Resistance Training Part 1

It is safe to say I spend a good deal of time writing about what not to do in the weight room. I know it’s better to instruct with positive cues, but I can’t help myself. After all, for almost 30 years, I’ve passed countless hours between my sets observing and there are still things I see that amaze me. But this month, I’m going to stay positive and deliver a message that explicitly states what it is you should do. Simply put, you should lift weights!

Okay, many of you ardent exercisers will be saying, “No kidding. Tell me something I don’t know!” And for those who respond in that manner, I suggest you turn the page and/or get back to your workout because the readers I’m appealing to are also ardent exercisers, but those who believe strength training is not for them. Specifically, if you fall into this category, I’m here to tell you that you might be justified if you are looking back 30 years, but certainly not if you are looking forward.

When I was a youngster, kids didn’t train with weights. In fact, I started at the age of 15 and even that was a bit early. But it wasn’t as if prepubescents couldn’t lift weights in those days, it’s just that they’d stop growing if they did! Needless to say, no parent would allow their progeny to risk that destiny. But going to the playground to lift and spin your body on monkey bars was part and parcel of every kid’s day. This begs the question: Why didn’t that stunt your growth?

This article was originally published in New Living Magazine, which can be accessed on-line at


We now know that the no-weights-for-kids decree was no-right. In fact, you’re never too young to lift weights because your muscles are never too young to contract. However, there are certain guidelines kids should follow. And it’s safe to say many of these tenets are also quite appropriate for (and, for that matter, often neglected by) adults who are encouraged to lift weights.

Athletes were also told to avoid weights like the plague back in “the day.” This warning was also quite specific: If an athlete dared to contract his muscles vigorously against opposition offered by iron, he would wind up imprisoned in a virtual straight jacket. Yes, he would become muscle bound! However, if he contracted his muscles vigorously against an opponent, a launched projectile or any other implement, he’d suffer no such fate.

Exactly what is stunted growth and muscle bound-ness? Your guess is as good as mine. But the monikers do convey vivid images that make you understand why strength training was taboo for these populations. Fortunately, in both cases, we now know differently. For example, children are far less active today, so programmed activity (exercise) is more essential for them than ever before. And strength training is an integral part of that mix. As for athletes, it’s now quite apparent that stronger muscles perform better and get injured less. That is a winning formula no matter what sport you play.

You might have realized that I only referred to male athletes in my reference above. That is because I can’t imagine what a female athlete would have been told about strength training back in these dark ages. You see, athletic background aside, no woman in their right mind would have touched a weight because once they did, their fate was also sealed. They would become masculine!

Okay, here’s the thing: A woman lifts weights and develops her muscles which, by definition, would have to be female (read feminine) muscles. Exactly where do masculine muscles enter into the picture? Now, I will say that women typically don’t want their muscles to be as big as they can possibly be. And I daresay most men don’t aspire toward that end either. But should women want muscles that are developed sufficiently to allow them to perform all of the physical activities throughout their day with the least amount of strain possible? You bet! Add in building bones, which strength training is specific for, and you have a recipe for health that no lady can deny.

Finally, I don’t remember specific warnings against it, but I think it’s safe to assume that seniors probably weren’t urged to use it or lose it in the weight room back when strength training was for the select few. This might have been the biggest injustice of them all! It is impossible to maintain the quality of your life as years pass if your muscles check out before you do. For example, muscles protect your skeleton, so a bad fall might not be so bad if they are along for the ride. And the chance of preventing a fall is also greatly improved if supportive muscles can contract with sufficient speed and force to reestablish stability in time. So, the moral of the story is you never outgrow pumping iron!

There are no reasons for anyone to avoid strength training as long as the program they follow is appropriate given their particulars. So, no matter how much cardiovascular training, stretching, Pilates, yoga or dancing you do, you’re doing yourself an injustice if you don’t incorporate strength training into the mix. And once you do, you’ll never look back.




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