What if you don’t want to “lift heavy”, or you can’t because of an injury or physical limitation?
This is a topic I’ve thought about discussing for a while, and a recent Facebook exchange between Matt Ryan Brown and my good friend, Jen Comas Keck, spurred this idea into fruition.
Jen posted an excellent article about Fitness Bullies that I strongly agree with, and it’s a short read worth your time. In response, Matt posted the following remark to Jen:
Nobody mentions that hey . . . maybe he or she doesn’t want to lift heavy. What then?
This is a great question, and it’s about time I provided a helpful response.
Last week I posted 30 Rules to Lift Like a Girl & Look Absolutely Awesome, and the first “rule” was to lift heavy.
Now, “lifting heavy” is a relative term that can mean something entirely different to numerous individuals. However, in an effort to eliminate confusion, let’s assume that by “lifting heavy” we’re referring specifically to big barbell exercises like squatting, deadlifting, rowing, and pressing. And to stick with the “heavy” theme, we’ll say this means anywhere between a single rep and six reps. (Yes, this is up for debate, but I’m using this as an example to keep things consistent).
Yes, I encourage women, and men, to squat and deadlift in some form. They don’t have to perform a barbell back squat or a conventional deadlift from the floor, but they should do some variation.
Yes, I encourage trainees to get strong on these basic exercises and lift a challenging load in the range of 3-6 reps (depending on programming). I even challenge individuals to lift heavy singles, doubles, and triples if they want to lift really heavy weights safely.
Furthermore, I encourage trainees to do what they enjoy; to follow a strength training regimen that keeps them motivated and excited to hit the gym (or wherever they train) on a consistent basis. But “strength training” isn’t limited to just lifting a heavy barbell.
There are a Few Valid Questions We Should Ask:
- What if someone genuinely doesn’t want to lift heavy?
- What if someone has zero interest in squatting their bodyweight, deadlifting a very heavy single, or bench pressing?
- What if someone has previous injuries or other physical limitations that prevent them from participating in heavy lifting?
- Or, in other words, is it mandatory to “lift heavy” if you just want to look awesome?
The short answer is – no! Lifting heavy is not mandatory to achieve awesome results. However, and I’m personally guilty of this, lifting heavy is sometimes portrayed as the best way to achieve your health, body composition, and performance goals; if you’re not lifting heavy, then you’re doing it all wrong, or so it seems.
I have friends and clients who don’t engage in “heavy lifting” via barbell exercises because they don’t have access to such equipment, they train at home, or travel frequently. Some people have previous or existing injuries that make heavy barbell exercises impractical or dangerous. Others genuinely just don’t like it.
But these individuals can, and do, train hard, build a stronger, leaner, and healthier body in the absence of traditional, heavy barbell exercises. And, if they so desire, they can increase their strength via advanced bodyweight exercises.
NOTE – The discussion of getting crazy strong with only bodyweight exercises is beyond the scope of this article, but I’ll discuss it more in the very near future. For now, just know you can get very strong with bodyweight exercises like dips, chins, front levels, pistols, handstand push-ups, and various other movements.
But back to the topic at hand.
You don’t have to engage in heavy lifting if your sole concern and goal is to look better and improve your health. I apologize if through my articles I’ve made it seem as if heavy weight lifting is the holy grail to building an awesome body, and that if you don’t do it too, you won’t get results; because that just ain’t true. Yes, heavy weight lifting with an emphasis on the basic barbell exercises is very effective, but it’s not the only way to achieve phenomenal results.
My Recent Example
I love lifting heavy. I love seeing how much weight I can pull, squat, and press. For example, just a few weeks ago I set a big all-time personal record and squatted 1.5 times my bodyweight.
Here’s the video.
I was ecstatic to finally achieve that goal! However, once I finally squatted 1.5 times my bodyweight, my desire to squat heavy quickly waned. Heck, my desire to perform a barbell squat in any capacity took a nose dive.
This confession may be a shock to the readers of my blog – I don’t always enjoy lifting heavy. Occasionally I have zero desire or motivation to put a heavy barbell on my back or pull one off the ground. Furthermore, I’ve been experiencing some nagging injuries lately that make lifting a heavy barbell problematic.
Recently, to keep my enthusiasm for training elevated and to help my “injuries” heal, I started to play around with bodyweight only workouts. I traded in my barbell for a chin-up bar, parallel bars, a Jungle Gym, and the great outdoors (for sprinting and outdoor training).
With this new endeavor I’m currently working my way towards handstand push-ups and other bodyweight exercises, and I’m having a blasting in the process. Even though I’m not currently “lifting heavy” as described at the beginning of this article, I’m still training hard, and I look and feel as awesome as ever (in my opinion, at least).
I’m by no means abandoning heavy lifting, but for now, I am taking a detour.
The Bottom Line
If you want to look absolutely awesome, you don’t have to train with barbells. You don’t have to lift very heavy weights. Whether you don’t have the equipment to do so, you have nagging injuries or other physical limitations, you want a completely new challenge, or you just don’t like it, lifting heavy is not mandatory.
You should engage in some form of resistance training, or challenging physical activity, that keeps you motivated, fits your lifestyle and personality, your physical abilities, and leads you toward your goals. But how you go about that is entirely up to you.
Your training could be via bodyweight workouts, training with kettlebells, free weights, strongman equipment, sandbags, resistance bands, Yoga, mountain biking, sprinting, metabolic circuits, rock climbing, medicine balls, and any combination of those tools you choose.
After all, if you don’t enjoy the journey, you’re not going to get the results you’re after and maintain them long term. Do what you makes you happy and keeps you going back for more.
For more great information, be sure to check out the Lift Like a Girl Manifesto.