“Hey bro, do you even lift?” Is weight training necessary?
For those who aren’t quite fully entwined in gym culture, let me explain the joke (note: for those who are already gym rats, you can skip this paragraph). By “lift”, we mean “lift weights”. After all, there’s no better way to insult a guy who obviously hits the weights (to build muscle), than by pretending that his lack of gym “gains” suggests that you didn’t even know he trained. Funnily enough this phrase has become a compliment used sarcastically between gym-goers, for one gym junkie will jokingly ask the other if they “even lift”, indicating that the recipient of the comment is in fact looking “muscular”.
So now that you have an explanation of the “bro do you even lift?” phrase, let me continue with the point of this blog post.
I don’t lift (weights). Not right now anyway, and I haven’t done so for quite a long time. I am flattered that I receive the “do you even lift?” comment fairly often. But I always receive a confused expression when I reply “no, actually I don’t”, and it’s true. For well over a year now I have not extensively weight trained, unless you class a few shoulder and postural rehab exercises every now and then, or that one week after Christmas when I performed some compound lifts for the week and then stopped.
I used to lift weights. People who know me will verify that I weight trained for years to supplement my ice hockey training back when I used to play. After I stopped ice hockey I went on to focus solely on weight training, as I then spent the next few years competing as a bodybuilder.
Why did I stop weight training? I don’t know. Boredom I think. After doing it for so long, I just started venturing out and trying different activities and sports and stuff. As it happened, I really enjoy martial arts training. Does this mean that I’m done weight training forever? I don’t think so. I’m sure I’ll return to it at some point. But for now, it personally just doesn’t appeal to me anymore.
I mentioned that I like martial arts, but if I’ve stopped weight training, what am I doing instead that is allowing my body to look the way it does?
Steroids. Just kidding. No, I have never taken any performance enhancing drugs, not even in bodybuilding where I competed in the “natural” drug tested federations. But to answer the question seriously, it is my opinion that I have maintained a lot of muscle by:
- Eating a high protein diet.
- Probably being lucky to have decent genetics.
- Training boxing, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as much as possible
4. I am NOT actually that “big”, it’s an illusion! I just look fairly muscular because I keep my body fat low so that my abs are always prominent. In reality, I weigh a lot less than I ever did as a bodybuilder.
So what is the point of this blog post? I don’t know. I guess what I’m trying to say is, that you can have a good physique without necessarily weight training. In fact, let me list the key points I’m trying to emphasise here:
- Do an exercise / activity you enjoy to help you lose fat and keep it off. If you enjoy it, you will stick to it, and exercise won’t be such a chore.
- Weight training can be a very useful tool, but it is not necessarily essential.
- Eat enough protein to help build muscle and to retain the muscle you’ve got.
- By having low body fat, you give the illusion that you are more muscular than you are! Less body fat means more definition, so it often will make you look “bigger” even when you are in fact “smaller”.
- Following on from point 4, you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose that body fat, so make sure you are burning more calories across the week than the calories you are eating and drinking.
- Genetics play a big part. I believe my genetics are alright, but I still wish I had mutant genetics for outrageous muscle and low bodyfat, though I don’t. 99.9% of us don’t. We just have to work with the hand we are dealt, which might mean we have to work a little bit harder than that lucky 00.1% of the population! It also means we might never look like the guys and girls you see in fitness magazines and websites (who are probably on steroids anyway). But that’s OK, we will just set ourselves more realistic targets.
My closing comments – find an exercise / activity that you actually like doing, keep a heathy balanced diet with enough protein, and set yourself realistic goals.