Introduction

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.

Balance

Balance is needed in everything

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.

Drive

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.

Rest

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.

If you don’t rest hard, you can’t work or play hard

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.

Nutrition

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.

You have to eat a lot to get anything out of this training

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.

Conclusion

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.

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2 comments

  1. Mr. walsh,
    Do you recommend a “clean” diet? A diet constructed without any proccessed foods? Should one eat several small meals a day and is “raw” the best way? How much “raw” food ration to your protein ration? Does it depend on your current weight or the weight you want to be? Do diet for strength differ among men and women? Should women eat leaner protein? Such as the kind you get from vegetation like soy, peanuts, and or almonds? How much water should one take in a day? Thanks again.
    Rose

  2. Rose,

    Those are all excellent questions. Do know that I am not an expert nutritionalist, so I am not the best person to answer these sorts of questions. I can only speak from what I have come to understand so far.

    Less processed foods always seem to be better. Our natural bodies were meant to take in natural food, and even slight processing can sometimes create chemical compounds in food that our bodies were never meant to ingest. Definitely avoid hydrogenated oils and artificial sweeteners.

    Several small meals a day is good because this promotes a higher metabolic rate which is good for burning fats and processing toxins. There’s nothing worse than skipping breakfast because going more than fifteen hours without eating drastically slows your metabolic rate because your body seriously thinks it’s starving. Smaller meals are also easier for your body to digest: especially if you separate them by food groups too. Many small meals throughout the day is healthier. Do not eat food at night though because there are certain metabolic processes and hormone production that can only happen at night while resting while the body is not having to digest food.

    The type of diet I touched upon in my post is intended for people who want to bulk up and build bigger muscle. It would not at all be appropriate for someone who is trying to lose weight or slim down. Even body builders what want to “cut” before a show and decrease their body fat to improve muscle definition would not use this sort of diet. Again, I am not an expert trainer or nutritionalist, and individuals should consult an expert about an individual’s goals before diving into any serious training.

    To the best of my knowledge, diet does not differ much for strength training men and women. Guys generally need more calories and protein than women because the hormonal makeup that is natural to the male body is better suited to building larger muscles.

    Proteins from soy, nuts, and vegetables are all incomplete proteins; they are all excellent amendments to a protein diet, but none is a complete source. Meats have a complete mix of all the amino acids (protein components) that humans need while vegetables will only have part of the complete mix of amino acids. Therefore, someone who wishes to get all their protein from non-meat sources needs to carefully orchestrate a mixed diet of many types of protein bearing nuts and vegetables to be sure that a complete amino acid mix is achieved.

    I would classify chicken and fish as “lean” proteins because they are both low in saturated fats. In fact, most fish is high in omega 3 oils that are necessary for proper sugar intake through the cell membranes, and this helps prevent diabetes and leads to all sorts of other wonderful healthy things. Of course the other side of that is that a lot of fish also has mercury in it from pollution, and so one probably shouldn’t eat fish more than once a week.

    To my understanding, most people don’t get anywhere near enough water. It is important to understand that our bodies are over 70% water, and the only way our bodies can really clean itself of toxins and have an otherwise healthy metabolism is if we are intaking plenty of good clean water. It is also important to understand that our bodies are losing water everyday not only from blood-cleaning excretions (urine) but also through exhalations, digestive processes, and sweating. The general rule of thumb is to drink eight glasses that each contain eight ounces of water (1/2 gallon per day). This however barely replaces the body’s minimum water usage. If you are working out or live in a hot climate, the minimum water usage would be much more! Further, think about your body like a factory; do you want to give your factory just enough water to clean it out, or would you rather have an abundance of water provided to your factory to safely process toxins? On an average day, I easily consume upwards of a gallon of water, and if I’m working outside or working out, it’s easily twice that or more.

    The thing to balance with water is electrolytes. I don’t know how someone could possibly drink enough water to interfere with the blood’s salt balance, but apparently there have been some cases (they must have been drinking like 10 gallons a day and eating no salt!). Just be sure that you have at least some sea salt or seaweed in your diet to maintain your blood’s salt balance that has been unchanged since the ancient sea!!!

    Okay, well that was a bit long winded, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible.

    Regards,
    Walsh

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