I am going to have an aneurysm. There is a little vein in my forehead that is just pulsing. It’s getting bigger and bigger and I’m afraid it’s getting ready to pop. Why? Because yet again I read someone saying that unless you plan to compete in powerlifting, your goal in strength training should not be to get stronger or to achieve a big lift. Your goal should only be fitness and health. It infuriates me. Plain and simple. I am sick of hearing it and sick of reading it. It’s bullshit. Stop saying it.
If lifting has the benefits that people think it does, then those benefits exist regardless of the goals! The same articles that are perpetuating this nonsense conflate the words “lifting” and “resistance exercise” and then use a vague self-serving definition of strength training.
If you are an older adult, and worried about the bone loss of sarcopenia, then strength training should absolutely, without a doubt, be on your agenda.
But regardless of what your reasons for beginning are, it is not up to the fitness industry to tell people what their goals should be! The goal is not just to show up. The goal is to set a goal. A performance goal can be the most powerful motivator for adherence you will ever see. The fallacy in this message is so glaringly obvious and yet every time I see one of these stupid articles, it gets more love than a good Snoopy comic.
How does it make sense to “lift” with a goal of abstract friggin “benefits?” It doesn’t. Coordination? That is not a goal of strength training. Can you walk? OK. Good. Do you bump into things constantly? NO? Good. If you can’t walk, or you have other problems with coordination, you don’t need a strength coach. Bone density for older folks? You can have a performance goal and still get that. Other tangential health benefits? Yep.
In case anyone is missing the point, I am not saying you must have a performance goal. I am saying that the same benefits exist when you DO have a performance goal. So, what is a good reason to train to lift heavier weights, or, in other words, to get stronger? You know what I’m going to say.
Because you want to.
Here is what is really stupid about these statements. Most of the benefits people talk about can be gained without much of a plan, without constant progress, without dedication, etc. That is, the benefits people ascribe to what they call strength training are nonspecific, but then they talk about specific exercises that would entail specific adaptations.
I just read an article about how doing something like a overhead squat would ‘improve your balance and coordination.’ This is asinine, to think that a big problem out there that the fitness world needs to solve is a lack of balance and coordination. Yet, there is nothing that an overhead squat would do that an occupational therapist wouldn’t do better, for someone who lacked balance and coordination.
How does it make sense to tell consumers to “show up constantly and be dedicated” but it doesn’t make sense to have a specific performance goal and to only focus on things that hardly ever give them any motivating feedback? Why pay a trainer for something you can do yourself? Why not just jump on the elliptical?
If you go to the gym and decide to lift weights, and you pick a modest goal on barbell back squats, you will most likely be a lot more motivated to stick with a plan for squats than if your goal is “to strength train for benefits.”
The same goes for almost any type of exercise. But, this does not mean that you MUST exercise this way. The mixed messages from the fitness industry are astounding. And we wonder why people don’t exercise. Stop blaming them. Start blaming the fact that the fitness industry is made up of uneducated, unthinking money-misers who are not qualified to help people with “health-related goals” let alone lifting ones. The industry isn’t helping people get off the couch, it’s making them race back to the couch! Do you really think you’re going to get someone to exercise by telling them to dedicate their life to fitness but to have no tangible goal? I’d be confused by that message, wouldn’t you?
I’m not sure at all what ‘problem’ these messages about strength training hope to solve. Is there an epidemic of gym-goers to focused on lifting goals? Really? REALLY?