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Brains and Brawn… The Worth of Weightlifting

BY CHAD SALYER

Growing up in the ’80s, I was fascinated with the action movies of that era. Seeing incredibly huge men like Schwarzenegger in Predator, Stallone in Rocky and Rambo, and local strongmen like Monk Montgomery inspired me to try weightlifting.

I saved everything, including my lunch money, for a year so I could buy a Sears-brand weight set. The salesperson challenged me to lift the weight set in the box when I bought it and I could not.

So, I started from a very humble place. I was an undersized 12-year-old who nobody would accuse of looking strong.

Over the years following, I planned my workouts carefully and lifted several times a week. My body slowly began to change and become more muscular as I had hoped, but something else happened too.

I was kinder, more patient, and slower to anger. I was gaining more from weightlifting than I had expected.

Workouts became like a meditation.

They became a way for me to test my fortitude and to know myself in addition to gaining strength. I trained for years at public gyms and continued to make slow and steady gains.

At some point, lifting was no longer about getting bigger or stronger. I lifted because I loved it. I noticed how differently people responded to me as my body and attitude changed for the better.

Weightlifting is one of the only hobbies you carry around with you. People know that you are a hard worker and can persevere through difficulty at first glance. Not a day of my life goes by that I do not benefit from the strength of body and mind that I have cultivated through weightlifting.

After competing in powerlifting for several years, coaching young lifters became my focus. As a coach, I watched all these same positive mental and physical transformations occur again and again in my lifters.

I have seen so many young men and women gain confidence, character, and strength all at once as they challenge themselves under the bar.

As Carl Sagan said, “For all its material advantages, the sedentary life has left us edgy, unfulfilled.”

Everyone will benefit in many ways from an exercise plan. My choice is weightlifting, but there are many other ways to get similar benefits.

There are so many fads regarding diet and fitness, it is hard to know if any plan will work for you. One thing is for certain though, every person I have trained has had significant benefits from weight training with compound movements (Squat, Bench, Deadlift).

Using these lifts as the core of a workout plan, I have seen a 90-pound female lifter go from barely being able to lift the bar to deadlifting triple bodyweight and I have seen a young man who had never exercised in his life go from barely being able to do a bodyweight squat to a competition 500-pound squat.

These and a hundred other cases make me sure weightlifting is a great fitness strategy.

Getting started with something new is always challenging.

Whether you are a skinny 12-year-old trying to start lifting weights in your bedroom or an adult trying to make a positive life change with exercise, it will be hard.

Anyone who tells you differently is selling something. Nothing worth doing is easy.

In the end, though, investing in yourself is always the best choice. When I am asked about when to start an exercise plan, I always say, the best day to start is yesterday, the second-best day is today.