Eleven Things I Have Learned About Lifting

by Tom Swift

1. Lifting weights is a skill. Like any skill, it must be practiced.

2. Lifting weights is one of the best things you can do for your body. Even if you are old. And certainly if you are a woman. In the next ten or 20 years I think we will see a shift in the prevailing view. Lifting weights will come to be known as having greater health benefits than running. And (if performed properly) with fewer injuries. Certainly over a lifetime.

3. If you are trying to lose weight lifting is going to help you more than will cardio. Certainly more than high-intensity cardio.

4. For overall health and fitness most people — here I am not talking about serious bodybuilders or powerlifters — will benefit more from full-body lifting sessions 2-3 days per week rather than lifting 1-2 body part “splits,” as they are often referred to, 4-6 days per week.

5. This is less something I learned and more something I realized: I am grateful I live in a world where more women than ever accept and embrace the fact that they can can be — that it is cool for them to be — physically strong.

6. When it comes to physical fitness, variance is crucial. The body adapts to anything. You have to regularly change your reps, your volume, and your routine. Even your diet. The human desire to seek one way, one answer — just do this and you are all set, nothing further needed — is understandable but not especially constructive.

7. Squats are the single best exercise you can do for yourself. Note: already knew this one.

8. The body reacts to whatever triggers you regularly give it — whether that is through lifting, long-distance running, or sitting at a desk all day.

9. Toning is a made-up word to sell women gym memberships. You are getting stronger or you are getting weaker.

10. Like the rest of life, how you do something is as important as what you are doing. Your muscles don’t know how much weight you are lifting; they do know how much tension you are putting them under. Might as well cut back the weight and do it right.

11. Fitness classes can be cool for several reasons — friends, fun, motivation. Yet fitness is an individual endeavor. If you want and can afford a coach, get one for yourself, not one who is trying to watch and push you and 10 or 12 or 20 other people at the same time. The capacities of coaches are no greater than for the rest of humanity: you can only focus on one thing at a time.