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How To Weightlift For Strength, And Not Just Aesthetics (A.K.A., Your Ego)

Written by Mohit Chawla


The quintessential problem in gyms is that people get comfortable with what is called "Ego-lifting." Not saying that pumping up your chest and arms is bad, but I've seen too many men with puffed up upper bodies, and pigeon legs. The legs and hips are far more essential for your long-term health than lifting progressively heavier weight on your chest. That being so, the appeal of working chest and arms is obvious. That's what people can see, and you feel strong AF also. If done correctly, incorporating some kinds of olympic and compound lifts or kettle bells can help tremendously in overall aesthetics and strength gains.

A note on Crossfit: Crossfit is the most common example of essentially a high paced olympic lifting style workout, with a focus on high-repetitions. This requires concentration and coordination to execute. It draws elements from olympic lifting, obstacle courses, and triathlon style endurance training with a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) framework. Crossfit athletes are true specimens in terms of physique, overall strength and endurance. The only real downside of doing only Crossfit is that the goal of the workout seems to be to reach a point of fatigue. That means, doing repetitions until failure. Getting fatigued, and trying to repeatedly lift heavy weight for extended amounts of time seems ridiculous. The resulting poor form can cause injuries. If you don't believe us, go and search 'Crossfit fails'. We'll wait.

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Lifting without form is "Ego-Lifting." Dominant gym culture goes as follows: the more you lift, the cooler you are. Traditional gyms want you to max your personal record, and lift heavy. Constantly maxing your own personal record may feel like an accomplishment, but what is the end goal? If you're into powerlifting, then it makes sense. But, if you are trying to build strength and muscle, form is crucial. Weight lifting is a competitive sport, but the rep(s) must be performed with proper form. The guys who are the world's best are sticklers for technique. In weightlifting or muscle building, the goal is to work the target areas to achieve a growth in mass, which leads to increased strength output. So, unless you are a freak of nature like The Mountain from GoT (that man is a giant, and not a model for 99.9% of the world's population), you need technical knowledge about how to lift. The amount of times I have seen a deadlift being performed by people with a curved back is scary. Or, people squatting without getting down to the the proper squat depth. There are too many instances of gym "bros" or "dudes" doing bicep curls using heavy weights and body momentum to wing the weights up; full sets of chest done with another person holding the bar. What is the point of lifting things you can't lift on your own? Just lower the amount of weight, and lift with correct form. With time, you will see the desired gains in both strength and physique.

In my opinion, the right form is more important than the kilos you can lift. Weight lifting is an Olympic sport. The two major events in Olympic lifting are 'Snatch' and 'Clean-and-Jerk.' Many exercises are simply derivatives of these two. Deadlift, military press, overhead and front squat are part of the motion in the above two. If your goal is to achieve genuine fitness, and to improve power and strength output, some variation of Olympic lifting must make it into your regimen. I highly recommend finding a lifting coach and not a body-building coach (unless, of course, that is your end goal). Your body is your only one. Treat it with some intent and care.


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