As the self-proclaimed “Sith Lord of Strength,” there’s one thing I (absolutely) believe you should be doing. You should be lifting weights. But my reasoning why may surprise you, as it has nothing to do with muscle.
Psst: Muscle and physical strength aren’t the actual benefits of lifting weights.
Sure, muscle is sexy and having more of it helps you live longer. I love how my body has changed over the last decade, thanks to lifting weights.
But vanity aside, there are benefits you can’t get from riding a Peloton or running 26.2 miles. And these are benefits that only hoisting heavy iron can give you.
Process > Outcome
You may have a goal when you decide to start lifting weights. It could be something you decide to do to aid in weight loss, to gain more total body strength, or it’s something you know you should do and you’ve decided to stop making excuses for why you don’t.
So you start lifting.
And you go consistently to the gym 2-4x a week for a year. Then crazy things happen.
- Your body changes.
- Your mind changes.
- You get stronger.
- Your bones get less brittle.
- And you feel better than ever.
All of those are great outcomes. But that’s not the real benefit of lifting weights.
Lifting teaches you that success isn’t about what you get, but about what you do day in and day out. Building strength is a process.
When you focus solely on the outcome(s) of a goal, you fail to see that the real learning, the real changes you go through, come from the process.
Think about it this way.
How much more successful would you be if you made your goal the process and let the outcome be whatever it may be?
When you shift your focus from what could happen to what you do daily (or weekly), it empowers you. It’s no longer about how many inches you can lose in a week or a month or how many more pounds you can add to the bar.
It becomes about what you do.
- Can you show up to the gym 3x a week for 6 months?
- Can you put in the work even if progress feels slow and painstakingly obnoxious?
- Can you find gratification in your daily effort and not in the end product?
You can’t be under a barbell thinking about 6 months down the line. That bar forces you to think about the now. Right now you have to lift this weight. Right now you have to focus on this rep. (Then you can focus on the next.)
As cliche as it sounds, success isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey. By focusing on the process and not the outcome, you’ll also discover that doing so has changed your brain.
Your mind changes as much if not more than your muscles when you lift weights.
It Sharpens Your Mind
I’m not one to quote the Bible even though I did grow up in the church. I believe a bit more as Bruce Lee believed, that there are life truths within every holy text.
Proverbs 27:17 starts off with this, “iron sharpens iron.” To make a strong sword, that sword must be smelted in fire and hammered by another piece of iron.
Once it cools, the metal hardens and becomes stronger. But it only becomes stronger because it has been hardened by the challenge of the fire and iron.
Fire and iron. Or, in the case of lifting weights:
Iron = weights
Fire = pushing yourself beyond your current bounds
Physical struggles teach you about yourself. You will never learn more about who you truly are than when you physically push yourself.
I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with my mental health. But lifting has been the greatest therapy for me.
Yes, there have been days where I didn’t want to show up at the gym (or in my relationships or work). There have been days where I wanted to quit this whole writing and coaching thing. But like the video games I grew up playing my whole life, I knew that if I “hit continue” and kept playing, I would find a way to win.
Lifting gave me the mental resolve and desire to keep grinding it out till I achieved my goal(s).
In life there will be days you don’t want to do the thing you know you should. There will be days you don’t feel like finishing what you started. There will be times where you will fail; and times where others will witness you fail.
But it’s in these times where you show yourself who you really are. Will you toss in the towel? Or will you tell that voice in your head that you’re still gonna show up tomorrow?
Developing the mental grit to push past failure, to do the work when you don’t feel like it, and digging deep to find out who you really are — what you’re made of mentally and physically — this is the greatest benefit of lifting weights.
Weightlifting Redefines Your Identity
What defines you?
Is it the money you make? Your job? Your family? Your hobbies? What some douchebag in high school told you that you’ve been holding onto for a couple of decades?
“Your personality is made up of how you think, act, and feel. It is your state of being. Therefore, your same thoughts, actions, and feelings will keep you enslaved to the same past personal reality. However, when you as a personality embrace new thoughts, actions, and feelings, you will inevitably create a new personal reality in your future. In order to change your life, you have to literally become someone else” – Dr. Joe Dispenza.
Your thoughts are your dictionary. And what kind of words are you writing down in that dictionary?
Change is hard. We all have trauma(s) and issues that’re the underlying causes for most of what we do (or don’t do) as people. You think you’ll go to therapy and get a roadmap to feeling better. But you just discover you’re a lot more fucked up than you previously thought.
And when you do take action to get better, you have no idea how to gauge if you’re succeeding or not.
But this is where weight lifting is the ultimate boon. With weightlifting, you can’t lie about what you can and can’t do. You either do it, or you don’t.
Everyone wants life to be black and white. But it isn’t. Life is a gray-filled void of confusion and frustration half the time.
How do you know if this project you’re working on at work will really be a success? How do you know if you’re succeeding as a parent? Are you a terrible person because you haven’t spoken to your best friend in months? When’s the last time you called your Mom?
And sure, even with lifting weights, there can be some gray areas. But for the most part, it’s pretty black and white. You either lift the weight, or you don’t.
Lifting weights helps you get closer to understanding your true self. Are you the type of person who sticks it out when things get tough? Or do you toss in the towel and throw a temper tantrum like a four-year-old and saunter off the pout in the corner?
The iron gives you instant feedback. Mix that instant feedback with gradual improvement (stirring those two together for a few months), and voila: your self-worth goes from 0-60 faster than a Tesla.
Oh, you lifted a 30-pound dumbbell this week when last week you lifted 25? Bam! You’re better. Stronger. And that increase in your abilities is proof. Proof you can feel.
Confidence doesn’t come in a pack of gum you buy at a 7-Eleven. Confidence is built.
Strength Gives You More Life
There’s a quote that you’ll see passed around online from time-to-time from a nurse who asked dying people in their final days about what they regretted most.
And one of the most common things these people told her was that they wish they had been more focused on improving and maintaining their health.
“Health brings a freedom very few realize until they no longer have it.”
Exercise helps you maintain that freedom for longer. And lifting weights can help you regain that freedom even if you think you’ve lost it. I know this because I’ve seen it with my clients.
I’ve worked with dads who ballooned up as fathers and lost much of their zing but regained their lost vitality by improving their eating habits and lifting weights.
I’ve worked with moms who have struggled to feel like themselves again after having kids. But found their confidence again by lifting weights.
Exercise, in general, will improve your quality of life. Even a short daily walk for 30 minutes and eating more veggies will go a long way. But if you want to explore the world with your family, create memories without regret, and continue to feel your best for decades, lift weights.
Lifting weights will:
- improve insulin resistance
- make your bones stronger
- help in battling depression and anxiety
- slow sarcopenia as you age
- keeps your brain from degrading
You could spend decades reading self-help books and diving into the depths of your psychology. Or you could go lift weights and gain the confidence to do things you thought impossible while increasing your mental fortitude that will strengthen your resolve for decades.
Basically: Weight training transforms you into a better version of yourself.
You’ll be stronger, more empowered, have confidence in your daily activities, be more mentally/emotionally resilient. Lifting weights will make you better, in every way.
“When it comes to physical training, there is no point engaging in the time-consuming repetitive replication of an active environment and its daily grind, unless you need to do so for realism, therapy, or pleasure….training [weight lifting] needs to be separate from what you do for pleasure. I enjoy hiking, walking, ocean swimming, riding my bicycle, that sort of things; but I have no illusion that these activities will make me stronger. They may be necessary, but for other reasons than the attainment of strength. I just consider walking necessary therapy, like sleeping.
Further, muscles are not the whole story. In a line of research pioneered by Gerard Karsenty and his colleagues, the skeleton with its few hundred bones has been shown to be endocrine apparatus, regulating blood sugar, fertility, muscle growth, and even memory. So an optimal exercise would need to work, in addition to every muscle in your body, every bone as well, by subjecting the skeleton to weight stressors in order to remind it that the external world exists.” – Nassam Nicholas Taleb
Weight Training is the Fountain of Youth
Nassam Taleb is one of the smartest humans on Earth. And if there’s one thing Taleb swears by that everyone should do, it’s weight lifting. Lifting forces your entire physiology — skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, and nervous systems — to become more resilient and antifragile.
Here’s some good news: you don’t need to hit the gym 4-5x a week for 90 plus minutes to get all the physical, mental, or spiritual benefits of lifting weights.
You can get all the benefits from lifting weights hitting the gym a minimum of two times a week. And below I’ll show you how to spend less than 30-35 minutes in the gym by only doing 3 exercises each time.
Squat – 3 sets of 8 reps
Row – 3 sets of 8 reps per side
Bench – 3 sets of 8 reps
Deadlift – 3 sets of 8 reps
Shoulder Press – 3 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Carries – 3 sets of 30-second walking
(*Please know that there are many variations here for each that you can do. You can even only use machines and get the benefits. But you’ll get the most benefits out of using dumbbells or barbells.)
That’s all you need right there. Building more strength, mental resilience, and adding years to your longevity can be accomplished with the above workouts.
Do you want to live a longer and higher quality life? Lifting weights will help you do that. Invest in your health. Because the healthier you are, the better chance you’ll have to live a more confident life while contributing more to your family, work, and the world around you.