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Sunday, March 20, 2016

PJSC podcast #125 Do NOT lift Heavy Things!

"Train Lighter" says Frank Zane
Oh boy, will this be contentious- NOT to “lift heavy things”, one of the Paleo/Primal cornerstones of healthy living!  It’s almost as if I said “Don’t eat grass fed beef”, or “Eat wheat!”  I know you’ve heard it, over and over and over again- “Lift Heavy Things”, probably immediately followed by “avoid chronic cardio”.
Well, I do want you to avoid chronic cardio, which is doing endless running, biking, aerobics (wait- does anyone do that anymore!!?), spinning, even walking for hours and hours each day… That is excessive, and accomplishes very little in terms of strength or health.  It just generates cortisol, the stress hormone, and puts your body into the fight or flight alert mode that we want to avoid.  And it destroys your joints!!  And of course- do NOT eat Wheat!!  (But do eat grass fed meat, particularly organ meats).
But, to reiterate: do not lift heavy things.  Why do I say this?  Because lifting really heavy things, at the limit of your strength, destroys your joints just as surely as chronic cardio, perhaps even more so.  I know, strength training is essential; I would never disagree with that- I train daily, and at almost 64 it is more necessary than ever.
This is the bottom line to me:
"A person who "lifts" weights tries to make a heavy weight feel light, while a person who "trains" with weights tries to make a light weight feel heavy."
Truer words were never spoken, although you might need to read that a few times until it sinks in.
The ideal way to train for strength, health, and overall fitness is to use a weight only to help your concentration enough so that you can adequately stress the muscle!  If you have the concentration, you can do this with a 2 lb. dumbbell- you just flex enough by sensing the resistance of the muscles involved and making the resistance harder yourself.  Instead of “hitting the gas pedal” and making the muscles work super hard to lift a really heavy weight, you “put on the brakes” within the muscles, intentionally making the lifting harder.

Here is a quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who certainly knows what it is to lift heavy things:

“Well, my favorite exercises I’m not able to do today, because of joint problems. For instance, the basic squat. I would love to be able to squat again, but in order to protect my knees I do mostly the Lifecycle and bicycling and the elliptical, but no more squats. The knees are like a tire. When the tires last up to 30,000 miles, you have to decide how you want to use them. Do you want to use them up in one year, or do you want to use them over a period of 10 years? It’s the same thing with joints. So, I decided 10 years ago, when I started to feel the wear and tear and was feeling pain in my joints, that now I should adjust my training and do more high reps with less resistance.”

Frank Zane recently said something very similar, but even more telling:

Many people have asked me over the years what I would do differently if I had the chance to go back to my early years of training in the late 60's and early ’70's?

In those days, I did what was necessary for me to win. This included training with heavy weights: a precursor for injury.
So if I could do it over again, I’d train with lighter weights, higher reps, no sets below 10 reps, with negatives slower than positives, and avoid injury. If I had done that, my physique wouldn’t have been quite as bulky, but with more definition and with less pain.

  This says it all- One of the greatest physiques of all time, and he says LIGHTER weights would have been preferable...

Take this as a wake up call.  I trained for years, quite heavy, but drew back around the age of 50 or so, because of increasing joint problems.  Just in time!  I have rehabbed my shoulders, my knees, and my elbows; largely by practicing isometrics, self-resisted exercise along with calisthenics and “virtual” resistance, or self-generated resistance within the muscle itself.  All of this I detail in my eBook Perfectly Paleo Exercise, and also on my website

In the old days, strength trainers knew- you train with light weights, or no weights to build strength, both in your muscles, but also in your ligaments and tendons.

You lifted heavy weights only on occasion- to demonstrate strength!  Then, you drew back again to training mode, the positive cycle of NOT LIFTING HEAVY THINGS.

So, don’t lift heavy things.  Don’t run marathons, or triathlons, or get into marathon crossfit sessions that tax you to the utmost!  Don’t Power lift, or Olympic lift either; if health and strength over your lifetime are your chief concern. (As I think is appropriate).
Learn to control your muscles, learn deep, abdominal breathing.  Meditate, and eat a Paleo type of diet.  Have a plant based smoothie each and every day, and get involved with your “tribe” of family, neighbors, friends and church!

Now, you aren’t “heavy”- you’re my brother!