Many people think my training as primarily bodyweight based as they see me doing lots of it and incorporating it with my clientele. But what they might not know is I’ve been lifting weight in one form or another for my entire life and continue to lift thousands of pounds weekly (or daily), even as i am now closer to 50 then 40 years young.
As a lifetime occupational athlete, lifting large amounts of weight has been my norm as has been physical training to stay strong for outdoor adventures. Various forms of physical labor from an early age that still continues to this day. One job in the 90’s, I would regularly lift over a 1000 pounds an hour for 10 hours at a bodyweight of 170 pounds, slinging 80-100 pound meat boxes as a fast as humanly possible, getting paid for speed. It was always a dream of “getting paid to move and helping others do the same” and that is exactly what has happened.
This all led me to bodyweight training as I have always been a firm believer in balancing out How we move. Lifting lots of weight can bring with it lots of tightness and if you are not careful, can change how you function. Bodyweight training has become a larger part of my movement practice and I spend large amounts of time on groundwork.
This year marks my first step away from commercial labor in many years in one form or another as I am focusing entirely on movement coaching. Still lifting lot’s while training and doing physical labor on my own projects, week just not on the clock.
Throughout all of the years I have never missed time due to back pain or any pain except when I have had impact injuries(crashes/wipeouts etc) despite 80% of adults experiencing back pain in their lives and back pain being the is the #1 disability in the world. (Rubin Dl. Epidemiology and Risk Factors for Spine Pain. Neurol Clin. 2007; May;25(2):353-71. Worldwide, years lived with disability caused by low back pain have increased by 54% between 1990 and 2015 (Hartvigsen J , 2018)
I believe that movement variability and moving in lots of different ranges of motion has been the key in my own life as well as being in the outdoors and my dedication to training to stay balanced and do lots of different kinds of movements and labor and fun and plenty of danger.
Which brings it all back to my thoughts on others lifting weights. Should you be lifting weights? How much, how often? Well….it …depends. First and foremost, where are you at right now in your life? Are you already injured? Despite us becoming sedentary as a society, over exertion still accounts for the most amount of work related injuries, just above falls…
Are you sedentary? Only 5% of adults get more than 30 minutes of physical activity a day and American adults spend an average of 11 hours per day watching, reading or interacting with media(screens).
How do you move during the day and what positions are you in chronically? This is very important because it helps us come up with a strategy of finding balance in your movement practice.
I think first and foremost, body awareness must be cultivated through foundational movement. This starts with proper, conscious breathing patterns. This helps cultivate proper positioning from an anatomical standpoint. Proper breathing isn’t just about oxygen and the benefits to your nervous system(though they are extensive), but truly sets up our structure so we can do things..like lift weights.
From breathing, we look at being able to safely move your body through it’s intended range of motion, without pain. Being able to get up and down off the ground, smoothly, with control and ease without compromising your spine and while breathing. There are numerous studies linking how well you are able to get off the ground and how long you will live. I know lots of people who lift heavy weights but watching them get up and down off the ground is kind of painful.
Which brings up the importance of your connection with your center, your deep core musculature, your pelvis/fulcrum, center of gravity. Selective activation of muscles to protect you when adding external loads. Knowing when to do what.
We look at foundational movement patterns like hinging, squatting, throwing and doing these all with control , alignment and ease, while breathing properly, of course.
Can you move your body through its intended ranges with ease, control and accuracy? Once many of these boxes have been checked, then we look at adding load. And before doing so, we look at how you are moving now to determine how you will lift. We also examine the ways we are wired to lift objects. Historically we carried and transported weight, often awkward objects and on uneven terrain and rarely was the weight evenly balanced.
This is in direct contrast to how you see lifting in most gyms. The lifting you often see there kind of looks like the way most of the world moves all day, in a linear fashion, up and down, forward and back with very little variability. Kind of like the movie Wall-E.
Being able to pick things off the ground with a good hip hinge. Being able to carry the weight, and place it in non linear demands first and foremost. Being able to pick it up and put it down with control.
From here we spend time honing patterns and incrementally adding loads and challenges and eventually complexity and making sure the body is keeping up with the progressively challenging demands.
So yes, lifting weight is good and we were born to do it but let’s make sure we can do it right. And it doesn’t have to look the way the fitness industry portrays it. After you have set your foundation, pick up odd objects, carry weird stuff and mix it up. Move your body in all directions. Challenge your neurology, adapt, explore and soar!