Tag Archives: weight training

Everyone Should Be Doing Squats

Last year, we saw a very interesting article explaining why you should quit your gym. It focused on how gyms are there to make money, not to make you fit, and therefore they deal in neophilia (new machines and workouts) and in getting you to spend as little time in the gym, crowding their machines, as possible. And it also said that gyms are pretty unnecessary, because you only really need to do four types of exercises:

These exercises work every major muscle group, but unlike the machines in the gym which isolate them, they also work the secondary, stabilizer muscles which prevent injury. In the same vein, the New York Times is now saying that everyone should be lifting weights — not just doing cardio like running and cycling — because besides being a good way to burn calories and prevent injury, weight training is also necessary to avoid the feebleness of old age. And if you only do one weight training exercise, it should be the squat.


The squat works almost every major muscle group and is the motion that people have trouble with when they get older: getting up. It can be done with a barbell, as shown above, or with regular dumbells, or with no weight at all (your arms crossed, or held straight out in front). In the video in the article, an expert explains how with weight training, heavy weights aren’t necessary as long as the muscle gets fatigued. It’s faster to get the muscle sore with heavy weights, but if you can do it by lifting lighter weights for longer, then you’ll get stronger either way.

In general, the expert — he’s Canadian, yet appears smart — says that cardio is a good exercise, but weights will help not only with strength, but also with the efficiency of the exercise. So even distance runners and cyclists will also benefit from weight training.

See also:


From The New York Times, via Lifehacker

Burn Fat With Weights Instead Of Cardio

We’ve heard before that if you want to be fit, lift free weights instead of — or in addition to — doing cardio like running. Livestrong this week has some more of that advice. Their reasoning:

  • More muscle means higher base metabolic rate. If you sit on the couch all day and you have 10lbs of muscle, you’ll burn less calories than if you have 15lbs of muscle.
  • Doing an hour of cardio means you burn extra calories for that one hour. Doing an hour of weight lifting means you burn extra calories for as long as you have those muscles.
  • When lifting weights, make sure they’re free weights like dumbbells and bars; these will strengthen your big visible muscles and small stabilizer ones. The weight machines in gyms on the other hand, will isolate the big muscles, leaving you more injury prone and moving like the Hulk.
  • Running a lot without having strong enough stabilizer muscles can contribute to running injuries.
  • Women should not be afraid of lifting weights: their low levels of testosterone mean bulky muscles take a LOT of work.

Photo by Fang Guo


From Livestrong

Also see Why You Should Quit Your Gym

More Fitness Advice From The Pros

Livestrong has a couple of good articles that add professional vetting to some of the advice that floats around the fitness ether:

  • The Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) method is very effective for weight loss; it’s weight training that alternates between upper and lower body. You still have to diet, but MRT test subjects lost 20% more fat than people who dieted and did aerobics, and 30% more than people who just dieted.
  • Lifting weights will not make you bulky, but it will develop definition and tone, as well as keep your bones strong. You have to be pretty deliberate about gaining muscle mass, so just stay away from really heavy weights and Mr. Universe magazines, and there’s little chance you’ll accidentally end up looking like Schwarzenegger. Lifting heavy weights is also not an efficient ways to burn calories.
  • It doesn’t matter when you work out: you won’t burn more calories working out in the morning, for example. Just do it when you feel best, so you have the energy to put into you workout and make it more effective.
  • Slow cardio, meaning aerobic exercise during which you can still talk — like walking, or riding a tiny bike slowly and perhaps ominously — loses effectiveness pretty quickly because your body adapts and becomes more efficient at doing the same activity by burning less calories. How do you beat it? Interval training: shorter periods of intense aerobic exercise with periods of rest in between. And your body continues to burn extra calories for 38 hours after interval training, as opposed to zero hours after slow cardio.
  • Beware of protein powder and bars that have a lot of added sugar and fat. Protein tastes pretty awful, so a lot of manufacturers have been sneaking stuff in to make it palatable– stuff that will make you fat(ter).
  • Dried fruits are pretty bad for you — eat regular fruits instead. They contain water, and no added sugar.

From Livestrong: Fact or Fiction and Does it Make You Fat?

Why You Should Quit Your Gym

Men’s Journal has a very interesting article on how gyms are mostly a money-sucking machine designed to keep people subscribed, but not really using the equipment — equipment which, by the way, doesn’t make you all that fit. At the same time, getting in shape is actually pretty easy to do on your own, for free. If you hire a personal trainer, that’s even worse: his whole job is to make sure he’s indispensable, not to give you the tools to work out on your own.

The article isn’t about losing weight, but rather about getting fit. You could say that one follows the other, and it’s true that getting fit will make you lose weight, but losing weight will not necessarily make you fit. For example, how fit are the starving Somalis, or prisoners in concentration camps? Cardio machines at the gym burn calories, but don’t do much else. The key to being fit is strength. The weight machines in gyms isolate muscles, which prevent injury right away, but actually increase your potential for injury later. Why? Because isolation of the “prime mover” muscles is bad for us: we need to use the whole body in order to also strengthen stabilizing muscles which prevent injury. The imbalance of having strong prime mover muscles and weak stabilizer muscles is like ” trying to fire a cannon from a canoe”. Free weights are excellent for strengthening both types of muscles, and gyms tend to hide these on the periphery.

This is because their business model is based around “new stuff”: new machines, new workouts, new advice on how to not injure yourself. But fitness isn’t rocket science, and pretty much all of the information and free weights have been around for a century. So gyms don’t focus on that. They also don’t focus on fitness fanatics, because they don’t want them crowding the gym working out all the time. So they target the typical office worker who might show up 3 times a week for a month, then quit coming but continue to dutifully pay the membership fee.

The rest of the article talks about advice he got from two people: Rob Shaul, who coaches Special Forces, and Kevin Brown, who fixed injured pro athletes before he died of cancer.

Rob Shaul says lifting weights is pretty much all you need, and only three exercises at that: squat, dead lift and bench press. That, and keep upping the ante: lift more weight the next time.

Even in 2010, picking up heavy things, throwing heavy things up over our heads, and pulling heavy things remain the very best ways to replicate our foundational movement patterns.

The other important thing is to avoid injury, which is done by strengthening stabilizing muscles. Here’s a handy chart:


By pressing and dead-lifting on even days, squatting and doing chin-ups on odd days, avoiding all other exercises, and adding a little to the bar each time, you’ll be stronger than you’ve ever been in only a month’s time.

Via Lifehacker from Men’s Journal