, assessing movement, and programming effective exercise is invaluable.
If you’re not quite ready to make that investment, download my free eBook 4 Secrets to Feeling 10 Years Younger. That’ll get you a good head start.
Pick up heavy stuff. Put it back down.
Prevent injury and stay healthy.