As some of you may know, for the past month and a half I have dived back into my training anew. One of my biggest accomplishments in the past month has been returning to regular weight training as part of my physical training. Because I have been off it for some time, I am still doing rather basic workouts that geared toward getting my body used to exerting itself in that way again and preventing future injury. However, I am already seeing great results, and I very much look forward to continuing to develop in this area of my training.
Before I comment further about my weight training or my thoughts about weight training in general, I should say that I am not an expert in this area. I have no formal education in weight lifting as a form of training. The things that I have learned are things that were passed on to me by close friends in college who served as throwing coaches for the track team because the college had no coaches who were trained in this area. While these friends of mine were perhaps not officially certified either, they lived and breathed physical training, and over a four year period taught me how to take my scrawny 150 lb freshman body to a lean muscular body that was pushing 205 lb (I’m about 5’11”). The point is not the weight gain, but rather that weight was achieved through dramatically increasing the strength of my body’s muscle groups as well as teaching my body new sorts of structural movements. I say this not to brag, but rather to point out how knowledgeable my friends were and are, and how grateful I am to have met them. While they are quite expert, I am maybe a 2nd gup in weight training at best.
That being said, please take the below with a grain of salt in knowing that it is not the writing of an expert but rather a student sharing what he has come to understand so far however correct it may be. I feel I can stand behind what I say below because I have used it myself and seen powerful results from it. Below are the things that I believe to be key to weight training and perhaps to many other sorts of endeavors as well.
I see balance on a couple levels in weight training. On a physical level, one has to preserve balance in the choice of exercises performed. One should work antagonistic muscle groups evenly (the bicep and triceps for example) or the trainee will create an imbalance in the body that will either hold the trainee back or cause injury. The trainee should also alternate pushing and pulling exercises in a workout. I must confess I don’t know all the ins and outs of why that is the case: only that it prevents the body from becoming over-extended.
On another level, balance plays a huge roll in everything the weight trainee does in the trainee’s life; as odd as it may sound (and as appropriately martial-artsy as it sounds) everything that a trainee does in the trainee’s life has an impact on the trainee’s training and development. Volumes can be written on this I’m sure, but I’m just briefly touching on it here. Even all of the sub-sections in this post are not truly independent sub-sections as much as different aspects of the same thought or the same way of training. They all depend on and build on each other, and produce a huge effect when practiced together in harmony. Balance is huge.
This is the discipline and willpower to push one’s self forward. This is needed to stick to a regular training schedule, and to train even on days when one doesn’t feel like it. This is also the ability to push forward during training even when one is feeling like quitting. Maybe one has just done 8 exhausting repetitions of a tough set (exercises are divided into reps and sets), and one doesn’t feel like doing anymore, but one knows that one has the ability to do 4 more reps and will get more by doing so and so forces one’s self to finish the set. It is also the discipline to maintain a proper training regime, lifestyle, and nutrition (told you they’re all part of the same thought). Basically this is the mental strength and willpower to stick with the program even when the going is tough.
This is like the Yin, and equally important counterpart to drive. It so important to have the ability to push one’s self. However, if one pushes too hard, then one will end up losing ground instead of gaining ground. Weightlifting is basically a controlled process of breaking down the body’s muscles and then allowing it to build the muscles back stronger. If one is always exercising the muscles (breaking them down) and doesn’t supply the body with adequate rest (chance to build them back up), then one’s muscles will never get stronger.
For example, if one does 3 sets of max push ups (push ups to failure) everyday, then one’s chest will never grow; it takes the chest at least a full day of rest in which it is not exercised in order to completely heal. If one does not give the chest that day of rest, then there’s really no point to doing the exercise in the first place as it would be wasted effort.
I had a friend once who did insane workouts everyday of the week. He would work out for four or five hours a day doing tons of exhausting movements. To the untrained eye, it would seem like this would be a good thing. However, for a whole year of this exhaustive work, his body showed little change. Finally, he got a job that forced him to workout only three days a week (forcing him to rest) and within a few months his body dramatically changed for the better. Rest is just as important as drive.
This is pretty straight forward. What one eats is important. The human body is like a factory. It takes in raw materials (food), and uses this to create a finished product (the body). Have you ever heard the expression “garbage in, garbage out?” Well, it’s true. If one eats junk, one will have a body made of junk. Conversely, if one eats pure, wholesome food, one will have a body made out of pure, wholesome things which will in turn lead to a stronger and healthier body. This is pretty simple.
What weight trainees need to focus on is a diet that is high in protein, vitamins and minerals, and calories. Again, the body need to rebuild its muscles that were broken down during the exercises. What are muscles made out of? ===> protein! Protein loading immediately after a workout (within minutes) is essential as well. After a tough workout, the body immediately starts looking for protein and calories with which it can rebuild itself. If it can’t find those things immediately, it will panic and start pulling these resources from non injured muscles, and that’s obviously counter productive.
One who is on a developed weight training regime will easily need at least three times the calorie and protein intake of the average person (as is surely the case for any athletic person I’m sure). This is not exaggerating either; a developed weight trainee can easily put to use 200 grams of protein and 6,000 calories everyday.
Carbohydrates play an interesting role in weight training. I’ve heard some argue for high carb diets and others argue for low carb diets for weight trainees. I tend to be in the low carb camp. Carbs a good source of energy for some things, and there’s probably no harm in having some for breakfast (along with a mountain of eggs); however, weight lifting is primarily exercise that is powered through anaerobic respiration, and the type of energy that carbs provide does not cater to this type of energy productions, so a ton of carbs in a weight lifter’s body may end up just getting stored as fat. Further more, because most carbs easily break down into sugars, this causes a spike in the body’s insulin and metabolic levels that drastically decreases the efficiency at which the body can digest and absorb proteins, and (as stated above) proteins are super essential to the healing of the weight trainee’s body.
Upon writing this post, I now see that each of these categories could easily be its own post or article, and I have done my best to touch ever so lightly upon each, and I had to leave out quite a bit for the sake of length. I also see that there are a lot of parallels between weight training and martial arts training, and I definitely consider my weight training an important part of my martial arts training. Just like anything else, it is a lifestyle, and every part of it is related to all of its other parts. I look forward to exploring and developing my training more in this area.