The world of weightlifting is very different from the one I learned growing up. That isn’t to say it has perfectly evolved but naturally the more information begins to marinate our bullshit radars start to go off.
I have very vivid memories of going into Phys Ed class as an elementary school kid. Excited it was time to move around and play. The elation of whether we were going to climb the ropes, race each other, or play basketball always itched at me.
But on the side of the gym was a worn, light brown wooden door – the one for the P.E. teachers. On the outside of the door hung a sign I will never forget, “No Pain, No Gain!” A law of fitness I learned very young and carried with me much of my life until I learned better.
We all grow up with very different influences and whether we want to acknowledge or not, they may not have been the best sources for information. And to be clear, that is okay! We don’t all always have the right answer.
Unfortunately there is an innate need to rationalize to ourselves why MY information I received was right while everyone else is wrong instead of critically thinking and balancing the information.
Let’s clear the air: chances are you received bad information.
It’s fine, I did too. The point of this article isn’t an entitled rant, finger-pointing at how stupid it is to believe in Old School mentality’s. This is me questioning the primitive mindset we tend to bring into the gym for the sake of your long-term health (both physically and mentally).
Our industry like any has many flaws in it and if we seriously want to become a more inclusive environment we need to air this out. Because you want to help as man people as possible, right?
Awesome, me too!
But first we need to understand the earlier years of weight training to make more sense of the topic.
FOUNDATIONS OF WEIGHTLIFTING
Weightlifting, I mean, really training in the gym didn’t become a highly popularized physical activity until the late 60’s and 70’s when we were introduced to the bodybuilding years of Venice Beach.
(Yes, there were people way before that such as Eugene Sandow, George Hackenschmidt, and Donald Dinnie to name a few that truly pioneered weightlifting but we are talking global popularity)
In the 1940’s and 1950’s we began to see the first Mr. America competition and small changes in the push for physical fitness as early as the 1930’s with the introduction of the first weightlifting magazine, Physical Culture.
Once lifters like Frank Zane and Arnold came along, stunning physiques with Hollywood looks and aspirations, the draw for working out became an ultra-masculine thing to do.
Just like any science, its always developing. Barbells and lifting heavy mass was the goal because it was a tried and true method to change your physique. The lifters in the mid-20th century didn’t have the luxury of popping onto GETPPSC.com to see what the latest articles read or if there was any new research on PubMed to adjust the programming for.
So when we learn most of our skills anecdotally and adjust our culture that way, it will take some time to reverse the trend.
WHERE WE GO WRONG
Fitness influences from our earlier lives will always resonate with us whether you were looking up to bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger or just marveling at the competitors of shows like “American Gladiator” (bonus points if you remember that show).
As we know, science develops and over time we learn what techniques, mantras, and schemes were simply anecdotal vs. proven to make groundbreaking changes in our results.
The “be a man” conversation needs to change.
I am all for lifting heavy weights (when safe)
Getting as muscular as possible (without compromising movement)
Getting as lean as you can (without damaging organ function)
Unfortunately, we as humans have a tendency of finding the line of reasonable and reckless and dancing along it. We have never been more of an instant gratification culture than now. I want to start a job and become successful NOW. I want to start a social media profile and immediately have MILLIONS of followers.
I want to invest in Dogecoin and become a MILLIONAIRE TOMORROW! I want to lift weights and see results NOW!
I truly believe once we take the onus off of being the biggest and baddest and instead focus on being your strongest and most equipped the tide will change. Honestly, we are already beginning to see it.
NEW AGE OF LIFTING
We are officially in a more conscious era in health and wellness. This is an amazing development because people genuinely care about the training they do, interventions they take, and habits they form at home.
Even the gyms we go to are more high-tech than every driving data directly to our smartphones too help us “hack” our everyday lives. But no matter how much information we can feed ourselves, if the foundations and principles of our training are flawed we are screwed.
More voices isn’t always a good thing. In this case, it’s a very bad thing. We are inundated with fitness information from every direction of our social media, apps, commercials, and shows dedicated to physical prowess.
More microphones doesn’t mean more credible voices. It means more noise.
So if we don’t nip this in the butt its the bad information you received when you are younger at an exponential rate.
Let’s break some rules.
NO PAIN, NO GAIN
I love Arnold (I am surprised when people don’t) but this phrase has to go. I think we all understand what he meant – pushing yourself, driving past the burn, cranking out those difficult reps – but it causes way too much room for interpretation.
To be clear: PAIN ISN’T A GOOD THING
That should come as no surprise from the Pain-Free Performance Certification but at the sake of the point being missed I am obligated to be redundant.
What we say matters. Especially if you are arguably one of the most influential voices in the history of fitness as Schwarzenegger is. Pain deserves more respect as a response than we give it to this point in time.
Pain is defined as not only a sensory response but an emotional one. Yes, a very important distinction when breaking down when people feel pain. That blend of signal and emotion makes it a key indicator why so many people may respond to pain in different manners.
We have all met people who incurred the same injuries or surgeries we have and maintain very different experiences between us.
This translates into the gym where different pains elicit different sensations. Sensations or pain need to be interpreted by the individual and to the untrained gym goer it’s very common to misread pain.
No pain, no gain has led to more cases of joint injuries, muscle trauma, and rhabdomyolysis than we can imagine counting.
Ditch the term.
CUTTING SEASON/BULKING SEASON
Hey, when is your bodybuilding competition?
OH, YOU AREN’T COMPETING IN ONE? Yeah, I figured that.
Cutting and Bulking seasons are one of the most costly mistakes we hit while in our teen years and 20’s (if you are still doing these, please stop).
All cutting and bulking seasons teach you is heavy restriction for a short term period and shovel more food down your throat than Homer Simpson at the Chili Cooking Festival when you’re bulking. Sharply drastic highs and lows in eating, creating trash eating habits for the rest of your life.
I see this all the time in younger lifters. What they don’t understand is when professional bodybuilders use these techniques they:
- Generally don’t allow themselves above a threshold bodyfat
- It’s time restricted
- They are probably taking some “supplements” that keep them lean
If you are this far into the article and you want the dirty secret of getting lean for summer, here it is:
STAY LEAN YEAR ROUND
No easier way to cut down than not having much to cut down on. So stop feeding into heavy bouts of binge eating and restriction mistaking it for the holy grail of 6-pack abs.
Not eating prior to cardio is going to melt off that body fat? Not quite
And there is nothing more excruciating than a 30 minute bout on the Stairmaster with an empty stomach.
Can you do it? Sure.
Should we be encouraging the masses to do this as a method of superior cardiovascular activity? Not a shot
From the lens of health and wellness, I want to know the people I work with are going to be properly fed and energized for our workouts because promoting total health is the goal. Especially when someone isn’t completing this bout first thing in the morning.
I have met more people who couldn’t do their cardio until 1pm at their lunch hour and fasted all day for that one session. Fuuuuccckkkkk that.
Cardiovascular workouts should be a priority for everyone. Just don’t beat yourself up if you have your overnight oats before doing it. I can assure you it’s not going to ruin your results.
DRINK PROTEIN 30 MINUTES AFTER YOU WORKOUT
Goodbye to the days of finishing that last rep of your workout before going into a full sprint to the locker room before you miss your gains. I can still taste all of the gross protein shakes I mixed with water in fear of missing my “anabolic window”.
The research has changed over the years to show the window of time towards muscle synthesis is a much larger window than we thought. Mainly in regards to Glut4 Transporters.
Glut-4 Transporters are the carriers moving carbohydrates and protein through the system to the muscle for protein synthesis (protein) and glycogen storage (carbohydrates).
The best way to explain this is taxi’s outside of Madison Square Garden after the Knicks game.
After the game (activity) there are 100’s of taxis (Glut-4) sitting outside to take people home throughout the city. 30 minutes after the game there are still a good amount of taxis. Little by little as time goes by after the game taxi’s begin to go other places because the patron’s have already gone their ways.
This window of time is more like 2 hours after your workout.
Hopefully, this is a relief to you so you can make a proper shake with fruits and vegetables and then make a home cooked meal to support that.
Don’t worry, your gains are safe.
LIFTING IN THE “HYPERTROPHY” RANGE
Credit to Strongerbyscience.com for above chart (link in chart)
If you don’t lift between 8-12 reps you simply can’t build muscle. Well, that’s been debunked.
Thanks to research from friend and colleague, Dr. Brad Schoenfeld et. al, their research found the hypertrophy range was JUST A LITTLE larger than 8-12 reps. When working to near-failure capacities, their research found the window for muscle building between 6-30 reps.
Effort is the catalyst that yields muscle building. It’s a much more complex equation than the number of reps you perform and most of the programs I see have people LIVING in the 8-12 rep range of weightlifting.
Attempting to build muscle 12 months out of the year, every year, isn’t going to catapult someone into the most muscular person to walk the planet. Instead, its going to lead them to a plateau, overworking in one capacity, and breaking down their body not out of lack of effort but lack of diversity.
So instead of driving yourself into the ground with the same, stale-ass program as always, manipulate your variables to make movements more difficult.
BONUS: NEW AGE BS THAT NEEDS TO GO – BECOMING AN “ALPHA”
This is the stupidest of them all, by far, no questions asked.
At some point, people started associating working out with the pursuit of being a “savage”.
“Oh man, you must be a total badass because you lift”
An ego that comes along with someone looking to build muscle and become an “Alpha” in the pack.
You’re not an Alpha, you’re an idiot.
You have tied your success in life so tightly to how much you can bench and how much you can preacher curl you have lost sight of everything else in life that people care about. Lifting is awesome, I love it. We workout to maximize the potential person within us.
Some of the biggest guys I have met in the gym were some of the nicest, light hearted people in the world. Just because you are big doesn’t mean you need to be as asshole to show how tough you are.
Oh, and just because you bought a shirt for $29.99 online saying “Alpha” doesn’t mean you are one.
An Alpha is a leader. Someone people want to follow for their intentions, accomplishments, and willingness to provide a better landscape.
Stop chasing being an Alpha and start chasing your best self.
As you can see, there are plenty of things we learned through the years that simply have to go. Some were sayings, some were old science, some were colossal levels of dumbassery. Regardless, we should always be re-evaluating the field to clear out the dead weeds.
Building an inclusive environment doesn’t mean turning the gym into the land of gumdrops and unicorns. What it means is:
• Be purposeful with what you say
• Adapt when the science does
• Help create a space for people to THRIVE, not just survive
If you can attack those three things we will quickly transition from the stone ages of fitness into the new era. The era where less people quit working out, we create better lifelong habits, and focus on US.