Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Do We Need to Lift Weights to Be Functionally Strong?

Not too long ago, a guy named Brent asked me a question that really got me thinking a bit. At the time, I injured my fingers and I didn't feel like responding to his post in depth because typing was difficult. So, now that my left hand is more functional, I feel compelled to give his question a more thoughtful response.

For a re-cap, read this:


Pavel covered some very insightful ideas about strength in his book "The Naked Warrior." One such idea of developing strength as a skill. In other words, you cultivate and generate it not by merely making your muscles stronger but learning to use them in a coordinated manner. This is how skinny boxers can generate such bruising KO power or pudgy guys like Babe Ruth could crush hundreds of home runs. They know how to use their muscles in a specific manner that generates power all out of proportion to their physical appearances.

So, it stands to reason that doing some lifting like Brent suggests might be beneficial. It might be too. I think that it comes down to personal preference and the physical demands that your life puts on you. If you're doing competitive lifting, then of course lifting is necessary. It's the same if you were boxing. If you want to learn to throw powerful strikes, then you need to practice them.

In my experience and with my job, I'm rarely lifting anything heavier than my own bodyweight. On the other hand, I'm frequently lifting a moderately heavy object several times. I have to lift and stack things like bags of clay, lime or concrete. I lift and carry 50' of 1.5" hydraulic hoses or cans of diesel. I frequently roll, carry, or drag hoses from 1.5" up to 6" (the 6" hoses really suck to drag, BTW) in diameter and 25-50' long. None of them weight more than I do. The only thing that I lift that comes close to my bodyweight is a 6" hydraulic submersible pump that weighs in at around 170 lbs. Then again, really shouldn't be carrying that anyway.

Most bodyweight exercises don't have you moving your full bodyweight anyway. Still, the action of moving even 128 lbs (me doing a normal push-up) several times still has excellent carry-over to real life. Moderate load moved several times over. It certainly works for me.

Still, I'm not going to verbally spank anyone for it. I'd rather you did what interests you rather than doing nothing at all. I admit that I had an urge to design and build my own sandbag. It looks like an interesting form of training. I just know for a fact that you don't need to lift to get strength that will carry over into the real world.

Oh, one other thing. TD, are you still reading? I haven't heard from you in a while and I hope you're doing well!

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